Saturday, June 27, 2009


We are finally posting some of the pictures from the trip. Our computer at home crashed so it has taken a little longer to update the web site than anticipated. Check back for updates to pictures and some recaps of the adventure. May have to look at older posts to view additional pictures.
Joe riding through the Desert on Day 1 of RAW
Joe riding up to the Prescott Summit (elev 7,000+feet)
Joe and his oldest son - Chris - share a quick moment for a photo
A great shot of Joe riding on his race. This was a very common scene with the follow vehicle present.
Eric Furnas lives on Red Bull to stay awake!
Joe shares a minute for a photo with son, Caleb, at the Utah border before entering Monument Valley.
The two support vehicles for the race stop on Day 1 along the "Glass Elevator" - a screamin' downhill into the Anza Borrego Desert.
Congress, Arizona - the first "manned" time station had a cool tub with jets, fresh lemonade, homegrown grapefruit, snacks and a place to change clothes. It was aweseome!!
Caleb and Eric at the first Time Station - call RAAM Headquarters to report that Joe had made it to that station.
Caleb doing a handoff at a time station
Joe getting his hand-ups at Time Station 2 - Lake Henshaw. Eric and Chris are handing up.
Joe at the Start Line for Race Across the West - June 17, 2009
Team "Mann Powered"

Joe Mann
Connie Mann
Chris Mann
Eric Furnas
Caleb Mann

Right before the Race start.

All of the Race Across the West Riders.
Joe and Connie just before Joe starts his race.
RAAM Officials inspect Joe's bike, wheels, and the support vehicles.
Preparing the support vehicles.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday Morning

Joe arrived in Cortez, Colorado at 3:30 a.m. mountain time. A rider can get in the vehicle to go to a hotel as long as the crew calls the RAAM Headquarters. Joe was 18 miles before Cortez when they decided to head for the hotel for sleep. Eric and Chris were living on 5-hour energy, Red Bull and Mountain Dew. Caleb and I slept for 6 hours. At 6:30 a.m. we headed back to the point where Joe got in the van and called Headquarters to let them know Joe was back on route. He was in extreme pain and the road surface was bad so it made it impossible for him to sit on his saddle. We stopped and made him a PB&J sandwich that he had requested and ate that. He said there was no way he could continue. We tried to motivate him to keep going but it is painful to the crew to try to motivate someone who is in severe pain. It hurts to watch him! Joe got back on his bike and as we came in to Cortez, he asked for a ham, egg and cheese croissanwich from Burger King and he would meet us at Time Station #13. When we stopped at the time station, Joe made the decision to pull out of the race. It was hard for me to call in to RAAM Headquarters and let them know of this decision. Talked to Barb, the manager and she was very encouraging and said that Joe has all of there respect and that it is tough just to get to the start line. With all of this said and posted, we have moved everything we had in the rental vehicle to our vehicle (complete re-packing). We are getting ready to head to TAOS, via our van. Eric is heading out to meet his wife and son in Denver. Joe did a fabulous job and we are all VERY proud of him. The crew did outstanding!!! More later. Thanks for reading the blog and for all of your support!
Connie for Team Mann Powered

Friday, June 19, 2009


I haven't mentioned that the scenery has been incredible and we have taken some awesome pictures and video and will try to upload a couple when we can. RAAM media crew took multiple pics of Joe today throughout Monument Valley, so check the RAAM web site.

Cortez, Colorado

I can't tell you how many times I've heard from Joe - "I understand why firearms aren't allowed to be carried during the race." It's been brutal. There were 5 individuals that signed up for the 50 and under category for the Race Across the West, 4 that started the race and only 2 left in the race. One of Joe's opponents quit in Flagstaff and that was Forward Motion - (Mike). Joe made it to Flagstaff at 11:00 p.m. on Thursday night, quite a bit later than he had originally anticipated. The climbing was insane!! He had one heck of a climb into Flagstaff. I helped him when he arrived get some serious wounds taken care of. (Yeah, nurse duty). He slept for 4 hours before we got up at 3:30 a.m. Flagstaff time and Chris and I were crewing for him this early morning shift, on the road at 4 am. Chris mentioned that he doesn't think he has ever seen his Dad so close to tears before as he was this morning. It wasn't really the fact that it was 44 degrees starting out, but the fact that he couldn't find a comfortable spot on his bike seat. He's eating and drinking pretty well. We found today that plain jelly sandwiches are tasting good to him. He also has been eating other foods and drinking ensure which is a great quick meal. I would be in bed right now (11:43 pm mountain time) but I need to do a load of laundry so Joe has some clean clothes for his ride Saturday. Caleb and I came ahead early tonight to get some rest and Christopher and Eric are helping him get into the time station. Joe had planned to sleep in Durango but decided around 4:00 this afternoon that he wouldn't make it to Durango until 5 or 6 am so we cancelled our rooms in Durango and were able to get rooms in Cortez, Co.

