While most of the players enjoy some well-earned close season rest Oxford United ’s Sport Therapist John ‘Spike’ Elliott is flying out to the USA for the adventure of a lifetime.
Spike is about to undertake the RAAM (Race Across America) as part of a team called FelixRAAM, raising funds for BLESMA (formerly known as the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association) and the Wounded Warrior Project (USA).
RAAM is one the most respected and longest-running endurance sports events in the world and a fantastic athletic achievement not only in cycling circles but the greater sporting community as well. The challenge starts in Oceanside, California and finishes in Annapolis, Maryland via the Rocky Mountains, the Appalachians, and the Arizona desert: a distance of 3,000 miles that has to be completed in nine days.
Spike told us:
“We’re doing it in a team of eight, cycling through the nights using a leapfrogging system. We have a support crew of six, driving two support vehicles, so if you’re not cycling you’re either sleeping, navigating, cooking and maybe a little bit of driving as well. The team is all ex-military personnel, including myself, three of whom are still serving.
“Our team is called Felix because that’s the emblem of the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and because one of the lads doing the ride, Davie Timmins, was hit by an IED. We decided to have that emblem as our badge and in the team name.
“Our target is to raise £50,000 for BLESMA and the WWP and there’s still a lot of money to come in, especially from corporate sponsors. We’ve still got a few fundraising events coming up and I went to a few events recently where I managed to raise a few grand from corporate sponsors. One of our sponsors is Isinglass, so there’s an Oxford United connection there.
“In terms of training I’ve not been doing great distances really. The distance we cycle is the equivalent of three journeys from Land’s End to John O’Groats. We’ve done a lot of hill training because we do get to quite high altitudes. For the upper bits of the Rockies we’re looking at just doing a mile each before we change over, so we’re treating it like a sprint. When we do the desert crossings we’re just going to do short bursts of 15 minutes each, making sure we rehydrate properly. I’ve been in the pool and doing a lot of weights to keep my body strength up. I’ve got about another ten days before I knock it on the head.”