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Joan before the 2011 RAW start

I grew up on a farm outside a small town, Rocky Mountain House, in Alberta, Canada with my parents, one sister, two brothers, and lots of farm animals! With a keen interest in science and math growing up, and always looking for a challenge in anything I did, I attended the University of Toronto in the Engineering Science program (an honors engineering program). It was my studies at UofT that lead me to California when I got a job in Sunnyvale for a work experience year in 2001. The move to California opened many doors that have since defined my life - I discovered and got involved in triathlon, which eventually lead me to ultra-cycling, and it was in California that I met my wonderful husband, Mike (who's crazy in his own right - he's not only interested in ultra-cycling, but also ultra-running, ultra-swimming, and even ultra-cookie-baking!!). We currently live in Cupertino with our two cats (Rosie and Cali), and I work as a software engineer at Netflix.

Although I had been involved in team sports all through school, I didn't become interested in endurance sports until 2000. I happened to be in Penticton, BC at the time that Ironman Canada was going on, and I spectated the event. Watching people of all ages, body types, and ability out there giving it their all as they swam 2.4 miles, cycled 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles was extremely inspiring, and I decided that I'd like to do a triathlon one day. So In the spring of 2001 when I moved to California it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand at triathlon. I was in a wonderfully warm climate that didn't include snow and ice for a good portion of the year - woohoo! Plus I didn't have mountains of homework to do - so I could go outside and ride my bike up mountains instead! Shortly after moving to California I joined the Silicon Valley Triathlon Club and began training with them (incidentally one of my sponsors, David Ledesma, Sports Massage Therapist, was the club founder and was instrumental in my initial training). I did my first triathlon in June of 2001, the Danskin women's triathlon in Sacramento, and was hooked! I did my first Ironman fourteen months later in 2002 (Ironman Canada). Unfortunately I had to take a year off training to finish school (so that I could get my degree and move back to sunny California), plus I had developed an overuse injury (exertional compartment syndrome) while training for Ironman, and I needed to get that sorted out, which unfortunately meant surgery. So it was in late 2004 that I finally got back into triathlon, gravitating toward the longer distance events.

So it wasn't all that long ago that I was oblivious to the fact that sadistic ultra-cycling events existed! I was happily training for Ironman triathlons (sadistic in their own right!) and enjoying organized century rides. Then someone told me about the crazy notion of a double century (riding 200 miles in one day). Naivety being my strong suit, and being unafraid of biting off more than I could chew (did I mention I did my first half-Ironman before I'd even done an Olympic distance triathlon?), I said "Count me in!" and signed up for my first double century - the Davis Double in 2005. The ride went well, but the curious thing was that I noticed several people wearing jerseys that said "California Triple Crown" on them. I had never heard of such madness - you mean there were OTHER double centuries out there? Well of course now that I'd heard of this challenge of riding three doubles in a single year, I immediately set out to make that my next goal. I was hooked, or should I say "infected", with the ultra-cycling disease!

And that's how I found myself standing in line to check-in at the Butterfield Double Century in February of 2006 - my second double, but more importantly the location and instant where I first heard about multi day ultra-cycling events. While standing there waiting to sign-in, I overheard some other women talking about something called the Furnace Creek 508. My first reaction was "Why would anyone want to do this??? Ride over 500 miles in less than 48hrs with over 35,000ft of climbing, and through places like Death Valley no less! These people must be INSANE!!!" I apparently had not completely lost my mind at this point in time, still recognizing just how ridiculous this sounded! But did I mention that this ultra-cycling disease progresses rapidly and engulfs the victim in an inexplicable urge to continue to do crazier and crazier things as the brain cells of reason and common sense are slowly (or not so slowly) devoured? Not only did I get my first California Triple Crown credit that year, but I ended up doing eight doubles, and volunteering at one double, plus I completed one Ironman and two half Ironmans.

I found I loved the challenge of pushing my limits further and further, and the freedom I felt when I was out riding my bike. In 2007 I completed my first triple century ride (the LA Grand Tour Triple), and then in 2008 I did my first 24 hour event (Davis 24 Hour). It was in 2008 that I also found myself on the start line for the Furnace Creek 508 - just a few short years from when I first heard about it! I had a great 508 experience that year, so I decided to sign up for Race Across Oregon and the Hoodoo 500 in 2009. Race Across Oregon in 2009 was my first ever DNF - extremely tough weather conditions coupled with some lower back problems forced me to withdraw after 457 miles when it became clear that I wouldn't finish within the 48 hour cutoff. This didn't stop me though - a few months later I finished the Hoodoo 500 race and set a course record in the women's division. This is the event where I qualified for Race Across America (RAAM). In 2010 I went back to Race Across Oregon since I had unfinished business with the DNF from the year prior. With the assistance of an all-star support crew I finished, which was perhaps the most satisfying finish I'd experienced (although finishing Ironman Canada hand in hand with my husband a month later was pretty darned special too!). I then went back to the Furnace Creek 508 in October, and despite much tougher conditions compared to my first finish in 2008, I overcame a lot of difficulties and finished again.

With four 500+ mile race finishes under my belt, in 2011 I took things to the next level and entered Race Across the West (RAW) - an 860 mile race from Oceanside, CA to Durango, CO. Thanks to an amazing crew and great conditions I was able to become the first solo woman to complete RAW, winning in a time of 2 days, 22 hours, and 58 minutes. It was an incredible experience to race across 4 states (California, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado) on my bicycle, sharing the journey with an amazing crew. My success at RAW further fueled my desire to push my limits even further and bring to fruition my dream of competing in Race Across America (RAAM), a 3000 mile race that traverses the entire country (Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD) in under 13 days. Only a couple hundred individuals have completed RAAM in the solo division in the 30 years that the race has been taking place. It took a lot of courage, but I tossed my hat in the ring and signed up for RAAM in 2012. While there were many obstacles along the way, I successfully finished RAAM in 2012 in a time of 12 days, 18 hours, and 46 minutes. I learned so much from racing RAAM in 2012 that I decided to try and put what I learned to good use by returning to RAAM in 2014. In 2014 I had a much smoother race, and finished in 12 days, 8 hours, and 27 minutes.

In RAAM 2014 I once again placed 2nd in the women's division, but I actually got to lead the race for several days through parts of Colorado, Kansas, and Missouri. The goal in 2014 wasn't to try and win, so we didn't change strategy when I found myself in the lead, but the experience planted the seed of wondering how I could do if I focused on trying to compete. Now I'm returning to RAAM yet again in 2015 with the goal of trying to race, and hopefully breaking the 12 day mark. Regardless of the outcome though, I look forward to the spiritual journey that RAAM affords, and to sharing the adventure with yet another amazing group of crew!