Hans Koeppen - To The Limit & Beyond Fran Arfaras profiles 2008 Men's Handcycle Champion Hans Koeppen, Duisburg, Germany...
"In June 2009, Hannes Koeppen and his three team mates of Team Can Be Venture: Carlos Moleda, Patrick Doak and Vico Merklein, made RAAM (Race Across America) history as the first handcycle team to finish the 3,000-mile race across the USA under the official cutoff time for able-bodied cyclists." This quote is from Koeppen's web page. To The Limit & Beyond.
We’re about a week removed from RAAM and thought I would drop all of you a note to say thank you for you’re support and enthusiasm during this year’s race. I would especially like to thank our crew and our families. They are the unsung heroes of this race. The effort of the rider’s is truly minimal compared to what they endured. Look at it this way, we got to eat, sleep, and ride our bikes for 8 days, 9 hours, and 6 minutes. Sounds like a vacation in retrospect. And in case you’re wondering, after all that time plus a post race van cleaning and a hard to find post race awards banquet we are all still speaking. I am dubious though of my crew. Chicken salad wraps don’t just disappear regardless of what you say. I’m watching you two.
Our game plan was simple. Make it from Oceanside to Annapolis in 9 days or less. What does it take to make that happen? In a nutshell - a hell of a lot more than I could have ever imagined. On paper it took 12 months of planning, four mini vans, one RV, a Penske moving truck, 4 riders, 15 crew members, and about $55K in entry fees, van rentals, airfare, gas, hotels, spare parts, tires, satellite phones and food. When you look beyond the tangible it really took a lot of people making sacrifices that went far beyond their immediate gratification to stay focused on the goal.
In case you’re wondering, the name “Can Be Venture” was cannibalized from a speech I had to give last year in which I talked about how people should focus their lives and their efforts looking ahead to what can be, instead of on where they were and what fate or any of their current circumstances had presented to them. Truth be told it was a toned down way of saying stop whining, suck it up, and move forward with your life regardless of the cards you’ve been dealt. It just seemed to fit nicely.
That said Team Can Be Venture didn’t set out to inspire or motivate or change able-bodied perspectives of people with disabilities. And for that matter we weren’t trying to demonstrate that we could overcome any of the challenges that our disabilities may have presented to our lives. That would imply that we somehow considered ourselves disabled. We were, and are, just regular guys that wanted to ride our bikes across the country. And though we appreciate the emails and comments letting us know how inspired you were by our efforts and even those that said your lives would never be the same, we want you to understand that what we did is neither heroic nor super human. We simply chose a long time ago to focus our lives on what can be instead of what is and when needed we added to that philosophy a mix of faith and perseverance. It’s a process. It’s all about setting a goal, assessing it, committing to it, and executing on it. It really is just thatsimple.
If we could make one request, please don’t think of us as 4 disabled athletes that made it across the country in under 9 days. Please look at what we did as 4 guys that committed their lives to a philosophy, The Can Be Venture philosophy, irregardless of ability or current condition. We are a retired Navy Seal, a retired micro biologist, a professional athlete, and a project manager. We are husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, boyfriends, and just regular guys. We are just like you with similar dreams, goals, objectives and desires. We are Team Can Be Venture whether we’re riding our bikes or just living our lives.
I’ve tried to recap this race a million times and I’m not sure I can. I feel like I have amnesia and I’m slowly getting my memory back. It seems like the race consisted of one long ass day that lasted 201 hours and 6 minutes. And just like any day at home, we napped, we ate, and we dealt with day to day conflicts. The race was anything but cliché but I’m left sorting through a handful of them to describe what occurred out there. That being the case here’s my RAAM recap in the context of clichés.
It’s like herding cats…Have you ever tried to get 19 volunteers to move in the same direction? Let alone 19 volunteers from different cultures. You could take my pulse by watching the vein in my forehead throb.
Choose your traveling companions carefully…Although it had me biting my nails most of the time it worked out very well. Each rider got to choose 2 personal follow van crew and the crew chief selected the RV and support crew. You choose ‘em, you deal with ‘em. I chose the 2 calmest people I know. My brother and best friend Mike and Billy a co-worker. Even though they took it upon themselves to consume 2x as many calories as I burned, I owe my sanity and race to them. Make sure you lock the pantry if you ever have them over to the house.
A penny for your thoughts…Actually by day 2 I would paid a dollar for you to keep them to yourself
Don't air your dirty laundry in public…Trust me I can’t recall going by one of the German’s vans without seeing a jerseys hanging out the window. And regardless of what anyone says, those low-rise bikini cut Speedos belonged to Ralf and not Grace.
Fresh as a daisy…Almost 9 days with only 3 showers. Fabreeze… It’s not just for fabrics. I ought to tan your hide…By the end of my first daytime ride shift I realized that even if we didn’t make it to Annapolis, I was leaving RAAM with a tan that George Hamilton would be envious of.
It has to get worse, before it gets better…Anyone that tells you you’re on easy street once you get out of the Rockies is full of crap. This race didn’t start to get easy until 11 miles from the finish line.
