Friday, October 4, 2013

Race Across America!

So I've actually written this blog several times. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to say and then even longer to figure out HOW to say it. I decided I would make it a detailed state-by-state report. I got as far as Kansas and deleted it. It just wasn't authentic. Yes, it included a lot of actual events that took place, but it wasn't real. It would be impossible for me to recount only the great parts of the race, and difficult to tell the whole truth about what I experienced, so I decided to focus on what I learned from RAAM.

Thank you Elizabeth for supporting my weirdness! 
I LOVE my friends, family, and total strangers who supported us! If we really printed up all our sponsors on our jerseys they would all have to be 5XL! I am STILL in complete and total shock at the outpouring of love and encouragement we received from everyone. I feel so incredibly blessed to have such wonderful people around me everyday. One thing that was a really cool idea was having our friends write letters. Some were funny, some were motivational, but they were all great. Crew member Leslie was reading one to me and she started crying. She said "this is exactly how I felt about you when I first met you!" I kept the letters and read that one in particular when I am feeling crappy. It reminds me that 1)Elizabeth and I are Unicorn blood sisters for life and 2) My friends are really awesome. Like seriously. You don't get any better than this.

To my family that still doesn't quite get me but loves me anyways: thank you for allowing me to do what makes me happy and providing me with unconditional support. And no, I am not a professional athlete and you can stop telling people you are related to a professional cyclist. I pay to do this stuff!

To the people who have come out of the woodworks to make this dream a reality: YOU ROCK! Thank you so much for your encouragement and support. It really meant a lot to me!
The greatest crew you'll ever meet!

The true definition of selflessness: Being selfness means that you put others needs and interests ahead of your own. This is exactly what the 11 crew members did at RAAM. I've never experienced people behave in the way that they did. Everyone was stripped to the absolute core of who they are as humans. All basic necessities were taken away. Not everyone acts pretty in that rawness. But they were all selfless. It's one thing to crew for your spouse/partner and act that way. It's a whole other ballgame when you don't know that person very well or even at all and you can still put your needs aside to help them meet a goal.

My daytime crew on a dance break.
I have a great "circle": I have this small circle of people that I would do anything in the world for. They aren't all people that you would necessarily call "nice" but they are people that would go to bat for me in any situation under any circumstance. My circle grew during RAAM. When I was debriefing with Stan Beecham the sports psychologist we worked with going into the race he said "within five minutes of meeting you I knew you would be fine. You are the kind of person I want to be in a foxhole with." When looking for great crew members think to yourself "would I want to be in a foxhole with this person?" Because at times that is what it really felt like! I am happy to say my circle widened a little bit after the race.

True friends wear unicorn costumes for you! 
I am basically the exact same person I was before I did this....kind of. You think that you will do something like this and cross the finish line and there will be this incredible change that happens. It's just not true. The change happens gradually, from the minute you make the commitment to undertake something of this magnitude. You do not change when you cross the finish line. For me, crossing the finish line made me very overwhelmed with gratitude and love for the people that helped me get there. Yes I was happy with the accomplishment, but I felt (and still feel) like the crew were the ones that made it really happen. Every time someone wanted to talk about the race, all I wanted to do was talk about the crew. I am literally in awe of their awesomeness and words will never be able to explain how much what they did meant to me. When I got home and the dust settled all I wanted to do was crew for people. I literally sat down and thought "how can I even begin to give back to these people the way they gave to me?" I feel humbled by their gracious attitudes and selfless spirits. I don't know that I would have been so kind under the same circumstances.
I spent most of my training visualizing West Virginia and how I wanted to climb those hills!

Hugging my dad at the finish line. Jason's parents surprised us and showed up too!
If you want to test out commitment, do RAAM: This is a particularly hard section to write. Mostly because I am not sappy, but it makes me choke up to think about Jason and what he did to make this race happen. I talked to him before agreeing to do it. He was totally on board. He spent HOURS working on the gear for us. He literally packed everything we needed into the vans and was responsible for making sure we had everything we were going to need for the race-no small task. On top of taking that job, he also had to endure 4:45 am alarm clocks on a regular basis. Rather than complain he would simply nudge me and say "RAAM" until I got out of bed. Once the race was underway Jason was my advocate in many ways. I shutter to think about what the race would have been like without him. He is the most supportive and encouraging partner in the world. I mean who else can you come home to and say "Hey, wanna go to Romania and run 30,000 feet through abandoned castles for 20 hours?" and get an enthusiastic "YES!" from. Jason rocks.

This is how I slept. Not exactly comfortable but it worked. 

