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Cook's toughest recipe

Auburn man plans to cover 3,014 miles in 12 days or less during famed Race Across America
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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Michael Cook isn’t riding in the Tour de France this year. He’s a little more ambitious than that. Cook will hit the road on his Trek bicycle Thursday in Oceanside. From there he plans to cover 3,014 miles on his way to Annapolis, Md. — all in 12 days or less. The 38-year-old Auburn resident has finished the Western States Endurance Run and has competed in dozens of marathons and ultramarathons over the past eight years. The challenge of the Race Across America is easily his most daunting. “I was going to do Western States last year, but I was looking for a different kind of challenge,” Cook said. “I’ve wanted to do it for a long time. It’s also a way to see the country — ride across it.” When Cook takes off on Thursday, the clock will start. It won’t stop for 288 hours — riders must complete the journey in 12 days to record an official finish. Unlike the Tour de France, there aren’t designated stopping points or stages. There isn’t a peloton — drafting is not allowed and riders go at their own pace, which is a brutal one. They must average between 250 and 350 miles a day just to finish in the allotted 12 days. The fastest competitors will go from coast to coast in 10 days, which is Cook’s goal. Race Across America (RAAM) is a solo venture for Cook, but he’ll have a team of supporters helping him the whole way. His wife Nicole and 1 ½-year-old son Dylan will be there to help out physically and emotionally as Michael makes his journey. “There’s no way I could do it without my family,” Cook said. “Balancing all the training with work and family, it’s difficult. Even with Western States, it’s about how many miles you have to get in. I try not to do too much time away, but I’ll do a six or seven-hour ride on the weekends and then a shorter one during the week.” Friends Bernadette Lopes, Dave Campbell, Jody Stange, Richard Sterba and Valerie Schropp will help out, driving the support vehicle, making sure Cook’s bike is properly maintained and supplying him with around 10,000 calories of food per day, which he will need to stay fueled. Cook said he plans to sleep between three and four hours per night. He will have an RV available for at least part of the journey along with two or three other support vehicles. Given the enormous mileage the riders will face, it’s nearly impossible to adequately train. The race becomes a mental challenge as much as a physical feat. “I’m not sure how you can really prepare for this kind of ride,” Cook said. “A lot of it is very mental.” Just 25 riders took on RAAM in the men’s solo division last year. Seventeen of the entrants finished, including Slovenia’s Jure Robic, who won his fourth straight title in a record 8 days, 23 hours and 33 minutes. Cook said Bicycle Emporium owner Bill Marengo gave him numerous pointers on preparing for RAAM. Marengo has been a crewmember for the race. Cook had to qualify for RAAM last year, using 500 and 800-mile rides. The medical software writer, who moved to Auburn from Santa Rosa in 2007, has run marathons in under three hours and finished Western States in an impressive 21:49 in 2005. But RAAM has humbled many great endurance athletes throughout its 28-year history. Austrian adventurer Wolfgang Fasching won the RAAM solo division three times and has also climbed Mt. Everest. “Everest is more dangerous, but RAAM is much harder,” Fasching said. Cook is Tweeting and blogging about his experience in RAAM. To check out his progress and see more about his training, visit www.seetherace.wordpress.com.