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Earning serious seat time

Jason Kelley/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe High music teacher Patty Jo Struve trains last week for the Race Across America, a 3,000-plus-mile ride from Oceanside, Calif., to Atlantic City, N.J.
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Patty Jo Struve has been an athlete for 25 years. When she was in college she started running, then she started doing 10K runs, then triathlons. Then she got into ultra cycling. Now, Struve, a 50-year-old music teacher at North Tahoe High School, has an athletic resume almost as long as the miles she’s tallied.

Struve has won the Iditasport 350, which puts cyclists in the Alaskan wilderness ” that’s right, riding on snow ” for seven days. She set the female record for the Davis 24-hour race, where she completed 330 miles.

On June 11, Struve will embark on a 3,043-mile trek from Oceanside, Calif., to Atlantic City. She hopes to finish the ride in 12 days, which would make her the first 50-year-old woman to make the cross-country trip in that time in the 25-year history of the race.



In order to qualify for the Race Across America, Struve had to win the Race Across Oregon, which she did in 46 hours. After qualifying, a rider then has three years to actually enter the Race Across America, due to the intense training needed and, more importantly, the money needed to complete the ride.

According to Struve, it costs about $20,000 to do the Race Across America.



While Struve is sponsored by a long list of companies and individuals ” including Tahoe Forest Physical Therapy, Lanza’s, The Backcountry, Atlas Snowshoes, Dean Bicycles, Terry Bicycles, Rudy Project, She Beest, Champion Nutrition, Hammyer Nutrition, Dermatone, Profile Design, Light and Motion, Titan Flex, Alpen Software and Body Concepts ” most of those sponsors come through in the form of equipment.

Financially, Struve says she has received donations and had her entry fee paid, but for the most part, she has just saved her money.

“I have a hard time asking people for money to fulfill my passion,” Struve said.

While her support crew of nine people are volunteers, and most even pay their own way, someone still has to fund the costs of traveling across the country with two cars and an RV.

To train, Struve commutes from Kings Beach to Dollar Hill every day, no matter the weather. After riding across Alaska, pedaling through the Sierra snow is no big deal. She just cruises along with her studded snow tires.

On weekends, she has traveled to the foothills, the Sonoma Hills, Pyramid Lake, Death Valley, Sierra Valley and just about everywhere else.

In Death Valley she rode 800 miles in six days for heat training. Around Pyramid Lake she would ride through the night, sleep for 30 minutes, then ride for 10 hours, then sleep for 30 minutes then ride for 10 more hours. The Ultrarider said a big part of the Race Across America is dealing with the sleep deprivation and the long hours in the saddle.

It’s not necessarily about speed, it’s about endurance and maintaining consciousness.

Struve said she will average 15 to 18 mph and plans to ride 20 hours a day and rest the other four.

“I’m not fast,” Struve said.

In training, she has tried to average at least 300 to 400 miles per week, and by the June 11 start, she will have tallied 10,000 miles in 26 weeks.

“I haven’t had a life,” Struve said.

When she completes the Race Across America, Struve said she will stay away from her road bike. She is looking forward to getting back on her mountain bike and riding the quiet trails and dirt roads of the Sierra.

With roads beat down by winter weather and lots of summer auto traffic, Struve said the North Shore of Tahoe and Truckee are not very pleasant places to ride a road bike.

Her favorite training ground is near Pyramid Lake, where the scenery is beautiful and the roads are empty.

She said she is looking forward to soloing the Big Blue Adventure Race and doing more off-road riding.

“I’m going off road,” Struve said.

– Start: Oceanside, Calif.

– Finish: Atlantic City, N.J.

– Total Miles: 3,043

– 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.

Everest: 1,300

– 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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