There are casual bike riders, there are serious riders, and then there are riders like Martha Hall. She’ll won’t be lounging poolside to kick off her summer. She’ll be biking across the country in a grueling test of endurance on a charity trek.
Hall is competing as a solo racer in Race Across America (RAAM), a journey that starts in Oceanside, California, and ends in Annapolis, Maryland. Racers will cover 3,000 miles through 12 states across a variety of terrain that climbs over 170,000 vertical feet. RAAM is roughly 30 percent longer than the Tour de France and must be completed in half the time.
There is no easing into the race. It is brutal from the start. When she starts at noon on June 13, Hall will ride for 24 hours solid, save for limited stops to use the bathroom and change her riding kit. At noon the next day, she will be off the bike for four hours with hopes of catching three to three-and-a-half hours of sleep. There will only be time to shower before getting back on the bike. Eating, brushing teeth and anything else is done on the bike.
“Every moment possible I need to be on the bike, and it needs to be rolling,” Hall said.
She will follow a carefully crafted nutrition and hydration plan that will be monitored by a registered nurse. Every hour to hour-and-a-half she will consume 300 to 400 calories through protein smoothies, nutrition bars, fruit, sandwiches, and pizza.
“In my mind, it’s all going to cometogether, but it’s 8,000 calories a day I need to consume,” Hall said. “Even then I’ll have a deficit, but it’s really hard to consume anything more.”
It won’t be her first cross-country ride, but it will be her first done solo. She competed on four-woman teams in 2014 and 2015 before taking last year off. She has been ramping up for months on what will be a whole new challenge. The time cutoffs don’t get easier for a solo racer.
“It’s a whole different world. Everything is different. The mentality is different when you’re doing it on a team,” Hall said. “This is a long ride, so it’s about managing energy levels and managing your hydration and nutrition very carefully and balancing that with having enough sleep but not so much sleep that you’re not going to make your goals and time cut offs. It goes back to just me being responsible for it myself and not relying on someone else to pick up the slack.”
The long hours will be a battle, both physically and mentally.
“We have three cutoff points across the race of about 1,000 miles each. In my mind, how I’m working with this is it’s really three races, and it’s me against the clock as opposed to a 3,000 mile bike race or me against the other women,” Hall said. “I have to compartmentalize it with the different sections. My goal when I first get on the bike is to just make the first cutoff, and then it’s the second cutoff, and then it’s to finish the race.”
Though Hall is the only one on the bike this year, she isn’t riding alone.
“There will be down times. There will be dark times. There will be times that I feel great and then the next minute I won’t feel so good,” Hall said. “I have a crew of seven people (in a RV) and my kids coming. They will be my backbone and my support system.”
She’ll have so much more powering her on the road. Hall is riding for Team STARS to raise awareness and funds for visually impaired children. With her ride, she will be raising funds for the Center for the Visually Impaired and its STARS (Social, Therapeutic, Academic, and Recreational Services) program. They provide visually impaired children of all ages a place to belong and gain self confidence and life skills. It is a cause close to her heart. Her older son, Henry, is part of the STARS program, and Hall wants to repay to the group.
“He has this foundation of kids who are like him and get him,” Hall said. “He’s got this great group of guys. They hang out, and they’re a good support system.
“When Henry’s having a hard day at school, they get together and he’s just one of the guys. There’s nothing different about him. It’s wonderful to see these kids thrive in that environment. It’s pretty neat to see as a mom.”
Every time she stops and starts her ride, Hall has to have a marker to lock in the spot. She will have the STARS Program with her right then and there. Her marker will be a very special three-foot tall cone.
“All of the kids with the STARS program are decorating it for me,” Hall said. “The kids are actually going to be with me. I’m going to start my ride with them everyday, and when I stop my ride everyday my cone will go back down. I’m super excited to have them with me on the ride.”
Funds raised will go towards more STARS scholarships for summer camps and more social outings and events for the kids.
“It’s a way to expose the kids to different places and things that they probably wouldn’t get to experience otherwise,” Hall said.
Currently, she has raised more than $5,000 of her $7,000 goal. You can donate to her ride by going to her You Caring page.
Team STARS is also still looking for sponsors to help with the costs of the race. For more information, follow along on their Facebook page, RAAMTeamSTARS.