SweatyShe Monday: Five Things about Race Across America (RAAM)
We SweatyShe’s are game for just about anything. I recently returned from a work trip across the United States. When I say “across”, I mean Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. And when I say “work trip”, I mean FUN! I was part of this year’s Race Across America media crew which means I was one of about 15 media folks who got to follow and cover cyclists who were racing their bikes across America.
I was partnered with two other media people – Rafiel the photographer and Ryan the video journalist. My job? I was “the writer”, responsible for posting headline updates to the RAAM website. We were supposed to have a driver but there were some last minute issues which left the three of us to fend for ourselves on the driving front. Make that two of us – Ryan doesn’t drive. So Rafiel and I tag teamed it.
There were solo riders and relay teams of two, four, and eight people plus their crews in RVs, vans, and cars. We left Oceanside on a Saturday afternoon immediately after the teams went across the start line. As the teams made their way across the first set of mountains in California and down into the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, were there taking photos, video, and writing — all of our content then uploaded to the RAAM website to keep people who were following the race informed and up to date. This continued for eight days across 14 states and through 55 timing stations.
Five things struck me about this amazing adventure:
1. The United States is big.
I’m used to driving for 10 hours and still being in the state of Texas. But driving for eight days and never seeing the same roads twice? Yeah, that’s big. Each state was very distinct and sometimes the distinction was immediately evident at soon as we crossed the state border. Shout out to the people of Ohio – learn to use street signs to mark your roads, will ya?! Another shout out to West Virginia – in my eyes, you are no longer the “hill billy” mecca I thought you were. That honor goes to, yes that’s right, Ohio.
2. People are amazing.
As with any physical endurance event of epic proportions, we saw the FULL range of human emotion. From German crew members doing push ups and laughing while waiting for their rider to come through some small town in Indiana (they didn’t want to get fat from eating an “American diet”), to the former LAPD female officer who was paralyzed from the chest down being helped into her van by her husband after her 20 min ride segment was over. And special shout out to Team Summit who took every opportunity to invite us into their team RV and feed us lasagna, chocolate covered blueberries, and Hershey’s chocolates.
3. Van camping is a great ice breaker.
I didn’t know Ryan (from Boulder) and Rafiel (from Los Angeles) at the start of this trip. But let me tell you, sleeping with two perfect strangers in a van, in the middle of a hay field, in the middle of NOWHERE in Arizona makes for a great ice breaker. The second night we slept somewhere in Monument Valley and listened to the whizzing and whirring of cyclists passing us throughout the night. We woke up to fantastic views of towering orange, red rocks reaching up to the blue morning sky.
4. Don’t over think. Just do.
I’m all for planning and preparation, but sometimes it’s better to get out of my own way and just DO. In talking to some of the teams, I learned that some teams didn’t really train (nor were the riders really cyclists) but their goal was not to win, it was to come out and raise awareness for a certain disease (Friedrich’s Ataxia) or mission (Amy Xu and Team Strong Heart), or just to have a heck of a good time (Team Enjoy the Ride). They came, they saw, they pedaled, they raised awareness, they had a blast!
5. A picture is worth more than a thousand words (see photo).
I took a lot of pictures and video and with all the amazing things I saw and experienced, I don’t think anything quite sums up the feeling and attitude of RAAM as this does (see photo).
I plan to do RAAM in 2011 as part of a four-woman relay team. We are in the throes of planning and preparation and we plan to officially announce our beneficiary and start raising money soon. I plan to keep my list of five things (above) in mind throughout this journey. As for any type of tattoo? I don’t think so. But then again, never say never!
Details about my experience, including van camping and photos can be found on my blog at: http://susanstarstink.blogspot.com/