Kacie Darden and Dani Grabol are two amazing freaking women.
Kacie and Dani doing something crazy
Actually, that is a complete understatement.
These two are endurance queens – completing Ironman triathlons, winning 50k running races, setting world records biking across Florida, and recently outright winning the Heart of the South bike race, a continuous 517 mile race as a twosome. Last year, they both participated in the Florida Double Iron, finishing fourth and fifth overall!
Let me break that double Ironman thing they did down for you – 4.8 miles of swimming, 224 miles of biking and 56.4 miles of running.
Besides all of this, they each have their own amazing stories - but the story I am really interested in right now is what they are going to do in June.
They are setting out to cross the US as a two person women’s team in RAAM – a 3000+ mile bike race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD.
Sorry it is a little blurry… (click for source)
The goal of this race? To set a world record time for a two women RAAM team, bikeing the route in under 8 days, 18 hours and 57 minutes.
Actually, that is just one of the goals – these ladies have chosen to make the race about more than themselves – they are raising funds through their racing for Camp Twin Lakes (they talk more about it in the interview).
Want to help them out? Click HERE (or go to the link on the top right sidebar)!
Read my interview with them below!
First of all, for those that do not know, what exactly is RAAM?
Kacie: Race Across America, or RAAM is a 3000 mile continuous bike race that starts in Oceanside, CA and ends in Annapolis, MD. People race on 8 person teams, 4 person teams, 2 person teams, and incredibly solo. Teams are allowed 9 days to finish, and solos are allowed 12 days. Even if you take a break, the clock never stops.
You are given a course that you have to follow and a large set of rules based mostly around safety. Every 50-80 miles, you pass time stations where you call in to the race central to let them know you have passed that station. There are referrees on the course checking in on the teams and solo riders to ensure that everyone is following the rules.
Dani: It’s a 3000 mile continuous bike race from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. It is the 31st year it’s been around.
I feel like you have to really get along with someone well and trust them fully to do something like RAAM together. How did you two meet and what inspired you to team up to race a bike across the country?
Kacie: Dani and I met while training for a double iron (all the swim, all the bike, then all the run). We had a couple of fun training sessions together, and then we raced together. Dani was the 2nd female and 4th overall, and I was 3rd female and 5th overall. Dani set the bike course record! We had a great time at that race, and knew that we were closely matched athletes.
There was an 8 person RAAM team in atlanta that was looking for another rider. I was free that summer, so I hopped on the team. The race was brutally hard, and I was so tired at the end. At the same time though, I didn’t ride my bike enough. I knew at the finish line that I wanted to come back, and I wanted to come back on a smaller team, made up of people that I really know and support.
Not long after RAAm 2012, I started talking with Dani about the possibility of racing together, and it did not take long until we were working on a team name! I feel like we have grown into a very close team. The sports phsycologist we have worked with said that we have entered into a new marriage with each other. We have to trust each other completely. I feel lucky to be entering this race with Dani on my team. She is strong, she perserveres, and she is incredibly fun!
Dani: I was training for a double Iron distance triathlon and a friend of mine told me that there was another Atlanta athlete that taught at her sons school doing the race. Since there were only 6 females total participating, I thought it was cool that one was local! We hooked up for a 20-mile run and chatted the whole time. We have similar strengths as athletes, so it was easy for us to become training partners.
Kacie participated in RAAM as part of an 8-person team and I couldn’t wait to talk to her when she got back. I wanted to know every little detail about the trip. She was SO fired up about it! It didn’t take much convincing to get me to agree to racing it as a 2-person team with her.
It is so cool you guys are doing this to support your favorite charity, Camp Twin Lakes how does supporting them motivate you to do this ride.
Kacie: Camp Twin Lakes is an amazing place for kids with disability and illness. They make it so that kids who could not otherwise go to camp can! They even have a wheelchair accesibile treehouse! How cool is that? We love that they have a “nothing is impossible” spirit! It is encouraging and uplifting to be a part of a place that provides amazing opportunities for kids to just be kids, and not be defined by their disability.
Dani: More than anything I hope that Kacie and I can spend some time with campers there and use this experience to show them that you can accomplish some amazing things when you work hard and really put your mind to it. These kids are incredible, and they inspire us to never give up!
Tell me about an average training week – how much time are you on the trainer verses riding outside?
Kacie: Less time on a trainer now that it is spring in Georgia, but here is a typical week:
- Monday: AM strength with my strength trainer. PM: Massage, or Chiropractor, or yoga, or nutritionist
- Tuesday: AM Speed work on my trainer PM: 3-4.5 hours on the bike–inside in bad weather and outside in good
- Wed: AM Strength training PM: Yoga and swimming
- Thurs: AM Speed work on my trainer PM: 3-4.5 hours on the bike–inside in bad weather and outside in good
- Fri: Yoga or off day–we just started with the off days! I only get them if there is something pretty epic on the weekend.
