Hi everyone, Liz here. I’d like to share some of my experience of this journey called RAAM. It was amazing, and impossible to explain, but I will do my best to take you along from my point of view!
The point in time that we all had to start trusting God, although in reality it is constant, was about a week before the race, when Lloyd got Bronchitis. “Lord, do you want him to race?” We prayed, asked others to pray, hoping that he would pull through and considering, what would this race be without Lloyd?
Lloyd making a windmill on our practice trip to AZ
God healed Lloyd, and spoke to him, clearly saying “I want to ride RAAM.” Such faith this man Lloyd has, that he allows Jesus to live through him. God honored that and made him well enough to race.
No sooner than this was settled, Ross came down with the flu. The day before the race. Really, God? How are you going to work in THIS one? What if we can’t have Ross on our team? Can we make it to Annapolis? What are we going to DO? Questions that our human minds ask, in a panic. But again we prayed, and again God worked a miracle. Ross rested the entire day and was ready to go on race day. He even wanted to go for a ride the night before. Nice try, Ross. We let him rest for the first half day of racing! We missed him for the inspections and team picture in Oceanside on Friday, but we made sure to take a part of him there:
Back row: Martin, Erick, Greg, Lloyd. Front row: Elizabeth, Ben, Liz, Ross's jersey
We said goodbye to Oceanside for the night and went home to try and get some rest.
See you in the morning, Oceanside!
So the day of the race, we had all 8 racers, healthy and ready to go. What a blessing!
Liz, Greg, Martin, Elizabeth, Ben, Ross, Erick, Lloyd
After saying a prayer, we departed at 2:41pm on Saturday, June 18, 2011. After all 8 of us rode the parade route, Greg went on solo to ride the unsupported part of the course, and had no bike problems or issues for those 20 miles. Unfortunately, one of our RV’s got into a minor accident and incurred a 15min penalty. Really, before we even got out of Oceanside? How many more of these are we going to get? Is it going to stop us from reaching our goal? But our trust is in God, and thankfully this was the only penalty we ever got.
Once Greg was done, the red squad (Ross, Ben, Erick and Lloyd) took over for a 4hr rotation. Then the blue squad (Greg, Liz, Martin and Elizabeth) did about a 6hr rotation, and so on until we were on a “normal” schedule of 8hr rotations.
On the first day, we wore our Team Life Changers (TLC) kits. Here’s Elizabeth sporting hers, ready to go out for a night ride:
She's confident riding in the dark!
The second day was NOTW kits. This day happened to not only be Father’s Day, but also Greg and Martin’s birthdays. Here are the birthday boys:
Greg in Salome, AZ
Martin says, "What are you doing on YOUR birthday?"
Greg and I found a nice spot in Arizona to get a picture of us in our kits:
Don’t we look like bikers instead of cyclists?
We put our legs to bed Sunday night in compression socks, and tried to fall asleep in the bumpy RV. Not so easy. After a few hours of “sleep”, it was time to get back on the road at 10pm! Here’s Elizabeth waiting for a transition to the next rider:
Don't worry - she got to ride in daylight too!
It’s hard to keep motivated at night, and even the most dedicated riders get tired and need to take a rest:
Martin takes a quick nap before his turn
Every morning the sun came out, it gave us renewed energy:
Somewhere in Utah
Riding through Monument Valley was beautiful. The whole desert area we rode through was not as hot as it has been in previous years. I’d say it was generally in the 80’s. Gorgeous! Here’s a view looking back while we wait for Greg to come:
What a beautiful road to ride!
Our next ride would end at night, riding Wolf Creek Pass, the highest elevation point in the race at 10,600 feet. It was Felt jersey day:
Liz, with my RAAM red hair!
The West side of Colorado was beautiful. I managed to capture this picture as Elizabeth was about to come down the hill:
Love the light in this one...
During another transition point, we talked to a local. I took the opportunity to get a picture of the surrounding area:
Wow - can we stay?!
We saw a lot of animals along the way, and a lot of them seemed very curious. These horses came over as soon as we pulled over, so we went over and said hello to them:
Martin, Greg, and Erick get some photos
As night came, it was time to begin the climb up Wolf Creek Pass. Greg felt great, and took the first 3 miles of the climb, which is more than we would usually keep a rider on the road for this steep of a hill:
Greg: late night mountain climbing...