When you gotta go, you gotta go…The race has been over for a week and I’m still not comfortable peeing in anything besides a Gatorade bottle. It was our little way of recycling. FYI… Don’t drink the lemon/lime Gatorade.
Winners never quit and quitters never win…Remember that Jurie Robic and Team Surfing USA.
Most of the mountains we have in life are ones we build ourselves…Again… Pure Crap! Plain and simple. Most of the mountains we have in life were encountered between days 1-3 and 7-8.Putting the cart before the horse…If you ever get the chance to go 40mph downhill with a mini van 20 feet from your rear wheel, in the dark, driven by a sleepy crewperson…. Pass on it. My therapist believes the nightmares will eventually go away.
Stop and smell the roses…Carson National Forest just outside of Taos NM. It had just finished raining and the sun had just started to go down. Perhaps the best smell of the trip if not a lifetime.
The buck stops here…Thank God he didn’t. Headed toward Ellenboro WV, 2 or 3 in morning on a 40mph downhill and deer decided to cross the road in front of me. I’m not sure if I was feeling the heat from him, my brakes as they melted, or maybe the radiator from the mini van behind. Let’s just say I wasn’t sleepy after that.
Long arm of the law…3 stops in 8 days. San Diego County has this funny rule about rolling roadblocks outside of Borrego Springs at the base of the Glass Elevator at 10:00 at night. Understandably so. We made the one car we saw that night pause a moment before passing. You can only imagine the chaos if the coyotes had to slow down to cross the road.
The more the merrier… Future RAAM prospects… The more people you have to share the load the better. It helps to spread the sleep and the joy around. There is that herding cats thing though…Mind over matter…I’m not sure why or how but I always climbed better at night than I did during the day. I guess if you can’t see it you can’t feel it.
We're not in Kansas anymore…Trust me when I say you’re in Kansas for half the race. Damn state just never seems to end. Dorothy – count your blessings.What doesn't kill us makes us stronger…That being the case I’m either dead or this is another one of those BS cliché’s.
When the pony dies, the ride is over…Derailleurs are Ponies… Always take extras.Man cannot live on bread aloneMy crew substantiated this. However after careful analysis they did determine that man can live on iced cookies, Whoopers, and NOS energy drinks. Watch you’re local bookstore for their version of RAAM called FAAM. Food Across America. It’s a recap of their favorite foods from all 52 time stations.
A penny saved is a penny earned…Preliminary numbers are in and of the $58K in sponsor money we received, we spent roughly $54K. That means $4K goes back to CAF. Thanks for being frugal.Ah, to be young and foolish...And the ESPY Award for more … than brains goes to Vico Merklein for passing a car on the left on a 60mph downhill. Way to go Vico. Sure it could have cost us a big penalty but it would have been well worth it. Remind me never to ride in a car with you. Altitude is determined by attitude…When you’re climbing to 10K feet your attitude sucks.
There’s no I in Team…We bickered and challenged each other along the way but when it was said and done, I did most of the work. Just kidding, we all used our strengths to the benefit of the team.
Ask & you shall receive…There were days when our crew did laundry 3x in a 24 hour period. And if you wanted rice cakes… you got rice cakes. If you wanted White Castles in Indiana… You got White Castles in Indiana. Unfortunately they started to make the van smell so we left them next to a railroad track in Indiana.
Back in the saddle…As odd as it sounds, every time, minus WV, I slid down into the bucket of my handcycle it felt good.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness…I like to think Fabreeze is a product of the Lord.Don't get your panties in a bunch…When I left for RAAM I had 15 pairs of underwear. I came home with 5. Would someone please tell my wife where they are? I think she’s dubious of what I was doing for 8 days.
Don't let the bed bugs bite…Under normal conditions I wouldn’t have touched the floor of my mini van with tongs and a pair of gloves it was that bad. Somewhere around day 2 it seemed to be just fine to sleep on. I think I just picked part of a Clif bar out of my belly button.
Don't make a mountain out of a molehill…The WV Mountains may lack the altitude of the Rockies but they have twice the bite. And whoever said that PA consisted of Gentle Rolling hills probably wrote “what doesn't kill us makes us stronger”.
I think that’s all she wrote. Remember that sometimes dreams cost money. Thank you Sun Life Financial and The Eagles of Leesburg Florida for making this dream a reality. Also a special thanks to the folks at RAAM and to those that manned the time stations along the way and to Lisa @ http://www.velobetty.com/ for making sure no one ran over Hannes and Vico between the start and TS1.Save your dates. I think 2011 will be a reunion tour for Team Can Be Venture. This time I think we’re going to head to the UK for a dip in The Channel.
Sincerely and most thankfully…Pat
If you have specific questions don’t hesitate to email them to me.
The first summit of Mount Everest, the first sub-4-minute mile — these are athletic feats that redefined our perception of what is possible. And a team of four paraplegic handcyclists has just redefined the possibilities of endurance bicycle racing. At 2 p.m. on June 20, Team Can Be Venture pushed off from the starting line in Oceanside, Calif. — headed for the finish line in Annapolis, Md., 3,021 miles away — in the annual Race Across America, officially known as RAAM, arguably the toughest endurance event in the bicycling world. Continue.