Within minutes I blew by the struggling Stefan who had been pushing himself beyond the limits of human ability for days. My crew informed me of his “Deer in the headlight look” as I made him look like he was standing still up this last pitch of the climb. “MACH SNELL,” I heard over his loud speaker “MACH SNELL.” But it was no use, Stefan was beat and he knew it. Try as he may he no longer possessed the required energy to counter this American aggressive attack. I continued on with one thing on my mind. This was it, no more screwing around, I’m going to put the hammer down and not look back. Regardless of the amount of pain pulsing through my body, my desire to claim rookie of the year honors would not be relinquished.
At Uriah my newly formed spy posse consisting of a mix of crews A and B informed me that Stefan had thrown in the towel. Upon talking with his crew, we learned of his undernourished and dangerously dehydrated condition. With this newly discovered information, they decided to put me down for one final sleep break. I awoke again having difficulty separating dream from reality as I entertained my crew with stories of aliens and how my wife was one of them. “My wife has to be an alien cause no earth woman could be so wonderful,” I told them as I got prepared to ride the last 82 miles to the Pensacola Beach finish line. Teresa, a petite 5’3” brunette, had supported me without question, even to the point of making me train as she was going into labor. It would be good to see her soon as she, my 4½ year old daughter Kimbrlee and my new baby girl Faith anxiously awaited my arrival in Pensacola sometime Wednesday morning or so I hoped.

Although my current mental state was questionable, the task at hand left no room for doubt. I was going to ride with everything I had and not stop until I saw the finish line. I rode strong and received a big mental boost as I crossed the Florida state line. Nothing could stop me now. I was still a bit paranoid of someone overtaking me and stripping my 3rd place finish so I inquired as to the whereabouts of 5th place veteran Fredi Virag. My crew laughed a bit and said not to worry as he is so far back I could walk to Pensacola and still beat him. I rolled into time station 53, Pensacola Florida at 9:37 AM to a police escort and OLN film crew eagerly awaiting my arrival. Only nine miles stood between my wife and children waiting for me at the beach, the glorious moment I had been working for over the previous eight months was about to happen.

The last nine miles were the best. Another rolling interview with OLN, police escort, RAAM officials and a slew of Florida motorist’s gazed on as this previously unknown rookie rider, now with a surveyor stick supporting his head, completed the final miles of the “World’s Toughest Race” in style. “3rd place,” I thought to myself. Only two other riders in RAAM’s twenty-year history had finished that well their first time. I was number three. The speed at which I completed the final miles astonished everyone, my brother later was told. The escort was actually slowing my previous pace, but I didn’t mind too much as a few minutes at this point were insignificant.
The finish line pavilion came into view and as I rolled up the final ramp to the cheers of the gathered crowd it was over. I had made it. The nightmare that I never thought would end finally came to a close and now RAAM was once again a dream.




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