3,078 Miles In 6 days: One Man’s Race Across America
By: Adam Anstey
Six days, 18 hours, two tire punctures, one crash, and around 730,000 pedal rotations–that was what it took me to complete the Race Across America, an endurance event that involved cycling 3,070 miles across the United States. It was an adventure unlike anything I could have ever imagined, and I don’t regret any second of it.
The Race Across America (RAAM), founded in 1982 and nicknamed “the Everest of Cycling,” is a non-stop, ultra-endurance event that starts in Oceanside, California and finishes 3,078 miles away in Annapolis, Maryland. Crossing twelve states and involving over 190,000 feet of climbing, the race encompasses a multitude of challenging environments, including the Arizona desert, the wind-swept plains of Kansas, the magnificent Colorado Rockies, and the unrelenting Appalachian mountains of West Virginia.
Needless to say, it did not fail to provide a seriously tough race which left its mark on all who took part.
Preparing for a long-distance race such as this was a lesson in suffering, routine and self-discipline. I would be up by 5 a.m. to train, and though I would often look at the bike with some discontent through tired and blurry eyes, I embraced the monotony that turbo training brings.
Each time I climbed onto my bike, I reminded myself that this exercise was going to strengthen my legs while ensuring that my mind is adapted to what was to come. These early morning sessions were then combined with a host of strength work, cross-training, yoga, and long rides after work and at weekends during what many would consider unsociable hours. My diet was closely monitored, as was the amount of sleep I was getting each week. All these was to ensure my body was at its most optimal for the biggest sporting challenge of my life so far.
I developed a passion for adventure and the great outdoors, physical endurance, and human performance at an early age. Some of my fondest childhood memories involved shuffling my way through green fields and hiding from my brothers among the high corn stalks in farm fields, enduring the summer heat and biting bugs for what seemed liked hours; an early test of endurance.
I have spent most of my life training for, being involved in, and recovering from various endurance challenges, which encourages many to ask the truly sensible question, “Why would you put yourself through that?”
Personal motivation and having a reason for taking part in an endurance event is of fundamental importance. Like an assassin, the question of why slowly creeps on you leading up to the beginning of a race, and by the start line, it has you in fight or flight mode.
Flying out to San Diego with my finely tuned bike marked the moment that I realized the true enormity of the challenge ahead. I was feeling good, although I kept questioning if I had everything I needed for the bike through security check-in, as well if the bike would even arrive stateside in one piece.
The support from family and friends is of the utmost importance when committing to compete in the Race Across America. As such, it was essential for me to keep in contact with my loved ones while I was in the race. Nixplay generously provided my family members with a range of 8 and 10-inch Wi-Fi frames, allowing me to share photos and memories while out in America and providing me with the opportunity to show what life was like on the road. It was not always possible to make a call or even send a WhatsApp message, especially as my moments off the bike usually involved a quick wash before eating as much as possible, then passing out in anticipation of the next shift on the bike. The Nixplay App was easy and simple to use, and my photos would reach everyone at the same time.
During the days before our departure, I got together with my family to set up a shared playlist through the Nixplay App, and we began setting up the frames in key locations in the various houses. The idea was that each morning, afternoon and evening, I could simply upload images and videos on the app, and my content would then seamlessly appear on all the screens. This proved to be an incredibly important part of the race, and one which allowed my family to stay connected, feel included, and follow me on the race journey.
It is worth noting at this point how simple and intuitive Nixplay Frames are to set up and use. It was reassuring to me that the technology would work in the way we intended to use it within minutes of unpacking the frames from the boxes. It was not only the software that reassured me, but also the sturdiness of the design and the elegant aesthetics when placed in their location.
I am endlessly grateful for the support that Nixplay provided and I feel humbled by the generosity and time given by the Nixplay team in getting me to the start line. As I walked through London Heathrow Airport pushing my bike box, which proudly displayed the Nixplay branding on it, a passerby stopped me and explained that they have also been using some of the frames. Shortly after we had gone our separate ways, this person was following me on social media and became another participant in the adventure to come.
Upon my arrival stateside, I met the race team for the first time and I confirmed I would be racing with individuals who were all high-caliber in their own right. There we all were, congregated in a downtown motel a little shy of the race start line, and it dawned on us that we knew little of each other’s character and motivations. Despite this, a bond was cemented after the first team briefing, thanks to a slightly discolored and aged swimming pool that even the leaves avoided being blown into.
We were all there to get across as fast as possible, stay safe, and in the end, try to remain friends. Signing the liability waiver was a poignant reminder that, although competing in a superbly organized race, we were dependent purely on each other to get out of any tight spots.
Bikes were built, support vehicles prepared, and the range of compulsory media and inspection events commenced without delay. Special Nixplay branding stickers were applied on all three our of race vehicles, and these were seen by thousands of people while out on the road.
