Jack Chen, Daniel Berlin, Tina Ament and Micheal Somsan are putting together the first All-Blind Stoker team for the epic endurance bike race in the world, the “Race Across America,” (RAAM). The RAAM is a non-stop race from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast on a Tandem bike and the logistics and preparations are well underway.
Listen to Jack, Tina and Daniel talk about putting the Team together and all that goes into such an epic endurance event.
Jack is a Google lawyer, Tina is a US Attorney in DC and Daniel is a co-founder of a major company producing Vanilla extract. Besides their business success they all train and seek out challenges that are out of this world. From Kilimanjaro, to Ironman races, ultra marathons and mountain climbing on a tandem, the RAAM was just waiting for them, I guess, just because it was there.
Join Jeff Thompson from the Blind Abilities Podcast team as Jack, Dan and Tina invite you all to share their event and spread the word about Success in Plain Sight.
You can read below and to learn more check out Team Sea to See on their Facebook page.
Team Sea to See is committed to proving that blind people can succeed in any field. We believe that demonstrating this capacity to succeed is critical to empowering others in the blind community and changing society’s perceptions of the blind. We are illustrating this capability by building a team of blind people to tackle RAAM and an accompanying media and outreach campaign.
We believe that lack of exposure to and understanding of blindness plays a major role in keeping employment rates so low for the blind community. Employers aren’t intrinsically hostile to the blind; they just don’t understand how blind people can, through ingenuity and adaptive technology, enjoy the same success as their sighted colleagues. We’re taking on the high-profile challenge of the Race Across America to show what blind success looks like, on and off the bike.
We are a team of successful business people and athletes who share blindness as a common characteristic. We’re entering the world’s most grueling endurance cycling race, the 2018 Race Across America (RAAM), to show the immense capabilities of blind people and to raise awareness of the abysmal employment rates of the blind. We will be highlighting our achievements through a major media campaign and a full-length documentary. And we need your help.
Your tax-deductible gift can help us shed light on the unacceptable employment rates for blind people across the nation and bring the inspiring stories of our team members into plain view. By supporting Team Sea to See, you will interact with an international audience through conventional and social media, showing your support of diversity and inclusion and helping to change the way the world sees the blind.
Check out the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and see how they are expanding possibilities for people with vision loss.
Find out more about USABA.
USABA is a Colorado-based 501(c) (3) organization that provides life-enriching sports opportunities for every individual with a visual impairment.
See complete transcript below.
Race Across America – Success In Plain Sight: Meet Team Sea To See
And it’s not so much about fixing the disability or fixing the thing that’s afflicting individual it’s more so the acceptance in society on how that individual can be successful.
Emphasizing that problem-solving aspect of RAAM is one thing that as blind people we’ve all had to do in our lives to come up with, well how can you do something, if people say, how do you manage that?
We have to sit down and come up with a way and that’s a lot of what being on a RAAM team is all about.
The event is Race Across America, success in plain sight.
You can learn more about team Sea to See on the web at team S E A T O S E E .com, and on Facebook Team Sea To See.
We really want to encourage people who have disabilities, encourage people who are blind, young folks who are coming up, people who are growing in their careers, even people who are established, say, hey you could reach for that next thing, don’t be counted out, don’t count yourself out.
We’re not going to count ourselves out until we get to the Atlantic Ocean.
Welcome to Blind Abilities, I’m Jeff Thompson.
Have you ever had the urge to go across America from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast?
How about Race Across America?
That’s a race that starts on the Pacific coast and goes all the way nonstop to the Atlantic coast, that’s right from start to finish non-stop, there’s a team called Sea to See, and that’s S E A T O S E E
And that’s comprised of four members, there’s four stokers, all blind, one bike on the road at a time, they’ll be rotating in and out, racing, and they plan on doing it in eight days.
Although there’s plenty of people involved in this event, we have three out of the four stokers.
That’s a person on the back of the tandem bike, and with us today we have Jack Chen, Daniel Berlin, and Tina Ament.
So Jack, why don’t you introduce yourself, and introduce the rest of your team.
Thanks Jeff, glad to be with you again here, and really glad to be able to have the opportunity to introduce Sea to See.
Sea to See is a project that was started, oh I don’t know about six months ago.
We were sitting around trying to think what is something completely epic that we could do?
What’s something that’s really going to capture the hearts and minds of people?
And we were sitting around and thinking, not sure what that could be, and then someone said, what about biking across the country?
And I say, wow that sounds like that sounds cool, and I’ve never heard about Race Across America, but biking across the country sounds like it’s tough enough, and then Race Across America comes.
