Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hell On Two Wheels by Amy Snyder

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Hell On Two Wheels by Amy Snyder
Published by: Triumph Books

Published: 6, 2011

Pages: 272
Printed in the USA

Amy Snyder followed a hand full of ultra-distance cyclists before, during and after the 2009 RAAM to gain knowledge of what the racers go through during this event. She wrote the book, Hell On Two Wheels, describing the race. The top finishers of the 2009 RAAM were the closest of any edition of this race.

RAAM or the Race Across America, is a  race across the United States. Starting in 1982, it was originally called the Great American Bike Race. It has always been run from the West Coast to the East Coast and is approximately 3,000 miles in length. The 2009 RAAM started in Oceanside, California and ended in Annapolis, Maryland. It is competed by solo riders as well as teams of riders. It usually takes the winner around 9 days to finish the race. The timing clock doesn't stop for racers to sleep, so they ride with only short naps for rest.

Racers are followed by support crews in multiple vehicles and usually a motor home. The crew members suffer from lack of sleep similar to the racers and are crucial to the racers success in completing the race. The support vehicles have loud speakers attached to them. The support crews often play music, tell jokes and do anything they can think of to motivate their rider. 

Snyder, along with a driver, followed the race in a mini-van. She drove back and forth from one racer to the other through out the race. It must have been hard on her and her driver as well.

The book does a good job of telling what motivates the racers and the drive it takes to finish RAAM. During the race many of the racers suffer from saddle sores, hallucinations, heart-conditions and a condition called "Shermer's Neck".

 Shermer's neck is named after ultra-distance cyclist and RAAM competitor Michale Shermer. He suffered this terrible condition while competing in the 1983 RAAM. Shermer's Neck is a complete failure of the neck muscles. Suffers' heads flop around on their shoulders like a rag doll's head. They are unable to hold their head up at all. Some competitor's continue on with neck braces to support their heads. Suffer's eventually recover from Shermer's Neck, but I'm sure it must be painful and scary.

I was slow to warm up to this book. Once I got into I had to read on to see what happened next. This is a great book to read and it is motivational to see what is really possible if you work at something. Truly an amazing event!
Click here to listen to Amy Snyder on the WAMC Roundtable.
Click here to visit the Race Across America web site.

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