Common Folk Doing Uncommon Things
In March 2019, I watched a YouTube video of the 2016 TransAm Bike Race (TABR). Lael Wilcox overtook Steffen Streich on the last day of the 4,200-mile race and won. She completed it in 18 days, the first woman to win the grueling unsupported 4,200-mile race across America. Streich was leading with 110 miles to go. On the final morning, he started riding in the wrong direction-the effect of sleep deprivation. He realized his error when he met Wilcox in Bumpass, Virginia, cycling in the opposite direction. They rode together briefly, and Streich suggested they ride to the finish together. Wilcox responded, “This is a race,” and sprinted the last miles to become the first woman to win the TransAm Bike Race, beating Streich by two hours.
I remember the feeling I had imagining cycling through Bumpass on my way to the finish line. I pondered what it would feel like to race across America like Lael. It’s a powerful motivator when the heart and head align.
I reflected for hours, sitting alone in my home office. I wanted to experience complete solitude in the middle of America while pushing my physical and mental limits. My inner restlessness and gnawing sense that something was missing disappeared. That same crisp thinking that was my North Star in 2018, the magnet that drew me to San Diego to ride the Southern Tier, had returned. I blurted, “Hell Yeah! I’m doing this race!”
Less than three months later, late afternoon on June 1, 2019, I entered the Armory in Astoria, Oregon for the pre-race orientation. I did not know it at the time, but Abdullah Zeinab, from Australia, sat two chairs away from me. The start of the 6th annual TABR was less than 12 hours away. Tensions were high. Light chatter filled the large gym area. A good night sleep soon to follow. The bells rang and we were off to the races. Darkness would soon turn to the morning light. By the end of June 4, race day three, Abdullah would be so far ahead of all others that it was a foregone conclusion he would win. Eventually, he won in a record time: 16 days, 9 hours, and 56 minutes averaging 254 miles per day. The record still stands.
The 9th annual TABR begins tomorrow morning, June 4 at 6 am PST.
Check out this video of Abdullah, interviewed by Dot Watcher/Trail Angel Matt Gholson during the 2019 TABR.