A few days before the start of the 24th annual Insight Race Across America (RAAM), ultracyclist Catharina Berge contemplated the prospect of riding 3,052 miles in less than 10 days. "It's so overwhelmingly big," she says of the race. "Sometimes I think if I could get hit by a Mack truck or break my leg, then I won't have to do this."
Alas, Berge, 38, was in optimal shape when she started RAAM on Sunday, June 19, as the only woman among 26 cyclists competing in the solo division. As 30 teams vie in other divisions, all riders will follow the same grueling route from San Diego through the Rockies and the Appalachians, to the finish in Atlantic City.
For Berge, a veterinarian from Sweden who now lives in Visalia, Calif., to break the women's rookie record she'll have to average 12.49 mph while riding some 21 hours a day. "I don't care how tired I am or how much my butt hurts--I'm not going to stop until my crew tells me to," she says.