Q&A with RAAM Team Riders Dani & Kacie

Moxie Cycling is proud to announce the sponsorship of Kacie Darden and Dani Grabol as they prepare to take part in the 2013 Race Across America.

These two awesomely ambitious women will be racing 3,000-miles beginning June 15th in Oceanside, CA and finishing in Annapolis, MA. Kacie and Dani are in full-on training mode and have hopes to break the female 2-person team record! As they ramp up training and prepare for this athletic feat, we will be posting updates on our Facebook page and holding Twitterviews, live interviews via our Twitter feed, in the coming weeks.

We invite you to join our conversations by following @MoxieCycling on Twitter during these dates at 4PM CDT:

  • Thursday, April 11 // Discussing their training regiment 
  • Thursday, April 25 // Discussing the race course, which goes through 12 states
  • Thursday, May 9 // Discussing the importance of nutrition
  • Thursday, May 23 // Discussing the mental strength factor in endurance events
  • Thursday, June 6 // Discussing the final preparation for the race

Read about how Dani and Kacie got their start in cycling, who serves as their inspiration and more

Q & A with Dani Grabol

Dani FL Night
  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Age, occupation, hometown, etcI am 31 years old and from Lilburn, GA. It’s a town in the suburbs of Atlanta. I work in Geriatrics and have been working with older adults for 11 years! It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. I currently work as a wellness director for a retirement home, but I am going back to work for a company I was with for 7 years to do marketing, business development and operations.
  2. Why did you decide to take on RAAM? Kacie made me do it! But truly, when she was a part of the 8-person team I was pretty obsessed with the race. I was very interested in their logistics, how they took turns pulling, where they slept, etc. Every time that I finish a race and recover I ask myself “now what?” It just so happened that I had finished the double Iron and was getting pretty bored when Kacie got back and started planting seeds in my head. She was on the phone describing to me what it’s like to be on your bike in Monument Valley when the sun comes up. She got choked up and my reaction was “I need to be a part of something like this”. I want to experience something so awesome I get choked up telling people about it!
  3. What’s your biggest accomplishment to date? Are there moments in your life that you feel define you? Overcoming a serious accident where I was struck by a drunk driver and my left leg was crushed. Doctors weren’t exactly optimistic that I would make a return to triathlon, or ever be competitive. To mark the 5 year anniversary of my accident, I rode my bike non-stop across Florida (I was hit in Panama City). For 422 miles I was able to think about how incredibly blessed I was to be in the shape I am in. When I got to Ponte Vedre Beach and put my foot down in the sand my ride was officially over. I had broken the men’s record for time, and established a new females record. I was able to say to myself “I am HEALED.” It meant a lot to me.Dani Double
  4. Are there any personal goals you have for yourself during RAAM? Arrive in Annapolis, break the existing females record, and still LOVE everyone on our crew! I’d also like to see as many animals as possible, including a unicorn.
  5. Of the races you’ve participated in, what races make your top 5 list? Any record finishes? Ironman Louisville because it was my first Ironman. I signed up for it while I was still recovering from my accident. I had never raced anything longer than an Olympic. I had no business being there, but was too stubborn to admit it! I love Gulf Coast half Ironman, and always will. Finishing the Double Iron in Florida was awesome, I was 2nd female and 4th overall, and set the bike course record. I love Chattanooga Olympic triathlon. It’s in July and the heat is unbearable. The bike course is tough, which I enjoy, and the swim is down river, fast and easy although the water is 90 degrees. Tundra Time Trial is a bike race that I have always enjoyed, Thom Lillie makes these beautiful glass sculptures as the awards. Only the female winner gets one! Last time I raced I was 4 seconds off from winning. Talk about a close race! I am racing it until I get one of those sculptures!
  6. Besides RAAM, what else is on your bucket list? Geez….how much space do I have here? A triple Ironman, Furnace Creek 508, Brazil 135 mile run, and I would like to try a really long distance swim, 15 or more miles. Really, anything that frightens me also excites me!
  7. How did you get started in cycling? I took Keith Woodward’s spin class and wanted to be just like him! He taught me everything I know about bike racing, and I am beyond thrilled that he will be part of our RAAM crew.
  8. What you’re doing is inspiring (and a little crazy). Who inspires you? Why? I’ve always been inspired by parathletes. I think they are incredible. I am also inspired by everyday people who make huge sacrifices to make their dreams come true. Our friend Jill who would ride her trainer at 4am because she didn’t want her training to be a huge impact on her family. Angie Wise who  missed the time cutoff for the double iron on 1999 but refused to stop and finished unofficially, then came back in 2013 with 3 young kids and “officially” finished it. My boyfriend Jason is also an amazing athlete who I really look up to. He’s done everything from winning sprint triathlons and qualifying for Boston, to swimming around Key West, winning 100 mile runs, winning 24 hour bike races, etc. He can pretty much excel at anything he puts his mind to. Not many people can be good at short course and long course. But he has a work ethic that is unreal, and he figures out how to make it happen.
  9. What has been the most difficult part of your training this far? Not having time to grocery shop, clean my house, or do laundry. Weekends are tough, no one believes me when I say that I look forward to Monday’s because it’s an easy day of training!
  10. Any tips when it comes to juggling the demands of daily life with training? Plan as much in advance as possible. Iron and set out clothes for the week, cook ahead of time and plan meals. It’s really about time management, and being a good steward of your time.
  11. What advice would you give to other women considering an endurance event? Make sure the whole team is on board! You need the support of your spouse or significant other and friends. Although you are the one crossing the finish line, don’t forget it took the support and encouragement of many others to help get you there. Ask a lot of questions, and don’t listen to everything your told.
  12. What are some of your favorite quotes? 
    • “Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own;  sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push ourselves through the obstruction. ” – William James
    • “The most courageous act is to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel
    • “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” -Katharine Hepburn.

