Q: How did you get started?
A: Well, I started when I was 14 with (local touring and racing) club rides. I'd do a 50-mile picnic ride on Sunday. Ride a total of 100 miles a week. I did my first century (100-mile) ride when I was 16. Then it became trying to do a double-century. I could gauge my progress by miles ridden in a day and I just kept raising my goals until finally it was "How many centuries can you do in a row?" like in consecutive days. That's how I got into marathon riding. Living in a small town secluded from other (serious) cyclists, that's the only thing I really had to gauge my progress. If I had had others to ride with, it would have been speed and racing. But, where I lived, I'd ride five and six hundred miles a week by myself and never even see another bike rider. So, I the mileage was a way I could kind of gauge where I was headed.
Q: Was that just sparingly that you rode those centuries, one or two a year, (compared to now)?
A: Yeah. Like last year, I probably rode 175.
A: Yeah. Days over a hundred miles. I mean you might go 15 to 20 days in a row, every day over 100 miles. Eight years ago, it was like I'll peak for one century at the end of the year. When I did that, I'd be wiped out. (But) 1980 was maybe 22,000 miles. 1981 was about 25,000. 1982 will be 25,500. I have a whole list of days over 300 miles.
Q: How'd Sue (contribute) during this whole thing? (Sue Notorangelo is Haldeman's girlfriend and holder of the woman's record in trans-America bicycle riding.)
A: A whole lot. I started writing to her when I was getting ready for last year's cross- country. I was just freakin' out. I had really no friends to talk to, to share ideas. So I just started writing her. 'Cause she did similar things. So much of it is mental. She helped out a whole lot. Then I helped her out in her (transcontinental) ride. I was trying to reinforce her. I was actually reinforcing myself and talking myself into what was going to be expected. I was telling her that you gotta be ready to go out and ride 240 miles every day. I'm telling her all this stuff. And actually all I was doing was telling myself what I was gonna be doing the next month. It really got my head together. Knowing her really helped out a lot.
Q: How many more years do you plan to continue serious cycling?
A: I plan on peaking when I'm 30. It would bother me if I couldn't ride anymore but I'm looking for other challenges, not the same old thing every year.
Q: What other type of challenges?
A: Sue and I might do a tandem ("bicycle- built-for-two") record. It has a little different twist to it.
Q: Have you ridden much tandem?
A: Yeah, before training for this ride we ride about 150 together.
Q: One hundred and fifty a day, every day?
A: Yeah, that was kind of our training beforehand, to help me with the shoulders, get the stiffness in your neck -- it really helps. We trained together before each of our rides.
Q: Do you think John Howard was your biggest incentive in this race? Was there anything about beating John Howard? (John Howard is the four-time national road racing champion, three-time U.S. Olympic Cycling Team member, Pan Am gold medalist, and 1981 winner of the Hawaii Triathlon, which is race that involves a 2.4-mile ocean swim directly followed by a 112 mile bicycle race followed by a 26.2 mile marathon run.)
A: Yeah, a couple of things. In an interview with Outside Magazine he said how he was going to outsmart me. He hadn't even done the ride ever before (cross-country). I took a little bit of satisfaction in being able to outmaneuver him. I did some psychological tactics which demoralized him. Throughout the race I knew which sections were bad to ride on at night, I knew where the head winds were and things like that. I was able to put him in the situation where he had to overcome some obstacles because of the distance between us. I knew where to increase my lead.
Q: You always knew where he was?
A: Yeah, I always knew what town he was going through at what time of day. And I knew what the traffic situations are in all those towns. Everytime I went through a town I knew I could gain 15 minutes on him. Just because I knew how to get through the town easier. I have nothing personally against him. We get along pretty well. But when he said he was going to outsmart me and all this kind of stuff -- "John, you've never even been out there before, how do you know what you're talking about?" There is a lot of psyching going on.
Q: Did you hear about his knee pain? Nausea?
A: I had the same problems. I just didn't make a big deal of all the things that were going wrong. That's part of the race.
Q: I talked with John a little bit about the hallucinations that he experienced. Did you have any at all, any distortions of the road, of your surroundings?
A: Once in a while I'd have double vision. Then I knew enough to get off the bike. I'd have more of a problem with loss of concentration. I would always try to do math problems in my head. I'd build bikes in my head. Which part goes where. Try to do complicated things. After a while I couldn't concentrate anymore. I wouldn't know how to hitch up a brake cable in my mind.
Q: After a while. What do you mean, after several days?
A: After about 20 hours of non-stop riding. Then I'd know I had to go to bed. That's how I'd judge it. I'd add up mileage markers as I was going and try to do simple math in my head. If I couldn't add 20 and 30 together then I knew I wasn't clicking just right. So I'd take a nap for a little bit. (Haldeman averaged two hours of sleep a day, not always all at one time.)
Q: John was having hallucinations. The road parted. It wasn't double vision. He saw forks in the road. He said he saw images of a dead dog in the middle of the road. For long periods of time, just in his mind. Curled up. During his fifth day he felt the sky was falling or pushing down on him. You didn't have any hallucinations?
A: The only real hallucinations I can come up is that I would go to sleep at night at a particular spot. The crew would wake me up couple of hours later. Well, where am I? And they would say, you're sitting here in Indianapolis at the gas station. It was like, "No, I went through there 100 miles ago, I'm not still here." You know -- further down the road.
Q: You (were) dreaming that you were riding while sleeping?
A: Yeah, I thought I was further down the road.
Q: How do you deal with the pain?
