Under the watchful eyes of bright and expansive Western skies, Trish Karter found herself in paradise.
Karter said the nightfall scenery of mountains and deserts became her “normal” through the early stages of the 3,000-mile Race Across America race. The race started in California and trekked through numerous states. Karter somehow managed to appreciate the mountains and deserts while peddling at a furious pace.
Even though she called it her new normal, her circumstances were far from it: Karter was a member of a 60 and older, four-person women’s team eager to establish a team record for the formidable bike race.
Karter said she was surprised she kept her focus through the night.
“It’s a beautiful country,” Karter, 60, said. “I wasn’t bored for one second and that was a complete surprise…riding through the night in those dramatic places.”
On Thursday, Karter, CEO at New Haven-based Chabaso Bakery and a Guilford resident, reflected on the race she finished Sunday morning in Annapolis, Maryland, after an evening start on June 17 in Oceanside, California. Karter and her three teammates — Susan Lynch, 58; Margaret Thompson, 63; and Neil Withington, 66 — met their goal. They’re the first four-person female team in the 60 to 69 age — the average age of the riders was 62 — to establish a record, finishing the race in seven days, 11 hours and four minutes. The finish line was all hugs and kisses and speeches.
“There was actually people there waiting for us at 2:30 in the morning,” Karter said.
The four women, collectively known as Team Brigham Health for the organization they raised money for, traveled 3,070 miles. After crossing a finishing line at 3 a.m. Sunday, Karter arrived at her hotel at 5 a.m. and was back in Connecticut by 8:30 p.m.
If a 3,000 mile race couldn’t topple her resolve, another Monday didn’t stand a chance. Karter went back to work this week during a busy period, which saw her overseeing an overhaul process to rebrand the company. She was on deadline Thursday for final approval on new copy for the company.
“This just feels like a natural extension of last week,” Karter said.
But it wasn’t all papers and meetings when Karter returned. On Monday she was greeted by a staff ready to laud their two-wheeled hero. She was given a company honor called the Golden Ciabagel Award for successfully completing the race and for an attitude deemed inspiring for the company.
“It was a beautiful moment, I was very, very happy. Still kind of choked me up,” Karter said.
Karter’s team weathered record heat out West and tropical storms in the East. They biked through arid climates and rainy conditions. They completed the race, which was not the fate of everyone who participated, as Karter pointed out other teams didn’t finish due to the weather.
“We beat out a lot of other teams,” Karter said. “I’m very grateful to come back home safe to my children with my number one goal.”
Karter’s primary reason for establishing the record was age. She said she was surprised to find no 60-plus women’s team record had been established. The team raised funds for the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
With the women’s team record now secure, does Karter have plans to defend her title next year?
“Not right now,” Karter said. “You do something like that once, it’s so complicated, there’s so much nuisance and skill.”
A second trip would likely be more efficient. Karter said the team ended slightly behind their timed goal and she personally had a slight setback following some nutritional issues. She was assisted by getting a new plan focusing on supplementing her caloric and electrolyte intake.
“(If) we do it again, we can do it way smarter and faster” Karter said.
The race involved alternating 20-minute shifts over 10 hour periods. The race would have been nearly impossible to achieve without the supplemental 15 member crew.
“What I realized is that this is more (about) the 19 people than the four people,” Karter said. “It took the best of everyone to get us from one side to another side that fast.”
Reach Esteban L. Hernandez at 203-680-9901