Extreme expat: Scott Ragsdale

Superfit American prepares for a new endurance challenge

Interview

Following a successful 2011 attempt at seven Ironmen across seven emirates in seven days, Holly Sands hears about the American expat’s latest challenge.

So tell us about this latest challenge you’ve set yourself.
It’s called the Race Across American (RAAM), and I have 12 days to ride across 12 states, from San Diego to Annapolis, and it’s non-stop. To finish, I’m going to have to ride 20 to 22 hours a day, for 11 or 12 days.

How fast does that mean you will have to cycle?
Around 21 to 25kph.

Yikes. Why are you doing it? It seems a pretty mad thing to want to do.
I’m into endurance challenges, and this is one of those iconic races – some people consider it to be the toughest bike race. I just wanted to see if I can do it. There are 203 people who have successfully done it solo, which is what I’m going to be doing. That figure was in 2011, so maybe 20 more people have done it since then.

How many people have attempted and failed?
The organiser told me there’s a less than 15 percent success rate for solo participants.

What other reasons do you have for wanting to complete the race?
I’ve swum the English Channel, done seven Ironmen in seven days across the seven emirates, and I did those challenges to try and inspire my oldest daughter. She is graduating from a Dubai high school this year, and I wanted to show her that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve just about anything. Ideally, this will have a positive impact on my kids, my family, my employees at my company, the people around me and anyone who hears about it. I’m not a cyclist at all – I’m actually a big guy, so even me sitting on a bicycle probably looks ridiculous.

How much training have you had to do?
About six months, focussed only on this race. I did my last training test in Austria, where I did four 20-hour rides and I was only allowed two-and-a-half hours sleep for five days.

Functioning on such little rest must leave you feeling a bit spaced-out.
Yes [laughs]. When I was doing one 20-hour ride in the UAE, I’d slept about three hours, and just kind of fell asleep on my bike, and rode straight into a sand dune at the side of the road. Luckily it was a sand dune though!

What has been the hardest part leading up to the race?
The biggest distraction is staying positive. When you’re that tired, every little negative thing gets to you. Drivers on the road, my coach gets on my nerves... but it all helps me become mentally tougher. For the last four months of training I was waking up at 2.15am everyday – except days without training, when I’d wake up at 4.30am. I feel better at work on less sleep.
Scott is currently riding across America, and will finish on June 23. Follow his progress on www.scottragsdale.com.

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