The long ride

2 wheels, 6 days, 3,000 miles, and 48,000 calories

The first day was rough: 10.5 hours, 115-degree heat, two bags of IV fluids at the end. But it was the second day — another 10.5 hours, 105-degree heat, and the addition of 9,000 feet of climbing — that took Jessica Lynn Marino to a very dark place.

“At dinner, we were like zombies,” she said. “I had all the doubt in the world.”

A University of Richmond graduate and soccer player-turned marathoner-turned triathlete, Marino was accustomed to pushing herself. The first triathlon she ever competed in was a half-Ironman; the second was a full Ironman. But this was the Race Across America (RAAM) — a nonstop, 3,000-mile cycling sprint from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md.

Marino was part of a four-rider “mixed gender” team (Marino was the only woman), and their race schedule was relentless, designed to wring maximum sustained speed from the riders. They divided into two, two-rider shifts, supported by a “sprint van,” Marino explained. “For 10 or 15 minutes, you go a little below as hard as you can go. Then you get in the van and the other rider goes for 10 or 15 minutes, and you do this for 10.5 hours.” Then the second two-rider team takes over while the first eats and sleeps in the support bus equipped with bunks and showers.

And so on, without stop, for nearly a week.

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