by Carl Moler
The specifics of the RACE ACROSS AMERICA are recounted in the 2010 race summary that can be found earlier on this site. The 2011 race effort was similar and yet very different from the 2010 version. My goal here is to give a brief summary of the race. Again, more detailed information about the race can be found on the 2010 RAAM summary.
Our team was # 812 / Team JDRF- IGA. Our goal was to raise money for the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation. We were sponsored in part by the Independent Grocers Association (IGA). The #812 indicated that we were an eight bike team, in this case all tandems. Again, many of the details are similar to the 2010 effort which involved four mixed (male/female) tandems. In this race we had six mixed tandems and two male/male tandems. If you would like to look at details regarding the respective entrants you can do so by visiting the Team JDRF or RAAM websites. One of our primary goals in the 2011 effort was to do a “SUB-6” crossing. This meant riding the roughly 3,000 mile course in under 6 days. Given the challenges, including 180,000 ft. of climbing, this was no easy task. The four tandems in 2010 had ridden the course in 6 days 14 hours and 55 minutes. In order to break 6 days we had to average approximately 21 mph for 3,000 miles.
The 2010 race involved two tandems in each of the two racer vans. We also had a follow van and a Crew RV. In 2011 we divided the eight tandems into two teams of four tandems each. Team A consisted of two male/male tandems and two mixed tandems. Team B (of which I was a member) consisted of four mixed tandems. Two tandems were assigned to each of the four racer vans. There was also a follow van, a crew van, and a media vehicle in our race entourage. The effort required 16 racers and approximately 20 support personnel.
The race began and ended at the same venues as the 2010 version, Oceanside, Ca. for the start and Annapolis, Maryland for the finish. We arrived in Oceanside for final race preparations on Thursday, 6/16/11. There was one training ride, van preparations, racer and van inspections, pre-race meetings, team pictures, and other race related “stuff” over the next couple of days. The race began on Saturday, 6/18/11 at 2:00 PM. All eight tandems were involved in the “neutral start.” A team rotation schedule had been pre-determined and Team A rode the first 145.7 miles of the race. As with the 2010 race, each tandem rode a 30 minute “time trial” and then transitioned to the next tandem in the four bike rotation. This meant that each team had approximately 90 minutes to recover, eat, and sleep before their next “pull.” The difference in 2011 was that after 2 – 3 time stations (125 – 175 miles) the next “Team” took over. This meant that the “relieved” team would then have approximately 5 to 7 hours to “leapfrog” ahead to their next start point. During this time they had to drive 2 – 4 hours but also had more time to sleep and eat than the 2010 effort had allowed the racers. For this reason, while not easy by any stretch, the 2011 race was much more “manageable” from a racer perspective than the 2010 effort. However, in contrast, the logistics of managing the additional people and vehicles made the “support” effort much more complicated and expensive.
Team B began their racing in Brawley, Ca. 6 hrs. and 25 minutes into RAAM. Their first leg covered the next 196.9 miles to Salome, Arizona where Team A again took up the race 14 hrs. and 59 minutes after the start. The race rotation continued through Arizona, where unexpected strong headwinds and mechanical problems with one of Team A’s race vans threatened to undermine the “SUB-6”crossing goal. Things went well through Colorado and Team A had the task of climbing Wolf Creek Pass and crossing the Great Divide in the Rocky Mountains. Unexpected killer tailwinds across Kansas more than compensated for the unexpected headwinds in Arizona and we were back on track for a “SUB-6” crossing. The mid-point of the race was reached in Pratt, Kansas 2 days 20 hrs. and 59 minutes into the race. Next we raced through parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio before attacking the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia and Maryland. This section of the race is only about 400 miles from the end but is often the most difficult due to the amount of riding already done and the severity of the climbing grades.
The last night of the race in this mountain range during a lightning and thunderstorm my tandem partner(Kimberly Keathley) and I experienced the “adrenalin rush” associated with climbing hard and then descending at 50+ mph in unbelievable conditions. We weren’t positive at this point that we had our “SUB 6” goal in hand and so we raced this section as fast as possible, and maybe faster than advisable, under the conditions. As lightning lit up the sky and rain pelted the road I was able to navigate only by tracking the road center line under the water in the glare of the headlights of the follow van. That “pull” was a trip highlight for both of us.
The next morning we were nearing the end of the race as we crossed from Maryland through Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and then back into Maryland. By this time we knew we were going to break the 6 day barrier and prior to arriving at the end of the racing portion of the RAAM course all 8 tandems got on the road and formed a paceline for approximately 5 miles of actual racing. It was an impressive sight and a great opportunity for a “Team Moment.” We were then escorted the final 3 miles to the official finish line at the Annapolis Wharf by Race Officials. We had ridden the race course in 5 days 20 hours and 19 minutes at an average speed of 21.11 mph. Out of 46 teams Team JDRF finished 7th overall and 4th out of 13 eight bike teams.
It was an honor to have the opportunity to be a part of such an accomplishment. It is also a testimonial to the commitment of all of the numerous support and race personnel. There were many challenges that had to be overcome over those nearly 6 days but overcome them we did.
In closing thanks to Canyon Velo Team Member Luis Perez who was one of our van crew members. Our van couldn’t have finished without his hard work and sleepless nights. I also want to thank all of my family members, friends, and Canyon Velo team mates who supported our racing efforts with their kind donations. Also, a special thanks to Joe Peterson for giving me the opportunity to experience The Race Across America twice. And finally, thanks to Kimberly Keathley, who is a gifted climber and an unbelievably talented young rider for her efforts. And perhaps more importantly, thanks for the trust that Kimberly and her parents put in me to get her safely to Annapolis as the “driver” of our tandem. Oh, and especially thanks to my lovely bride of 43 years Nancy for allowing me the flexibility to train and focus and spend family resources on such “Epic Adventures!”