RACE ACROSS AMERICA
In 1993 Outside Magazine, the biggest and most popular magazine on outdoor sports, commissioned a panel of experts to rank the world’s toughest events. Using such criteria as the “Mule Factor”-the distances involved; the ”Forum”-how tough the course is; the “Anguish Index”-how hard the competitors “have to work to convince themselves that what they’re doing is only mildly inane and self-destructive;” and the “O Factor”-a combination of the cost to do the event and the drop out rate. Given these criteria, as judged by a number of multi-sport athletes and observers, the ranking came out as follows:
- Race Across America: 676.2 points
- Vendee Globe Around-the-World Sailing Race: 675.0 points
- Iditarod Sled Dog Race: 417.5 points
- U.S. Army’s Best Ranger Competition: 402.5 points
- Raid Gauloises Wilderness Competition: 399.0 points
- La Traverse Internationale (25-mile swim): 301.4 points
- Badwater 146-Mile Cross Country Run: 113.4 points
- Hawaii Ironman Triathlon: 67.2 points
Owner Kevin Wallace competed in RAAM 2004, 2-Man team. Kevin and Jeff Rushton broke the existing world record by 1/2 day, the previous record was set in 2001 by Ceara Discovery/Powerbar; 7 days 1 hour.
Successfully completing Race Across America (RAAM) as a 2-Man team was the first part of dream come true for Kevin. Originally, when he and Jeff Rushton rode their bikes across America for Cancer, (The Lance Armstrong Foundation and Trillium Health Centre), two years before, they constantly kidded each other about what it would be like to actually race the distance of 5000 km, which took them 24 days to complete in 2000.
When Kevin looks back it seems that most ultra or professional cyclists would have balked at the fact that they thought that 125 miles a day over 24 days was a challenge. But, for these rookie distance riders, it in fact was. Perspective is a very interesting thing. Since competing in Eco-challenge Borneo in 2000 and then being competitive in 2004 in Ultra distance, Kevin has a whole new understanding about the perceived limits placed on what the human body can handle.
Their preparation was the key. Under the guidance of Dr. Pat Hewitt, they aerobically built a strong base over 18 months. They went on a strict diet of proper fats, carbs, proteins, fruits, vegetables, supplements and minerals. They cleansed 6 months before the race to clean out intestines and improve liver function by which to process the race food more efficiently. One week before the race they only ate their race food diet of non-perishable foods (that would stay stable in the RV and didn’t require much preparation) to make sure that they wouldn’t have gastrointestinal problems during the race.
The race diet was a strict regimen of an electrolyte drink, lots of water, Dr Pat’s special almond butter sandwich, pumpernickel bread, tuna sandwiches, rice and tuna, salmon and rice, eggs on pumpernickel, salsa, pasta with olive oil mixed with protein powder and parmesan and lots of Ultra Maintain smoothies before and after the ride. This all added up to about 5000-7000 calories a day.
Their shifts consisted of 2-hour shifts, around the clock, for the entire race. A typical 2 hours of riding shift would be regimented like this:
- Havi or Jack (mechanics) would take the bike to address any problems
- Hop on the trainer already set up on the side of the road to cool down
- Drink a smoothie and towel off while riding the trainer – 10 min
- Change, clean groin to prevent saddle sores, eat solid food -10 min
- Lon (massage therapist) would rub down legs and help with stretching – 10 min
- Sleep – 1 hour
- Wake up 30 min before transition
- Go to the washroom – 5 min
- Dress (This would require more time at night with cooler temperatures) -10 min
- Apply sunscreen and Drink a smoothie – 5 min
- Warm-up on Trainer -10 min
The warm-up and cool down was critical for maintaining their average speed of 30 km/hr. Once they were on the bike they had to ramp up the speed right away if they wanted to break the existing record.
Kevin was surprised at how well his body was working. The food was efficiently being used as fuel and going through him like grass through a goose! It is amazing to see how one can actually get stronger when one consistently eats high quality food and doesn’t acidify muscles by going anaerobic.
What made the experience of RAAM most meaningful was hearing from support crew, the stories of the people we were riding for, those with various cancers, and dedications to those who had not survived, via our headsets. Gaining total inspiration from the strength that people have shown through their battles with Cancer. After hearing these stories on each shift it really put all of the race challenges into perspective.
Kevin used to race ultra distances anticipating pain and then paying a hefty price for having taxed his body and risking long term damage which would require a long recovery. Now, he realizes how important it is to make sure his body receives the proper calories and nutrients and how important it is to maintain an efficient fat-burning pace by staying aerobic, actually becoming healthier and stronger as the ride goes on.
Some definite highlights of the trip were riding alongside RAAM legends Rob Kish and Wolfgang Fasching, epic climbs in Arizona, and New Mexico, riding in the middle of the night in total silence, morning sunrises, tailwinds across West Texas, entering the amazing climbs of the Appalachian’s and seeing his beautiful wife on the boardwalk of Atlantic City.
In the end their final time from San Diego, CA to Atlantic City, NJ was 6 days 14 hours and 7 minutes with an average speed of 18.90 mph (beating the previous record by 11 hours). It was only possible because of the support of their families, co-workers and of course their incredible support crew.
“My mother always said that whatever you give, you receive back tenfold,” says Kevin Wallace, co-founding funder of the Betty Wallace Women’s Health Centre and driving force behind its major fund raiser – the Gears 24-hour (an indoor cycling event). This race is about raising awareness of the Centre, promoting wellness and raising funds to allow its work to continue.
On June 11, 2006 Kevin began the Race Across America, Solo Traditional division. Outdoor Magazine has described this race as the world’s toughest event. Going coast to coast through 14 states and 3,052 miles, it is 800 miles longer than the Tour de France in about one third of the time.
Already the 2004 RAAM two-man champion and record holder, Kevin came in fifth place after 10 days, 3 hours, and 57minutes. The 2006 winner had the slowest finish winning time in over twenty years because of the Wizard of Oz like winds in Kansas, less than half those that began the race were able to finish. In addition to completing the race Kevin was able to inspire hundreds of donors including one special donor that allowed him to reach and surpass his goal of an additional quarter-million dollars for the Betty Wallace Women’s Health Centre at Trillium Health Centre.
The Insight Race Across America has run every year since 1982, and since 2003 has followed its current route from San Diego, California to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
This event requires racing approximately 22 hours a day over mountains, across deserts and through the manifestation of pain, and doubt the likes of which are unparalleled in almost any other athletic endeavor on earth. Top individual racers pedal roughly 350 miles per day, burning over 9,000 calories and sleeping just 90 minutes.
Unlike other famous races like le Tour de France, RAAM has no stages. There is no drafting and the race is live to the very end. From the start to the finish, it is a single stage race, a battle against the vast environmental conditions encountered and the rider’s own mental and physical capacities.
In 2005, Bob Breedlove, a 53-year-old orthopedic surgeon and accomplished endurance bicyclist from Des Moines, Iowa, was killed when he slumped over his bike and crossed into the path of oncoming pickup truck near Trinidad, Colorado.
Riders battle thunderstorms, blasting heat, severe winds, saddle sores and chaffing, fatigue, hallucinations and a severe test to their mental willingness to keep going.