- Sat/Sun: This varies depending on the weekend. Sometimes we do on/off workouts where we get on the bike and then take a break before the next ride. This simulates the relay aspect. I often go up to the North Georgia mountains to work on climbing. If there are local centuries, we go do those. In the next month, we will do some 24 hour practice rides as a whole team to simulate the race strategy. Other times, I have very long back to back rides. It is a very fine line we ride between preparing our bodies for this incredible effort and overtraining and ending up sick.
Dani: I spend about 10 hours a week on the trainer, sometimes more, and around 18-20 hours a week outside. My preference is always to ride outside, but it doesn’t always work out that way for me!
Along those lines – this is a whole lot of time in addition to work, etc. What kind of support do you have for your training at home, and how key has that been to your success thusfar?
Kacie: It is true that we both work for a living. I am a middle school science and math teacher. I’ve joked that we do what we have to do outside of work and training, and no more. In other words, I am looking forward to seeing some of my friends and family in July. We have not spent much time together! My husband, George has been an incredibly important part of this preparation. He is supportive in so many ways. Our crew is also helpful in organzing gear and working on general race preparations so that we can focus on training and fundraising.
Dani: I am very fortunate to have an amazing boyfriend, Jason, who is by far my biggest supporter in life. Without his encouragement and unwavering support I never would have been able to commit to RAAM.
Here is a great example: we recently moved and he packed our entire house, moved us, AND unpacked us, all while I was out training! He didn’t want me to change my schedule or risk hurting my back lifting boxes. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life!
Congratulations on the fantastic finish at the Heart of the South 500 miler! What lessons did you learn in that race that will help you prepare for RAAM?
Kacie: Hey thanks! It was a good, but tough race! I learned that even though I am normally quite snobby about fast food, that I can and WILL eat a filet o fish sandwich in the middle of the night. I learned that hallucinations are scary, but that you can KNOW deep down that they are not real. I learned that a quick 30 minute nap can change your mindset and your physcial condition. I learned that even though I can use coke in a shorter event like an ironman, it can lead to a nasty crash when you are racing over 24 hours and should only be used when necessary!
Dani: Don’t eat a ton of candy when you are tired, it will make you crash! When I get quiet and stop talking, I probably need a nap. 30 minutes of sleep can do incredible things in ultra racing!
I am sure you are mapping things out for RAAM – but I am a little confused about how it will all work. Do you each have a certain number of miles or hours you plan on riding? Or do I have it all wrong?
Kacie: We have a 24 hour rotation planned!
- For 6 hours we will rotate every 30 minutes.
- Then, Dani will ride for 2 hours while I take a nap.
- Then I will ride for 2 hours while dani takes a nap.
- Then, we will do the 6 hours of rotating every 30 minutes again.
- Then Dani will ride in the night for 4 hours while I sleep.
- I will ride for 4 hours while Dani sleeps.
Rinse and repeat until we get to annapolis! This is our race plan!
That being said, the owners of RAAM said, “You make a race plan for RAAM. Your race plan goes to hell. Then you make a new plan.” SO, that’s our plan until it goes to hell anyway.
Dani: Our plan is to rotate out every 30 minutes or so (this will be anywhere from 5-10 miles depending on the terrain) for 14 hours of the day. When we hit the serious climbs we will rotate out every mile. Sometime during the day we will each take a 2-hour pull so the other can get a power nap and eat something solid. At night we will both take one 4-hour pull so the other rider can sleep and get more solid food in.
I love to sleep. How the heck does sleep fit into this schedule?
Kacie: There’s not a lot of it. About 1.5 hour nap and 3 hours at night is optimal.
Dani: We are building in two sleep breaks, one will be 2 hours, the other will be 4 hours. This will include needing to eat and get chiropractic work in as well, so it won’t be 6 actual hours of sleep a day. If we get 4-4.5 hours of sleep a day and a few cat naps I think we will be doing good! That is by far the thing I think will be the most difficult, just being plain exhausted!
I always stress about nutrition – I can’t wrap my brain around figuring it out for a race like RAAM. How do you guys plan on eating for the race?
Kacie: Oh snap–I stress about it too!! I am going to bring all kinds of options for myself–gels, chewies, bars, “junk food,” good food, fruit, smoothies, and hopefully real food when the crew switches.
Dani: During our shorter pulls I am planning on sticking more to traditional sports nutrition. I prefer GU products. It will be June, and we will be going through some very hot areas (Arizona desert!) so proper nutrition is important. We will have to eat regular, solid foods which will likely take place on our longer breaks. Sandwiches, pasta, and at some point I am sure we will just be willing to eat almost anything that our crew brings us!
Anything else we should know about you and RAAM?
You can follow our progress through our blog www.powerpedalsandponytails.blogspot.com
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