Opportunity knocked, and I answered.
Timing is everything, and thankfully I was on the heels of my retirement when the opportunity to crew for RAAM (Race Across America) fell into my lap.
An email from my sister in Vermont followed by a phone call from her friend Debbie Tirrito, who was looking for a replacement on her four-person crew, had me jumping at the chance for a new adventure.
RAAM, a bicycle race from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., officially began in 1982 and is considered the toughest race in the world. It requires riders to tackle 170,000 vertical feet of elevation over 3,000 miles through 12 states in 12 days.
Tirrito, a 56-year-old registered nurse and grandmother of eight, will be tackling this event solo with the help of her support crew, which includes me, her husband, Vic, Jenny Brunelle of Vermont and Stephanie Close of New Hampshire.
The support crew handles all the logistics of the race: food, fluids, navigation, medical needs, bike repairs, etc.
We will have two vans. The lead van will follow the rider and attend to her needs, and the support van will drive ahead to make hotel reservations, shop and rest, trading off these roles each day so the crew can be fresh and have some down time.
Tirrito will race for charity, supporting the Childrens Hospital of Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt., the Visiting Nurses Association in Colchester, Vt., and the Howard Center.
Solo riders have a maximum of 12 days to complete the race averaging 200-300 miles per day, balancing speed and the need for sleep.
My goal in RAAM is to stay out of the ambulance and hospital and have a fun and safe event, Tirrito said. I am older and not as fast as some out there, but cycling has always been my strong point.
My objective is to bike between 200 and 250 miles per day depending on the terrain. My sleep pattern is between five to seven hours per night, and I work the night shift three times per week so I cant wait to bike during the night, she said.
Tirrito has an impressive record of athletic achievements that places her in an elite category of endurance athletes.
She is an All-American professional triathlete and Team USA duathlon qualifier, she has completed the Coastal Challenge and the Transalpine Run three times and holds the three-person course record at the Wild West Relay, a 193-mile footrace from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs.
My love of sports and hunger for challenge has led me to sign up for the toughest race in the world, Tirrito said. How wonderful it is to combine my ambitions with a charitable cause.
Her training for this event began in January with long rides on the beautiful central Florida bike trail.
Since Vermont is not conducive to biking during the winter, training took to the indoors in March and then back to Florida in April for more 100-plus mileage days.
May mostly was outdoors, training the Appalachian Gap and Smugglers Notch/Stowe, Vt., areas where she froze her butt off numerous times.
Besides her determination, Tirritos strength on the bike is the hills. Her website is stepinto mypedals.com.
My crewing adventure begins Tuesday, and I am so excited to be a part of this amazing event.
I look forward to recording the day-to-day happenings of the Race Across America: Stay tuned.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.