A tough Race Across America
Patty Jo Struve knew by way of logic and word of mouth that it was not going to be easy to reach the finish line in the Race Across America. Now she knows by first-hand experience.
Struve, a music teacher at North Tahoe Middle School and an avid cyclist at age 50, was forced to throw in the towel due to “saddle issues” in Cortez, Colo., 72 hours and 771 miles into the coast-to-coast bicycle ultramarathon.
“It’s been my dream for 10 years to do the race, so it’s been tough,” Struve said of coping with her respective results. “But it was a good effort.”
Starting in Oceanside, Calif. on June 11, Race Across America sends its ultra-game entrants more than 3,052 miles across 15 states, gaining a total of 108,600 feet in elevation before reaching Atlantic City, N.J.
This year, the 25th anniversary of the race, the winner of the men’s solo division ” there are a number of divisions ranging from solo to two-person to four-person and so on ” crossed the finish line on the Atlantic Coast in nine days, 11 hours and 50 minutes. He averaged 13.36 mph.
Struve was one of only two racers in the women’s solo division. Shanna Armstrong, a friend of Struve’s whom she rode with at the start, finished the ride in 11 days and 22 minutes, averaging 10.63 mph.
Cruising along at an average speed of 10.7 mph, Struve said she hit trouble in Utah, where she encountered rougher-than-normal, chip seal roads that were particularly hard on her body. By the time she neared Cortez, Colo., Struve said she was in a great deal of pain.
“I couldn’t sit anymore, and you can’t ride across the country sitting up,” she said, adding that she had at least nine more days to go ” which, according to the RAAM Web site, equaled 2,271.6 miles.
At that point, Struve’s crew members ” nine people dispersed between two cars and an RV ” were hesitant on allowing her to continue. But they left the decision up to her, Struve said, and she knew what had to be done.
“I was way bummed. It was kind of emotional,” Struve said. “I rode hard for the next 25 miles (before quitting). I didn’t have a life for a year (training for the race), and I gave up an awful lot of stuff to do it.”
While riding through Utah and Colorado took the biggest toll on her body, Struve said the going was tough from the get-go.
In Southern California she faced intense heat and lots of climbing as the route crossed the San Jacinto Mountains before passing through Blythe and into Arizona. From there the riders climbed more mountainous roads to Flagstaff, Ariz., which Struve described as a “long and annoying” uphill stretch that was “hot and windy.”
She also battled her subconscious peddling through the lone expanses of the West.
“A lot of times it was like I was riding subconsciously. I was riding, but it was almost like I was sleeping,” Struve said. “It was a pretty freaky thing. You’d ask yourself, ‘How did I get here?’ It’s hard to describe that feeling.”
That wasn’t all.
“On the second day, climbing gradually, the sky was real blue, and I felt like it was enveloping me,” she said.
In spite of all that, Struve said she doesn’t regret anything. And she had a lot of fun at times.
Although she said the best part of the experience was playing the Star Spangled Banner on her trumpet immediately before the start of the race, another highlight was riding at night, reaching speeds of 50 and 60 mph down long, descending stretches of pavement in Utah (before the rough roads).
“I had a water bottle in front splashing me, and I was hooting and having fun,” she said. “My crew was wondering what I was doing.”
In total, Struve said she slept maybe six hours between short cat naps.
When all was said and done, instead of driving to New Jersey for the finish of the race, Struve and crew decided to visit the Grand Canyon. That was another highlight, she said.
Now that the Race Across America has come and gone, Struve said she plans to enter a 540-mile race across Oregon on July 22. She’d also like to get into the Big Blue Adventure Series as well as the Nissan Xterra races. Besides that, Struve intends to get back into mountain bike riding and having fun on the slopes.
“I love my road bike, but I’d really love to get back on my mountain bike and get back into skiing,” she said.
– Start: Oceanside, Calif.
– Finish: Atlantic City, N.J.
– Total Miles: 3,052
– States crossed: 15
– Lowest point: Mecca, Calif.: 170
feet below sea level
– Highest point: Wolf Creek Pass,
Colo.: 10,550 feet
– Total Elevation Gain: 108,600 feet
(roughly the distance from the
ground to the edge of space)
– Solo riders: 35
– Team competitors: 126
– 24-hour riders: 27
– Countries represented: 15
– Riders who have successfully
completed RAAM: 164
– Climbers who have summited Mt.
– What Austrian adventurer
Wolfgang Fasching said about the
RAAM and climbing Everest, both
of which he has successfully done:
“Everest is more dangerous, but
RAAM is much harder.”
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