“Heroes Live Forever” - “In Valor There Is Hope”
Article | Kate Traci “What group is out there that is basically murdered? There’s very few professions where people are murdered for their profession. Police work’s it,” said Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel, one of the eight members comprising the Sacramento Police Department’s Race Across America team. “We divide out those who want to hurt people from those who do not want to be harmed,” Braziel said. The team is hoping to bring national awareness to the 19,000 officers who have died in the line of duty and to the fact more will in the future. Already it seems their pledges have gone beyond expectations. The police department website has received a donation from an unknown supporter in Ireland, Braziel noted. Inspired by 12-year-old Team Donate Life member and rare liver disease patient Connor Ellison, the youngest cyclist ever to complete this race, officer Mark Greenlee wanted to put a team together to race and raise awareness for their own special cause. The team has modest goals: to “not be last,” to not get seriously hurt and to not seriously hurt each other. This speaks to group and team dynamics, as Greenlee, the “idea man,” and Mitchell the “chief,” try to figure who would be paired best together. The crew and the team seem to be the perfect mix: the “guru,” the “bike geek,” the masseuse, the climbers, the downhill speeders, those who “can handle the pain,” a BMX racer and team jersey designer, marathoners, cyclists, ironman athletes, wives, heroes and friends. They will race in four teams of two: one rider, 15 minutes, 100 percent effort, then switch. These transitions are tricky, confusing and at times harried. “This is tough, the transition here,” officer Todd Carr said. “If he’s flying down that hill, he’s not going to see us in time coming around the corner to stop.” The van crew of two must carefully navigate the course, watch their rider for signs of trouble — fatigue, stress or injury — and drive ahead to pick a spot not too far, not too steep, not too narrow, not too dangerous, and then flag down their rider telling him it is time to stop, all while following the basic rules of the road. The judgment calls seem endless. And that is during the day. “I’d rather do 100 miles (on a bike) than 26 running,” said crew member Christina Nutley, whose husband Dan Nutley is also [she is not riding] riding. She is an accomplished cyclist, with multiple century rides under her belt. When rider No. 2 takes off, No. 1 can rest, however brief. The crew must wait one full minute before departing the transition site, allowing time to hydrate, fuel and discuss tactics. It’s one of many rules that fill a 2-inch three-ring binder, that the crew must know and follow. “We are used to rules. That’s our world,” logistics coordinator Bob Mitchell said. All the rules are based on safety. Penalties are given to those teams who are caught, and six infractions are allowed during the race. These rules are a constant concern for the crew, who must watch for any misstep that tired riders and crew might inadvertently make. Ride and rest, ride and rest. One hour on, one hour off for eight to 10 hours a day. Then sleep, eat, do laundry. Hopefully there is time. One might say the riders have it easy, but when you hear things like “backside of the Rockies” and “the Appalachians are the ones that are gonna kill you,” you start to change your mind. “I’ve never climbed over the Rockies, but I would imagine it would take several hours on a bike,” Dan Nutley said, realizing that soon he will be able to say that he has. I had the chance to ride with the crew during a Sunday team workout. During our 40 miles around Lotus Loop, the camaraderie was evident. Many of the riders never had a chance to get to know each other before starting this training, separated by shifts and seniority. Crew members — friends, family and fellow staff — were excited to be a part of this monumental effort and patient with working out the kinks. I left the team wishing I could be a part of their journey, wishing them good fortune in their adventure. I am very proud to see what a great group of men and women we have representing this city. “Heroes Live Forever”: The saying is wrapped around each rider’s wrist on a blue bracelet. They will end in Annapolis, Md., six or maybe seven days after starting out. Tired, hungry and sore, they will cycle 30 more miles to stand at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and pay their respects. In full uniform they will honor those who have paid the ultimate price, and at the same time acknowledge their own personal price each team member has paid to arrive at this place safely. What ideas have driven them, what thoughts have sustained them during the week-long grueling test, we won’t know. “In Valor There Is Hope” and the names of the fallen officers printed on their jerseys, one could bet, will help. God speed and good luck, Team Sac PD. RAAM race starts Saturday, June 18 in Oceanside, Calif. Stay tuned for updates and photos along the way. Kati Garner will be traveling with the team racing across America at 15 mph.
Photos | Kati Garner