When I qualified for RAAM in 2010 at the ADK 540 I had no idea what a logistical nightmare attempting RAAM would be. There are a few things that I would like to say that set the stage for my account of my RAAM attempt. First, I can’t say how touched I am by all of the kind emails, calls, and facebook post I have received, especially from those of you that have experienced the heartbreak of RAAM firsthand. Second, I want to say that I believe that endurance racing is a microcosm to life, ones success is not only based on ones own abilities but also on the abilities of those they are surrounded by. Lastly, I have to tell a story that really struck me last year. In the wake of the Arizona shooting of Gabby Giffords the media turned much of it attention to Sarah Palin who at the time of the shooting had on her web page what appeared to be gun sights on democratic candidates. Quickly this page was taken down and official statement from the Palin camp was released making reference to her being a “blood libel.” I had never heard this term and quickly looked it up; it is a term used usually by Jews “is a false accusation or claim.” Still on the computer looking up the definitions from Palin’s press release, in my opinion were victim words, I was shocked to read on yahoo a statement by Jane Fonda calling Sarah Palin “politically reckless.” I got mad and then did a goggle search, “Jane Fonda and amends to Viet Nam Vets.” The only thing that turned up was a link in a article titled “Not all Viet Nam vets accept apology by “Hanoi Jane’ Fonda “by Judy Packer. Fonda, said,” I am sorry for being photographed aboard a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, saying, “That was thoughtless and careless thing to have done.” This made me angrier; both of these women in my opinion took little ownership of how their actions affected others. When I attend Warriors Journey Home I hear story’s about how our Viet Nam Vets were poorly treated when they came home, but how they are trying to heal by taking ownership of what they did to survive war. I am grateful to the Viet Nam Vets at Warriors Journey Home that have the courage to face their truth about the Viet Nam War, thank you for your power of example. I hope that I can find words in my race report that reflect MY truth. I do not blame anyone for my decision to withdrawal from the race but in part my decision was based on the action of others.
RAAM June 12th 2012 Race Report
The race start was exciting, three other women and a few solo men over sixty began the Race Across America on June 12th. I was at the starting line, George Thomas said, “you have 10 seconds on the microphone to tell the crowed about wheels4change.” I talked as fast as I could about how I was using RAAM as a way to bring attention to the needs of Our Nations Veterans, their families, and to honor those that did not come home. I was off to ride unsupported for the first 24 miles. Once I got to the point where crews could start leapfrog I felt very proud of myself that I did not get lost. I then quickly got nervous when I was running out of water and did not see my crew Kat1 and Rachel and could not contact them by radio. Luckily, Bill, Janet Christiansen’s crew chief saw that I was concerned and offered help. He gave me a new water bottle and went off, a few minutes later I got a flat on my back tire. I had a spare tire and CO2 so I was able to change the flat, but at the cost of loosing several minutes and loosing a visual on my competitors. This would be the last visual of Janet and Joan that I would have for the remainder of my race. My memory from that point until Congress, AZ at TS 6 at 395 miles is a little sketchy. I am not sure when, you would have to ask my crew, I stated projecting fluids from all ends. The main people I remember during that time was Kat1, Kristy and Rachel. I would stop peddling and put my head down and let out whatever was in my stomach out. They would comfort me and put me back on the bike. I think after the second or third time of vomiting Rachel took my blood pressure and my temperature in a way that I had not had taken since going to the pediatrician as a kid. People say you loose all your modesty during RAAM this was the point that it happened to me. I hit bottom literally and figuratively the last time Rachel took my temperature. This is the part where the brutal honesty comes in; I was looking forward to her taking my temperature hoping it was too high to continue. I think we were all surprised when it came back 98!!!!!!!!??!! It was so miserably hot and it just sucked being sick on the bike. Rachel looked me in the eyes and said, “This is in your head!!! I know you don’t feel good, but you need to change your attitude if you want to make the Durango time cutoff.” They all told me it was in my head and that I needed to push. I wanted to give up, but found a way to stay on the bike. Bill consulted with Rachael and they started feeding me Pedialyte to get me better, it worked slowly. I remember looking forward to Congress, AZ. Last year when I participated in RAAM as a race official I remember taking an amazing shower and then setting up my tent under a big cactus. I was trying to hold on to looking forward to my favorite memories of RAAM from last year to work towards. When I reached Congress I got the first of two bathroom showers I would have for the entire trip. I had one other outside shower with a milk jug of water. The remaining nights I had