We took turns after that, and when we reached the top, we took a moment for some pictures at the Great Divide:
Eric, Greg, Liz, Martin, Elizabeth - see how cold it was!
Elizabeth, Liz: Ahh I can’t reach across the Great Divide!! Lateness = tiredness = craziness.
After a while, the days all start to blend into one. You settle into a routine of riding your shift, eating and going to bed, getting woken up 30min before your next shift, eating and getting on the road. You get up at all hours of the day and night, sometimes riding two shifts in one day, the second of which carries over into the next day. Very confusing. But I know this picture was taken on Tuesday morning because I wrote it down:
Eatons are ready for our squad’s shift!
Part of the amazing thing about our team is that we have this father/daughter team, as well as a father/son team:
Bennetts rode in together for the squad exchange!
It was such a great opportunity for bonding between these family members, and the youngsters (Ben being the second youngest male to do RAAM at 14, Elizabeth the youngest female at 15) did such an awesome job! They contributed so much to the team, riding as much as they could, always ready to go. God kept them safe, even during challenges like Ben being so tired he almost fell off his bike, and a car making a U-turn and almost running straight into Elizabeth.
God’s provision was also apparent in the weather. Or lack thereof. We somehow managed to escape snow in the Rockies:
Snow on the mountains behind us!
We heard that other teams got rain and even hail. Where was that for us? Probably when we decided to take an hour long break to reconnect as a team. God is so good.
The first cutoff time we had to make was 61 hours to Durango, CO. We made it in about 48.5 hours. Amazing! We congratulated each other and sat out our penalty, which was a 15min break that we probably would have taken anyway. Yes, God is good.
Now that I’ve said I know for sure that one picture is from Tuesday, I have a picture that I wrote down as Monday, but it must be Tuesday. Yikes. After a few days of sleep deprivation and waking up at odd hours, I guess it started to have an effect! In any case, Tuesday was Verizon kit day:
Greg & Liz - I guess our sunglasses are hiding our tired eyes!
We were in Eastern Colorado at this point, which was nice and flat, but sort of boring. We found an interesting rest stop though:
"Walt's Trading Post"
The lady at this store said yes, they have a restroom, but it’s an outhouse and it’s kinda sketchy. It was in a small alley between a trailer and another building-type thing:
Oh well, better than a bush!
Back to curious animals, here are some cows in Colorado:
I started going crazy with the cows. Mooing at them is fun. You’ll see later…
On Tuesday morning (or should I just call it “one of the first few days”), I missed a step when getting out of bed, and hit my knee on the floor. Great, it was already hurting. Another prayer opportunity! This time felt different though. When it’s another person, I feel like I can pray and have faith for God’s healing. When something goes wrong for me though, I lose that perspective. This was an area I had to grow in throughout the trip. As a temporary solution, because we did not have any ice, I found a half-frozen knee wrap and strapped a completely-frozen Gleukos bottle to my knee:
On one of the first few nights, we began to see lots of roadkill. Katie tried to avoid this armadillo by parking the truck OVER it. That didn’t go so well:
After this, I made sure to point out all the roadkill whenever Katie was driving the chase truck. Afterall, what good is having an “extended family” if you can’t tease them? In a loving way, of course… During the trip, we really did become a family. There were certainly moments of tension, but they always ended in apology, forgiveness, and prayer. How awesome!
Before we knew it, we were halfway there!
Kansas – my total mileage = 200.62
Kansas was awesome. Flat and fast. Not as boring as I would have expected, either! Here’s Elizabeth coming around a corner:
Beautiful clear day!
And the endless flat roads ahead:
With all the climbing we’d done, and all the miles in our legs, it was awesome to have a massage therapist on the team:
Ouch...I mean, ahh...
By this time, I’d learned to multi-task. Here I’m eating breakfast while getting a massage. I’m also posting pictures to Facebook on my iPhone.
After refueling, it was time to sleep:
Sleeping in the middle of the day!
Eye shades and earplugs are important, as we slept during the day a lot, and there was a lot of activity going on, with navigating, talking to the other squad, etc. We did our best to rest as much as possible, but in reality the only good sleep we got was when the RV stopped moving. This only happened for about 2-3 hours at a time. And because of the progressive lack of sleep, I’d say RAAM was less physically challenging than it was emotionally challenging!
