LAKE PLACID - Chris Grant loves pushing himself to the limit. He's finished the Lake Placid Ironman in his hometown six times and will be looking to do it again when the race returns on Sunday, July 28.
Grant recently completed a much longer race, however -one that covers more more than 20 times the distance of a single Ironman triathlon, which is 140.6 miles. Joining three other cyclists in June as members of Team Lake Placid, Grant pedaled his way across the United States in the 2013 Race Across America.
With teammates Doug Neugold, David George and Geoffrey Farnsworth, Grant completed a 2,993-mile race from Oceanside, Calif. to Annapolis, Md. in the 32nd edition of what he described as "the ultimate endurance bike race in the world."
Photo courtesy of Chris Grant
Team Lake Placid members Geoffrey Farnsworth, David George, Doug Neugold and Chris Grant are pictured at the finish line of the 32nd Race Across America. As a foursome, they pedaled nearly 3,000 miles in a little more than seven days.
Along with two support vans and four crew members, Team Lake Placid was one of two teams racing in the male 50-59 age group, reaching the finish line in 7 days, 7 hours and 5 minutes. The teams began the race on June 15, four days after the individual cyclists started their solo journeys.
"There's a certain amount of fun in seeing, as an endurance athlete, how far you can push yourself," Grant said. "This race was an absolute must for me."
Although Grant accounted for about a quarter of the bike miles Team Lake Placid piled up during its journey across the country, he still was basically racing non-stop for seven-plus days. Tacking on a few more days to travel from the East Coast to the start line near San Diego made the race a long adventure for Grant, who is 53.
"It was pretty much non-stop, all the way across the country," Grant said. "You're part of the experience the whole time. When your van mate is pedaling, you are usually awake watching the bike, watching the scenery. When the guys in the other van are pedaling, you leap frog ahead for 100 miles or so, and that's when you get most of your sleep. There's always one biker on the road 24 hours a day."
The Race Across America goes through 12 states, and included about 300 riders and 1,000 crew members this year. Grant said riding through the mountainous western states and those approaching the East Coast were the most enjoyable parts of the event.
"The first couple of days, everybody is jazzed up. You're fresh, you're wide awake and the scenery is just amazing," he said. "But after a couple of days, it was easy to lose track of time and where you are when you are getting in and out of the van and on and off the bike.
"After we got out of the Rockies, that was the toughest part," he continued. "Riding through Kansas the road temperature was 130 degrees, and it was endless miles of nothing."
Team Lake Placid split into two groups, with Grant riding in one van with Neugold, a longtime friend from their college days at Clarkson University. Farnsworth, who lives in Montreal, and George, who is from Virginia, made up the other pairing for Team Lake Placid. Grant's son, Tyler, was the crew chief and was joined by Hannah Feinberg of Saranac Lake, Cammy Sheridan and Sylvie Frechette.
When they were the two team members doing the biking, Grant and Neugold typically switched off every 30 minutes in an effort to keep a solid pace.
Along the way, the racers checked in at 55 time stations, with Lake Henshaw, Calif. being the first and Annapolis, Md. being the next to last. When teams, as well as individuals reached the Annapolis destination, they were guided by an escort for the final 5.7 miles of the race to the finish line. The average distance between time stations was approximately 55 miles.
This year marked the second time Grant has participated in the race. He also biked in the event in 1992, the first year teams were allowed to compete in Race Across America. Back then, Grant rode with three other riders from his native state of New Jersey. Grant said if the opportunity came up to do the trip again, he wouldn't hesitate.
"Would I do it again? Absolutely," Grant said. "Endurance-wise, it's just an incredible experience. The biggest thing is logistics. You have to find a team, a crew, riders, vans and money. Putting it all together, and keeping it together is probably the hardest part."
Grant said that the goal of Team Lake Placid wasn't to win, but rather to see how well a group of four riders and their crew could come together to accomplish the task of crossing the United States on bikes.
Grant also isn't looking to turn in some remarkable finish time in the upcoming Ironman Lake Placid Triathlon. Instead, he's just looking to pass another test of endurance close to home.
"I really don't like traveling to do races, and that's why I like the Ironman race here," Grant said. "You pretty much roll out of bed and you're at the starting line. The course is challenging, it's scenic, and I probably know half the people at the aid stations. For me, it's all about seeing what kind of shape I'm in and how prepared I am."