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20th Race Across America (RAAM)
Portland, Oregon to Pensacola, Florida. June 16 - ?
Something Old, Something New
By David Jacobson
The legendary Rob Kish rode up Lon Haldeman's handcrafted finishing ramp and onto the pavilion at Pensacola Beach to complete his 17th RAAM at 2:35 this morning. Finishing nearly 14 hours after Wolfgang Fasching, Kish's arrival might also have signaled his departure.
Kish races to win, and he seems to understand that he cannot beat Fasching. "The last-minute entry of Wolfgang Fasching eliminated us," Kish said, peeling tape off his mangled right foot. "He has so much money and logistics and doctors and pharmacists and his own film crew, but I thought I had a chance to win one last time."
Every year Kish says he will not return, and every year he does. Like Michael Jordan, Kish must never be counted out or bet against. Also like Jordan, at some level, Kish must know that the spirit is willing but flesh is weak.
Roughly 10 hours after his arrival, Kish returned to the podium to welcome Allen Larsen, a RAAM rookie. Kish did not pass the torch to Larsen, but he could have, and it would have been in good hands. Larsen's race--and the way he conducted himself before, during and after--was singularly admirable. He would be a fine man to help carry RAAM forward into a new era.
That may be too much weight on a man two years removed from debilitating back pain and now just three hours removed from a "traction contraption" he jury-rigged to combat his Shermer neck. Larsen mounted the podium looking like an alien with swollen lips, sunburn and a two-by-four duct-taped between his helmet and his tailbone.
He hugged his wife, Teresa, and they burst into tears. He held his four-year-old daughter, Kimberlee, and he shook and told her "Daddy's back" and everyone cried some more.
In an interview, Larsen choked up again as he spoke of family. "I missed my wife and children so much. I just wanted to go home. They don't even know what sacrifices they make. Kimberlee asks me if we can go to the park, and I say 'No, Daddy has to train.' She doesn't understand what I do. But now we're going to the park. We're going to spend some time on the beach."
Family played a major role in Larsen's race. Teresa had to coax her husband by phone to remount the bike on his way to Trinidad. "He called back a little later and said thanks for believing in me," she said.
His crew had to talk him back onto the bike in Oklahoma where the Shermer neck struck. "He said he just didn't want to do it," said crew member Micky Hartman. "We talked him into it, and his faith played a huge role. He woke up and prayed every morning for strength and comfort."
Near Arkadelphia, Larsen was within five minutes of Kish and did not know it until the next time station. "I was off the bike for 45 minutes, and then found out at the next time station that I was 50 minutes behind. If I had known, I might have been able to catch him, and then I probably would have passed out. But after that, I just wanted to see the flashing lights on the back of his van."
Even as late as the last 100 miles, Larsen considered quitting. "There were multiple points that I experienced a question of whether or not I could do it," he said. "There were a number of times I didn't want to. I got down to the last 100 or 200 miles and I thought it was not worth it. I remember when Mark Patten DNFed when he was so close, and I thought that was crazy, but now I can understand it. I could not sit down on the bike for the last 350 miles. I had to stand and pump, and it hurt to put anything in my mouth. I had a goal, and I am not one who likes to not achieve my goals. It might sound stupid, but I did not want to let down God."
It seems he did not let down anyone--God, family, support crew, race fans or himself. Significantly, he did not let down RAAM. He advanced it.
"It was a dream that turned into a nightmare and then back into a dream again," Larsen said in his interview with Outdoor Life Network's Scott Johnson. "Three nights ago, I was delirious. I didn't know who I was or where I was. I didn't want to just ride to finish. I knew I could do that. I wanted to test the limits. I wanted to win."
Those sound like words from Kish--or a worthy inheritor to his mantle.
Images by Richard Potts as the race passed through Oklahoma
Men's Solo Time Section Time Miles covered To go Average speed 1 Wolfgang Fasching 54 219:38:00 2991.9 0 13.62miles per hour 2 Rob Kish 54 233:35:00 2991.9 0 12.81 3 Allen Larsen 54 241:05:00 2991.9 0 12.41 4 Stefan Lau 54 244:14:00 2991.9 0 12.25 5 Fredi Virag 51 258:42:00 2909.4 82.5 11.56 6 Franz Venier 51 260:19:00 2909.4 82.5 11.46 7 Sam Beal 49 260:32:00 2815.8 176.1 11.18 8 Guus Moonen 47 258:25:00 2736.5 255.4 10.83 9 Michael Lau 46 258:26:00 2686.7 305.2 10.59 10 Wolfgang Kulow 41 257:15:00 2424.8 567.1 9.6 11 Arend-Jan Koning DNF 38 203:07:00 2292.8 699.1 11.29 12 Ricardo Arap DNF 34 222:43:00 2031.9 960.0 9.12 13 Ish Makk DNF 24 132:34:00 1434.0 1557.9 10.82 14 Mark Patten DNF 21 103:45:00 1281.3 1710.6 12.35 15 Byron Rieper DNF 21 132:18:00 1281.3 1710.6 9.68 16 Fabio Biasiolo DNF 18 75:52:00 1082.2 1909.7 14.26 17 Jack Vincent DNF 9 57:20:00 571.1 2420.8 9.96 Women's Solo 1 Sandy Earl DNF 16 100:47:00 986.6 2005.3 9.79 Tandem Mixed 1 George Thomas & Terri Gooch 45 253:32:00 2654.6 337.3 10.47 Two Person Men's Team 1 Team Clif Bar 54 192:16:00 2991.9 0 13:26 2 Team Millennium/IRSA 54 195:39:00 2991.9 0 15.29 3 Leader Bike USA 47 205:26:00 2736.5 255.4 16:33 Two Person Mixed Team 1 Team Two Roads DNF 20 95:58:00 1211.0 1780.9 14:52 Four Person Men's Team 1 Team RAF/BAE SYSTEMS/CG 54 14:45 2991.9 0 20.67 2 Team Swiss Academic Skiclub 54 23:57 2991.9 0 19.43 3 Team San Diego 52 16:05 2953.4 38.5 5:16 Four Person Women's Team 1 Team ZISVAW 54 4:55 2991.9 0 16.36 Four Person Mixed Team 1 Team No Limits 54 20:24 2991.9 0 3:50 2 The Twin PAC 54 18:35 2991.9 0 5:16