It’s a 3000 mile race from California to Maryland.
It goes across 12 states, has 175,000 feet of elevation gain along the way, and it’s what they call a one-stage bike race.
Which means that there is no scheduled stop.
The team will go 24 hours a day until we finish and we get a max of nine days.
So that’s kind of the event itself, but more than the event, we were thinking about, what is something that we could do that is not only epic but could really make an epic difference in the lives of people with disabilities and people who are blind?
And along with the race we decided, what if we could highlight the success and capabilities of people who are blind?
What if we could show the world that there is this incredible physical activity, physical adventure that blind people can do, but do something even more.
So we could talk about, what about people who are successful who are blind?
What kinds of things can they do off the bike?
And we assembled a group of folks who all in their own right having incredible success, and what we want to do ultimately is to highlight blindness and success, to talk about what people can do, what they’re capable of, what they’ve already done, people who are blind and talk about their own lives and what they’ve accomplished off of the bike as well as on the bike.
We want to create a full-length film about this adventure using the race as a way to say, hey there’s something incredible that some people are trying to do here on the bike, and then talk about off the bike, and look at what else blind people around the world can do, what success that they can have.
That’s how the race got started, and I’ll just to introduce myself quickly, and then pass it off to the other folks on the call.
I’m Jack Chen, I am an attorney at Google.
In my previous history I did the Ironman triathlon in Florida and New York in 2010 and 2012 respectively.
And I’ve done a bunch of other things like marathons and and that climbing Kilimanjaro Jeff, as you and I had spoke about earlier, and that’s a little bit about my history.
Dan you want to, want to go next?
Sure sounds good, thanks Jack, and yeah thank you, thank you for having us.
Yeah a little bit about this event for me, the way it started out there just as Jack said us sitting around talking about something epic that could be done and by individuals who are blind, and really make a lasting impact or imprint on the world, and finding something that’s arguably the most challenging bike race in the world, and one of the most toughest, physical events in the world, was right up our alley, you know, all four of us, this is the type of thing we go for.
On top of that I’m also the co-founder, and CEO of Rodelle Incorporated, which is one of the world’s leading vanilla extract companies.
When not riding and training, I spend a lot of time making, tasting, eating all these things I love to do.
And I joke that I got into athletics because of my job, because I was eating cookies all day long and one thing led to another, I could eat more cookies if I started training you know 6 hours a day.
No, really this gets down to, a few years ago I also co-founded an organization with several friends of mine called TMC possibilities where we take on epic endurance challenges all around the world, supporting children who are blind mostly outside the U.S.
One of my passions is really focusing on the societal acceptance of difference.
And often times that difference is a disability, in my case specifically its blindness, and because of my business and my work life, it gives me the opportunity to work extensively in Africa, and Asia, and Southeast Asia, and parts of the world where disability has a different connotation than it does to us here in the States.
And there’s a lot of work to be done and it’s not so much about fixing the disability or fixing the thing that’s afflicting the individual, it’s more so the acceptance in society on how that individual can be successful.
And to me that’s what this RAAM team is all about, it’s showing how where there’s a will there’s a way, and the four of us blind stokers can find a way to compete in the most challenging physical events in the world you know, we’ll find a way to do it.
Daniel that’s terrific.
I was impressed when reading about some of the events that you were involved in.
Your team was coming down a mountain, I mean pretty exhausted, and yet you took the time to go visit a school for blind children.
I was very impressed.
That’s a that’s a key part of what we do, is our mission, we love the epic endurance adventures around the world.
Our mission is, or our philosophy is to choose, you know X adventure and Y iconic location, for Z cause, and the cause is so important to that because children are the future and just the message we can send to them about don’t be labeled or don’t label yourself even it’s so important.
And that’s why the documentary part of this project is so important.
You know, we’ll capture attention I’m sure in doing the ride, but what really can be the lasting part of this, is the imprint we leave through the documentary behind about the ability that is in all of us.
And the third member of Team Sea to See with us is Tina Ament.
Hi I’m Tina, thank you so much for having us on the podcast.
I am a an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
I live in Virginia, but I work in D.C.
That is basically for ten years.
I’ve been a trial lawyer trying all kinds of crimes that are committed in D.C.
Ad for the last ten years I’ve been doing appeals which means that I try to preserve the convictions that my colleagues get at the trial level.
So I spend my days writing briefs and doing oral arguments in the D.C. Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and when I’m not doing, that I’m training most of the time.
I grew up as a military brat and my both of my parents were very convinced that my blind sister and I should be able to take on whatever challenges we wanted and particularly that we should be physically fit.