But it was encouraging to know we were halfway to our destination. We stopped at the border when leaving Kansas:
Later, Dorothy! Thanks for not brining us any tornados!
Jen asked the racers if they had any specific food requests. Mine was ribeye. Jen scored some hand-cut Kansas ribeye for us – so yummy! And about half the price you would find it here… She made the first batch for the red squad as they came in from their shift:
Yep, beef is indeed what's for dinner!
We (the blue squad) didn’t eat any ribeye before our shift, so in this transition spot, I took the chance to let these cows know I’d be enjoying some of their “cousins” a little later:
Note the giant round grey/white one on the left. He must be the leader.
All these cows came over when we stopped, and they were amazing listeners. Well, for some things. I took a video, and when I said “ok, that’s probably close enough” they actually stopped in their tracks! I then asked the cows to give me a good “moo” and while the cows refused, all of my teammates who were with me (Martin, Elizabeth, and Sean) proceeded to moo. Umm thanks guys, but I was actually talking to the cows! It was fun “interacting” with the cows, and I thought I’d pretend to pet one of them:
This guy looks like he might hurt me if I actually touched him...
Throughout the country, whenever I’d see a cow, I’d moo at it. When the cow turned towards me, it made me so happy! Oh, the joys of being overtired and easily amused. Ok, enough of the cows for now… We rode on into the night:
Bring us to the ribeye, Greg!
Today, my motivation was ribeye. It was a good day for riding – my legs felt good, and I was in a good mood. But it always helps to have something to look forward to!
We met some really nice police officers where we parked to eat:
No, we weren’t in trouble, we just enjoyed striking up a conversation with our Newest “crew members”! We prayed for them, including (for the one on the left) ill sons and job security for him, and a job for his wife. Also, he’s in the middle of creating a Christian rap album and trying to get it into people’s hands. How cool is that!
After eating and resting a bit, we awoke in the RV and drove over the Mississippi River:
No time to stop and get a "real" picture!
Because we were trying to catch up with our speedy red squad, this is how we did breakfast this particular morning:
Martin, Jade, Liz, Elizabeth - it's safest to sit down!
The bumpy road made it interesting… Martin had quite the “dance move” in his socks when the RV made a hard stop. Too bad I missed it on video!
In Illinois, we caught up with this rider:
Now THIS is RAAM.
Poor guy has a neck problem and had to wear a brace. He’s still giving us a thumbs up though!
It was overcast and slightly rainy. And by slightly, I mean that it was basically only drizzling. Greg was the only one who rode in any real “rain”, and it wasn’t bad at all. God is so good! Despite the weather, the scenery was still beautiful:
Let's do this!
In one situation this day, my lack of sleep caught up with me. I rode through this little town and discovered both the race and chase vehicle stopped at a gas station. I thought that I had to be in sight of at least one of the vehicles, so I stopped. I was upset/frustrated with the cars for not working out logistics so that one of them would be with me. However, I later discovered that it’s just a team preference that I’m in sight of the car, not a rule! Oops. Sorry guys. Here’s me looking back, waiting impatiently for a car to come before I decided to walk my bike back to the gas station:
Are you coming??
A little further down the road, it appeared like we would all have to have some patience. Illinois wins the prize for the most traffic-stopping road construction!
It was probably only 3 minutes, but felt like more than 10!
Pretty soon we were out of Illinois:
Liz and Greg. Onto Eastern Daylight Time!
We took an opportunity to stop as an entire team, and take pictures before we crossed over the river to the new time zone. We also got a pizza:
Got my helmet cam ready!
The rest of the ride this day was a bit challenging. It was either this night or the night before (I think) that I had my first experience with being so tired that I actually got a little disoriented. I was riding in the dark, and the chase truck had been warning me when semi trucks were about to pass. I started having an attitude of “I don’t care that a truck is coming, and I’m not even going to worry about it.” Not exactly the safest mentality, although they weren’t likely to hit me, with the chase truck following directly behind. At this time, I also saw a solo rider. Rather than being inspired, I started thinking about how tired he must be, and I think I empathized to the point of feeling that way myself. After this, the chase truck told me that I had a left turn coming up, towards some city that started with an “S”. When I saw a sign with a name that started with “S”, I stopped, because there was oncoming traffic. I looked left, and saw what appeared to be a small dirt road. “The RAAM organizers wouldn’t make me ride there, would they?” I thought. The chase truck said, “no, it’s up ahead, where the race truck is.” I looked about 50 yards up the road, and sure enough, there they were. In a really obvious spot. When I got there, I was supposed to do about 2 more miles, but I just stopped. I’M DONE. Done for the night. For my own safety, I skipped my last turn that night. My teammates were awesome in helping cover the distance – Greg actually rode the last 17 miles into the next time station because he was feeling ok. Wow…thank you!
