Mathew Wollmann of Madison is currently training to compete in an "ultra-cycling race" that will take him and his support crew hundreds of miles across the southwestern United States this spring while raising money for military veterans who need a helping hand.
Wollmann plans to participated in the Race Across the West, or RAW. For Wollmann, the Race Across the West consists of a 930-mile, timed competition from Oceanside, Calif., to Durango, Colo., The bike riders have a maximum limit of 92 hours to complete the entire course.
The RAW cyclists consider themselves endurance athletes because the course will have them biking through blazing southwestern deserts and steep mountains. Wollmann said the entire RAW course provides an elevation gain more than 50,000 feet during the race. In comparison, Mount Kilimanjaro has an elevation of 19,341 feet, and Mount Everest has an elevation of 29,032 feet.
As a timed race, Wollmann can take breaks from cycling for as long as he wants, but he only has 92 hours of riding time, at the most, if he wants to stay in the contest.
"I can sleep as much as I want, but if I don't get to the end of the course in 92 hours of riding time, I'm out of the race," Wollmann said.
Starting on June 15, Wollmann plans to ride the RAW course with backup from a five-person support team. Wollmann said the endurance race requires planning that includes logistics for food, water, clothing, shoes and two bicycles that are always at the ready. John Berry, bike mechanic and operator of Berry Fast Bicycles, has offered his services during the race, and Emily Wollmann, Mathew's wife, will also serve on the support team. She also trains with Wollmann as he prepares for the competition.
In preparation, Wollmann used Zwift, an online, paid app that provides indoor training for cyclists and runners. During the cold-weather months, Wollmann said he used Zwift for about 10 to 15 hours each week and received "...quality time working out on an indoor bike." During April when South Dakota's weather was bearable for cycling, Wollmann had worked out on 100-, 150- and 200-mile bike runs and was preparing for a 250-mile cycling trip. He also wanted to complete a 300-mile cycling trip before the RAW event.
The Race Across the West will serve as a fund-raiser for Wollmann, who is a patrol officer with the Madison Police Department. He has a goal of raising $20,000 for an organization called Semper Fi & America's Fund, a veterans' support group. Wollmann served active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps from 2009-13 and later served with the South Dakota National Guard.
According to Wollmann, Semper Fi & America's Fund offers assistance to veterans from all five U.S. military branches. He said the organization assists men and women with renovating their homes for handicapped accessibility, providing hand controls for vehicles, supporting home-nursing services, organizing veterans' reunions, providing caregiver retreats and assisting with canine companions. Wollmann said the America's Fund representatives have appeared bedside while veterans received treatment in hospitals and assured the individuals that they wouldn't need to worry about expenses that Semper Fi could cover.
"To have a patient in that position and have someone show up and tell you not to worry, that's incredible to me," Wollmann said.
Wollmann recruited a number of sponsors for his entry in the RAW competition. Madison's DQ, Berry Fast Bicycles, Madison's Sunshine Foods, Brad Stearns at 605 Real Estate, Randy Schaefer at State Farm Insurance and Madison Family Dental have lent their support. Wollmann is recruiting other sponsors to help with lodging and travel expenses.