So I grew up doing swim team, downhill skiing, horseback riding, and after I got out of law school and got out of private practice where I was too busy to ever do much of anything, I took on competitive rowing.
I’m a Master International Champion Rower and then switched over to marathons and triathlons.
I’m an 8 time Ironman, I actually qualified to do solo race across America by doing a 24-hour bike race where my pilot and I finished third overall of all the competitors at a 24 hour race in Texas, and this weekend I became the national hill climb champion for blind visually impaired by climbing Pikes Peak on a tandem.
Wow Tina, that’s all I got, Wow!
I really am excited about this team and I think the one thing that Jack didn’t kind of go into is when you put together a race across America team there’s a lot that goes into it.
More than just being physically fit and extremely well trained, which we all are, but I had the privilege actually of towing the line with Jack at Ironman New York.
We’ve been race competitors before and, and the training is very important, but the other thing that I think is going to be lasting about this, is the idea that you have to problem-solve for every contingency that might come up in getting four tandems and their accompanying vehicles across the country in some very tough conditions.
Everybody has to basically be a MacGyver, and a problem solver, and a team member, so in addition to eight of us, they’re going to be a lot of crew members who do the important work of making sure that our vehicles are where they need to be, that our food is where it needs to be, that the vehicles stay maintained, etc.
And I think that emphasizing that problem-solving aspect of RAAM is one thing that as blind people we’ve all had to do in our lives, to come up with well how can you do something, if people say how do you manage that?
We have to sit down and come up with a way, and that’s a lot of what being on a RAAM team is all about, or being a solo RAAM racer.
Finding a way to do your role to the best of your ability and to get everyone else to do their roles so that the whole team is successful.
When reading up on all of you I, I noticed that some of the articles would say “Runner climbs Kilimanjaro” or “Runner” but in the Ironman, there is the aspect of bicycling, so it was just kind of surprising at first when I was reading to see all of you biking across America, and now I see, you know you’ve, you’ve all done quite a bit of biking.
Well from my point of view, ever since I started bike riding I’ve heard about RAAM, and hoped to be able to do RAAM someday, and one of our pilots has been on a RAAM team, and I went to Annapolis to watch her team cross the line.
So to me when when you’re a triathlete, you know you do all these sports but you also you know, I’ve sort of been gravitating more towards bike racing in the past couple of years.
I’ve been injured and my running is kind of not where I’d like it to be right now, so I’m taking a break from Ironman and trying to do more bike racing like the Hill Climb this weekend.
So for me it’s sort of a natural extension of doing longer and tougher bike rides to think that RAAM would be a really great project to do and when I heard these guys were setting up a team I thought about trying to set up one myself and then I thought, hey if they’ve already done some work I’m just jumping on their coattails, because it’s not an easy project to do.
Race Across America, yeah that’s what you do when you take a break.
Yeah, take a break from Ironman yeah.
Yeah this is Dan, I think you know, each of us are different, approaching this a different way, we’re always learning new stuff about each other, and now that we just learned that Tina is a national hill to climb champion, we know exactly which leg she’s going to be doing.
Yes that whole mountain range, that’s all you.
Exactly, I’ll take the eastern slope of the Rockies, you can take the Western and we’ll….
I must say, you know, we haven’t announced our fourth teammate as well, Micheal Somsan is our fourth blind stoker as well, he wasn’t able to join us today but he is a vital part of the team looking forward to doing this event you know, as all four of us, and our four pilots along with us too, and I must say though being the only non-lawyer among the four Stoker’s here, I think we’re going to be a good problem-solving team.
Now I’m wondering if you can help out our listeners.
All of you including Michael are stokers, you ride in the back of the tandem bike and you have a captain, a pilot.
Where did the pilots come from?
Can you explain a little bit about how your teams are set up?
You know each of us has worked with various captains, I mean having to do a, an Ironman Triathlon, on a tandem you also need to have captain’s who are crazy enough to ride 110-112 miles at a shot, and so each of the captains that we have chosen, we’ve also I believe worked with as well.
So my captain is who I did my last Ironman Triathlon with.
I know Dan’s captain is someone he’s done a number of races with before, mostly in the running side, and in the climbing with Team See possibility.
I know that Michael’s captain is someone who I believe was a captain also during the last Ironman that I did with Tina, and I think Tina was your captain right, is that right?
That’s right, both of the women pilots that are with our group have been pilots for me in races.
