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LO's Puskas shares in world record for bike racers


Allied Forces bike team crosses the country in just more than five days

by: CRAIG BINGHAM - Lake Oswego's Jonathan Puskas pushes hard on his bicycle while racing for the Allied Forces team in the Race Across America.Lake Oswego’s Jonathan Puskas and seven teammates broke the world record for an eight-person human-powered transcontinental team crossing of the United States by riding bicycles from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic in five days, three hours and 45 minutes.

In the process, which was part of the Race Across America, the “Allied Forces” team, composed of members of the U.S.-based “Team 4Mil” and the United Kingdom-based “Strategic Lions,” averaged 24.19 miles per hour while riding 2,998 miles.by: CRAIG BINGHAM - This map shows the route of the Race Across America. Puskas, 42, raced 82 individual shifts during the five days, averaging 58 mph and covering 360 miles. Because he has trouble sleeping, he only snoozed about 22 hours total during the race.

Beginning June 15 (June 11 for single racers) in Oceanside, Calif., more than 300 cyclists raced almost 3,000 miles to the finish line in Annapolis, Md. Racers crossed 12 states and competed either solo or on two-, four- or eight-person relay teams.

The Allied Forces team broke the previous record, set in 1989, by 80 minutes.

Also taking part was a team of wounded veterans consisting of eight U.S. military personnel. Three members of that team suffered from traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder. The other five were missing limbs and were racing on hand-cycles. They were the first team in history to complete the event with five hand-cyclists in just under eight days, Puskas noted.

The race “was physically demanding, but not overwhelming,” Puskas said. “However, I felt tremendous pressure to live up to the high expectations of our team and to honor our wounded veterans. I’m a fairly stoic guy, but (the race) left me deeply affected."

by: CRAIG BINGHAM - Puskas shines during a night transition on his bike race across the nation.Puskas, who serves as a commander with the U.S. Navy Reserves, is in the final few months of a five-year recall to active duty. He is the chief of staff for Coastal Riverine Group One in Coronado (San Diego), Calif. In September, he will return to Lake Oswego to rejoin his wife. He is a strategic marketer/planner with a background in health care and wellness and previously served with Intel.

Altogether, Puskas’ team climbed 170,000 vertical feet, conquered three mountain ranges (Santa Rosa Mountains, Rockies, Appalachians), faced highest temperatures of 120 degrees (in deserts of California and Arizona) and rode through 37 degrees on Wolf Creek Pass in Southwestern Colorado.by: CRAIG BINGHAM - A rider looks back at a storm during the Race Across America.

“Riding in a 120-degree windstorm in the desert is equivalent to sitting in front of your hair dryer and then throwing sand in your face ... for 12 minutes at a time,” Puskas said.

The team included four vehicles and 15 staffers. Besides Puskas, team members included Andy Watson (UK), Keith Murray (UK), Kevin Dawson (UK), John Tanner (two-time UK Olympian), Wayne Dowd (U.S. Navy SEAL, senior chief — retired), Shawn Olin (U.S. Navy petty officer) and Billy Edwards (United States Marine Corps captain).

“Viewing the United States in such an intense way ... imprinted me with wonderful images,” Puskas said. “Heat billowing off the roads in the Arizona desert, Monument (Valley in) Utah, Navajo Nation, old John Deere tractors, children playing baseball, remote general stores, cornfields in Indiana, red barns in Ohio, sunrise over the Appalachians, Gettysburg and that wonderful finish in Annapolis, Maryland. But, no image will transcend the sight of eight wounded veterans (five of them missing legs) finishing at dawn on Sunday morning.”

He noted that “physically, our riders held up exceptionally well. I think we had the easiest job (eat, ride, drink, sleep, repeat). However, the crew who cared for us rarely slept and most looked absolutely exhausted by week’s end. They were the key to our success. I can’t thank them enough for using their own money and vacation to support our programs.  Their generosity was amazing.”

He added, “My most enjoyable ride was my final turn on the last shift. I had the great honor of racing through Gettysburg. With such a tragic history and a long line of memorials to inspire me, I was able to really dig deep.” 

Will he be racing in the event again?

“For me, (the race) was a perfect experience,” he said. “Therefore, I will not try to recreate it by racing again. Instead, I’ll enjoy the memories and dedicate myself to serving as a crew member for our wounded veteran team in the future.”by: VIC ARMIJO - All members of the Allied Forces team pose together at the finish of the 2,998-mile Race Across America in Annapolis, Md.