Last I heard, Dallas Morris is still ahead of Joe by 3 hours or so. Most of you that follow the race web site know exactly where these guys are, but we haven't even been able to get cell phone signals, let alone try to update the computer during the day.

Not sure if I'll be able to update before Taos, but will try.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flagstaff, AZ

Joe is on his way to Flagstaff. He had a very, very tough day! I can't tell you how many thousands of feet he climbed, including Yarnell Pass which I believe was an 8% grade for 8 miles. And it was hot too. It's all starting to run together after only a couple of hours of sleep for the crews last night. We keep telling ourselves that Joe hasn't had ANY sleep yet!! Twice today he was getting really tired - once was at 4 am. We played music over our loud speaker for him and gave him 2 pieces of Jolt gum which is like a cup of coffee. That really helped. Again he was getting tired this afternoon after Prescott. We gave him more gum and that helped. He missed a turn and we got him back on the right path. There were two climbs today that support was not allowed at all because of all the switchbacks and narrow roads. He is a real trooper. Chris and I left everyone at Cottonwood (one of the time stations) so we could come to Flagstaff and hopefully get at least 5 hours sleep. We have been up for 20 hours. I'm very nervous about Joe coming in to Flagstaff. We came up on 89A North I believe. It's beautiful in the daylight but I wouldn't want to climb in on a bike and especially not at night. At least with Eric and Caleb doing night support, it will be mandatory that they follow right behind him from 8 pm. He will need those headlights and the support! Crew is doing pretty good - tired, but hanging in there. I better call it a night and sleep while I can. Oh - almost forgot. Joe gets to sleep tonight, for a few hours anyway. I see the low in Flagstaff is about 42 degrees -- much, much colder than it has been so I'm not sure how tough it will be to get motivated and get out of bed to go ride. Thanks for reading the blog and for your support and prayers!!! In case you are wondering, it looks like Joe is in 2nd place, behind Dallas Morris by about 2 hours at this point.


Blythe - CA. Chris and I had about 2 1/2 hours sleep at a hotel in Blythe, CA before we received the phone call from Crew #1 (Caleb and Eric) that Joe was about 16 miles away from Blythe. We met Joe and Crew 1 at the Time Station which was a gas station. Joe said the bugs were nasty, the roads were rough and it's hot. It only got down to 82 degrees for a low. Of course, I like it because I like hot weather. :) He had some food at the time station and is now on a 30-mile stretch of interstate. INTERSTATE! And it's very busy too. Chris is driving and we are in follow mode. He has a nice 10' paved shoulder to ride on and we can't do any handoffs on the interstate unless we exit on a ramp. He has gone about 240 miles. - Connie

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On the road...

Joe is through time station 2 in Brawley, CA and is riding through the desert. It is nighttime and its about 90 degrees. The heat is getting to Joe a little bit but he is still doing terrific! Averaging about 18.5mph on the bike and only has about 10min off the bike for the first 150miles. He is doing great and will ride through the night. We went by a lot of about 10,000+ cows and it smelled worse than Iowa hog farm in July! A funny story...Connie and Chris were driving through a Sand Dune recreation area and when they came up a little hill, a police car stopped them and a few cars behind them. Eventually, a semi driver went up and asked the cop what was going on and he told us he was holding us because they were "Taking care of a little business" up ahead on the other side of the hill. I should mention that we were less than 20 miles from the Mexican border... Anyway, keep reading! Updates will be sporadic due to sleeping schedules.


Well, we are officially checked in. The vehicles are official, the bike is official, the photos are taken. Now it is time to race. We have been getting the whole setup ready since we arrived on Sunday evening. Everything is locked, loaded, and ready to go. Only a small 1044 mile jaunt to Taos, NM and it will really be official.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Thank you

A big thanks to all who helped us financially for the race. Thanks to Greg Harper for all the things he has done to make sure my bike is ready; Mike Doyle and Bill Ford for putting up with my insanity and helping to make sure my legs are ready; Paul Carpenter for all his advice and confidence-building. Jody Shoppa for working on our van and making sure it was ready for the trip. Lastly, thank you to the Big Dog group for organizing three very challenging and hilly rides to make sure my training got me as ready as a mid-westerner can be for the mountains. This has been a crazy dream(or nightmare) but it will be one that myself as well as the team will never forget.