So Caroline Gaynor will be piloting for Michael and I’m going to be riding with Pamela Ferguson who is another pilot that I’ve done, so mostly bike races with actually and she and I got the great result in Texas where we finished third overall on, in a 24 hour race, and she also was on the winning team in the first third of Race Across America which is called Race Across the West this year.
So she’s an incredible endurance athlete, and more of a cyclist than either of the other sports, but she’s also amazing at swimming and running too, and so all of our pilots have had guiding experience, and all of them I believe are Ironman just like all of us are.
And that’s a great question to, just in the fact that for me honestly this is Dan, the hardest decision I had going into this was choosing a pilot.
Because the beauty, the gift of being a blind athlete, I’m putting it out there, and going to do these races, are the people that come in that want to help, and volunteer their time to come and join and help.
And for me, having a lot of friends that have guided me in the past, choosing one to be the captain along this adventure was a challenge too.
It really makes it a team sport between us, but also between our guides and us.
I always hear the word team being mentioned by all of you and you know, the rules for the RAAM, and all the regulations, you know you have support vehicles, following bikes at night, and all this, can you explain some of this team, and the crew, and the rules regulations of the RAAM?
So if you think about it, we’re gonna have eight cyclists, and each of us will probably be bring a spare tandem bike.
So just in terms of us, if you don’t even think of anything else, we’re gonna have to get eight people and eight tandems across the country.
So we’ll probably have one or two RVs with us, and one or two vans with us, and during the nighttime hours, and on the Indian reservations, the RAAM rules require that one of the vehicles direct follows the cyclist, and that’s for safety, because we’re riding on trafficked roads.
You need to have a support vehicle to light your way, to warn the other cars that you’re there, etc etc.
So for safety there has to be direct follow for a good bit of the race and then during the daylight hours that vehicle can sometimes go ahead to help with swapping out riders.
So what the crew has to do is convey, you know you need people to drive and navigate, because remember it’s 3100 miles that they’re gonna be navigating on back roads that the race is set up a specific route, and if you go off route, you have to turn around and go back and retrace your steps, so nobody wants to be the one who screws up the navigation.
There has to be food for all those people that’s put into those cars and ready to eat, and if you think about it, nobody’s really getting very much sleep during this time.
So by the time you get to the end of this, the crew is basically telling the riders, now is when you eat, now is when you sleep, now is when you do everything, they, they really run the show.
Having a good crew and a good crew chief is imperative.
If you don’t have people who know what they’re doing, you can have you know, just disastrous results and not finish the race.
Cookies, right Dan?
Yeah, well you know that crew keeping up with my Paleo Vegan diet is going to be a challenge, but I have full faith.
Can you explain to the listeners how this actually works, is it like a baton relay race, do like, one bike on the road at a time, and when you come across each other you kind of like hand the baton off if I may?
That’s the, that’s the best, that’s the closest idea that you have, in your direct follow car you can have another pair of people waiting.
So once it’s not following anymore it can move ahead, drop off the people, get them ready to get on their bike, and then when the bike that’s on route comes up, it could stop and the other one takes off and then you load the other people into the van etc.
It’s kind of like this complete logistical ballet with RVs and vans, and bikes, where everybody has to sort of be where they need to be at the right time, and that’s why having a crew chief that’s good at logistics and good at navigation is absolutely crucial.
All of you have such great experience that you can draw from, you know the people that you’ve met, the people you’ve worked with in the past but, the RAAM is new to all of you.
So how’s it going in setting up this team for the first time?
Well we’re still working on putting together our perfect crew right now.
One of the things we realized as having RAAM experience is very important, especially for the crew chief and some of the other key roles, the assistant crew chief, navigators, so we’re piecing that together along the way.
That really makes the difference, and then we can’t forget you know sleep.
One of the biggest resources that we have on this adventure say 7 to 8 days, we have a crew of say 17 – 18 people plus the eight riders.
We need to trade off sleep time, we need to trade off food, and all the other things along the way, so just having that master puppeteer who’s guiding all the orchestration out there is really key.
We do have a lot of the connections, that’s why I get back to before we have so many friends and so many awesome folks along the way, that picking just that precise crew that’s going to lead to success is one of the hardest things we’re doing right now.
I’ve got to say I mean Jack has been really inspirational and instrumental in this part.
We are recruiting as many other blind and vision-impaired individuals along the way too.
So beyond our actual crew, we have several other blind VI individuals doing lots of different functions, from marketing, to fundraising, to promotions, discussing on film production and things like that along the way.
Which is really an amazing story about, not just for blind stokers riding this race, but about the whole team pulled together.
