If you hang around any bike shop long enough you're likely to hear the phrase "it was the hardest race I've ever done." When you're hanging around Texoma Bicycle Works in Sherman, TX and those words come from the owners who happen to have been part of a previous trans-continental record setting tandem team in the Race Across America, you know it was probably harder than anything you've ever done. 
     That's exactly how Pat and Charlie Jenkins described their 383 mile ride in the 2014 RAAM qualifying event, No Country for Old Men. "The race was really hard, more compact and harder than RAAM because of the climbing"  Pat said. The 383 mile Anton Chigurh route, which they completed in 29 hours and 42 minutes, was comprised of a figure eight of sorts through some of the most desolate and picturesque country Texas has to offer. Starting in Alpine, TX and heading south to Big Bend National Park, down the Ross Maxwell Scenic road and through the 100+ year old community of Castolon which sits a stones throw from the Rio Grande. Then climbing out of the Chisos Basin and experiencing some of the breathtaking vistas the area is famous for. From there it's on through Panther Junction and back up to Alpine. By the time you get done you've clocked nearly 19,000 feet of climbing with elevations up to 6000 feet. 
     It's the desolation of this part of the country that provides some of the allure of NCOM. You never do something like this truly alone though. In a race where less than 10% of the route has cell service a quality support crew can make the difference between finishing and being up a creek without a paddle. The crew helps with everything from filling bottles, mechanicals, food and navigation. It was on one of the climbs that the choice of quality crew members, Fred Zickrick, John Droese and Linda Welch really paid dividends. "When we were going up the observatory road we were staring to get kind of wacky. We saw this climb we didn't think we could do so we got off to walk" said Pat. It was here that the support crew stepped up. "They were yelling at us pedal, pedal, pedal. Linda's yelling at us left, right, left. John's yelling at us." Said Pat. "Of course their lying to us, telling us we've got one more climb and then it's all down hill. That was on a climb that had seven false flats." Charlie said. It was moments like this that helped the duo finish with their RAAM qualifying time.
    When it comes to preparation for an event like this Charlie sums it up in the simplest of ways, "We did lots of miles, probably not as many as we should have done though." Looking at the numbers in their buildup to the event it was more miles than many experienced cyclists would do in a year though.  It was pretty simple really "A 200 kilometer ride every weekend along with several 200 mile rides." They also did some hill training heading up to the Talimena drive in Oklahoma one weekend, "There's not really anywhere around here to get a 70 mile climb though" Charlie said.
     The experience for the couple, who have been doing ultra-distance events on a tandem for six years now, was a good one. Racing as team Ultra-DAWG they were able to raise some money for the Denison Animal Welfare Group and take part of a memorable ultra-distance event.  They're thinking about stepping up to the NCOM 1000 mile race next year. Also on that list of possibilities is more of a casual ride from Texas to Canada where they'll take their time in getting there, "Eight days maybe" Charlie says. 
      When asked how someone who might be interested in testing themselves would go about dipping their cleats into some these longer events Charlie said "randonneuring is a good way to get involved with ultra-distance stuff. This gives you an opportunity to try out longer rides in a group atmosphere." For more information on randonneuring go to http://www.rusa.org.  
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