For my 60th birthday this year, I plan to have another go at the Race Across America (RAAM).
Here is a little background as to why competing in this event continues to be important to me…
In my youth (early 1980’s), I bicycled across the country 3 times; twice to raise awareness and support for worthy causes, and once towing my dog, Blue Ridge. In 1982, the”Wide World of Sports” aired the Race Across America for the first time. For some strange reason, I caught the bug, and racing my bicycle 3,000 miles across the country became a dream of mine. As family and career became my priority for the next 20+ years, I put this dream aside.
Thanks to the support of many in our community, for my 50th birthday in 2007, I was able to reconnect with this dream. Unfortunately, as fulfilling as it was to officially complete RAAM, win the 50+ age category and raise $35,000 for diabetes research, getting injured on day one of my RAAM dream, and limping through the event, has always made me feel like I have some unfinished business there. Ten years have now passed and I find myself with renewed enthusiasm and motivation for my 35 year old dream.
This time around, I plan to do RAAM on a tandem with my partner (and source of great motivation) Ann Rasmussen. Ann is an accomplished endurance competitor. She was a collegiate athlete in Division 3 XC running and in Division 1 road cycling and nordic skiing; representing her schools at the NCAA Championships in all three sports. For several years after college she continued to pursue nordic ski racing as a USSA development athlete for several international competitions and later as a member of the Fischer Salomon Marathon ski team (50 kilometer races). Ann has an insatiable love of the outdoors and athletic challenge. She has proven to be a quick study with regards to ultracycyling. Ann is my secret weapon!
Despite our advanced ages (53 and 60 respectively), in the two years that we have been riding together, Ann and I have had very good results on the tandem. In 2015, at Paris-Brest-Paris (a 764 mile event) we became only the 5th American tandem team (in the 125 year history of the event) to ride fast enough to become members of the prestigious Charly Miller Society. Last year, in Race Across Italy (a 500 mile event) we were the only tandem to ever attempt and complete this mountainous event. In the process, Ann qualified for RAAM for the first time. In August, we did another RAAM qualifying event in North Carolina called the Mid-Atlantic 24 (a 24 hour race). At this event, we easily surpassed the RAAM qualifying standard of 400 miles with 446 miles, only 8 miles shy of the mixed tandem Ultramarathon Cycing Association record. And, in November, at the 24 Hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, CA, we became the mixed tandem champions, surpassing the tandem course record by 117 miles.
As I did in 2007, Ann and I would like to use our event to raise funds for a worthy charity. We plan to support an organization called First Descents. First Descents
provides life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults (age 18-39) impacted by cancer. It offers young adult cancer fighters and survivors a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle, pedal and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same. Locally, Jennifer Morris is associated with First Descents and with her help we hope to raise $60,000 for this very worthy charity.
It turns out that this decision has been one of the most pivotal choices we have made so far in our preparation for RAAM. Ann and I are inspired by First Decents and what it represents. The courage, strength and passion for adventure demonstrated by each alumni is extraordinary and we hope to emulate their spirit as we prepare for the race. Ann and I now have a reason to compete in the Race Across America that goes far beyond that of personal challenge and living a dream.
Strangely, the cycling may be the easiest aspect of this adventure. The race starts on June 13, not the best time of year us for to leave work at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps and Plymouth Regional High School. While Ann and I plan to cover all of our own expenses, we also hope to find sponsors willing to help cover the estimated $30,000 in costs for transportation, lodging and meals for eight to ten crew members driving three support vehicles across the country, twice, over a 14 to 18 day period. We will also need to do some serious training as we make our way to the starting line!
Planning for RAAM is similar to planning for an expedition. It is a major undertaking. To even attempt RAAM requires a solid team effort. You can’t do this one without support!
Here are a few of our goals that would make RAAM a success in our eyes:
1) Getting to the starting line with a solid crew, reliable equipment and feeling prepared physically and mentally.
2) Becoming official finishers. No solo tandem has attempted RAAM since 2002. I am told that only nine tandems have ever completed solo RAAM in it’s 35 year history. I don’t think any tandem in our age group has ever completed solo RAAM.
3) Finish in front of the other tandem couple. We have competition and they are even competing in our age group!
4) If things are going well and we have some favorable winds, we would like to set a new mixed tandem record. The record of 10 days 22 hours and 40 minutes was set in 1990 by Ron Dossenbach and Sue Pavlet. Their average speed was 11.15 mph.
5) We would like our crew to have a positive and memorable experience.
6) We would like to raise a significant sum of money for a charity named First Descents… $60,000 is the target!
7) We currently have $8,000
in the pot, but we need to reach closer to $30,000. We would like to raise enough funds to cover the expenses for our support crew.