The Race Across America is probably one of the toughest endurance races. 3000 miles from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD need to be pedaled through with over 170,000 feet of climbing. The elemental challenges are the extreme heat of the desert in California and Arizona, the high altitude passes over the Rocky Mountains, the strong winds of the plains of Kansas, and more climbs in the Appalachians, short but steep. Teams race relay style, 24/7. Crews need to be flexible and on the move all the time, with little moments of rest. Directions need to be navigated (not easy when you're sleep deprived), rider exchanges planned, supplies kept up, tires (bikes and car) need to be fixed. What is it all for? Why do we go through such a torture? Because every member of RAAM is an adventurer, not afraid of challenges, doesn't mind to step out of their comfort zone. No egos are allowed, only team spirit and the common goal. No time for dwelling in the past, there is only one way and that is forward, preferably fast. No prize money could do justice to the best reward: the priceless feeling of an incredible accomplishment.
Start: Oceanside, CA
Finish: Annapolis, MD
Highlights of the route:
- Borrego Springs, CA and the Imperial Sand Dunes
- Mining town Jerome, AZ, Mormon Lake and Flagstaff, AZ
- Monument Valley, Mexican Hat, Valley of the Gods
- Rocky Mountains, Continental Divide, Wolf Creek Pass at 11,000 feet elevation
- 700 miles of the Great Plains, corn, wheat fields, strong winds, "tornado alley"
- Rolling terrain, and lots of German settlements in Missouri, Indiana, Ohio
- Appalachians, steep climbs, high temperatures and humidity, Gettysburg National Military Park
- German Gators finished 4th place in the 8-person open category, after 6 days and 9 hours, 20mph avg speed
Team German G8tors
This was the second tour of RAAM that I have done. The first tour in 2014 was probably the most exhilarating one (click here to check out the photos), just because it was the first time and I didn't really know what I was getting into. RAAM his a huge challenge for both riders and crew, logistically and especially physically and mentally. You'd be surprised how well your body and mind functions with an average of 3-4 hours of sleep for an entire week, but the exhaustion after is immense. The following nights after RAAM was over, I would dream of being in the race and sleep talking "...what is the team's position...we need to go to the bridge...". The life lessons you learn from such a journey are priceless. Planning, organisation, training before the start are critical, but even more critical is dealing with unexpected problems along the way. Flexibility and good, quick problem solving is key. You gotta move forward and always think ahead, there's not much time and no point in dwelling on past problems and missed opportunities. There is only forward.
I get asked a lot if I would do it again, answer: Absolutely. In fact, the 2nd tour has made me hungry for more. Driving alongside in the car and photographing twice now, I am itching to do RAAM on the bicycle as well.