nothing or used Action Wipes. When I went down on my cot to sleep I looked up at the amazing sky and K2 saged me as I went to sleep. Woke up, I am not sure after how long but feeling optimistic. K2 with the help of a few other crew made me a smoothie. Up until this point the only thing I could keep down was Quinoa, Lu Kat1 mom made for me. I got on the bike and my optimism started to fade again when I was started climb Yarnell Grade. I pulled over halfway up the climb and started vomiting up everything I had just ate. I felt so defeated. They let me lay on the ground for a little while and then got me back on the bike. I don’t remember anything else significant happening until somewhere around Flagstaff, AZ. Mike was doing the math, saying if I made it to two more time stations I could have a 3-hour break. I was exhausted; Tommy and K2 were on shift. All I wanted to do is rest my eyes for a short while. I explained during the last crew pre-RAAM meeting that I do really well with powernaps. I was fighting to keep my eyes open, I started to beg to get in the van to rest. Tommy reluctantly let me but told me if I did I would not make the Durango cutoff. Tommy said to me that I would still be his hero if I decide to quit and K2 got mad and started lecturing me about all the things I, and other scarified to get here. I lied down both fully awake and asleep. I heard everything Tommy, K2, Kristy, Mike and Denis were saying. I heard Kristy the loudest saying, “I will tell her the truth that she is projected on the RAAM web site to be two hours beyond the Durango cutoff.” After my much-needed 20-minute powernap I dug deep to narrow the time cutoff gap. I pushed myself hard all night to TS 10 Tuba City, AZ at mile 608. We did a shift changed to Kat1 and Rachel. I told them that I was feeling better and I pushed through the night with only a 20-minute powernap. I requested to rest again for a short while to regroup to prepare myself to push hard to make the Durango cutoff. I was told that I could not sleep and the van would be locked if I tried to get in. I was so mad; I worked so hard to push myself to Tuba City. I tried to plead my case for a sleep break, but was ignored. Anyone that truly knows me knows that I do not like to be controlled and resent people that try. So I laid down in the dry brush on the side of the road in the desert and took my powernap. I woke up feeling semi-refreshed and pushed as hard as I could through the hot desert towards Durango. I left Tuba City at 6:14am at mile 608 and arrived in Durango, CO TS 15 the next day at 4:06am at mile 858.6 with time to spare from the time cutoff. I got my 2nd shower of the trip and sleep in a bed in a hotel for 3 hours. I agreed with Kat1 and Rachel that we needed to bank miles so that we would not run into the same time crunch with the next time cutoff at the Mississippi river. They said they wanted me to get to Trinidad, which was over 270 miles from Durango over the Rocky Mountains; this day would be mostly climbing. I agreed to aim for 250 miles for the day; I said there was no way that I would make Trinidad that I could make up miles in the Great Plains. I hit the summit of La Veta elevations 9,418; I started climbing at 7,536, and descended to TS 18 La Veta, CO and arrived at 3:16am mile 1,065.8 into the race. I was confused when my crew on shift, Mike and K2, told me that I was not going down for a sleep break that they wanted me to get to Trinidad. I had done RAAM last year and knew that this was not easy, quick TS. The elevation starts at 7,017 and peaks at Cuchara Pass summit at elevation 9,939. At some point in the climbing I said that I needed to go down to sleep. My mileage on my bike computer was somewhere around 215 miles when I asked to lie down for a short while then push on to my 250 goal. I was told that I could not sleep that I needed to make it to Trinidad. I was so tired and frustrated I got off the bike and lay on the side of the road again. K2 and Mike took turns picking me up off the ground and making me walk my bike. I told them all I want to do is lay down for a break to push on and sleep at 250 miles. I did understand why they were not listening to me, but they said they were just following orders from the crew chief. I felt humiliated, I felt like I was being forced to march with my bike. The follow vehicle with Kat1 was following somewhat close behind. I had enough; I demanded to speak with my crew chief Kat1. She finally came up, I said, “Why are you trying to f-in run me into the ground just let me go to sleep for a while.” I refused to continue and was allowed into the mini-van. This is not something I anticipated, to be totally ignored when I said what I needed. The shift changed shortly after, within a half hour. Kristy and Rachel woke me and told me to get dressed and back on the bike. I said “I NEED TO SLEEP!!!” This became another unnecessary power struggle and I angrily got back on the bike resenting both of them. After a while they pulled me over and said Kat1 had never told them to let me sleep and they did not know that I had only been down for 30 minutes. I said that I could not continue on like this, being made to march with my bike and being denied sleep. I pushed on to Trinidad, CO feeling dirty; I had not washed up in over 24 hours. I fell over on my bike in the city. I tried to ride, but had a meltdown and started crying uncontrollably. Kristy and Rachel put me in the van and helped me change