Updated: December, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Race Across America, LLC (Colorado). All rights reserved.
Not ready to conquer the world from the saddle of a bicycle? No problem, helping someone who is ready is an incredibly rewarding experience. Live through the pain, the challenge and the darkness of night on roads that connect Americans from coast-to-coast. A crew member is responsible for so many things, the racer just rides, but the crew make most of the decisions and must constantly improvise, adjust and adapt. It is an adventure that unfolds minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour and mile-by-mile. Along the way, you might wish you never signed on, but by the end you can hardly wait to start all over again.
Just what is Crewing on RAAM like? What does that mean? It is one of those experiences that is almost impossible to answer. Ask a hundred people who have crewed and you will a hundred different answers. What all will agree on is that it is an experience of a lifetime – a cross between a vision quest, a Cannonball run, and the Tour de France.
Crewing encompasses many duties and roles, which are outlined in another article, but beyond the duties are the priorities and actions that should regulate how you perform the roles. The second part of this article will also attempt to describe some of what you can expect.
Safety, Safety, Safety – The most important piece of the race is safety. The race doesn’t matter if you aren’t safe.
The Racer(s) – While everyone is a team, most often the needs of the Racer(s) take precedence over the needs of the Crew.
Rules – Read and know the rules, and then follow them. And ask questions if you have any doubts.
Stay out of each other’s way – Crews may have 6 to 16 people in close quarters for a more than a week including the start and finish. Don’t provoke each other and push buttons. It’s ideal to get to the finish as friends.
Stay clean and organized – This includes yourself, the Racer, the Support Vehicles. If the Crew is organized everyone will know what to expect, what the plans are, and where to find anything. Always put things away immediately.
Monitor the racers’ nutrition (calories and fluid) – The racer isn’t going to get very far without proper nutrition and fluid intake.
Keep yourself nourished and rested – While much of the job of Crew involves taking care of the Racer(s), if the Crew is not rested and nourished the Team performance will begin to suffer. This could impact the effectively and safety of everyone.
Courtesy – Say please and thank you. Smile.
Pay Attention – There are many stretches without much activity, but still pay attention to what’s happening so you can anticipate what’s next and be ready.
The primary task of a Crew is to get the Racers safely across the country. While the focus is on the Racers, the Crew has some basic needs which must be met so they can function well.
- Sleep – Everyone needs sleep, especially for safety.
- Food and drink – Just like the Racers, the Crew needs energy.
- Showers – A full shower may only happen a couple times, and when it happens it’s a blessing. Otherwise make sure there are opportunities for ‘sponge baths’.
- Communication – The Crew needs to know what’s happening and what the plan is.
- Laundry – Staying clean is important. Laundry won’t happen often, and it’s important.
- Comfort while traveling – Everyone travels 3000 miles, everyone needs to be comfortable as that is what happens.
- A place to put their gear – Each Crew person won’t have much gear (clothes), but they do need a place to put it.
If you have specialized roles, such as a doctor or massage therapist, there needs to be a place where these Crew can perform their task, e.g. a place for cooking, doing massage, providing medical support, or working on bikes. There also needs to be a place for their supplies (tools, first aid kit, massage table).
So what’s crewing really like?
This the original Reality TV played out across America – imagine 12 strangers driving cross country 24 hours a day for a week or more, in a cramped space, at 20 mph, with few showers, unknown meal schedules, not much sleep, and a constant play of nothing to do and solving the next problem.
You will cry, yell, and smile – all at the same time.
You will wave at fans.
You will answer the question “Where are you going?” and “Why?” a hundred times – and never get tired of it.
You will watch Plan A evolve into Plan B into Plan C, etc – in 60 seconds.
You may well see strange things at night.
A shower will seem like a gift from heaven.
You will see sunrises and sunsets like you’ve never seen before.
You will wonder a thousand times why you ever agreed to Crew, and in the very next second be glad you said yes.
You will get angry.
You will be grumpy.
You will laugh so hard your gut hurts.
You will work about as hard as you’ve ever worked – and not even get paid.
2+2 will be a hard math problem, but you’ll know exactly how far to the next Time Station and how long it will take.
You will get bored through hundreds of miles of corn and straight, flat roads – and simultaneously discover the Zen of corn fields and roads that stretch into the horizon.
You may begin to wonder what the faces of your racers look like, since all you see is them from behind.
You will be amazed at the diversity and beauty that America beholds.
You will cheer on your competitors, and race them to the finish at the same time.
You will curse the heat of the desert wishing for cold, and 24 hours later at 10,000 feet you will be begging for a little warmth.
You will see all kinds of weather – fog so thick you can’t see, rain so hard it drenches you in a few seconds, wind so strong you can’t open a car door, the vast and open clouds and lightning of the Midwest.
You will forget your name and what day it is.
You will be so tired you can sleep on a sidewalk.
You will be so hungry Mountain Dew and Twizzlers will make a fine meal.
You will see America as you’ve never seen it before.
Your belief in the human spirit will reach a new understanding.
You will discover a new depth and pride in yourself.
This may happen in a few minutes, or a few hours, or over the course of the race. And it will all repeat!
Here’s a common tale of RAAM Crews, unless a majority of the crew is experienced or you have a very strong Crew Chief.
A Tale of the First 48 Hours
At the start, the Crew is excited! There is a lot to learn, tons of energy among all the racers and crews, new people to meet, the excitement is building and lots of adrenaline is flowing.
Then the race starts and for the first 24 Hours there are a few mistakes, teams exchanges are a little rough, the heat of the desert takes its toll and you are figuring out patterns.
The next 12 hours some people are missing sleep ready. A few are asking about their showers and when the next good meal is. The adrenaline has worn off. There’s still some excitement, but it’s diminished greatly. Watch out as fuses are starting to get short.
The next 12 – tempers are starting to wear in and a few edges start to show. A few people have already had bouts of crying. The excitement is over, it’s now the real thing, the reality of the long haul sets in. Everyone’s sleep and eating cycle is totally messed up. This has all the makings of a meltdown!
After 48 Hours of RAAM, no one is a rookie crew anymore. You’ve learned some hard lessons already and every plan has been changed 10 times. Now is the time to check-in with everyone on how they are really doing. It’s also time to remind everyone about the goal – of reaching the finish and keeping your sanity. There’s still a long way to do and this reminder won’t quite settle in just yet.
The Rest of the Race!
You are near the halfway point of the race. For most Crews, it clicks – the Crew gets the goal, they put aside their egos and personal needs, they are reaching their groove. The chaotic pattern emerges and everyone knows what it is.
If it doesn’t click, it’s not going to get any better unless everyone can come together as a team.
Pride, Joy, Relief, Wonder, and more. You have gained some friends for life, or perhaps a few you never want to see again. You know that was an experience of a lifetime!
What will your tale be?