By Lauren Darren-Simmons
While driving the RV today from Ulysses, KS to Pratt, KS I learned that my next crew shift would be the with our crew chief, Jan on the overnight aka when Aske has displayed the most trouble mentally with allowing dark and ugly demons to enter his mind. Usually I am absolutely okay with anything and everything asked of me by fellow crew members (when they speak in English haha) and of course I follow all instruction from Jan.
The mileage between Ulysses and Pratt I began to feel a strange anxiety regarding the shift tonight and all kinds of thoughts all over the place were occurring as I drove. I have tons of Facebook posts to read to him since Pia and Lene shared that that helped him last night. I have had some fun moments with him and made him laugh so I know his sense of humor however will all this be enough to keep him the exact same mentally as he was last night?
Early in the race, night 2 while in Colorado, Aske had a minor crash that affected him mentally in a major way. While riding a loose and deep gravel – yes gravel section of the RAAM course just outside of Cortez – he tipped the bike over and put his left hand down to brace the fall causing what we prayed was not a broken wrist and diagnosed by our team physical therapist and 2 nurses a minor sprain. The concern was him being able to squeeze the brakes on descents and in general. I was in the follow vehicle with Jan on the crash night when Aske was put back at the spot he crashed on. Most people would think ” No big deal he crashed get back up and ride your bike,” physically that may be easy however mentally even the smallest obstacles can change your entire outlook. We confirmed with RAAM headquarters that he could if he chose walk descents. Although Aske prevailed and overcame major and excruciating pain to arrive in Durango, CO you could hear the disappointment in his voice and could see the pain he felt each time he stood up to climb. The injury is real and very legit. As a cyclist I can understand the pain and the feeling of slowly losing squeezing the brakes and control on a descent. It all makes sense to me.
Day 3 he rode strong, in pain and in my opinion you could not tell he was hurting.
Then everything went black. Everything went dark. Every demon you can imagine showed up with a mission to ruin Aske’s RAAM. They marched as one with a mission…to ruin Aske’s mission. They came to take over his mind and take him to their dark and low world. They were showing sings of succeeding one by one. Jan was being a tested mentally, crew was talking strategy to keep him in the race. Quitting would not be allowed. No way.
I called my husband and talked through what to say to Aske as a last resort when I heard he was considering DNF’ING because of his wrist. I spoke to my husband super angry and very discouraged. Why they hell would he quit just because he could not win? I feel like finishing with dignity is better than a all bold DNF after your name. They don’t say “sprained wrist” DNF or “Aske Soby crashed in Colorado” DNF it is a DNF. I just couldn’t figure out why he thought that way. He has a crew that is impeccable. People of all ages and backgrounds who want nothing more than to see him succeed no matter how he finishes. He is still inspiring people to ride bikes and tons of people who he doesn’t even know think he is incredible. To let him know how deeply we believed in him was going to take all of us digging super deep as well as being open, direct and honest with Aske.
After basically getting it out of my system with my husband and talking through a strategy to not make him feel like I was disappointed but to make him feel like I was disappointed and getting 2 hours of sleep I asked Jan if it would be okay to have a few minutes with Aske alone. I would not be okay with myself if he decided to DNF and I didn’t say what I needed to say. At around 2 am I got in the follow car and in so many words told him he was being a pussy and to ride his bike. I asked him if I were racing RAAM if he would let me quit. I said it. I meant it. I was firm and bold. I got out of the car shut the door and walked away into the darkness. I had to hold back tears and walk away without turning back to apologize. Was I sorry? No. Did I feel bad saying that to a guy who had just rode 1000 miles? Yes. I got in the RV and slept. Waking up I was told that Aske was going to make his decision about staying in the race on crew change. Emil and I were up next to support him through the end of Colorado. We heard the night was hell. Not hell like crew was upset but tough for the crew to make Aske believe it was okay to make new goals. He was full of self doubt, no joy, no confidence, cycling was over, everything sucked.
Then something changed.
When we got to Aske, he was awesome. Something happened. I walked right up to him and gave him a hug. I told him I was going to be his worst nightmare and bitch mode was on. I was not giving in and he was to listen to me and respect want I suggested. I took his power. I told him he had to each time anyone cheered for him to safely give them a sign he heard them and smile more. I told him to ride his bike like he loved it. That is exactly what he did. On that shift we overtook 2 racers and created a giant gap. He rode confident and strong.
The thoughts in my head today are thoughts of being scared of who we are going to get tonight. It feels like ASKE has ripped the page of night 3 from his journey and thrown it away. The mention of quitting or DNF’ing is not even an option. My stomach is turning already. I refuse to change who I am with my crazy and energetic personality. I am willing to give him unconditional love but at the same time tough love or should I show compassion? This is what RAAM is for crewmembers. You have to be able to stay true to you and adjust to the racer. ….anything can happen and change everything. Do I still hug him ..of course. Do I tell him he is doing amazing even though I know he thinks he is not? Darn right I do.
I’m not scared of Aske. I am scared of the demons coming back for another shot at his mind.
I believe Aske can create a wall to keep them away. He is stronger than he thinks, he has proven that. I believe we have shown Aske we deeply support him in every situation and are willing to do anything it takes to get him to Annapolis. He hasn’t even mentioned DNF’ing in the last 48 hours. I believe the crew has forced those demons to stay back.
Until I go around 3 am …I won’t know who we will get.
I have a strong feeling he is smiling and doing amazing. I believe in my heart it will be a great night.