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There is still plenty of work to be done in preparation for the race of her career, but Lisa Dougherty had a nice warm-up recently.
So nice, in fact, she set a newly-certified cycling record for fastest time riding west-to-east across New Mexico.
Dougherty, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as a published author, topped the old record for crossing the state width-wise, completing the trek in 20 hours, 19 minutes. Had Dougherty not been hampered by rutty asphalt after getting through Roswell, she may have had a shot at breaking the men’s record as well, but lost out on that time by about 41 minutes.
The record was certified late last month by the Ultramarathon Cycling Association, which keeps tabs on such long-distance records.
Dougherty had guessed the trip, officially all 392.4 miles of it, would take about 24 hours or more to complete, but beat her projected pace handily, even with some unexpected hiccups along the way.
The state crossing was a tune-up for Dougherty’s ambitious upcoming outing, the Race Across America (RAAM). The race starts June 11 in Oceanside, Calif., and will wind its way to Annapolis, Md., covering 3,000 miles in the span of about 11 days.
Dougherty went south for her record-breaking attempt. Her trek started on U.S. 60 at the Arizona border near Pie Town. She merged onto U.S. 380 at Socorro and went southeast toward Roswell before heading toward the Texas border.
While her race conditions were somewhat closer to the environment she will be racing through during the early part of the RAAM, temperatures didn’t get much above 65 degrees – she said she expects well above triple-digit temperatures, particularly while going through the Mojave Desert in the early part of the race.
“We had a nice, moderate tailwind for awhile, but that turned into a screaming crosswind,” she said. “But it wasn’t too bad until I hit road construction east of Roswell and out.”
While Dougherty was thrilled about earning the record, just as important was the dress rehearsal for herself and her support crew which will be along with her for the RAAM.
Her crew — consisting of Gene, Allegra and Sean Dougherty, as well as Jerry Rieper, Ken Shipley and Ken Pritchett — part of which comes from as far away as Phoenix and assists her with food, clothing, bike repairs and anything else she might need, hadn’t worked together prior to her New Mexico crossing.
While Dougherty said there are still some bugs to work out – she was stranded with a flat tire for a short time after a support vehicle, which had been right where it needed to be for the entire day, went ahead of her for a short stint and had to backtrack after Dougherty called them for assistance with her cell phone – she was impressed with the team’s performance during her attempt.
“It was huge to do well,” she said. “I have talked six guys into giving up two weeks of their lives to go very slow across the country…I know how bad it can be, but I wanted to give the crew confidence going into the RAAM.”
Dougherty is only one of six women from the U.S. taking part in the RAAM and could be primed for a big showing. She won a women’s master’s circuit event in Denver a week and a half ago and is confident she has the base to make it through the cross-country event.
Her sponsors like her chances to excel, too. She was given extra clothing and supplements from Hammer Nutrition, one of her main sponsors, to use during the RAAM.