The Long and Winding Road…645 miles to go.

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Photo from RAAM Facebook page.

Its about now that everyone starts to run on simple will. The crew is tired, Jacquie is running on fumes and grit. I tell people around me about what Jacquie is doing and they always just shake their head and say “Why?”. It is hard to explain what motivates someone to push this far. I imagine that Jacquie is even wondering “Why?” at this point…but she continues on.

Add rain and thunderstorms to the list…

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Here is a video of an interview with Jacquie and John that seems a bit different now that she is almost finished.

Every “dang” crew needs one…

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Every crew usually has a couple of these…those amazing people who seem to be able to stay positive and bubbly despite sleep psychosis and the debilitating smell of car funk. Beth Rawls is one those people. She is a breast cancer survivor who was on tap to crew for the 4 person team that John and Jacquie were on in the 2012 RAAM when she got her diagnosis. She was unable to do the race and was thrilled to have the opportunity this year.

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2012

Don Mayne  (Crew Chief of the 2012 Bacchetta 4- person Team) presents Beth with a RAAM team jersey signed by the crew and riders. Beth had to drop out of crewing because of illness.

Beth lives life like a survivor. She appreciates every moment and injects her positive outlook into everything she does. She is famous for prolific use of the word “dang”…like “I wish that dang wind would calm down”. She is also a serious photographer. She snaps more pictures than a Japanese tourist at Disneyland. She wants people to see what she sees; to enjoy what she is enjoying. Beth and her husband, Johnny are both recumbent bike riders and live in Mississippi.

Some of Beth’s wonderful photos:

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The Mighty Mississippi…Jacquie makes the all important time station 35. 2050 Miles done.

Between the banks of pain and pleasure the river of life flows. It is only when the mind refuses to flow with life, and gets stuck at the banks, that it becomes a problem.~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

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What an effort !! The last few days has brought forth a need for an extraordinary effort by Jacquie and the crew. But all have risen to the adversity and conquered the challenge. The team reached the important Mississippi time station early this morning. If you do not reach this time station in the allotted time, your race is over. Thus, everyone is relieved when you get past this hurdle.

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2/3 of the race is completed. The only geographical hurdle left is the West Virginia hills.

 

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Its A New Day !!! 1870 Miles Done

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Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another. ~Walter Elliott, The Spiritual Life

Ultra cyclists have many different strategies to cope with the unbelievable task of something like RAAM. The length of RAAM creates such a diversity of situations that it is pretty much like the quote above….many different races within a race. Fortunately, that mentality is particularly helpful after a day like yesterday; the third day of wind, the follow van breaking down, and not having enough supplies in the back up van.

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But it is a new day!!! Winds have decreased and Jacquie has had some good recovery rest. The women solo riders are all still very close together and it is starting to look like a very intense race to the end.

Team Vite is an awesome group of recumbent bike riders of all levels from around the world.  Many of the messages put up on Facebook have been being read to Jacquie which gives her a lot of encouragement. Troy Timmons, one Jacquie’s long time teammates writes:

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Troy Timmons

“In homage to my friend Jacquie Schlitter, I tried to make today’s ride a miserable as possible. I stayed up all night, got some old stinky jersey and shorts on, then brought out my old heavy stick bike, loaded it with a rack, panniers, lights and extra batteries. Still feeling a little to “fresh” so I put a just a bit of sand in my shorts just to get the nasty grit of RAAM feeling. Then, I waited until it got really hot and pointed myself directly into the wind. After 60 miles dragging around at 18 mph I was starting to remember the suffering I watch John Schlitter go through on his solo crossing. The only thing missing for me was blaring music through crappy speakers and someone (well meaning but still annoying) asking me if I was okay every couple minutes.
Still, it wasn’t too windy, I was riding on a flat, beautiful beach road and had two full store stops. There was no time table, no pressure, and nice long shower and a nap afterwards. Well, at least I tried, right?
Still, thinking of you my friends and the entire crew who suffer on in this amazing journey. God Speed and God bless. Be safe out there and have FUN!!!!! Go BLB GO!
— feeling awesome.

Casualties of the Plains….

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Its been a tough day for Jacquie and the JacQ Attack crew. The wind continues to make headway more difficult that she would hope. But, she continues on and pushes through it. Earlier today she asked John to report to everyone, “Okay, I have had enough of 30 mph plus head and cross winds”. Its been relentless. It appears that the winds a getting somewhat lighter as riders move east. The forecast in St. Louis is for winds SSW 10-15 which is significantly less than the 30-40 mph gusts that have been buffeting Jac the last two days.

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A red alert was issued today. John called me about 10:30 am this morning and said that “Lola” the Mercedes Sprinter Van (the primary follow vehicle) was starting to break down and lose power. He was east of Wichita and getting farther away from help. We put out the word online and were able to get the van into a Mercedes dealer quickly. However, the parts will not arrive until tomorrow and the back-up van did not have the supplies needed to follow all night. Oddly, John ran into an old colleague in the bike business on the road!! The friend agreed to run back to Wichita and pick up the supplies from Lola and run all the way back. Will wonders never cease?

