Presented by Fathom Events and The Rudy Project, "GODSPEED - The Race Across America," chronicles the harrowing journey of ultra-cyclist/sportscaster Jerry Schemmel, who joins forces with an IronMan triathlete/CEO, Brad Cooper, in the world's most grueling endurance bicycle race - The Race Across America (RAAM). The inspiring documentary of faith and determination comes to U.S. cinemas for one special night on Tuesday, May 22, at 7:00 p.m. local time. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting www.FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices. For more information, visit www.godspeedcycling.com.
HALLELS: Thanks Jerry for doing this interview with us. For some of our readers who may not know, you re-defined heroism with what happened with the crash of United DC-10 in 1989. Briefly tell us what happened then.
JERRY: I was on United Airlines flight 232, originating in Denver and bound for Chicago. About halfway into the flight, the number two engine in this DC-10 exploded and caused severe damage to the aircraft. We tried an emergency landing in Sioux City Iowa, but with so little control of the plane by the cockpit crew, we hit at 255 mph, slid, then rolled over. One hundred twelve people of the 296 on board were killed. Nearly everybody around me died in the tragedy. I was able to eventually get outside the wreckage, and then heard a baby crying back inside. I instinctively went back in and grabbed an 11-month-old girl. Amazingly, her whole family, with two brothers and her parents, all survived the crash.
HALLELS: Recently, you have also embarked on another heroic task by participating in a cycling race that is now documented on film. Tell us more about this race -- how long was it and what are some of the areas you covered?
JERRY: The Race Across America is a pretty epic bike race. It's been cold "the world's toughest bicycle race." And, we found that out! It's a set course that is 3,000 miles from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. It covers 12 states, 175,000 feet of elevation gain, all kinds of terrain, and potentially crazy weather!
HALLELS: What inspired you to be part of this race?
JERRY: Many years ago, I did a couple rides on my bike across America. Nothing like this, however. I took a month out of my schedule in the summer and rode coast to coast for a couple different Denver charities. But, it was at my own pace with hotel rooms and dinner out every night. It made me think about the idea of racing my bike across the country. I researched and found RAAM and thought it would be an incredible adventure. So, I found the perfect race partner, Brad Cooper, whom I've known for a long time, and we decided to do this crazy thing together, and as a fundraiser for an orphanage in Haiti.
HALLELS: This cycling race is for a good cause to help orphans. Tell us more about this.
JERRY: My wife, two kids, and I visited Haiti in January 2014. We went with a group that operates an orphanage and a school there. That event really changed our lives. When we came back, we wanted to do something to help that country, especially its special needs kids. So, I thought a bike race would be a great way to do that.
HALLELS: How did you prepare for this race emotionally as well as physically?
JERRY: Being that the race was in the middle of the summer, and in the middle of the baseball season, training was a real challenge for me. The Rockies play almost every day so there was not a great deal of extra time to be on a bicycle. But, I tried to get as many miles in as I possibly could. I also tried to anticipate all the potential challenges and obstacles. Many of them played out just like I thought they would. But the planning and thinking through really paid off. I felt like I was as ready as I could be for the race and its challenges, because of my preparation, both mentally and physically.
HALLELS: What were some of your greatest challenges on this race?
JERRY: The biggest challenge for me was overcoming severe sleep deprivation. I knew it would be a big factor, but I underestimated it. The longer pulls we each did at night really got to me. I simply could not stay awake on the bicycle. Trying to do so, I had hallucinations and nearly crashed a couple times. The other great challenge, as it turned out, was the weather. The very first day we hit 120° F in the Mojave Desert. Then, later in the race, it started raining and literally did not stop for three days. We went through a couple nasty thunderstorms and just rode through rain, day and night, for the last three days. Another challenge was simply getting out of the car and getting on the bike when it was the last thing you wanted to do. With your body screaming for sleep and rest, it was a challenge, sometimes, to just start pedaling again.
HALLELS: All of this is captured in the film GODSPEED. How can our readers be inspired and encouraged by this documentary?
JERRY: I think when someone watches the film, they will see that RAAM is a great metaphor for life. Life can be an enormously rewarding adventure, if we seize it! With that adventure, there are challenges and obstacles and valleys. But, with passion, endurance, and perseverance, we can achieve that dream. And, the person that we can become, at the other end, can be absolutely amazing.
HALLELS: You have been known for taking some big heroic tasks, anything planned next?
JERRY: I would like to someday do RAAM as a solo racer someday. Solo racers have to finish in 12 days to qualify. It would be and incredible challenge, but incredibly rewarding!