The almost festival-like atmosphere around Oceanside was almost enough to make us forget that we were about to spend seven days (or more) willingly putting ourselves through arduous tests of both physical stamina and mental fortitude. The evening before the race, we joined in the pre-race presentations. The jovial atmosphere was quickly squashed as the Race Director took us through the risks, dangers and sheer enormity of the task ahead. Shaking hands with the other racers, amplified our competitiveness. Strong grips and unwavering eye contact was the norm, along with a nod of recognition that the next conversations would take place out on the road.
A few days later, after a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner and a stiff espresso, we were off. Nervous, excited, and tremendously grateful for getting this far despite not knowing what awaited us on the vast journey, we were focused on the task at hand. I had written the words ‘Dig Deep’ on my hand before the race; I knew that, for this particular race, I would be needing a bigger spade.
Hours later, I awoke from the metronome of tapping bike pedals and found myself cycling through Death Valley in 130 degrees Fahrenheit. With the reflective and absorbent black Tarmac flying below me, it felt close to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and the hot air singed the back of my throat. It’s a misconception that the desert is flat, and before too long I found my heart rate racing at 180 beats per minute while overtaking a host of riders on a 5,000-feet climb. Getting blurry-eyed and worried that I might pass out, I forced myself to slow down slightly. A direct hit from another team’s iced water pistol helped immensely.
In a race of this duration, I quickly learned the value of patience. Passing other teams was best kept as a long-term aim, wherein you slowly chip away at any lead as each mile passed. The risk of heatstroke was always high, and listening to your body and watching for the warning signs were fundamentally important in averting a tragedy. The support crew worked tirelessly to keep us as cool as possible, although our faces still resembled sun-worshipping lobsters before the first day was done.
The support team played a crucial part in keeping me as a rider safe on the road at all times. The value of being in a motivated, well-trained, conscientious and driven team cannot be played down. Without the backing of the incredible people around me, surviving the first 48 hours would have been near impossible.
Sleep came and went in the blink of an eye, with some shifts only allowing two hours in a moving RV, providing perhaps the biggest challenge. Without adequate rest, the body is unable to heal itself fully and repair the damage done to the muscles. This results in an uncomfortable return to the saddle, and each shift becomes a torturous moment which you simply have to endure knowing it will eventually pass. Despite being delicious, food was also difficult to stomach. Forcing down 6,000 calories a day became almost an art form, thanks to a mix of high-calorie chocolate spread and sport-specific powdered fuel.
It is worth noting that until this year, I have not had the pleasure of stepping foot in the wonderful and beautiful country of America. I found no greater distraction from tired legs than the incredible people and the ever-changing spectacular scenery—Utah’s sacred deserts; Colorado’s imposing mountains framed by fir trees; Kansas’ vast rolling plains; Mississippi’s floodplains; West Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, with its terrain similar to my beloved Dorset, where I live in the UK; and finally, the iconic state of Washington and the relief and exuberance provided by the finish line in Annapolis, Maryland.
Crossing The Finish Line
We completed the race on June 22nd with a time of six days and 18 hours, climbing 175,000 feet over 3,070 miles with an average speed of 19 mph. Approaching the finish line felt surreal. A team of strangers from many different parts of the world had done it with no injuries apart from a few minor falls; our bikes all in one piece and big smiles on the faces of all the cyclists and crew. With the prospect of a cold beer mixed with a great sense of bewildered pride, arriving at the docks to cheering crowds and then passing through the branded archway of the Race Across America was an unforgettable moment.
Even though the final destination of all the race finishers was the same, the journey taken by each competitor in the RAAM was different. The shared experience of taking on such an endeavor enabled us to move forward with a new purpose regardless of future challenges, incorporating the valuable lessons learned in life as we go.
Throughout the journey, the Nixplay Frames performed tremendously and have become a talking point for family and friends back home, with many requesting a frame for upcoming birthdays. Linking the frames with social media platforms also proved to be a huge success, and friends were able to share how they are using their frames with others around the world.
Enduring hardships, demonstrating leadership, having trust in those around you, showing resilience at times of impending failure, and working tirelessly towards a shared goal: These are moments to be enjoyed and cherished. They make us stronger and give us the confidence to search for greater horizons, all the while raising much-needed funds for causes close to our hearts.
I plan to dedicate some time now to reflect on what we achieved and this epic journey that formed friendships for life. I’m not sure it would take much to encourage a return to the race as a pair in two years’ time, but for now, the priority is to rest, spending time with loved ones and thanking those who gave support and made this possible.
Nixplay was fundamental in allowing me to take part in such an endeavor, and I was immensely proud to endorse the brand across the entirety of the USA. I very much hope to work with them again in future challenges in becoming an ambassador for their superb business and excellent frames.