Right, and one of the things that’s exciting about this part of the race planning is we want to highlight what the full capabilities are of people who are blind, you know on and off the bike as we said, and so it was very important to us to identify people who are incredibly talented, as well in their own right, who would be passionate about taking part in this kind of way to make an impact in the world.
And to highlight the skills that they have.
I mean it’s difficult, media and PR is hard, fundraising is hard, and the folks that we have found already are incredible at what they do, and we want the world to see that, yeah you need this guy in your media department, you need this guy in your fundraising department, because of the skills and the deep bench that’s available in the blind talent space.
So we want folks to realize that blind people can do anything and at the same time we really want to encourage people who have disabilities, encourage people who are blind, young folks who are coming up, people who are growing in their careers, even people who are established to say, “hey you can reach for that next thing” “don’t be counted out, don’t count yourself out”
We’re not going to count ourselves out until we get to the Atlantic Ocean.
You know the whole team is called Sea to See, which means going to the sea on the east coast of the United States so that the world can see as EE what the full capabilities of blind people are around the world.
So it’s really about helping the world to see S E E through our accomplishment of getting to the sea S E A.
Such a great opportunity to educate the public about the possibilities.
Now Jack you mentioned Line Connect, and Daniel you mentioned team See Possibilities.
I was wondering is team Sea to See going to be an organization as you put this project together, it’s hard to foresee where this will go.
Can you just elaborate on that a little bit?
Yeah it is not yet an organization, really it was just birthed out of the desire which we talked about earlier to to do something which highlighted our own capabilities, and the capabilities of people who are blind, but it is going to be about making an impact for the future and impact for posterity.
Who knows where the project will take itself you know, we want to, to seed this in the minds of people around the world and then if it takes off and people create more around it, then yes that will be awesome.
We’d love to see it grow in that way, but we’re taking a bold step now to put this out there to, to do something that’s as Dan said, arguably, we don’t know whether we can do this right.
To go out there and succeed and then to have this highlighted in a film so that people for generations can watch it, and hopefully this sparks something.
Obviously the clock is ticking, can you tell when the race across America begins?
The race starts in June of 2018.
So we’ve got about ten months to prepare and that ten months, while it sounds like a lot, actually is quite challenging.
We’ve got to put together all of our fundraising, we’ve got to get all of our media straight, we’ve got to find the film, we’ve got our write the overall script for the film, we’ve got to find the crew, got a plan to have some kind of training for the whole team along the way.
It’s gonna be a tight ten months, it’s going to be a tight ten months.
All while we are working our jobs.
That’s right, that’s exactly right.
Not to mention while we are working.
And family to right?
Work, family, vacations, and all the really kind of good things, well, we’ll see about the vacation part, but yeah you know what I mean.
I haven’t quite talked my kids into that their vacation next year is driving across country in an RV while they have to feed us, but I’m working on it.
But they get to yell at you and boss you around, that’s the best a good part about it.
They do that anyway.
Now we’ll get to the contacts and the show notes, we’ll put the links all in there, and we’ll mention it out here, but I want to know, are there gonna be t-shirts available, or other items to bring awareness to team Sea to See, so they can help support the team?
Oh I’m sure that we will because we’ll have cycling kits to wear and once we contract with somebody or get somebody to make us the kits, you know, well the designs will be in, so I’m sure we’ll have shirts for the crew and all that kind of stuff, and the signs for the cars and everything like that.
Yeah that’s a good point I mean, this is a, this is a very expensive venture to here, I mean we are still actively in the fundraising stage, we’ve had one fantastic sponsor organization that’s come on so far, and the way we estimate were probably about 25 to 30 percent of the way there we need to be, to make this really happen to on the financial side.
So there’s a lot of work going on in the interim to, and as that builds, we’ll definitely be working with our sponsors hopefully to promote them, and us, and the mission along the way.
This is just in case, in case it wasn’t clear, this is a hugely expensive undertaking in addition to being complicated.
I mean just the race entry is twelve thousand something I think for a four tandem team, and then plus the rental costs to get all the vehicles, the travel costs to get everybody out to Oceanside for the start, and then the associated cost with getting everybody home once we’re back in Maryland.
So the fundraising, but any support that people out there want to give you know, be it ten dollars or some t-shirts, or some food or whatever is totally appreciated, because this is a, for anybody undertaking this it’s a hugely expensive endeavor.
Oh I can’t even imagine that as I’m piecing this all together, just the puzzle pieces to make this picture really work for the race across America, 25 people, 2, 3 vehicles possibly going all the way across the America in just eight days, and all the personalities, and everything.
You guys are really taking on something big here.