Q & A with Kacie Darden

Kacie in Cozumel
  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Age, occupation, hometown, etc. My name is Kacie Darden, and I am 29 years old. I am originally from a very small town outside of Dalton, Georgia. Both of my parents are educators, so I grew up with my mom as my 5th grade teacher and my dad as my middle school principal. As a kid, I certainly was active, but I was not a runner or a cyclist. My bicycle was just a way to get around to the neighborhood to see my friends. In high school, I was a cheerleader, but I was really into school. I loved school! I went to the University of Georgia on lots of scholarships (because I really loved school). While at UGA, I had scholarships to travel, and I studied in over 30 countries, and even spent a month in Antarctica. I still was not an athlete at all. I went to a yoga retreat in India, and did plenty of hiking, but was no where near the endurance sports world. I have always been very focused and goal oriented though. In college, I earned my bachelors and my masters in ecology in 4 years. I graduated with both on the same day. Like I said, I like goals, I like the process of working and improving, and I like finish lines. This kind of mindset is truly why endurance sports call to me. After school, I decided to become a teacher, and I started teaching science in my hometown. After getting married, I found a job at an outdoorsy and progressive private school, where I teach middle school science and math. I am also the cross country coach of a team that I started, which is one of my favorite things in the world!
  2. Why did you decide to take on RAAM? Last year, after the double ironman that Dani and I both did, I ended up with stress fractures in both of my legs. I was in a boot, and unable to run. My doctor told me that I could ride my bike as much as I wanted. Seeing as how I have issues with moderation, I started looking for ultracylcing events to enter. There was a locatl 8 person RAAM team that was looking for a rider. After discussing it with my husbad, he said, “if someone asks you to ride on RAAM, you say YES!” With that attitude in mind, I brought on a few of my favorite crew members, another friend as a rider, and within six weeks of joining the team, I was on the road in Oceanside as a RAAM racer! At the end of the race, standing on the pier in Annapolis at the finish line 6 days and 18 hours after finishing, I was so tired that tears were coming down my face, and I couldn’t see or think straight. I did however, look at my friend and crew member, Anne, and tell her that the next time I do this race, I would do it with less people, and people that I knew well. She went ahead and marked her calendar. Within days, I emailed Dani, and told her that she HAD to do this race with me! It didn’t take long until we decided that we were going to tackle this, and we were going to do it together. RAAM has it all. It has endurance, speed, mountains, sunshine, desert, rain, flat, wind, sunrises, sunsets, suffering, pain, excitement, planning, logisitcs, elation, accomplishment, and joy. Since I rode last year, descending into monument valley after a night of hard riding, and watching the sun come up over the buttes, I knew that this race would capture my imagination for a long time to come. It has a hold on me, in the best kind of way. It is exciting enough to get me up in the morning, and to keep me going on my bike late at night. I am only interested in a race that has that kind of pull on my entire being.
  3. What’s your biggest accomplishment to date? Are there moments in your life that you feel define you? Some of my biggest athletic accomplishments may seem a little strange. I am very proud of overcoming an injury while training for my first marathon. I learned the lesson of how to take care of yourself while you train for endurance events in that one. I am extremely proud of my first Ironman in Louisville. I signed up a year before the race, and I was totally dedicated to my training. I executed the race as well as I could ever have planned, I had a blast, I don’t think I have ever been more proud of myself. I won my first 50k trail race, and it was tough. I fell over and over, and had terrible cramps in my calf, but I was determined to