Welcome to the road blog!

On 13th June 2012, solo rider Chris Armishaw will set out on his bike from Oceanside, California, as part of the Race Across America. Chris will aim to cycle over 3,000 miles to Annapolis, Maryland, in just 10 days. He will be cycling to raise awareness and money for the charity Action Medical Research. This blog will chart this epic journey, from the point-of-view of both Chris and his road crew.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Rode through Ohio and West Virginia today, for the first time in nearly 3000 miles we had rain, heavy rain, thank you West Virginia for the rain!! Tomorrow we ride into Washington DC for two days rest and then onto NYC, plan is to ride through Central Park, down 5th Avenue and across the Brooklyn Bridge. Racing Team Essex still on the road.....

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Still on the road.....

......still on the road, Longcross Construction jersey rode through the state of Missouri early this morning and over the Missouri river, beautiful photo's to load when we get back to the UK. Basebuild Services jersey rode through Illinois and over the Mississippi River bridge, earlier in the day I rode past a sign at the side of the road which read "Life is a Daring Adventure" which is true of RAAM and also certainly true of riding over the Mississippi River bridge, it's long, very long, very wide and with good fortune, a steady hand and a good tail wind the bike and rider made it to the other side, thank you Mississipi bridge traffic around 3 - 3.10pm. Tomorrow we ride through Indiana and onto Ohio, nearer to Washington for arrival on Friday.

Missouri was beautiful, rolling hills and quiet roads, similar to Essex, well North Essex maybe........
“Just got phone signals for the first time in two days" we continue to follow RAAM route and ride as many miles as possible, we will create a full blog with photo's when we get back to th UK to show that Racing Team Essex and our sponsors are still very much on the road. Renewable Resources jersey rode through Monument Valley, Utah and the Bowmer + Kirkland jersey rode through Colorado and over Mt. Baldy and Wolf Creek Pass. Longcross Construction jersey will ride through Missouri today and along the Missouri river along the RAAM route. We are bringing a story home, not the one we set out to but a story that is as close as possible for everyone involved.

"Racing Team Essex, still on the road, still riding and still smiling, the story is very much alive, life is full of surprises!”

Sunday 17 June 2012

RAAM is one of the toughest events in the world for all teams, riders and crew, on the road particularly in the desert there is absolutely no margin for error, our progress was fine and entirely on track with our race plan, one small miscalculation followed by other situations meant our race was over at the end of day 2, after which point we would have been out of the desert heat, one less challenge to deal with and still on track with our 10 day race plan. Out of the race, we continue to ride most of the RAAM route to bring a story home for our sponsors and to value their support as much as we can. The team are bitterly disappointed but our experience and learning's will make us stronger for when we come back or take on a bigger challenge......we will aim to post photo's to show our sponsors jersey's still in action across the US.    

Monday 11 June 2012

Nearly time to get started......

We’ve now been in Oceanside, for 3 days.  Today, both of our vehicles passed their pre-race inspection, as did Chris’s 2 bikes. This means we are officially ready to go.  Down by the beachfront, the buzz of excitement is growing, as riders and teams arrive from all over the world.  The women’s solo race starts tomorrow (Tuesday), and then it’s the turn of the solo men (including Chris) to start on Wednesday afternoon at 12pm Pacific Time.
The aim of this blog will be to keep readers updated on Chris’s progress throughout the race, and we’ll upload photos and race info whenever we can.  If anybody reading this wants to send words of encouragement to Chris during the race, please feel free to post comments on here, or post on our twitter account @racingteamessex; we’ll make sure we pass on your messages to the man in the saddle.
For now, I’ll leave you with a selection of photos from the past few days here in Oceanside, and also a big thanks to all the lovely people who have helped us in our various quests to find all the necessary equipment we need for the trip.  Everybody in Oceanside has been extremely helpful and supportive; thank you!
The RV: Our home for the next 2 weeks

Team dinner in Oceanside

Chris and the team for the first lunch in the RV

Who know putting stickers on a car could be such fun?!

Mobile Lab/Office

Our first dry-ice purchase (very exciting!)

Racing Team Essex
Top row (l to r): Mark Trott, (Crew Chief); Catherine Hesford; Chris Armishaw, (Rider); Sue Groves; Kevin Peterson
Bottom Row: Chris McManus; James Myers; David Myers

It's time for bed now; lots to do tomorrow,

We'll update again very soon, thank you for your support,


Saturday 9 June 2012

The Pacing Strategy - To Race or Pace?