into my sleep clothing and called to Kat1 to bring me some clean biking shorts. I got a good 30-minute sleep and felt somewhat refreshed. When Kat1 arrived I talked to her about how I felt and said I need to sleep at least 3 hours a night, be clean, and be respected when I said I needed to rest. She admitted that it was poor communication why I only got 30 minutes of sleep on the way to Trinidad. She agreed with my request. I made it to Ulysses, KS at 2:44 am got cleaned up with Action Wipes and then went down for a 3-hour sleep break. The Kansas winds were kind until Pratt, then it became a battle with the wind to stay up right. With only 225 miles in for the day according to the information written in the route book we arrived at TS 27 Maize, KS at 12:34AM. This was my third shower of the race outside in the wind with the plastic curtain flying about. They set up my cot next to the Pizza Hut and I went down for my sleep break. About an hour later I woke up in the worst pain, I could not move my legs and thought that I was abandoned on the turnpike. I have to stop for a minute and interject that in high school I did my share of hallucinogenic drugs and this by far was worse that any bad acid trip I ever had. I started screaming, “Kat, Kat, help, help.” I remember waving my arms in the dark and then trying to drag my legs to put them upright against the building. Kat1 and Denis came and I could not stop screaming. They got me in the mini-van and I said I needed my legs elevated as high as possible. There was so much pressure from all the swelling. Denis bungee corded my legs to the hand rest on the ceiling, which eventually brought relief. I really did not sleep much; it’s hard to say how long I actually rested. I knew I was really far behind when Len Forkas showed up at the time station. He proudly announced that he was first in his age group and that he had reached his goal of $100,000 for his charity. I said, “Len you are a gazillioner, and all of your friends are gazillioner so I think that was a pretty achievable goal.” His response that I remember was, “I don’t have that much money.” I beat Len at the ADK 540 in 2011 by over two hours. Len looked so fresh, he was bragging about how much sleep he was getting and how well he was eating. I felt so exhausted; I did not feel like I had slept at all. I got back on the bike to battle the wind. As George Thomas put it, “the Kansas winds can be demoralizing.” George caught me right before Yates Center, KS. I jumped off the bike and put my arms around him, I was so glad to see him. George has helped me so much to prepare for RAAM. Last year when I had to call him in May to say that I needed to postpone my RAAM solo attempt until 2012 he offered me a job to be a race official to get hands on RAAM experience. I learned a lot and meet some amazing people. My friend Kristy contacted the Mayor of Weaubleau, MO for me. Last year during RAAM I meet Dick the Mayor, his wife Sue, and his dog Hooter in Weaubleau. Dick makes the most fantastic horseradish I have ever had and his wife Sue sells it in her store. My goal was to make it to Webubleau to see Dick, Sue, and Hooter. This was day seven, I said that I needed a sleep break around 2 AM that I felt beaten by the day and exhausted from a poor nights sleep the night before. I was told that I needed to continue on to Weaubleau and part of the way to Camdenton before I could lie down. This was starting again to feel like the march to Trinidad. I sat on the ground with my arms rapped around my legs to prevent someone pulling me up again and to make me walk with my bike. Dick, Sue and Hooter showed up around 2ish concerned about me because Kristy told them I would probably be in town around 12AM. I cried and said hi while Hooter licked my face. Dick asked me what was wrong and I said I just want to rest. After another long power struggle they finally let me rest in the van. Rachel must have gotten me out of my dirty bike clothing becusase I don’t remember changing. They woke me up at daylight and I finished the 11 miles to TS 31 Weaubleau, MO at mile 1,774.3. It was 6:30am. As I pulled into TS 31 Dick, Sue, and Hooter pulled up again. I biked to them and started crying in Dick’s arms that I did not want to go on. He said, “well, hell then you don’t have to.” He went on to say, “sometime things just don’t work out, I lost the mayors race a few weeks ago to a 27 year old women, now I am going to try and run for sheriff.” Sue went into the store and brought me some horseradish to take home. Rachel called into headquarters and said we were done. They drove me to Camdenton, MO to rest. When I woke up Rachel, Denis, and Kristy asked me what I wanted to do, I said, “I want to go home.” They drove all day and into the night to get me home to Akron, Ohio where I live. When I got home my sister Carrie, and Rachel’s husband Matt were waiting for us with lots of flowers.
As my RAAM bike mechanic Tommy would say, “for future reference” I would do a lot of things different, but hindsight is always 20/20. I think when push comes to shove you get to see what people’s real motives are and who really has your back. I can say now that I really know who has my back and that I was willing to make a hard decision that was for the best, but the opposite of what I wanted to do. I am grateful for my crew that put my needs ahead of their own agendas. I could have physically finished RAAM but at what cost? Stay tuned for what’s next!