Race Across America was really the experience of a lifetime. I had fun, more fun than I've ever had racing before. I was surrounded by some of the most wonderful people I've ever met who stopped their lives to make sure Kacie and I made it to the finish line in record time. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I'm thrilled to report many of the crew want to do it again too-a good sign that they enjoyed the experience.

Power, Pedals, and Ponytails: 2-person female RAAM record holders! So proud of this!!
The thousands of pedal strokes are what physically got us to Annapolis, but it was the support of the 11 crew and the gazillions of friends and family members back home that made it possible to even show up at the pier in Oceanside. "Thank you" will never be sufficient enough to express how I feel. I can just say that I am honored to have you as my friends and feel blessed beyond belief! Your generosity will never be forgotten and I am striving every day to be as selfless to others as you all were to me. Thank you for teaching me the true definition of what a "crew member" is. Thank you for showing me what it is like to commit to helping others and never give up on them. And most of all, thank you for being you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

And now for the moment you've all been waiting for.....

It is hard to believe that in a few short days I will toe the starting line to the 32nd annual Race Across America. In case you haven't heard (what have you been living under?!?) RAAM is a 3000 mile bike RACE. It is continuous, we will race 24 hours a day. We start in Oceanside California and end in Annapolis Maryland. We have 9 days to complete the race. Only three 2-person female teams have finished it. Ever. 

 It's hard to know exactly how much I will ride, but it's safe to say it will be around 100+ hours in less than 9 days. So how exactly does one train for Race Across America? Honestly I have no clue. I know what I did, and I know what Kacie did and that is about all I know. It involved a tremendous amount of time on the bike. More hours riding than I have ever put in. It also included days that looked like this: 1 hour ride/30 minute break. Repeat 8 times. Those were some of my winter trainer sessions. They were brutal. 1.5 hours total time x 8 = 12 hours. I  remember crawling on my trainer for my last "on" and getting done at 9pm thinking "seriously I have lost my mind" The toughest part about those sessions? Having just enough time to shower, eat dinner, sit in the norma tec boots and pass out because I had to get up the next day and do it all over again.
In addition to the training Kacie and I have been putting in, our crew has been putting in work too. Chief Anne has been booking flights, working logistics, putting out fires with her glitter shooting extinguisher. Gear Guru Jason made countless trips to the store buying things to get the 8 page list of items we needed to bring as organized as possible. He kicked me out of the garage to make room for his work, and spent hours separating and organizing. I hate to tell him this, but it will likely all get undone in about 2 days of racing. George is our navigation man. I don't know what he has been doing for RAAM, but I know that he has made us some really great routes that we used for our 24 hour simulation rides. The man can read a map!

 We have tried the best we can to prepare our crew for what they will encounter at RAAM. In early February we had a crew retreat. This was our "this isn't going to be all glitter and butterflies" meeting. Chief Anne laid out the expectations and what our goal was. We asked our crew to make the choice then-you are vested in this journey with us and believe in this goal or bail now. Fortunately they choose to stay. Having your crew believe in your goal is one of the most important aspects of this race. In the event that we want to quit, our crew HAS to make us keep going. They have to want to see the finish line in Annapolis as much as we do. I have full faith in them and their abilities. When my chiropractor was unable to make the trip, we replaced her with a massage therapist from Iowa, Kim and Ben Murphy, whom we met at the Florida Double. Although they are new to the crew, we are still thrilled to have them and have full faith in their abilities as well. So we trained, raced Heart of the South 500 miler as a team and did two 24 hour simulations with our crew. We have faced adversity, cold conditions at Heart of the South. I got hailed on during a 24-hour ride (we packed that one in and had a redo!) I'm used to training in conditions that aren't ideal, and this year Kacie got her share of rain as well. Cold,hot,windy,rainy, dark, light, flat, hilly, we have tried our hardest to spend time in it all.

It's impossible to plan for all the things that can wrong in a race of this duration. We know things are going to happen. It's how we react to them that will affect our outcome. In January I convinced Jason to bundle up with me as I finished a long, super cold day in the saddle. As we finished out last 5 mile loop Jason got hit by a car. We went to Grady because he also had a head injury. I had to coordinate dog care and get someone to pick up our bikes. By the time we left grady trauma center it was 2 am. I had ridden 130 miles, had very little to eat, no shower, and was exhausted. Jason jokingly said "this is great RAAM training. You should go home and get on the trainer".  Sadly, he was right. 
I've been overwhelmed the past week or so. Feeling anxious about whether or not I've forgotten anything. I am not worried about my training, honestly, my body is in the best shape it's ever been in. I feel great about that. But looking out at the 75 people that came out to our send off party it really hit me. There are a LOT of people that support us. They've followed our training and racing. They're counting on us to do well. 