A: I knew what pain was. I knew how bad it was going to hurt. I didn't really think about it until it was something real outrageous. You knew your hands were going to hurt. You knew your seat and your feet would hurt. I knew which climbs my feet were going to hurt after. Like going up Yarnell Pass (50 miles south of Prescott, Ariz.), I knew exactly how much my feet were going to hurt because I had ridden that before. And my feet never hurt bad enough on that hill this year to want to stop. I didn't reach that point. I knew all the places along the route where I was going to hurt the worst. And as I was going through those things I'd visualize. Does it hurt as bad as you thought it was going to? No, it doesn't hurt quite that bad yet. I might as well keep going. So that's the way it was. It never reached the point where it was too bad.
Q: Did you use any type of drug?
Q: Any aspirin or pain killer?
A: No aspirin. Not even aspirin.
Q: No DMSO? Nothing?
A: No. If you mask the pain you will be even worse off.
Q: What about stimulants -- coke (cocaine)? speed (amphetamines)? -- coffee?
A: No. There is no need to. The body produces endorphins to keep me stimulated. (Endorphins are substances naturally secreted by the brain in response to exercise. They function as opiate-like pain relievers.)
Q: Your first transcontinental crossing. What was your time?
A: The very first time I ever crossed it was from New York to L.A. and that was 12 days, 18 hours. Then I turned around and went back, 10 days, 23 hours.
Q: A lot of average people couldn't see doing this. It just makes them tired to think of cycling 10 miles a day, but 300 miles a day? Why would you want to do such a thing?
A: I did it because it was under the race conditions. If it was just somebody saying, "Well, why don't you go out and do another single transcontinental" -- I've done that, you know. If someone said, "Well, do you want to do it on the tandem, with a girl!" -- I would say, well, that's a little bit different.
Q: The trip's been easier every time?
A: No. It's always been harder. It's been faster. It's been physically more brutal each time. It's been mentally harder to keep my peak. If we hadn't had 2,000 miles of headwinds this time, we would have come in in about 81/2 days. There's still quite a bit of room for improvement as far as the time goes.
Q: Did you have any really dangerous moments with traffic?
A: Yeah, there were a lot of dangerous things. I had a lady who dozed off or something and just about brushed my elbow going onto the interstate. I was on the shoulder and she came right on me. She said, "I didn't even see him, you know." What's going to ruin this whole race is some year somebody's going to get nailed, splattered all over the place. I can see that coming real fast if things don't get straightened around.
Q: The (crew) car (following you) had lights and everything on top?
A: Yeah, it had rotors and -- it was a Christmas tree. A lot of (the racers) are putting motor homes back there driving along at 15 miles an hour. That's totally unsafe because a car has to go all the way around two vehicles. That's why we went with the small car because a car coming up behind us can see that there's a bike rider ahead. That small car can drive way over on the shoulder and leave almost a total lane for the pass. It was much safer. A motorcycle is good up to a point, but you can't carry enough spare tires. You can't carry enough food. A car that's narrow enough so traffic can go around -- our support crew can go pretty much right through a town and not impede traffic at all. Nobody would even know that we're there. And that's the way we want it. We don't want to have anybody giving us the finger and all this other stuff.
Q: Will you throughout your life always find a new physical-mental challenge?
A: I hope so. It makessit interesting. I don't want to just sit down and be a vegetable. If something happened and I cut off a leg -- if I never could ride a bike again -- all those records would be important. That would be my last hold onto somngething in cycling. But as long as I know I can keep improving I don't consider all those things that big a deal.
Q: A lot of people would think this is extreme. This is the ultimate physical endurance test.
A: The tandem thing would be hard. I think that's a little bit of a challenge. Doing it with a girl. That's pretty neat.
Q: The thing that fascinates me the most about this whole thing is the endurance. Do you have ay theory on perpetual endurance? Stan Cotrill, a runner, ran across the United States. He felt that after running from L.A. to New York he could turn around and run from New York to L.A. When he started in L.A. he was 135 pounds. When he finished he was 135 pounds. When he went back he finished at 135 pounds. His intake was the same as his output. But he felt he mentally tackled the situation and that he could continue running in this fashion for any length of time. In other words he was talking about perpetual endurance. Do you have any feelings about that?
A: Yeah, I pretty much experienced the same thing with the round trip last year. I started out at 185, I was 185 the whole trip. When I got done in New York, I wasn't wiped out. I finished the 24 days of riding, 270 miles a day. I probably could have turned around and gone back. The same way with this race. After about four or five days out, you reach an acclimation point where you just keep going.
Q: Do you think (the race) should be monitored more closely by physiologists?
A: Well, yes. But considering physiologists don't know what they're doing, anyway -- how are they going to set any standards? No one knows what they're looking for. Nobody can say no, you're not fit to ride when no one has even done any research really on how far (you can) push yourself. We just blew all sorts of theories apart on this ride. Things we're supposed to do and not supposed to do.
Q: For example?
A: Milk toxins. Digesting of milk. My diet consisted of at least a gallon of milk a day. And I had no allergic reaction to milk at all. It was pretty much understood that if you do endurance events, your enzymes or whatever it is, don't digest the milk and it's not something that you should eat. Same thing with wheat products. I lived on milk products and it didn't really effect me. In fact that was probably one of the few foods I could get down when I was feeling real lousy. I drank high-calorie milk drinks all the time and it didn't bother me. Everybody (was) saying (we needed) 14,000 calories a day. I don't think I ate more than 6,000.
Q: Did (marathon swimmer and race commentator) Diana Nyad talk to you about food at all?
A: She saw me eat at McDonald's and then she figured it was useless.