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Local couple cycling across America


Nancy Guth seems determined to do a grueling bike race across America with as many combinations of partners as possible.

In 2010, the Stafford County woman was part of a four-person team that included a paralyzed handcyclist.

Last year, she and biker Mary Florian of North Carolina became the first women over age 60 to cover the route.

On June 13, she’ll set out for her third Race Across America, this time with her husband, John, as her teammate.

The two will have nine days to cover 3,021 miles. Each Guth will put in about half a million pedal strokes in the quest to cross 12 states in all kinds of weather, according to a press release. They’ll face dust storms, rain, lightning and temperatures that range from below freezing in the Rocky Mountains to 120 degrees in the Sonoran Desert.

“RAAM is really hard to comprehend,” said John, who served as Nancy’s crew chief on her two previous rides. “It’s a rolling circus. It’s a lot of fun, but very tough.”

The Guths—she’s 61 and he’s 58—have ridden in long-distance cycling events together for 17 years. They’ve set 24-hour national distance records as a couple seven times since 2002.

But the couple, riding under the name “Team RAAM Beau and Babe,” acknowledge they’ve never taken on a challenge this steep together.

The active lifestyle magazine Outside called RAAM the toughest test of endurance in the world. Organizers report the 2012 route has 170,000 feet of climbing, the equivalent of 32 miles straight up, or nearly six times the height of Mount Everest.

“It’s the greatest race I’ve ever done,” Nancy said. “You see the country like you’ve never seen it before.”

Not that the Guths will be sightseeing together. In fact, they’ll barely see each other after they begin the bike ride together at the starting line at Oceanside, Calif.

Each will ride an hour or two at a stretch while the other rests. The Guths will be followed by a crew that consists of a dozen people and three vehicles. Daughter Marta Sullivan, a logistics officer with the Marine Corps, will be the crew chief and keep the entourage moving 24 hours a day.

The Guths have logged about 20,000 miles of cycling to prepare for the race while holding down full-time jobs. He’s an engineer and state mining inspector, and she’s a supervisor of literacy and humanities for Stafford County schools.

The two hope to roll into Annapolis on June 21 or 22.

“When you cross the line and get off your bike, you can’t quite believe it,” Nancy said. “You pinch yourself. It’s such a sense of accomplishment.”

The Guths promote Safe Blood Inc., a Rotary Club initiative to make the world’s stored blood supply safer. They’re also racing to encourage people of all ages to lead physically active lifestyles.

The team’s progress will be updated throughout the race at Official standings for all racers will be available at raceacrossamer

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425