|Len and his Race Across American crew|
Last month I competed in the 31st annual “Race Across America” (RAAM), solo bike race between Oceanside, CA and Annapolis, MD on June 13th. I have been competing in various endurance events to raise money for Hopecam, a charity I founded 10 years ago. Hopecam helps homebound children battling cancer connect to their school friends with web cameras to cope with the loneliness and isolation associated with treatment. I had two goals – the first was to raise $150,000 to reach more children by broadening the geographic area that we serve– the second was to finish the race within the 12 day deadline.
The race is considered the toughest bicycle race in the world; It’s a third longer than the Tour de France in half the time. I assembled a crew of 11 volunteers (bike mechanic, nutritionist, paramedic, massage therapist, navigators and drivers) who sacrificed weeks of vacation time away from their families to support me. Their unselfish contribution of time, energy, skill and commitment gave me the motivation and necessary resources to endure the challenges that faced me, and there were many.
The weather was hot and dryer than normal and the race took more time than I anticipated. There were parts of Kansas that were hotter than the Mojave Desert and I encountered 25-35 mph cross winds and not one drop of rain the entire trip.
During frequent low points during the journey, the children using Hopecam were my inspiration as I dedicated each day’s ride to a different child who participated in the program. I often had the opportunity to phone many of the children during my rest breaks, and I received over 500 email messages that were read to me by my crew at night over the loudspeaker atop the van supporting my ride. Many asked if there was a time during the race when I felt like quitting. With so many children, donors and crew members counting on me, the thought of quitting never entered my mind
In the end, I finished the race in 11 days, 4 hours and 47 minutes, placed first in my age group (50-59) and 10th overall in a field of 46 athletes who represented 20 countries. We more than doubled our fundraising goal raising $320,000. Thanks to the generosity of my crew, family, many friends, and business associates in the real estate and wireless communities, we exceeded our goal allowing Hopecam to help many more children and expand our geographic area.