What an interesting discussion point, the ‘pacing strategy’ (!!!!!!) How do you cycle the phenomenal distance of 3000 miles (4828 km or 5,280,000 yards or 15,840,000 feet or 190,080,000 inches!!) in under 12 days?

The race rules indicate that all solo riders must complete the race within 12 (288 hours) therefore the design, implementation and adherence to the pacing strategy is vital for successful completion...

 When looking at the history of RAAM and analysing previous riders and their strategies throughout the race (well done Catherine for that arduous task!) these vary considerably, possibly due to the range of abilities, experience and support provided to those riders lining up in Oceanside.

RAAM Race Route
It is clear that those riders who aim to complete this event in the shortest time possible undergo severe sleep deprivation ight from the start, often going 30+ hours before stopping for their first proper sleep (longer than a couple of hours)... Is this a strategy that we should be advocating for Chris, or is there a better alternative to flogging Chris right from the start? What would be the most scientific approach to our pacing strategy? How do we control Chris when he is riding if we think he is riding off too fast, too soon?? All of these questions have been asked among the Crew at some stage and some things have been easier to address than others!

A paper published in 2010 (in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, reference below) (http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/13356481/2102522185/name/article+2.pdf) documented an alternative approach to achieving a finish in the Race Across America. An extract from the paper’s abstract is below, highlighting an ‘alternative’ approach:

“The athlete used a race strategy with regular sleeping breaks (total rest = 91 h, 45 h of sleep). Contrasting conventional racing strategies for the Race Across America, which aim at minimizing sleep and maximizing ride time, our case demonstrates that by emphasizing regular recovery and sleep, such alternative strategy might lead an equally successful race result.”

They define a ‘successful race result’ as finishing the race in seventh place after 10 d, 22 h, and 53 min and an average speed of 18.34 km/hr....after all, completing RAAM is a success in itself, and finishing positioning is really just a bonus!

In addition, the health and performance benefits of a better rested rider are touched upon in the conclusion of the paper;

“...such alternative strategy might lead to higher race speeds and an equally successful race. From a health perspective, this approach might be preferential as well because health risks arising from sleep deprivation are minimized. Furthermore, it raises the question of the extent to which sleep deprivation contributes to unnecessary fatigue in this race.”

RAAM Climbing Chart
Climbing Chart - Bars demonstrate percentage of total climb between each time station and blue lines show relative difficulty of climbs between each time station.

Note: time station 49 - 150% above average race effort (100% = average) on the final day of riding, another reason for a good pacing strategy!

So our strategy...

...now that would be giving it away!!!


SCHUMACHER, Y. O., AHLGRIM, C., PRETTIN, S. & POTTGIESSER, T. 2011. Physiology, power output, and racing strategy of a Race Across America finisher. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 43, 885-9.

Friday 8 June 2012

The science behind the challenge of RAAM: Introduction

For the last 8 months Chris has been attending the Human Performance Unit for regular fitness assessments, body composition measures, and to have some in-depth nutrition discussions in order to ensure as many details were planned for before arriving in Oceanside, California.

Fitness testing consisted of cycling on a mechanically braked cycle ergometer for prolonged stages of incremental intensities. During this process, his oxygen utilization, blood lactate, HR and rating of perceived exertion were constantly measured. This data was used for a number of beneficial reasons such as identifying his optimal power output, and the appropriate heart rate to stick to during the race. This will give Chris a direct way to ensure he maintains an appropriate pacing strategy, based upon his physiological response, thus reducing the risk of burning out early in the race.

Bike testing
The fitness testing also looks at the amount of oxygen utilization in Chris’s body  at various intensities and enables us to further understand the amount of carbohydrate and fat (and kcal) used; paramount when trying to identify not only the ideal power/HR to ride at, but also to aid in designing his nutrition strategy and how best to achieve the huge daily intake of calories. (A separate blog will discuss the nutrition challenge in more depth!)

We have also been interested in Chris’s body composition (BF%, lean body mass etc). It will be impossible to match Chris’s energy expenditure (15-25,000 kcal per day) with his energy intake; therefore a daily energy deficit will occur. Limiting this deficit is important but a slight reduction in weight is expected, therefore we are interested to see to what extent Chris  will reduce his body fat vs. lean muscle mass. A previous paper investigating this in a RAAM rider reports a 5kg drop, however we don’t really know what this 5kg comprised of...

Body composition measures
And finally, planning Chris’s nutrition strategy has required numerous discussions with Chris; practicing and trialling supplements; finding out which foods he can tolerate, and (crucially) enjoy after extended periods of cycling; and building this into a daily nutrition plan....more details and photos of Chris’s daily food intake will be provided soon!!