At 6 a.m. on June 3 of this year, Jason Oestreicher will make the first pedal stroke to leave Astoria, Oregon, as he begins the Trans Am Bike Race. The unsupported and unsanctioned race follows a 4,228-mile route to the Victory Monument in Yorktown, Virginia. The Adventure Cycling Association mapped out the TransAmerica route back in 1976. The route goes across Oregon into Idaho, northeast into Montana, southeast through Wyoming and Colorado, and basically due east across Kansas, Missouri, the southern tip of Illinois, and then Kentucky and Virginia. The Trans Am Bike Race record, set the first year of the race in 2014, is 17 days and 16 hours. Oestreicher’s goal is a top-five finish in 20 days or less.
The rules are simple. The first rule: No complaining about the rules. (That’s a good first rule!) You must ride every mile of the course. Solo riders may not draft. You must do the whole race unsupported except for neutral support available from the Newton Bike Shop in Newton, Kansas. The bike shop is roughly at the halfway point, and they provide a bunkroom, kitchen, and repair services at all hours for all race participants. The intent is for everyone to ride unsupported between towns and function self-supported when in towns. Any services used must be commercially available to all challengers and cannot be pre-arranged. Private resupply and private lodging is not permitted. There are more rules, but you get the idea.
Oestreicher’s training regimen has been lengthy and intense. Sundays have been “century” days. In January he began riding 100 miles on a trainer. To help pass the time he would watch two documentary movies during each training session. To simulate his race food stops, he’d stop to refill his water bottles and make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or microwave a sausage and wrap it in a slice of bread. Then he’d take all that back to the bike and eat while pedaling.
Oestreicher increased his saddle time to 250-plus miles a week in February and 300-plus in March. The lengthy winter weather forced him to do most of those miles while riding on a trainer. On the bright side, he got to watch a lot of documentaries.
Oestreicher studied the first three races and learned that the winner’s average speed is about 13 mph, which is not fast by racing standards. But this isn’t a normal race. The key to being a top finisher after 4,200-plus miles is riding for as long as possible each day and keeping the stops to a minimum. To meet his goal of 20 days or less he’ll need to average 210 miles per day. That’s 20 double-centuries in a row. Getting food on the go means eating fast food, which Oestreicher does not eat. In April, he started “conditioning” his body by eating fast food. He was not happy about that but it was necessary. During the race he plans to sleep 3-5 hours a day.
Around mid-March Oestreicher transitioned to more tempo and interval workouts around his Sunday centuries. He plans to compete in a few road races to help with his intensity training. Over Easter weekend he will complete a trial run with all his gear to make sure it’s a smooth functioning system. He’ll also see what the physical toll of three nights of camping and 600-plus miles will be like. In the last two weeks of May, he plans to taper in order to recover so he’s fresh for the start on June 3.
What does Oestreicher get out of this besides all-you-can-stand fast food, physical exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and absorbing an estimated $12,000 in costs? An opportunity to raise money for a local cause: Team Gleason.
During one of his Sunday century trainer rides Jason watched the “Gleason” documentary and was moved to tears. He was inspired by Steve Gleason’s strength and courage in the face of a devastating disease and thought it was a more-than-worthy cause to support. Jason will set up a page where people can pledge an amount for every 100-mile unit he completes. Pledging five dollars per unit nets Team Gleason $210. One dollar per unit results in a $42 donation. Look for his donation page to be posted on the Out There Monthly Facebook page and website.
On June 3 you can watch Oestreicher’s progress by going to trackleaders.com and clicking on the Trans Am Bike Race link. //
Hank Greer is a longtime contributor to Out There Monthly. Whenever he isn’t on a ride, he’s probably thinking about the next one.