Yeah I mean it’s, it’s tens of thousands of dollars, and one of the things we’re doing, we’ll see as this unrolls is we’re really highlighting employment for the blind as well, as a major driver behind what we’re doing right now.
Folks looking to be involved with that activity.
We can help point them in the right direction and also maybe a good tie into what we’re doing here.
Because the employment rate for blind individuals as I’m sure you know is ridiculously high in the world of 4% national unemployment to have to 60-70% plus unemployment for the college-educated vision-impaired community is, it’s just not acceptable.
Yeah that’s a number that hasn’t fluctuated in many many years and it’s events like this what you guys are doing in the Race Across America, team Sea to See that may just shine a light on it for many people to realize the possibilities, and I was wondering, we’ve been talking for a while and we haven’t really touched on blindness.
I got a question.
Is there any alternative devices that any of you will be utilizing on the road?
That’s a good question.
Not as far as I know, but doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen.
I mean one thing that that I’ve heard about this race anyway is that, although everybody relies on GPS, you know uses GPS for navigation and that some of the places we’re gonna be in are pretty remote, and so when it really comes down to it, I mean, people use a book I mean RAAM gives you a book that has turned by turn directions in it for the entire race course, and that’s what the default is that your navigators are supposed to use.
You can plug those all into your GPS if you want to but this is a pretty old-school run race and I think part of that is because the technology may not function for the entire 3000 miles.
I mean there’s parts out there in the desert where there’s not much to be found.
That’s a good point and I think for each of us individually we’re gonna use our own the techniques and tools that work for us.
I mean I use a cane, I’ll definitely have that with me for when I’m not on the bike, and they’ll definitely be a whole level of communication that we’ll need to be working with the crew, and that’s another excellent point, because that’s something from the crew standpoint that’s going to be different than crewing a fully sighted RAAM team is that consistency for a vision impaired individual is key, and making sure that we have consistency in the RV, consistency and our gear and equipment, and things like that.
It’s gonna be key along the way here.
We want to say to, as far as we know nobody’s ever done this before.
So this is also the first time this has ever been done with a full blind stoker team competing in RAAM.
But just looking at some of the intricacies that happen both in the RV, in the support vans, from gear and just staging and getting around, there’s going to be this extra level of crew support that we”ll be educating them along the way on how best to support each of us individually.
Yeah and I think it’s also important to note that, in making the logistical plans, it’s important that that we make sure that being defacto guides 24/7 doesn’t fall to our poor pilots, because they’re gonna need their downtime when nobody’s asking them for anything to.
When they’re off the bike you know, they’re gonna either need to be able to put in their headphones and listen to something, or sleep, or eat in quiet, or not having somebody making any further demands on them, because we have to remember they’re doing a huge undertaking.
It’s hard for them to pilot a bike all night, where you have to you know look ahead on a dark highway and this and that.
And I know when I did that 24 hour race, Pamela was very very very tired and the last thing she wanted to be doing was a stuffing, and helping me find clothes if they weren’t packed in the right place or something like that.
So our crew has to be able to, our crew people have to be able to help us with those functions so that the pilots can can have their downtime so that they’ll be more alert when they’re actually riding.
I’m thinking about the geography and the different terrains that you’ll be going through on your route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and you know, you got the Rockies, you got the desert, you know been through the desert with a horse with no name.
Then you got the flatlands, but not only that you’re gonna hit the Appalachians, and you got all the high-density population areas out east, is there any particular area that is feared more than the others, or do they all have their own particular degree of difficulties?
I think the one thing that from my little bit of research on this, is that everybody says the eastern part of this country is the hardest.
For one thing the hills in West Virginia and and Maryland are shorter than the ones in Colorado but they’re steeper.
They are relentless.
There’s one segment of this, because the way the race works is there are checkpoints there’s something like fifty some od checkpoints across the race.
Our crew checks in at those when we reach that point, that’s how RAAM knows where we are.
And there’s one checkpoint where there’s five thousand feet of climbing over miles from one checkpoint to the next going from Ohio into West Virginia.
And because that’s the end of the race that ends up being, I think more taxing on everybody, and plus some of the roads in West Virginia.
Well all of it I have to emphasize is, it’s pretty dangerous because you’re out there with traffic, you’re out there with trucks, and this isn’t a race everybody knows is coming through town.
Your average semi driver has no idea that RAAM is occurring, even the little towns you’re going through.
It’s not a big deal, it’s not like when they have the New York City Marathon and everybody knows there’s a marathon going on.
This is just that the race kind of rolls through and people are rolling through over a 72 hour period between the solo racers and the teams.