Melon City Bike Club
Rick Buller
Big Dogs
Hy-Vee of Muscatine

Bill Ford
Craig Fry
Nancy Foxen
Ed and Karla Longstreth
Jeff & Amy Castro

Alma Brunson
Christina Kloser
Greg & Karen Harper
Angie Sink
Dave Bender
Charlie & Jean Harper
Becky Brooker
Dave Everhart
Jennifer Middents
Becky Zeck
Dave Hurlbut
Jim Dotson
Bill & Carrie Harper
Deb & Keith Elliott
Jo Drahos
Bill Pierce
Diana Barry
Jodi Heth
Bob & Sandy Hayes
Diane Olson
Joel Christiansen
Bret McGreer
Eldon Ballenger
Jon Purvis
Brett & Ernie Guerra
Eric & Jenny Furnas
Julie & Mark Evans
Carla Byrd
Fred Lane
Kandice Tjebkes
Karen & Matt Meyer
Mike Taylor
Stacey & Tom Eberhard
Kay Ribbink
Monica Halstead
Steve Fowler
Larry Martin
Nancy Shell
Steve & Marla Lee
Lavene Payne
Paula Gillespie
Tammy King
Lisa Longtin
Peg Heither
Teri Lyon
Lori Lewis
Randy Hill
Tim Kelly
Mario Garcia
Randy Howell
Tina & Randy ball
Marta & Jim Burnham
Rita Painter
Traci Arceo
Mary Ellsworth
Sandy Cordrey
Wendy Durham
Mike & Vesta Doyle
Sara Stych

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Secret Weapon revealed!!!

I know that some of my competitors are following the other rider blogs. That is why I have waited so long to post what my secret weapon will be of the Race Across the West. My secret weapon is my wife and crew chief Connie.

Connie and I will celebrate our 23rd anniversary the day RAW is officially completed on the 21st of June. Her first crewing experience was Paris-Brest-Paris 2003. She was able to meet me at every time station along the route to feed and water me and listen to me complain about how much further I had to ride. Crewing for PBP is not an easy task if you had a co-pilot but she did it solo. Each time check was about 50 miles apart so she had three hours to drive to the next town (by the way the vehicles do not follow the bike route they have to go around the route), find the check-in point, get a parking spot, find and purchase food (guessing what I was hungry for) and be back somewhere on the route where I could find her. I would be there maybe 15 minutes and then the entire process started again.

In 2006 and 2007 she and Eric signed up for the 6 hour challenge at the Ultra-Midwest race. After riding they crewed the rest of the day/night for me. In 2008 she crewed the first half with Chris and the second half Eric came up to help.

When I finally made up my mind to enter RAW she immediately started working. Her first task was fund raising. She wanted to sell something to raise the money and came up with the idea of baking pecan or pumpkin pies and selling them at Thanksgiving and Christmas. She made close to 50. After Christmas she opened the choices to any kind of pie you wanted. To date she has made over 100 pies and raised over $1500.

My wife has always been the travel agent of the family. I think she enjoys planning the trip almost as much as the enjoys the trip itself. As you can imagine RAW can be a huge logistical task. Just the drive out and the stay in Oceanside can be daunting let alone finding Hotels along the route at just the right distance to make it ideal for the rider and crew. There was also the second vehicle to rent(point to point), and airline tickets for Eric.

Other tasks that you don't even think about are vehicle/bike inspections and photo sessions at the beginning of the race, the correct signs for the vehicles, documents that are needed for the drivers, first aid supplies, and the list of "little" things goes on and on.

All the above mentioned thing are just what she does for the trip. There are many other ways that she has supported me in the last 6 months while I was training. She has dropped me off/picked me up for tailwind rides in the winter when I am too much of a weenie to fight the winds. Many Saturday's are spent at home doing the house work while I am out riding. Making sure the maintenance on the van is up to date. Convincing me to ride on days when I don't feel like riding. Reminding me to take care of the few things that I need to do for the race.

While she is doing all this she is still training 10-12 hours per week for triathlons. If you have ever seen our fireplace mantle you know who the real athlete of the family is. At the end of each year we take all the plaques, trophies, certificates and other prizes she has won for the year and put them away. It only takes one season to fill the shelf back up with awards. She has twice been the Quad Cities female multi-sport champion and top 5 in the Midwest Multi-sport. in 2006 she competed at the World Championships in Hawaii. She has been nationally ranked in the top 10 percent of her age group most years and is a real force to be reckoned with on the bike. Her latest physical challenge has been adventure racing.

