By Dr. Trent F. Smith
The Race Across America has garnered many names—The World’s Longest Time Trial, The Ultimate Race of Truth, and The World’s Toughest Bicycle Race—to name a few. Ultra- cyclists (amateur and professional) from countries worldwide trek to California to compete in the summer race. The course starts from Oceanside, California, and spans over 3000 miles, climbs 175,000 feet, crosses 12 state lines, and ends in Annapolis, Maryland. When a person contemplates taking on such a task of this magnitude, meticulous planning, intense training, and a concerted effort of help from supporters must be put in place to ensure success. Since the race’s inception in 1982, there are only 382 people to finish the race solo. Many can take pride in knowing that one of our very own White Pine County residents not only participated but is one of the 382 people who raced in the solo category and finished.
BJ Almberg, of Ely, has recently competed in the excruciating 2023 Race Across America. Almberg’s training for the race commenced five and a half years prior. The actual decision to compete in Race Across America occurred around one year ago. “Cycling, in essence, is both physical and mental,” affirmed Almberg. Almberg stated, “The mental toughness comes from the thousands of hours I rode my bike leading up to this.” Before competing in the race, Almberg had two main fears— (1) excruciating heat and (2) saddle soars. Both, he felt, could hinder his performance drastically. Although Almberg faced various weather conditions, those conditions did not hinder his progress. In preparation for the race, Almberg was coached by Tom Danielson (a retired American professional world-class cyclist). Also, Jillian Mooney (a nutritionist and coach passionate about performance) assisted and supported Almberg with his nutritional guidelines. Danielson and Mooney formed a dynamic support team for Almberg’s race ventures. During the years of training that Almberg participated in, he also competed in Race Across the West and other races in preparation for the 2023 Race Across America. Almberg stated that it was a necessary “natural progression of events.” According to the Race Across America website, the reason riders participate in the race is more complex for racers to answer. When Almberg was asked his reason for participating or why, he stated that ever since he was a young child, he dreamed of racing and had watched the race on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and was intrigued by the sport of cycling. Almberg states, “It was a childhood dream that maybe was off the radar for a long time.” Well, now it has come full circle. Alongside Almberg’s childhood dream of cycling in the Race Across America, he also fundraised toward a clean water initiative in Ghana, Africa, which his friend, Frederick Partey, inspired. The funds raised, per Almberg’s social media post via the account “BJ’s Race Across America Fundraiser” on June 29, 2023, totaled $32,294.
A team or support system is always behind the scenes when a person succeeds in any venture of this magnitude. During the race, Almberg employed two crews—a day crew and a night crew—which were staffed by six people each to support him throughout the race. However, Almberg contributes much of his inspiration and motivation to his wife, Kenna, daughter, Oakley (Snodgrass), and son-in-law, Clark (Snodgrass). At a point in the race, Almberg suffered from Achilles tendon problems and fluid buildup above his left knee, which was genuinely debilitating to him and, in turn, made him feel, as he so humbly expressed, “broken.” However, his wife’s words, “We’re not done yet,” revitalized him and pushed him to go further and complete the race. His daughter, Oakley, a trained and licenced chiropractor, and his son-in-law Clark, a trained and licensed physician, were major aids in keeping Almberg’s physical and mental health intact. Almberg stated, “Every day is a little challenge out there on the bike… if it wasn’t for my wife, my daughter, my son-in-law, and my team, I wouldn’t have been able to make it.” Almberg finished the race in 11 days, 7 hours, and 24 minutes on June 24, 2023. People thoroughly supported Almberg before, during, and after the race, with many heartfelt comments left on social media, and every comment that was left was read to Almberg, which inspired and motivated him on his quest. Almberg was also very grateful for the support he acquired along the journey. Almberg stated, “The overflowing of support from our community is unmatched.”
Although Almberg accomplished something that very few people achieve, he would like everyone to know that he is not a gifted athlete. Almberg stated, “I am an average person that dedicated himself to something that I wanted to make happen and did it.” Almberg also quoted former North Carolina State basketball coach, Jim Valvano, saying, “God must have loved ordinary people because he made so many of us, and in every walk of life, ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things.” Almberg encourages everyone to “find their limits” and “have enough passion and dedication to accomplish your goals.”