——

Yes, that is slow motion…

Jacquie is eating well and continuing to ride very consistently in the wind and make head way. She has stayed within reach of the other women riders as they have been struggling as well.

Goooood Morning Kansas Plains….1370 miles done, almost halfway home.

 

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We ultra cyclists in Florida have a saying “We may not have hills, but we do have wind”. Jacquie has had a lot of training in heavy winds. Most of the struggle with riding while it blows is how demoralizing it can be. It slows you, uses up your watts and seems to be relentless; there is no downhill recovery like in the hills. It just pounds and pounds you while you pedal.

Right now Jacquie is in the windiest part of RAAM…the plains of Kansas. Its a bit like being out on the ocean. There are no geographical features to interrupt the wind. It picks up more and more speed and then blasts you.

While its not a headwind most of the time, which is the worst situation, it is a crosswind. That means it wants to knock you over…literally. In 2012 RAAM that Jacquie raced in, she was literally knocked over by 50 mph gales blowing across Kansas. So she has to fight to keep the bike upright and that uses energy.

Thats what is on the menu for the JacQ Attack today…fighting the wind. Pray it dies down and goes to sleep.

 

From Ben Tomblin at 8:00 am, EST this morning.

Day 5 is posing intense challenges to Jacquie…

The wind…as Jacquie descended out of the mountain the winds picked up to 30 mph with 40 mph gusts. With Jacquie’s small body frame and weight she can have a hard time keeping the bike from blowing around.

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Report from crew member John Schlitter at 9:50 PM EST 6/15/2014:

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“Things were going great after a sleep break in La Veta, Colorado. Winds were down as Jacquie climbed Charro Pass. She flew down and was descending the fastest she has gone the whole race!. We flew out of Trinidad and that is where Mother Nature said “Not so fast, Jac Attack”.

Jacquie was getting blown from the edge of the road to the center line. We stopped to regroup and check out forecast options. The forecast was not so good. Jacquie and I experienced 50 mph crosswinds on our 2012 RAAM Team Race. I knew we needed to find a way to keep Jacquie on the road and moving forward. The only bike to get close to the bike she road in 2012 was the open cockpit “Encore”. Jac said she would give it a try.

I moved her seat up  adjusted the gull wing bars on the Encore. I rode it first and it seemed really stable, but I’m 55 pounds heavier then her. Once she got on she ws able to control the bike much better and make headway. So we left Kim for the next time station at Walsh, Colorado. The wind is howling, its a direct crosswind. She is doing “blazing” speeds of 10- 15 mph.  The weather is not supposed to change in Kansas and in addition is will be hotter.

Judy Robertson has to leave us tomorrow. and a good friend, Bob Nicholson from Hayes, Kansas (my home town) is going to make sure Judy gets to the airport in Wichita. Judy has done a great job crewing and we will miss her. Big thank you from Jacquie and me. John Melville will be taking Judy’s place in St, Louis.

Jacquie is okay and riding strong. Her spirit is down a bit. She is attacking the wind…I have seen her handle some pretty tough times on the bike and I think Mother Nature may meet her match!”

“I love those who can smile in trouble…” DaVinci

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.” Leonardo DaVinci

Someone sent me a question about Jacquie’s smile…”She always seems to be smiling. Is she always that happy?”

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If you have been around Jacquie for very long you quickly notice that she is genuinely one of the nicest people on the planet. She is a positive person and always looks for the best in those around her. Then she gets on her bike.

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She is also one of the most competitive people I have ever been around. One of her biggest struggles preparing mentally for RAAM was learning to let others pass her. Normally, if anyone…I mean anyone starts to pass her…she is off to remedy any idea that the rider was faster than her. Friend or foe…you want to go by her, you are in for some punishment.

What is interesting as you watch her race is that both these parts of her exist together. If she is working hard and digging in she can look incredibly intense. She will ignore all that is around her and focus all of her life force into her effort. However, as soon as you say something to her she will gently smile at you and come back to life and be as sweet as pie.

This is so evident in this video that Seena Hogan took yesterday. Jacquie is suffering along and when Seena asked her questions she sounds like she is chatting over a cup of tea. That’s Jacquie.

It can be hard to tell how much she is suffering. No matter how much pain she is in she will smile at you. So don’t let that fool you. She has immense pain tolerance.

I saw this (below) on the internet today and it reminded me of her.  I imagine her insides look like that roadie…but she will always pretend she is ok. That is what keeps her going.

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Jacquie hits the “peak”, gets some sleep and grub; starts rolling down hill. 1115 miles done.

 

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From crew member Judy Robertson and last nights driver:

“Last night we passed a field that had about 20 horses in it. They galloped along with Jacquie as she passed. When the horses stopped they all raised their heads to watch her go by. It made me cry.”

 

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From crew member Joni Esser:

6/15/2014 9:54 EST

“After a good dinner and sleep the Jac attack is climbing another mountain this morning. She is done with over 1/3 of this race. 1150 miles done, and she’s going strong over this Colorado mountain. Headed for Kansas”

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