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Cycling 3,000 Miles to Raise Awareness

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2019 2:43 pm

Race Across America (RAAM) is the self-proclaimed “world’s toughest bicycle race.” Many agree that it is at least among the top ten toughest races in the world. According to the race’s website, it starters “under one of the longest piers in California, spans 3000 miles, climbs 175,000 feet, crosses 12 states and finishes at City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland” with a time limit of nine days for teams and 12 days for solo riders.

Two years ago, firefighters and bicycle enthusiasts from San Bernardino County (SBC) Fire Station 91 in Lake Arrowhead decided they were going to tackle the race. This year, they are doing it again.

Sean Jackson, one of the firefighters at Station 91, said he and Captain Tim Goforth are both avid cyclists. Watching a documentary on RAAM got them excited to participate in the race themselves, so they did their research, built the four-person team “Fire Velo/Norton Strong” and began practicing.

During the process, they had discovered that “a lot of teams did the race for charity” and they wanted to use this opportunity to do the same. At the time, Jackson said another firefighter, Correy Norton, was battling cancer and they decided to ride to raise funds and awareness for those in the fire industry who are battling cancer.

“This was the obvious cause to ride for,” Jackson said. “We have guys in our own department struggling with cancer...”

When the race came around in 2017, Jackson said Norton saw them off at the starting line while riding in an SBC fire engine from 1929. During the race, he said a dozen different fire departments from across the country supported them during the race and another fire engine escorted them through the last few miles.

This year, they changed their team name to Fire Velo 935. Additionally, Jackson and Goforth are racing with two different team members, Lindy Moss and Bryan Benso. Correy’s father, Chris Norton, will be the crew chief for this year’s race. Chris is a retired battalion chief from the fire department and he is “really fired up about it.” Jackson said Correy, who is better than he was two years ago, but not yet in remission, wanted to be the crew chief, but couldn’t commit the time to it.

Though the team isn’t all the same, they are riding for the same cause, are taking donations and have a GoFundMe campaign set up. At the time of writing, the GoFundMe page reports that over $13,700 has been raised in the last three months. Jackson said they will keep the GoFundMe page open and they take checks as well. He also said the team has already raised funds needed to perform the race, in terms of bike-related equipment and other necessities, allowing them to give the remaining donations to charity.

“Whether you can donate a dollar or donate $100, every little bit helps,” Jackson said.

Last time they raced, Jackson said they finished in seven days, 19 hours, and 14 minutes. This time around, they plan to finish in under seven days.

“[This] is a very realistic goal,” Jackson said about finishing in under seven days. “The two teammates we have this time are super strong riders, so I think we will do better overall.”

Lindy Moss is one of the two teammates. She said she has been riding bikes her whole life, but became “seriously committed” in 2006 and is a “big believer in charity and community,” so it is “like a dream come true” to bring awareness by riding.

“I’ve been cycling for years with Tim Gorforth,” Moss said. “We had talked about it for so many years and he was the pioneer who went out and did it with other firemen. I told him I was jealous because I always wanted to ride my bike across America.”

As for the race itself, Moss is “expecting lots of pain and suffering.” She said that is part of races like this though and that her coping mechanism to get through that is to “think about people who suffer from cancer.”

“[Cancer patients] don’t ever get a break, it’s always on their mind. It’s how they feel every single day,” Moss said. “This is the very least I can do as a healthy person; five to seven days of suffering in their honor.”

Moss said she is “excited to be on the bike” and know her team is behind her. However, she expects the hardest part of the race will be “getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning to ride when you’re dead-dog tired and sleep deprived,” especially since she’s used to getting nine hours of sleep each night.

Jackson said calling the race tough would be an understatement.

Their approach is to have one rider on the road 24/7 by splitting their four-person team into smaller teams of two. Each team will take eight-hour shifts. One team will be out riding, with each rider on the road in 30-minute intervals, while the other team is in the motor home resting, eating, and showering.

“It’s a non-stop caravan circus across the country,” Jackson said. “Each rider is doing somewhere between 110-120 miles per day… The team, collectively, is doing about 420 miles per day.”

With a riding schedule like that, Jackson said this race is a painful, but unique experience.

“I’ve ridden as much as 140 miles in one continuous ride, but this is totally different. It pushes you different than you could ever image going,” Jackson said. “It’s amazing how far you can push yourself.”

Jackson said the race isn’t just about the distance either and they will experience extremes in both temperature and altitude.

“The extremes are of the race itself are phenomenal,” Jackson said. “You start at the Oceanside Pier...and then you turn inland and within five miles of the start, now it’s 90 degrees….80 miles from start, it was 116 degrees. The lowest point of the race is below sea level by a few hundred feet. The highest point is Wolf Creek pass, over 10,000 feet high. We might encounter snow.”

Jackson said the easiest part for him was Kansas, with 700 miles of flat land. Meanwhile, the hardest was crossing the Appalachian Mountains, which he said is 2,500 miles into the race and includes inclines of 11 to 14%.

“The race itself is very symbolic of the fight cancer patients go through, Jackson said. The race has highs and lows and physical and emotional changes. A cancer patient deals with the same highs and lows…. The difference for Correy is that he’s been going through those peaks and valleys for more than three years now and the race is a week long. If Correy can do that for three years, I can do it for a week. That’s kind how we put it into perspective. This is tougher than anything we’ve ever done, but it doesn’t even compare to what a cancer patient goes through in a week of chemo. There’s just no comparison.”

The race begins on Saturday, June 15 and the team aims to be done by Friday, June 21.

The team’s Facebook can be found at www.facebook.com/TeamFireVelo935 and has a link to the team’s GoFundMe. For more information on Race Across America, visit www.raceacrossamerica.org.

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