Fast as Lightning at RAAM 2004!

Race Across America


Atlantic City, NJ, June 26, 2004 — Less than 5 days eight hours from their start in San Diego, the rookie Race Across America Team ALS Lightning was the first to cross the finish line in a remarkable ultimate endurance test of athleticism and dedication to their cause, to cure ALS.

Only two of the 15 member rider and crew had any previous experience with RAAM, and yet the team broke several RAAM records along their route, during which they never even went off course. On their third day, after passing both first and second place teams in Kansas, Team ALS Lightning not only took the lead at the halfway point, but never gave it up afterwards. They broke the record for the most miles covered in a twenty-four period, only to break that record again shortly thereafter.

ALS support teams along the route provided inspiration and sustenance to the Team’s efforts. On Tuesday, June 22nd, Tammie Camp and her family met Team ALS Lightning in Santa Rosa, NM after the rigorous mountain climbing performed by the racers. Tammie’s brother, Bruce Massoud is diagnosed with ALS, and the family came out to support the team in his honor. Tammie accepted an early morning order of supplies for the team, and came through with flying colors. Her sister had made 2 dozen sweet rolls, which barely lasted to the next timestation, and provided bag lunches for all, that were ravenously devoured. It was evident from the contents in each sack, that Tammie, due to her nephew Michael’s involvement in road racing, knew exactly what to pack for these athletes. Tammie’s father made stands for the ALS March of Faces Banners to display at the timestation. They looked fantastic.

Late afternoon, as Team ALS Lightning was entering into Texas, the leap-frog support van had a flat. The RV crew picked up the tire and rim, quickly identified a tire center at the next timestation in Dalhart, TX and led the leap-frog support crew for the change. Having both the pace vehicle and the cargo van, a rolling bicycle shop, to cover the racer, no time was lost from this mishap.

In Kansas, Teressa Sliger and Alpha Phi Alpha Chapter of the international honor society, Phi Theta Kappa in El Dorado, KS waited patiently in the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, June 23rd for the team to race by the checkpoint, of which they now commanded the lead. Sliger and her cheery group helped restock supplies for the team, including hamburgers that were sorely missed by the road-weary crew.

Also in Kansas, at the final checkpoint before crossing the Missouri line at Fort Scott, was Kristie Cook and her three sons, Zak, Austin and Nathan, waiting anxiously for the Team that was now on the fast-track to finishing the Race Across AMerica in record time. Cook, the editor of the Linn County News, is the niece of one of the crew members, Terry Frank who was a caregiver to her PALS, Kyle Hahn for nearly seven years. Apparently, Team ALS Lightning was appropriately named as they sped through Fort Scott barely noticed.

The team start of RAAM 2004. Riders are from left: James Kern, Tim Woudenberg, Bob Fourney, and Sam Whittingham, worlds fastest human!
How many bike riders receive congratulations from Miss America? Tim Brummer (right) and Tim “Wolf” Wouldenberg, one of the Lightning Team riders are greeted by Ericka Dunlap, Miss America 2004.
Now doesn’t this bike look just a bit more comfortable than the bike the orange-clad rider is using? The F-90 is the fastest bike you can buy.
A weary but successful team breaks the first finishing tape in Atlantic City!
Sam Whittingham climbs through Missouri

At this point, the Team was well ahead of breaking the current HPV record for RAAM. Needing to maintain an average speed of 24.02 mph, they were now averaging from the start 24.39 mph. In fact, record speeds were recorded throughout their pace, with four time station speeds exceeding 30 mph.

Crew chief, Tim Clark, expertly utilized the individual skills of each of the racers. James “Shrike” Kern, the captain, spent most of his pulls climbing, Bob Fourney experienced in RAAM and a 15+ year veteran of recumbents managed the dangerously speedy descents, Sam Whittingham, Guiness Book of Records' “World’s Fastest Man” took the straightaways, and Tim “Wolf” Woudenberg, proved tenacious and driven maintaining his average speed of 25 mph throughout and always willing and able to put in that extra pull.

New crew members, Ric and Rob Woudenberg were added on day 4 at the Indianapolis timestation, and navigators on the team were able to get some rest. A few more miles and timestations up the road, Team ALS Lightning was met by Karen and her children along with RAAM officials and Dayton’s Channel 7 news. They fired through Troy, OH with an average speed from start of 24.15 and still on track.

In London, OH the ALSA Western Ohio Chapter was waiting to cheer the Team on to victory. Although they were behind their estimated arrival by a few hours, the ALSA Chapter engaged in the London Days Festival and activities, while alerting the team of the detour they would need to take to avoid the festival. Judy Schmitz, CALS and board member of the chapter, picked up the team at this point and followed along their route.

In Parkersburg, WV, one of the racers, Bob Fourney began experiencing severe motion sickness. Most likely from the rocky ride on the 32 foot RV nicknamed the mothership, was just like a ship on a stormy ocean. Schmitz' was able to come to the rescue for the team, providing a few hours relief and rest for the racer and chief as she drove them forward to the next timestations. It was just enough to get Bob back on the road, only to endure rain, slick roads, and a treacherously winding decline towards Gormania, WV.

The mothership, while waiting for the team to race through La Vale, MD outside of Cumberland, figured it was time to reward the team with a hearty breakfast. Bob Evans sat conveniently across from the timestation and skillet breakfasts and sausage sandwiches were loaded on board.

Between the hills and weather, West Virginia started chopping away at Team ALS Lightning’s average speed, but safety was paramount. By the time they reached Berkeley Springs, WV, the Team’s average speed from the start was 23.50 mph. The good news was they were still hours ahead of the next closest Teams, Team Action Sports, and Team Vail-Go Fast.

In Rouzerville, PA, once again the mothership determined “real” food was called for to inspire and sustain the team, and a wonderful family restaurant was located by crew member, David Bradley, where 36 pieces of home-style fried chicken were freshly packed and sent to the team.

Only 5 more timestations to go, once through the Appalachians, Team ALS Lightning picked up their speed once more, in spite of a flat tire that spilled racer, Sam Whittingham, giving him a “crash” course on road rash. That was not to deter him later, when he helped raced this team to victory, bolstering their average timestation speeds up above 25 mph in the final stretches.

At Georgetown, PA, the Team was met by PALS Judy Repass and her dedicated “crew” of nurses, Elaine and Judy Pangborn. Repass has been in the ALS race since 1975, ventilator dependant since 1988, but always willing to keep pace with the best, and this is exactly what she did from timestation 52 to the finish line. As Repass stated on her website, “… it was the most exciting ALS advocacy event I’ve been involved with. I will continue to promote awareness and advocacy for as long as I can.”

Finally, the Team was on the straightaway, where the recumbents truly prove their Lightning speed. The average speeds from Georgetown to Commodore Barry Bridge, and from the Bridge to the penultimate timestation both exceeded 25.5 mph.

Shortly after midnight, Team ALS Lightning crossed the “official” finish line to be the first greeted by RAAM director Jim Pitre. PALS Tom Touchette and Judy Repass, both vice presidents of the team’s sponsor ALS March of Faces, cheered their victory along with many ALS supporters present in spite of the late hour.

Team captain, James Kern put it succinctly when he said, “We were all under a lot of stress. We did what we could to cope and we all knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. We will still have a life when its all over. Its different with ALS.” Team ALS Lightning won the race but more importantly they recognized the race that continues for the thousands stricken with ALS, and the need to break the cycle and win a victory over Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

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