I have been riding for over 20 years and have been fortunate to have a wife that understands my obsession. Not only does she understand but I am lucky enough to share the adventures with her. The few of us riders that are lucky enough to be in that situation need to thank our spouses more often then we do.

Thank you Connie for everything you do to support me!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Balltown Classic

What a great conditions for an out and back bike ride to the north! 51 degrees at the 5:00 am start time with no wind. The forecast for the day was to be near 80 with north west breezes increasing as the day progressed. About 30 ultra-distance cyclists from all over the Midwest gathered in Dewitt Iowa for the Balltown Classic. Bill Ford and Mike Doyle joined me for this year's ride. For Mike this was his third start and for Bill it was his fourth in a row. I was lining up for my fifth consecutive attempt.

The first 60 miles went by quickly as 12 of us rolled into the first stop in 2:50. If you have never seen a sag stop at an ultra-distance event it is more like a pit stop in NASCAR then a RAGBRAI stop. I personally like to be in and out in less then one minute. My stop includes two new water bottle, slam down a bottle of Ensure, and grab a bag with a sandwich to eat halfway to the next stop then back on the road. The goal is to be out towards the front of the group so you don't have to chase. I was the fourth rider back on the road. For most riders, including Mike, first and foremost is a bathroom break. Unfortunately Mike took a little too and never caught back up with the rest of the group.

After the "stop" the route gets hillier and our group dwindled down to 8. At the 85 mile mark as you leave Epworth you enter some back roads that wind around and take you to the turn around at Balltown. This 20 mile stretch has three very steep and long climbs. They all are over 10% grade and one gets up to 18%. Throw in some pretty bad road conditions and you get one heck of a workout.

The eight of us rolled into Balltown (Bill and I sprinted for the sign and he won) for the turn around in 5:07. The turn around is actually at the 105 mile mark so we were still averaging over 20 mph. Not too bad for a bunch of old guys. Other then RAAM finisher Bryce Walsh I don't think any of us were under 40. At Balltown Bill and I decided to wait for Mike and finish the ride together. None of the three of us had ever finished with anybody. Each year on the way back it seemed like ever-rider for themselves. We decided we had nothing to prove and since the three of us had been planning this all year why not enjoy it. Besides misery loves company. Stopping time in Balltown was 35 minutes.

We picked up, and dropped a few riders going back through the big hills. The worst climb we sped up the hill at a whopping 5.5 mph. Back on the flat the three of us worked well together. Nothing hard just steady and efficient as the three of us rolled into the "stop" at 150 miles. We were number 6,7 and 8 to arrive 40 minutes behind the leaders. Three other riders left right after we arrived so we were within sight of third place. Just as Mike was getting comfortable at this stop I told him it was time to go and he would have to eat his food on the bike. This stop totaled about 10 minutes.

The tailwind picked up as we head back through Lost Nation to Dewitt. We were rolling along when we looked up and saw the other three riders. One of them had just got a flat and they all stopped to help him fix it. That is a great thing about Ultra-distance riding. No rider left behind. The guy with the flat was out of tubes so he borrowed one from Bill and a CO2 from me. That time got a hole as soon as we aired it up. It looked like his valve stem hole was causing his problems so Bill used the old tube to make a boot to cover the hole and he borrowed Mikes tube and got rolling again. The three of us pushed it in the tailwind (25-30 mph) and lost two of the riders and finished with Paul Carpenter. Paul was the only finisher of RAW last year and went with Bill and I to Florida in February. This gave me some time to pick his brain about my upcoming race. We were finishers 3,4,5 and 6 in 10:48 with a riding time of 9:55. In Ultra-distance events they only keep time to the minutes not seconds so there is no sprinting to the finish unless you can get a one minute gap. After 201 miles nobody was sprinting.

Food and drink for the ride:
Two 70 oz camelbacks of water, 48 oz of Gaterade, 60 oz of Cytomax Energy Drink, 24 oz Perpetuim, 2-20 oz Sobee's, three chicken salad sandwiches, 10 fig newtons, three ensures, three cheese sticks, one package of Clif Shot Bloks, 20 Succeed S!Caps(no cramps on this ride for the first time).

Check back for the Crew Chief profile and my final thoughts and preparations as the race is only two weeks away.