All of this is pretty dangerous and taxing.
The desert can get up to 120 degrees and then you go from that right up to the mountains where it can be snowing, to out in the plains where you can have massive thunderstorms that are so bad you have to stop, because you can’t see anything or there’s hail.
It’s really hard to say which part of it, and I think for all of us and all of our pilots, they’ll probably be different parts of it that are pretty taxing, but I think for anybody who’s piloting one of these bikes, the night riding, it is very grueling.
I mean only because you have to be so constantly paying attention.
One guy did RAAM this year on a hand cycle and he was on a descent going about 60 miles an hour and an elk stepped out ahead of him and his follow vehicle, and he was just screaming into his radio, you know, deer deer deer, like figuring that their poor team would crash into it and die.
So that’s the kind of thing that can happen at any time during the eight days or whatever that we’re out there, wildlife, trucks, car breakdowns, mechanicals on the bike.
Any of it it’s hard to say what’s gonna be the hardest and also because we don’t know specifically what weather we’ll be facing you know, maybe we’ll get lucky and and it won’t be that hot, or won’t get rained on or whatever, but it’s hard to say.
California the Maryland, just go!
Tailwind all the way!
We’ve been talking to Jack Chen, Daniel Berlin, and Tina Ament, just a great conversation about Race Across America, non-stop Pacific coast to the Atlantic.
Is there anything else any of you would like to share with our listeners?
For me I would love just to have folks share what we’re doing, share it far and wide on Facebook, on Twitter, tell people about team Sea to See, tell them about what we’re trying to do, tell them about what we want to accomplish in the minds and hearts of America, in the world to talk about the capabilities to people who are blind, talk about their own limits and have a conversation around the dinner table it’s like, hey well I’ve been struggling with this thing” and well now look, team Sea to See, look what they’re doing, they’re on day three, and look where they are, they’re really killing this thing.
We want to be an inspiration for folks out there to challenge their own minds and hearts, and share this widely.
We want to hear from them, we want to hear what they’re saying, want to hear their support and their ideas along the way to.
It’s just very important that we have a conversation about this, that we have a dialogue that goes on, and hopefully will be a you know, a light out here that’s going to help some folks say that they can do more that they think they can do right now.
Yeah I, I totally agree when I did the 24 hour race in Texas, the race started at 7 at night so we got our night riding out of the way, and it got very cold, and very long getting 200 miles in before the sun came up.
There were just points when I, I really literally would think I just don’t know if I can peddle up this hill another time, or get around the loop another time.
had this memory of I could feel it and Pamela said it when the sun first peeked over to our left hand side, which was east of us on that part of the loop, and it was suddenly like, you know what, like it’s gonna be okay, like they’re you know, the Sun will come out and there there is either a light at the end of the tunnel, or a light to our East, one way or the other.
I hope that we can sort of show everybody that you know, it’s always darkest before the dawn, which is cliche but it’s it’s kind of true.
Hmm, it reminds me of the story about you Dan when you’re 800 feet from the summit of Kilimanjaro.
Yeah now that was, that was challenging.
I mean it was dark, it was just cold, it was dark, I mean Jack’s been up there too and you get there, and then you just feel the warmth of the sun and it’s a, it’s a whole different world, you know that that’s it.
Yeah Jack doesn’t talk too much about his climb.
I’m just kidding.
I had some pretty dark moments there, you asked my wife Jeff.
I remember I was standing at one point when, you know as a blind person, to put this in perspective, you can feel three or four feet around you right right?
The scariest thing is to think that there’s an incredible drop-off when there isn’t, because it just petrifies you, you just can’t walk any further.
And I remember, it was this really flat rock, wet flat rock, it was sloping down and you had to walk down this thing having no idea how long it was or if there are boulders in the way you were gonna ruin into, and just being petrified like, I couldn’t move.
I’ve never felt like that in my entire life but that was the first time that I felt like, I just, what am i doing?
I can’t, I can’t do this thing.
And with their support I got through it but yeah, there were some pretty dark moments up there.
I hear you Jack, I mean that, sometimes I mean you flip it around you say ignorance is bliss.
I mean, when I did the rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon, there were parts on the North Rim where, so my team that was with me, I’d feel this hand on my shoulder behind as we’re hiking or moving, even jogging sometimes, like you know what, just take a step to your left a little bit more, and then when I heard lay there from my family, from others watching the video that they were capturing, it was like a thousand two thousand foot drop off you know, six inches just to my right and we’re you know running through a carved out piece of rock.
And I had no idea, I could have been hiking down the path of my neighborhood for all I knew, it was just like another day out there going.