stay off the front in that race, and I pushed through some serious pain to win the race. I learned how to push myself to a true limit in that race. My double ironman experience went extremely well. The eight week lead up in training was all about perfect execution of every workout. The race itself was about never dropping off my pace, keeping to my race plan, nailing nutrition, and finishing a new distance. That moment taught me discipline, focus, the importance of the people around me, and dedication to a single goal. The 200 mile bike race that I won this  year was important because it did not start well. I was riding poorly, and I was in a terrible mood. That race taught me that races can have many different lives. You can come out of a bad situation and turn it into a strength. It also confirmed for me that I am really and endurance athlete, because the last 50 miles were by far my strongest!
  4. Are there any personal goals you have for yourself during RAAM? Dani and I want to break the two-person female record of 8 days, 18 hours, and 57 minutes. That is the BIG goal. That is driving our decisions and our training. Every day, I imagine myself on that pier in Annapolis. I visualize and if I think hard enough, I can really put myself there. I can’t wait to give Dani a huge hug at the finish. I can’t wait to stand on the stage and take pictures with the entire crew. That is my goal. I stand by the Atlantic ocean with Dani and my crew having broken the 2-person female record.Crew retreat
  5. Of the races you’ve participated in, what races make your top 5 list? Any record finishes?
    • #5: Rev3 Cedar Point Full Distance: Great support, awesome course, and I ended up running almost the entire marathon with a friend!
    • #4: Six Gap Century: This is a timed century, so it is part ride, and part race. These are the mountains that we are accustomed to riding in Georgia. They are tough, but beautiful! I love the course, and I love having so many people from all over on the roads we are used to riding in the fall!
    • #3: Ironman Cozumel: My husband and I both did this race a couple of years ago. It is my Ironman PR, and I loved this course. It was windy, flat, beautiful ocean views, and it was a party on the course! It also meant that before and afte the race we got to kick back at a resort on the beach. Tough to top that!
    • #2: Blue Ridge Breakaway: another times century, but this one is in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville. It is gorgeous, incredibly challenging, and extremely well run.
    • #1: RAAM! Of course! It doesn’t get any more beautiful, epic, or exciting than racing your bike across the entire country! I had the record at the Tashka 50k trail race, but I might not anymore! As the female winner of the first Florida RAAM Challenge Series Race, I have that record right now. Here’s a link to some of my race results: http://kacietri-ing.blogspot.com/p/past-race-results-and-progress.html
  6. Besides RAAM, what else is on your bucket list? How much time do you have? Actually, it is really tough to think about anything after RAAM. My life feels so consumed by this race, that I can barely imagine life after it! In reality though, I do have a dream board in my house. We put up things we want to do, and once we have done them, we move them to the accomplishment board! I would love to run Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon. I would like to race a 24 hour bike race. In my LONG distance future, I am interested in swimming the English Channel. Once in a while, I bring up doing RAAM solo, but I don’t know if that is something I want to do. I think that going for the cross Georgia bike record would be fun too!
  7. How did you get started in cycling? A couple years after graduating from school, I met my future husband, who was a collegiate runner. During the first year that we were married, he wasn’t really running or racing. I could tell that something was missing in his life, and wanted to be supportive. So, I found a duathlon (run, bike, run), and suggested that we both sign up for it. I thought that it would be a good thing for us to do together. I bought a hybrid bike, and started running a little. The race was a fantastic experience, and we both loved it! Afterwards, I decided to become a triathlete, and he went into bike racing. I kept going longer and longer with my triathlons, until the double iron distance.photo (4)
