Most of us would be happy to have the distinction of being named after something. For the rest of humanity to utter our name for infinity long after we’ve left this world – but a debilitating medical condition? Not so much.
During the first Race Across America Michael Shermer’s neck muscles failed in their job of supporting his head. He was the first person in the race this condition inflicted so the moniker Shermerneck was born and stuck fast. But he certainly wasn’t the last.
It’s hardly surprising these under-appreciated and over-worked muscles buckle under the strain and fatigue of holding up a 10-pound dead weight for hour after hour, day after day. Crew members scramble to find wire, towels, foam and even Pringles chips cans – anything they can fashion into a makeshift neck brace to take the pressure off the neck muscles while still allowing the rider to do his job of riding his bicycle.
Welcome to the world of Shermerneck devices. Welcome to the world of RAAM.
Paul hasn’t experienced neck issues in his training thus far but we’re a crew full of planners, thinkers and Type As who appreciate that a good contingency plan can get you out of almost any sticky situation. We want to be prepared.
Here’s an update on the development of Paul’s Shermerneck device with the help of Mike’s trusty inventor friend Chris Young in Guelph.
We decided that a good approach was to use a windsurfing harness as a
firm yet compliant foundation from which we could suspend Paul’s head
via his helmet held up by using the flexible carbon stays found in
Chris’s old racing sails he had lying around his workshop.
We thought hanging a beer from the thing would be a far better way to
entice Paul to not only hold his head up but but go even faster
towards the finish line.
The carbon stays were held in place by basic hardware from Canadian
Tire – a bit of a challenge to push through many layers of synthetic
material by the end of it.
This was only semi-successful (and eventually not even tested) as a researcher-of-all-things enthusiast neighbour of Chris’ suggested an alternate solution which is what we have decided to move forward with (with the help of an actual professional orthotics clinic). Of course the goal is to never need this device and our massage therapist extraordinaire LeeAnne is making sure Paul arrives at the start with the muscle tone of a Yoga master.