Yeah sometimes it’s scary and sometimes you don’t even know it’s scary.
And Tina I remember a story about you in the Ironman in Hawaii when your light went out, leaving you both in the dark, kind of leveling the playing field a little bit.
That’s right, when when we did Ironman Kona, when the sun goes down on the Big Island, it goes down for real.
It’s just sort of like, it was light, and then it’s dark, and we’re running along the Queen K Highway and there’s no lights on that road and we had mistakenly taken my headlamps and put it into our, they have a what they call a special needs bag in Iron Man, that’s in, its supposed to be sort of in the middle of the run and you can pick up so say, you want an extra shirt, or you want some food that you don’t want to carry with you, you can leave it in your special needs bag.
Well the special needs bag in Kona is 19 miles or so into the run and we had to cover, I think it was at least two, two and a half miles in the dark on the Queen K before we got down into the energy lab where the special needs bag was, and so yeah it was to the point where we tried to sort of pirate off of other people that had their headlamps with them, or if there was an aid station up ahead you could, got some weird light, but some of it was she was like, well I’m just gonna try to you know have you not trip on the little markers on the road, the little plastic things that do the lane divides, but she’s like, but I honestly can’t see them so we’re just gonna do the best we can.
Jack can you tell our listeners where they can go and learn more about Team Sea to See, follow what’s going on, stay in touch with them, leave a donation.
Where do they go for that Jack?
You can find us on our newly freshly minted webpage at www.teamseatosee that’s team S E A T O S E E .com, and we’re also on Facebook at Team Sea to See, and just to close out and make sure people really understand what we’re about, Team Sea to See again is really about riding to the Sea S E A, so the world can see S E E, the full capabilities and the success of blind people.
Our motto is “Success in plain sight.”
So we’d love to partner with you, we’d love to keep in touch with you, share some of our stories, let you get to know the team, and props to the American Foundation for the Blind.
For almost 100 years the American Foundation for the Blind has built on the legacy of Helen Keller, by connecting people with vision loss to the outside world, and fighting for those who fought for us, by giving a voice to those who need it.
Advocating for laws that help visually impaired people and helping us communicate with the world in a whole new way.
Helen would be proud of the breakthroughs made for generations of Americans with vision loss, as for tomorrow let’s shoot for the moon.
To learn more visit AFB.org.
The great thing about these kind of programs, what USABA does is, they allow guys and gals who maybe have similar issues, similar problems similar experiences to come together, to share information about the blind community, about sports, about how you can be more productive and enjoy life, and have fun.
Sports will always be in my life, it makes you feel better, it’s almost proving something to yourself, and you’re able to pull through maybe something that’s very challenging and come out the other end.
So connect with us, like our Facebook page, come and visit us and if you’re able to and you want to, please support us.
It’ll be worth it.
So blessed to have Dan and Tina and Michael all in the same boat together, and then all these other support folks in our corner.
It’s been an incredible journey so far and we have a ways to go but we’re gonna be bringing more folks on board, and just their support it’s gonna be incredible.
We definitely could not do it without the help of a ton of folks, and for all your listeners out there we love your help too!
Well thank you very much Jack, Daniel, Tina, for coming on the Blind Abilities and sharing your initiative, your goals, the challenge that you put ahead of you, and more importantly bringing awareness to the blindness community, and good luck to the entire team Sea to See, and thank you so much for being so inclusive on who you’re putting on the team, whether it’s handicap, blindness, visually impaired, good job Daniel, Tina, Jack and thank you for being a Blind Abilities.
Thanks and on your way to June 17th 2018.
There you go, thanks a lot Jack.
Thanks so much for having us on.
And thanks Dan.
Thank you Jeff, we appreciate being here with you!
Such great experience talking the team Sea to See, and be sure to check them out on the web at teamseatosee.com, that’s team S E A T O S E E, and on Facebook at Team Sea to See, and also be sure to check out American Foundation for the Blind on the web, that’s at AFB.org.
And also check out the website for the United States Association of Blind Athletes that’s USABA.org.
And all the music that you heard throughout the podcast was written, created, and produced by, Chee Chau, at L C H E E C H A U.
We thank you all for listening, we hope you enjoyed, and until next time bye-bye
When we share what we see through each other’s eyes, We can then begin to bridge the Gap between the limited expectations and the realities of Blind Abilities.
For more podcast with the blindness perspective, check us out on the web at www.blindabilities.com, on twitter at BlindAbilities, download our app from the app store, Blind Abilities, that’s two words, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, thanks for listening.