Nearly 13 days after she took off on her bicycle from Oceanside, Calif., in a cross-country race, Akron’s Cassie Schumacher crossed the finish line a few minutes before noon today in Annapolis, Md.
Schumacher, 41, who won her Race Across America (RAAM) division for women under the age of 50, dedicated her 3,000-mile trek to raise awareness for veterans causes and called her team Pedals for Heroes, USA.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said Schumacher by phone after she finished the race.
Schumacher is the first Ohio woman to ever finish the women’s solo RAAM race. This year marked the 32nd running of the cross-country race.
After taking off from the West Coast on June 11, Schumacher and a team of eight people in two vans and one car crossed the finish line in Maryland about three hours ahead of the mandatory finish time for the race.
Schumacher said she really did not feel tired after completing the trek.
“I wanted to turn around and go the other way,” she joked of the experience that entailed sleeping just 90 minutes a day with a few 15-minute naps thrown in over the last several days.
Getting across the desert in the Southwest was difficult, she said, but seeing “good people across America” for nearly two weeks was terrific.
Friday night as Schumacher passed across Ohio, her friend Christine Brown met up with the entourage in between Oxford and Chillicothe.
“I am in total awe,” said Brown, of Hudson, who assisted Schumacher in Ohio with marketing. “I got to give her a little hug.”
At the stop in the southern Ohio community of Blanchester, Brown said, Schumacher “was exhausted but happy. She was hugging people and shoving food down her mouth.”
Brown said the cross-country course that Schumacher followed included 100,000 total feet of climbing on her bike.
Maria Parker finished the race in the age 50 to 59 category at 11:20 a.m. Sunday for her team 3,000 Miles to a Cure, raising awareness and $1 million for brain cancer in honor of a sister diagnosed with brain cancer.
The male winner of the race was Christoph Strasser, 26, of Austria, who finished the course in seven days, 22 hours and 11 minutes.
Schumacher, a substance abuse counselor, became an activist for veterans issues to honor her father, Robert Schumacher, a Vietnam veteran.
“Cassie’s personal life experience has been a catalyst to choose the mental health field as a professional concentrating on veterans issues,” said her friend Bruce Kilian, 64, a Vietnam veteran and commander of the Fairlawn VFW post. “Her nonprofit, Wheels 4 Change, and through her association with many other ministries, notably Warriors’ Journey Home, Cassie has been able to help many in need and seriously impact many lives.
“Her efforts in the Race Across America are bringing the national spotlight on these many great organizations.”
Schumacher has been involved with Warriors’ Journey Home, a veterans group based at First Congregational Church of Tallmadge.
“What she has done is amazing,” said the Rev. John Schluep, pastor of the Tallmadge church and an Army veteran.
“There is sincerity and authenticity in her desire to raise awareness about veterans and the issues associated with military service and those in combat.”
Schluep, 61, who started Warriors’ Journey Home at his church, said Schumacher has a “tenacious heart and she doesn’t quit. I would serve with her anytime, any place.”
Schumacher attempted RAAM last year but had to abandon the race 1,774.3 miles into her journey in Weableau, Mo.
Getting past that spot in Missouri this year was an important hurdle, said Schumacher.
The Akron woman doesn’t plan to rest long and is planning another bike ride on Aug. 24 called the “Ride for the 23” to raise awareness of suicide among veterans and active duty service members. She hopes that ride will become a national event.
Brown said 22 veterans and one active duty service member on average commit suicide each day.
In late February, at an event organized by Schumacher, $15,000 was raised at the Pedal for Heroes physical fitness event held at various locations in Northeast Ohio. The money was raised for veterans causes.
Schumacher credited her crew for her successful race and the courage of those veterans she represented.
“It is an honor to serve them,” said Schumacher, who is not a veteran.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.