I had been getting more emotional the further East we rode, and it was difficult to maintain motivation and a good attitude. God was so faithful though, giving me reminders along the way, like a roadside sign with a bible verse, or even just prompting me to look at my phone’s GPS before going to sleep:
The road ahead is a lot shorter than the road behind...
Sometimes I just needed a little perspective on how far we’d come already.
Greg’s difficult day came the next day, in Ohio. We were both tired (as usual), but this day we were in desperate need of coffee. And we were hungry. Greg overheard something to the effect of “there isn’t any oatmeal”, got frustrated, and went to MacDonald’s to get some breakfast. It was just before 10:30. Less than a half an hour too late for breakfast. He almost cried. But at least we got our coffee:
Greg & Liz: don't we look good? =P
And as it turned out, there was plenty of breakfast for us back at the RV’s. Once we woke up, it ended up being a good day after all. I fell in love with the rolling hills of Ohio. Here’s Greg riding some of them:
Fun! I love Ohio!
A little further down the road, Elizabeth prepared for rain with her jacket:
Better safe than soggy...
All she got was some light drizzle – praise God!
I was in a great mood by Elizabeth’s next turn, and even managed a half-awake looking smile:
Liz is a happy cyclist again
I had just gotten to ride right past Ohio University. The city is paved with red bricks. Pretty sweet place to ride, and beautiful. I was almost sad when it was the other squad’s turn. But we sent them off…into the Appalachians! It was hard to believe we were already to these mountains. Here they are, loaded up and ready to go:
Sean represents the red squad - let's go guys!
They left some mountains for us, and it was absolutely gorgeous riding into West Virginia. Greg and I just may have to come back and buy this home, which is complete with sheep and a stream:
Kidding, but isn't it beautiful?
And then we come to the Country Quik Mart. Probably my favorite story of all of RAAM. Take a look at this place:
Transition spot, conveniently at a store in the middle of nowhere in the mountains
What do you think it is – a store, right? Would you go inside if the light were on (even thought it’s 6am, hey maybe they open things early around here), thinking there might be a restroom inside? If you did, you would have been greeted by a man with an open shirt, a beer belly, and a cigarette. And he would have said to you, “This ain’t a store, sweetheart. Used to be.” Oops! He didn’t seem like he was going to offer to let me use his restroom, so I apologized and told him to have a nice day…
After conquering the Appalachians, we rested. When we woke up to get ready for our next ride, this was our view:
Good morning, Pennsylvania!
I’m pretty sure this was the day I fell apart again. What, you though I’d only have one of these stories?? Anyway, It had been difficult to eat as many calories as we were burning, and this combined with the progressive lack of sleep added to my frustration when there was a navigation error during one of my rides. There was an unfortunate series of events. First, the chase truck stopped to get Subway for everyone. Not a problem – it was on the race course! Well, they had forgotten to pass along the message that there had been a course change due to a car show. The show was over, so I had ridden straight through this area. Dilemma: do we go back and ride the correct way? Yes, the new directions are now the official course! So we backtracked. It was a short loop added to the course, and seemed easy enough. Left on Second St, Left on another street, Right back onto the main street. Well I started riding, got to Third St, took a chance and went another block. Fourth St. Awesome. Since I had already loaded my bike and myself back into the truck to come back in the first place, I didn’t feel like doing this again! So what did I do? I ran. Two blocks. With my bike. On the opposite side of the street. Looked pretty funny, I’m sure, but got some of my frustrated energy out. Once I found Second St, I came to another street that I thought was the correct one. No street sign. So I sent the race truck ahead to check, because I didn’t want to run back like I had just done! There happened to be some people in a car, so I asked them the name of the street. Yep, it was the correct one! You should’ve heard the lady say “awwwww!” to me in the most pathetic “I feel so sorry for you” voice. It was pretty funny. By this time, the chase truck was back. They followed me back to the main road, where I proceeded to try and clip in after a very LONG red light that I had to wait for, and I almost missed my pedal and fell over. More frustration. Well after this, the race truck decided to make a restroom stop before the next transition. Not a problem, except because the next rider was in the race truck, I rode further than I wanted up a big hill when my knee hurt. So at this point, I’m frustrated/tired/hungry and just overall having not a very good day. When the race truck got back, they set up a transition at the top of a hill. Not ideal (I would have ordinarily liked to ride down the hill to cool down), but at this point, I was just ready to stop. HERE’S MY BIKE, GIVE ME MY SANDWICH, LEAVE ME ALONE WHILE I EAT, AND I’LL BE OK IN ABOUT 10 MINUTES. And I was, at which point I apologized to everyone for my bad attitude. I prayed after this that I wouldn’t let my frustration out on any of my awesome teammates. God was faithful, and although the rest of the day wasn’t easy by any means, He got me through it.
