RAAM 2014 – Was it all a dream?
I wake up. No idea what town or state I’m in. The bed is not moving, which means I have somewhere between 30 minutes and maybe 2 hours before I ride. That’s my only job, to get ready and ride my bike. I open my eyes. I’m in a soft bed, not an RV. It was a dream.
What just happened? Did we really finish the Race Across America. Pictures say we did. RAAM says we did. So I guess, well, it happened. I am filled with pride for our team, as this was not a feat of racers alone. This was truly an accomplishment shared by all and shouldered in large part by our crew. Going into this race we were excited and knew it would be a challenge, but truly did not know – I mean really know – how hard it would be (it’s something you just have to do to learn). The racers were ready, physically and mentally for the challenge. Same for the crew. But what ensued was a challenge beyond measure. They say in RAAM anything can happen and will happen (and you can’t plan for every hiccup or hurdle you come across – they are so unpredictable), and this was true. But in the end we overcame each challenge by a crew quick to think on the spot – improvise, adapt, and keep going – and racers with a unified focus to continue forward despite setbacks. These people worked the hardest I’ve ever seen people work. Together. Racing RAAM is one thing, but the sleep
deprivation, the 24/7 race and constant movement of it, living in the narrow confines of a moving RV, the fact that there are lives on the road in the headlights of the support vehicles with a radio connection between the car and cyclist – well, high-pressure is an understatement. Yet our team not only survived but thrived in this environment, truly working together despite the toll of cumulative sleep deprivation. Each and every of the 17 team members shined in this effort. Each contributed greatly to the result, and I believe each of us learned something about ourselves in the process. It seems like just yesterday we…
- Formed a team of 4 women crazy enough to Race Across America
- Approached PHA and UPMC with this idea to use this team to raise awareness and met with resounding support
- Met patients at the PHA Conference in Orlando when Team PHenomenal Hope was Launched in the PH community
- Trained with Sally Edwards and Gene Nacey in Winter Training, then with Jim Bruskewitz in the final 6-month push in Team RAAM-specific training
- Met patients all over the country – in person and through social media – who were participating in the Race of Our Lives campaign, doing Unity Events with our team – setting personal goals and achieving them to raise PH Awareness
- Spent hours and hours discussing, debating, preparing and practicing for RAAM – from logistical planning to nutritional tweaking to help performance and recovery and riding, lots of riding
Traveled to Oceanside, attending meetings, preparing vehicles, talked to the press, met other teams, and met with members of the PH community who sent us off with an amazing dinner and heartwarming gathering
- Set out from Oceanside on June 14 amidst a din of cheering and cowbells feeling the awesomeness of the task before us, as well as the knowledge we truly were not alone
- Climbed Mt. Palomar, descended the windy Glass Elevator 3000 feet into the dry sauna-like heat of Borrego Springs, where Stacie and Ryanne took the first long leg in the desert
Rode the desert at night under the most incredible stars and moon
- Powered up the Yarnell Grade in Arizona
- Learned that sunrise really starts with a hint of a blue glow on the Eastern horizon around 4:30AM
- Experienced the sun illuminating pink rocks in the Utah desert
- Flew on a tailwind through Monument Valley, 35 mph on the flat
- Climbed the Rockies into Durango, learning that sometimes climbing is better on the legs than riding on the flat
- Passed through Durango without time penalties
- Continued out of Durango up Wolf Creek Pass, with a late night descent through winds and tunnels
- Survived crosswinds on La Veta Pass in Colorado and kept the rubber side down on the mountain
- Got through eastern Colorado into Kansas high plains, (~100 degree humid heat) with a diagonal tailwind from the South giving us a little momentum on our ride.
- Overcame RV troubles with a faulty electric system, intermittent A/C difficulties, limited space and more
- Overcame nightly mechanical issues with radios and flying tail lights
- Discovered the ability to continue – both crew and racers – with a positive outlook and ever-forward focus despite intense struggles with sleep deprivation, heat and fatigue
Raced in the camaraderie of other teams from Germany, Brazil, Austria, Australia and elsewhere
- Enjoyed the amazing hospitality and dedication of RAAM volunteers manning time stations at all hours to be there when teams rolled through, including a family letting us set up and indulge in an ice-filled kiddie pool in their front yard Fort Scott, Kansas
- Did the new state shuffle with each crossing
- Rode through some very challenging sections, especially highways at night, with aggressive drivers or in the rain
- Crossed the Mississippi into Illinois and felt that feeling of being “almost home”
- Were surprised by a spontaneous pep rally by patients who drove from the PHA International Conference in Indy to Bloomington – truly an incredible moment and testament that we rode with PHA throughout this race
- Were delighted by friends and family showing up along the race route at all hours of the day and night if only to catch a brief glimpse – this meant more than you could ever know
- Were buoyed by countless messages of support on our Facebook page and Twitter feeds that helped propel us along
- Met the McFaddens, Lee Kreider, and Danny Chew in Blanchester, Ohio (Danny had ridden out from Pittsburgh to see us)
- Climbed the Appalachians and rode through Gettysburg
- Saw Stacie complete the timed portion of the race for us, then got on the road for the parade finish
- Crossed the finish line at ~10:30PM to a crowd of family, friends and PHriends, including PHA being there remotely on Skype!
There are so many moments. So many memories compressed into 2+ years then the actuality of 7 days, 7 hours and 15 minutes. There are so many people to thank, so many more memories I could mention. RAAM 2014 surpassed expectations, blew my preconceived notions out of the water, and left me with a feeling of appreciation that we truly did make a safe crossing in the world’s toughest endurance race. At the close of this blog post I send a sincere thank you to:
- Our families, friends, and employers for not only understanding our time commitments in preparation and in the race but also supporting us in this effort
- The PH community – PHriends and PHamily – for embracing Team PHenomenal Hope and racing with us towards a cure
- The Pittsburgh community – all I can say is WOW. You guys really were amazing.
- RAAM organizers, officials and volunteers – for conducting an amazing event of incredible proportion
- All our coaches and mentors who supported us from the start: Coach Jim for training us all in the final push; Sally Edwards and Gene Nacey for helping lay a foundation; Danny Chew, Joe Knopinski, Anne Sasso, and all the RAAM veterans who mentored crew and racers along the way
- PHA, UPMC and all our sponsors and supporters for believing in us and making this possible
And finally – last but not least – to my teammates and crew. Thank you all for joining Team PHenomenal Hope on this adventure. I saw and felt what you went through to get us safely to the finish line, and am forever inspired by and grateful for your dedication, perseverance, and aequanimitas throughout this race.