I cried today. I don't normally cry. My boss called me. She's known me since I was 19. She's been in my life when I was overweight, when I got hit by the car and broke my leg, and when I took up bike riding. She asked why I was crying. I told her I wasn't sure. I felt overwhelmed. I told her about our crew, who have so selflessly given of themselves, both their time and resources. I worried about letting them down. Martha's insight meant a lot. She told me that I should take that concern totally off the table. Our crew might get to the end of RAAM and say "I'll never do something like that again" or "that wasn't a good use of my vacation time" but that they'll never regret the experience. Because experiences like this can't be bought, or read about, or made up. These experiences are only felt through doing it. I agree, and hope our crew leaves this experience and is glad they did it.

So as I clean my house (because who wants to leave their house dirty before a bike ride!) I am left thinking about how incredibly grateful I am. I am grateful to the people who have encouraged me. Inspired me to do more, be more, try harder, never give up. I am also grateful for the people in my life who could care less about bikes or bike races, but support me because they love me. 

This is an amazing opportunity. Someone asked me at work if I was going to do this again. I told him I doubted it. I likened it to having quadruplets. Sure, you may want more kids, but just one next time. 

Many of you have asked how you can follow our progress. Tracking is available online at under the results tab. Click on our team "Power, Pedals, and Ponytails"

We are still fundraising and will continue to raise money for Camp Twin Lakes. Please consider donating at 

Am I scared? Of course I am. I wouldn't have signed up for it if I wasn't. But I am confident in my abilities, Kacie's ability and the amazing people who make up our crew. We WILL make it to Annapolis. We WILL break the 2-person females record. It will not be easy. It will be the hardest thing I have ever done, both physically and mentally. We are Annapolis bound via a million pedal rotations, sweat, tears, pain, and every other emotion that is known to man. But through it all one thing will remain the same- relentless forward motion from Oceanside to Annapolis. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's good RAAM training.....

I've been pretty absent lately from a lot of things, and blogging has definitely been one of them! A lot of things have been going on and I thought I'd catch everyone up.

First of all, this is SO belated, but thank you all so much for supporting our silent auction at All 3 Sports in conjunction with the Crowie book signing. It was a huge success, and we raised over $5,000! I MC'd the event, and managed to not say any bad words, which I think was also a HUGE success! I didn't trip and fall off stage either. Bonus!
We rode to Everglades National Park and saw ALLIGATORS!

You can park your bike next to the Bentley's and not worry about it
Kacie and I went down to south Florida for an amazing weekend of training. We rode over 300 miles, spending time off the bike and getting back on and riding more. It is a totally different feeling to take a break and then ride again, one that we need to get used to before RAAM. The weather wasn't on our side the entire time, and we got rained on quite a bit. Jason's new favorite term for everything is "it's good RAAM training!" and it really was. There is a great chance we will get rained on in RAAM too!

This is not ideal biking conditions!
Fast forward a couple of weeks and Kacie, myself and our Crew Chief Anne headed up to Columbus, Ohio for a Race Across America Crew seminar. This was hosted by Fred Boethling, the owner of RAAM. It was a great opportunity for us to learn more about race logistics, rules, gear needs, tips, etc. There is no right way to crew or train for RAAM. but there are many wrong ways of doing things. By learning from others mistakes, we are hoping to make our journey as flawless as possible. It was also decided that Ohio is cold, and no cyclist should ever be subjected to winters like that!

Jason's neck brace...pimp!

In the midst of all the craziness of training, we decided to move. House hunting, contracts falling through, drama galore, all seems like it's good RAAM training. I got hit by a rock while riding and bruised my ankle, Jason said it was good RAAM training too. Last weekend we had terrible weather. Cold and windy, I rode 4 hours inside Sunday then we headed out to Stone Mountain so I could get in 60 miles there. 55 miles into the ride a lady pulled smack out in front of us. Jason slowed down, but still went "splat!" right into her minivan. I reacted in a not-so-nice way, using some choice words. Jason ended up with a fracture in his C6, a separated clavicle and some torn ligaments. His bike is totaled. We spent 8 hours in a Grady Trauma unit because he suffered a pretty bad concussion. At 2 am we were still in the hospital. I hadn't showered, or eaten a lot, was tired but thankful Jason was going to be okay. I told him "this is good RAAM training" of course, minus the hospital part! As a result of the concussion Jason's been "fuzzy-headed" ever since. We got in the car and he let me sing a Katy Perry song and didn't change the channel. Then he opened up a second jar on peanut butter before the first one was gone. He's having a hard time focusing on things. So basically, he's acting like me. We are hoping it will clear up soon. There's only room for one Dani-brain in our house!