Despite my tough day in Pennsylvania, the state had many good qualities, including this awesome 1-way tunnel:
We also got to ride right through Gettysburg:
Greg and Liz at Gettysburg
Although today was another emotionally challenging day (are you seeing a pattern here?), God was faithful as ever, reminding me of His love through rays of sun in the clouds:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." ~Psalm 19:1
The rest of the ride to the end of the official timed part of the race absolutely FLEW by. I didn’t get much of a chance for pictures. We combined squads, and had all 8 of us riding for the last time station. It was a bit chaotic, and at one point we even had to stop and regroup, because things were getting a little heated. We talked it out, prayed, and continued. No use finishing as a divided team! It was during one of my rides at this time that my knee also hurt the worst it had during the entire trip. I thought I might have to even stop riding. But again, God was faithful. He brought to mind Isaiah 35:3 – “Energize the limp hands, strengthen the rubbery knees.” This is The Message translation, and the reason I remembered it is because at one time, I memorized a lot of verses that talked about knees! The NASB translation says, “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.” We were certainly exhausted by this point, but how awesome is our God to bring us through this incredible journey, and all in one piece! When I thought of this verse, my knee pain disappeared. I was able to focus on the joy of riding across the country with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met, and I just about started to cry. In this moment, God allowed me to be thankful, even for my knee pain!
When we arrived at the last time station, our notes said “A RAAM official will be waiting.” It was a little late by then:
"Chirp, chirp..." Uhh, hello? We're done!
We were able to find the spot where the official vehicle would bring us in. We lined up, and followed the car for about 3-4 miles to the finish line. It was surreal. We were actually about to be done? I yelled Hebrews 12:1-3 to my teammates as we rode in: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us [ride] with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (NIV). It was about 1:30 in the morning when we rode in, so there weren’t too many people there. The moment felt anti-climactic, like one minute we were riding our bikes for a week nonstop, and the next we were done. What do we do now? The immediate action was obvious. Pictures:
Annapolis – my total mileage = 401.25. And, the team was 3 hours ahead of our goal!
Father with daughter, the youngest official female RAAM finisher!
Our awesome crew!
And just like that, it was over. Such an amazing adventure, with such extraordinary people, and such an incredible merciful God! I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to:
- My teammates, for your dedicated training and racing. For giving of yourselves by riding when you didn’t feel like it, riding more miles during your turn so the others could rest longer, and the countless other selfless acts you did. For the simple things, like filling a fellow racer’s water bottle after their turn, or saying a quick prayer for someone having a difficult day.
- Our crew, the unsung heroes, for helping us make it through! For your service to us, making sure our bikes were ready, our food was ready, and all the logistics were worked out, even when there were unexpected obstacles. Thank you for your good attitudes, your positive encouragement to us when we were tired, and your patience when we acted like spoiled needy children. Thank you for pushing us and motivating us, and reminding us why we were out there. You were every bit a part of the team as the riders, and we couldn’t have done it without you.
- Our family and friends back home, for following our journey, telling others about us, and supporting us along the way. Without our church, the people at the OC Rescue Mission, and Birth Choice, we wouldn’t have done it. And without YOU (yes you, the one reading this!), we couldn’t have done it! So thank you, sincerely, for your love and support, your donations, your prayers, and your belief in us. Thank you for being a Life Changer!