  8. What you’re doing is inspiring (and a little crazy). Who inspires you? Why? I have been inspired by many other women who have reached for goals! I am a big fan of Sally Ride. I met her when I was in college, and was inspired by her risk taking and ground breaking life. I love reading about the first women to swim the English Channel (The book The Great Swim is really incredible). They were pushing the limits of endurance in a time when women were not empowered throught society. I also really enjoy reading about Lynne Cox, who is another ultra-endurance swimmer. She imagined her own events instead of just racing other people’s. Then there are the people in my real life who inspire me. My husband inspires me to push myself harder. My friend Laura inspires me to balance and seek out friendship though training. Dani inspires me by working so hard every day towards our shared goal.
  9. What has been the most difficult part of your training this far? I think the hardest parts have been when I feel like I am missing out. I have had to say no to friends, to work, and to family. Staying 100% focused means that your life is not really balanced. You have to eat, sleep, breathe, and dream about you goal. You literally do! When I eat, I think about how my choices effect RAAM. I go to bed early because of RAAM. My weekends are all about RAAM training and recovering for the next part of RAAM training. That is tough to maintain. But, when we are done, there will be plenty of time for friends, family, relaxing, ice cream, and staying up late. It will be worth all of the sacrifice, and I am sure of that!
  10. Any tips when it comes to juggling the demands of daily life with training? I have lots of tips about this! Get up early! Your day is always longer if it starts earlier. Cook on Sunday for the week. I do a lot of my food prep on Sunday night, and then the mornings are less frantic. Get ready for the next day the night before. That also makes morning workouts easier. Prioritize and stick to your priorties. If training is a priority, you will get it done! One of my closest training buddies is a CFO of one of our sponsors companies (Halperns Steak and Seafood), she has four children, and she is involved in community service. She never wastes any time, and I have learned a lot from her. Cut out the time before and after a workout. Make workouts appointments with other people, so that you write it on your calendar and it stays there. Change clothes in the car and always be ready to freshen up quickly! She has gone from her bike to a buisness meeting with me more than once! Put races on a calendar. They give you a deadline that you have to stick to, and gives you encouragement to really do your training!
  11. What advice would you give to other women considering an endurance event? Do it! I think that women are made for endurance events. We race smarter, we pace ourselves better, and we are durable and focused. Find someone to help guide or coach you, stick to a plan, and reach for it! Finishing endurance events gives you so much strength and confidence. Find a race that makes you a little excited and a little nervous–those are the best ones!
  12. What are some of your favorite quotes?
    • Wishes become dreams; but without a plan it’s just a wish. A dream becomes a goal when a plan for attaining it is defines. A goal becomes a mission when unwavering self-belief and purposeful zeal are realized. The difference between a goal and a mission is attitude. (Don’t know where it comes from, but my coach gave it to me to put in my training things.)
    • “It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster.” – Greg Lemond
    • “The mind is the athlete.” – I can’t remember it right now!
    • “You are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.” -Ken Chlouber
    • “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
    • “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine
    • “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. The picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” – Susan B. Anthony

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