The 2009 edition of the Race Across America was an epic journey for Team Strong Heart. It was a journey that began many moons before the start last Saturday and it is a journey, that, for many of us, will continue far into the future., well beyond our championship run of this year.
To say that the Race Across America is “just” a bike race is like saying that Rome is just a city. The RAAM changes your life, changes the lives of those closest in your life and very much reaches into all aspects of life for crew, racers, staff and organizers. You’ve completed RAAM, what can’t you achieve?
In 2009, Team Strong Heart has set a new standard for organizing and executing the “world’s toughest bike race,” with honor, integrity and class. Plus, we were damned fast. Like one of our crewmen, Terry, told me after a late night shift on the road…”You guys have tailwind and talent.” What else is there really?
I can personally attest that Andy, Steve, Brett and myself, along with our crew, pushed ourselves to the ultimate limit during this years RAAM. It was awesome. Of course, once the race begins, most of the racers don’t really see very much of each other. I saw Steve every time we traded off a riding pull, but for the most part we spend time alone on the road and with our crew in one of the support vehicles. That being said, I knew with absolute certainty that each of the racers and crew were giving 100% all of the time, from the time we headed out to Oceanside to when the very last of us left Annapolis today. Steve and I knew that if we put in the effort, that effort would continue on into Andy and Brett’s shift on the bike. Having that knowledge adds a certain level of “comfort” to the race, knowing you aren’t working in vain.
There were so many stories to come out of this race and many of you will be fortunate enough to hear about just a few of them. The grandure of RAAM comes both from the sheer immensity of the race, the distances involved, the amount of climbing, etc., but it also comes from those individual and highly personal moments out on the bike, in the RV and out on the road. As k us and we’ll be happy to share, but absolutely nothing can replicate the real thing in real time.
There were ups and downs in emotions, fatigue and terrain, but we always came back to the mission and values that Team Strong Heart has strived for since its inception. We had some amazing and wonderful and terrible things happen out on the road, and we certainly couldn’t have predicted the crazy 12 hours in Missouri that changed the race for our team and our main competitors team. Some finished the race and others weren’t so lucky, but arriving in Annapolis came with both a sense of honor and a sense of respect for those who didn’t quite make it We are grateful for everyone on the road, finishers or no.
To encapsulate the race into a one or two page blog is a fools errand, to be sure. Instead, let me suggest that from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean there are roads that are high enough to cross the continental divide, low enough to be ridden below sea level, steep enough to reach out in front of your bike and touch them and also steep enough to tuck in so deep into your bike that your chin rests on your handlebars. We had tires delaminate, shoes melt into the pavement from the heat, wind whip across us on a 4000 foot descent, dogs jump out, cars and racers get lost or get well ahead of the rest of us, deer snap to attention on the side of the road, elk bugle at 10,000 feet at 0300 in the morning, and humidity that makes you permanently moist, from beginning to end.
But we return to the people who comprise Team Strong Heart. If I have anything to say about it, we will ALWAYS return to our supporters and our crew who bring us to the start line every year and draw us to the finish line in our deepest, darkest hours. Without your love and support, none of this would be possible.
Plans are already being made for the 2010 RAAM. Yep, I said it. We’ll be back for another go at it, one way or the other. I am going to form a four-man or person relay for next year,or maybe I‘ll go solo again. Who knows (wink)? We have to defend our title, right? We may have some new solo racers out there and there might even be a womens team forming in the future. Al of this is wonderful news, now let’s get back to work.
Come join us and see for yourself if what is said is so.
Camp Odayin is grateful for our efforts. I’m grateful to be associated with a world-class organization and promise to carry the Team Strong Heart torch into the future.
Yours in cycling, supporting the hope and promise of Camp Odayin and keeping the rubber side down.