From sea to shining sea

The local transcontinental bicyclist, Dave Elsberry, completed the Race Across America (RAAM) last month.

He came in first in his age category of over 60. This is the second time winning his age category, the first being his second year in 2012.

But the elusive record Dave set out to capture this year slipped through his fingers due to trouble in the extreme Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

“I got altitude sickness and it stayed with me into the Mississippi, that was about three days,” Elsberry said.

Even his crew of 12, that followed Dave throughout the race inside four different vehicles, were affected by the intense atmospheric pressure.

“We all got these intense headaches, it was like somebody put a helmet on our heads and started pulling. It was really an odd sensation. It didn’t happen in the Appalachians or any other place with high altitudes,” said Pam Elsberry, Dave’s wife and chief of the 12 person crew.

As chief, Pam gave the last call on everything, even over Dave. This year was Pam’s rookie year and she was “baptized by fire” according to Dave.

“It was a lot with all the different personalities, all the different ages, there were people familiar with cycling and people not familiar with cycling. Our biggest goal though, was to get Dave across America timely and safely,” Pam said.

Other obstacles included trying to figure out where to fast forward the vehicles and how to give support to both Dave and the crew.

“We would get sleep deprived,” Pam said. “The ideal routine is three crews of three each serving eight hour shifts. Dave was a moving target and he slept very little which made it quite a feat trying to figure out how far we should fast forward the motor home.”

The lack of Internet and phone service put a strain on the crew causing communication problems.

Thankfully, in addition to the 12 people crew following Dave, they had an additional four people back in California monitoring Dave’s nutrition.

“It took a team of people there and a team off site that were rested and not sleep deprived or emotionally attached, who also had Wi-Fi to get this whole engine to run,” Pam said.

Not many people realize how much is involved in transcontinental races like RAAM.

“Outside looking in, you think it’s just a bike ride but there’s so much more that has to go into it in order for it to be efficient and to minimize the chance of any bodily injury, nutrition is a big deal when you’re cycling 24/7 because the body deteriorates so fast,” Dave said.

In the 33 years RAAM has been held, only 10 people in the 60 and over age category have finished.

“Get off the couch. If we sit there long enough and tell ourselves we’re too old to do something eventually you will be,” Dave said. “Our mind is a strong item and it will convince you, especially if you keep talking to yourself in a negative way, you’ll talk yourself into the grave. I’m not advocating everybody go buy a bike and ride 3,000 miles, that’s not the point, just get off the couch and do something. Ride around the block before it’s too late.”

Dave finished the race this year with a time of 12 days, 9 hours and 13 minutes at an average speed of 10.16 mph.

He just fell short of the 60 and over category record of 11 days, 3 hours and 25 minutes at an average speed of 11.27 mph set in 2008 by David Jones.

Elsberry is preparing to participate again next year.

“Mileage, I’m good. I got all my base miles and you don’t lose them. So now all I can do is work on my strength, which increases my endurance and also increases the durability of my body to minimize any injuries, that’s critical at my age,” he said.

Working on Dave’s strength will help him surpass the high altitude problems that faltered him this year.

Dave and Pam are heading back to California but Dave was happy to be back in his hometown of Marshalltown recently.

“It’s always good to have mom’s home cooked meals,” Elsberry said.