Murrieta cyclist readies herself for a race across America

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Murrieta resident Jen Orr, middle, is spending much of her time this year preparing for a 3,000-mile cycling race that will take her from Oceanside to Annapolis, Maryland, in 2020. Courtesy photo

A local cyclist is preparing for what will be an extraordinary journey that will test her physical limits, mental toughness and commitment. It will be a huge test for Murrieta resident Jen Orr, who has only been cycling since she took up the sport in 2010, when she decided to sign up for her first triathlon.

“Although I had already been doing some running and swimming, once I started spending some time on a road bike, I quickly found that cycling was my strength and something that I enjoyed more than the other two sports,” Orr said.

She continued competing in triathlons for several years, completing multiple Ironman races. By 2017, Orr was burned out on the long hours of training for three different sports. That’s when she decided to just focus on cycling, and to do it for fun rather than competition.

“I was able to go for several epic long rides with one of my close cycling friends and mentors, Paul Cornish, who set the world record for the fastest ride across the United States in 1973,” she said

In August 2017, Cornish was killed by a motorist in Oceanside. In the aftermath of his death, another friend persuaded her to sign up for the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs. With minimal training or preparation, she rode 392.4 miles in 24 hours to take fourth place overall in the solo female division and qualify for solo in the Race Across America.

“I felt like participating in an ultracycling event would be a fitting tribute, and later learned that the event was a qualifier to participate in Race Across America as a solo cyclist,” Orr said. “It became my goal to continue working toward competing in solo RAAM, which is considered one of the toughest events in all of the sports world. Fewer people have finished that solo than have stood on the summit of Mount Everest. Since that time, I have focused my training on endurance cycling.”

Orr’s goal is to finish the solo Race Across America in 2020. Because she is still fairly new to the world of ultracycling, and because of the amount of preparation required for solo RAAM, Orr has spent this year increasing her endurance base and competing in other longer distance events including Race Across the West to prepare for the physical demands of RAAM. The last few months have consisted of extremely focused and intense training of 300-400 miles per week, which she fits in between her hours working full time as a director of a physical therapy clinic in Temecula.

“I have already logged over 6,000 miles on my bike this year,” she said.

Her treks have included several training rides of more than 200 miles and a “practice run” of the RAW course from the Pacific Ocean, starting in Oceanside, all the way to the Rocky Mountains of Durango, Colorado. Orr did the course over six and a half days in March. The time allowance for RAW is 92 hours, but Orr said she is more than ready for this portion of the race and hopes to finish it in less than three days next year.

Race Across the West follows the first 925 miles of the RAAM route and is a qualifying event for that race. There is a solo division as well as a two and four-person relay team division. It follows the same format and runs concurrently with RAAM. For the last eight years, RAW has taken athletes on the most challenging piece of the RAAM course. Race Across the West racers start the same day as the RAAM solo racers, and this year was the 12th annual RAW. RAAM is the world leader in the sport of endurance bicycle racing, a 3000-mile coast-to-coast race across the nation. In addition, they offer seminars on endurance bicycle racing and sanction endurance races worldwide.

Race Across America is my goal for 2020,” Orr said. “The coast-to-coast race covers over 3,000 miles from Oceanside to Annapolis, Maryland, in around 12 days or less. The race can be done solo or as part of a 2-, 4-, or 8-person relay. I will be competing in the solo division, hoping to become part of a very elite group of athletes who can claim to have finished one of the toughest races in the world.”

Orr’s accomplishments so far include: First place overall for male or female solo division, Race Across the West 2019 and winner of “Queen of the Desert” classification; first place overall 24-hour solo female and course record holder at the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs in 2018 for 456.0 miles; two successful “Everest” rides: Yaqui Pass in Borrego Springs and Rancho California Road in Temecula; three-time winner of the California Triple Crown of Double Centuries in 2016, 2018 and 2019 and 13-time double century finisher; seven-time Ironman finisher and fourth place overall 24-hour solo female in second age group at the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships in 2017.

To follow Orr’s progress, visit her blog site at http://just5101.temp.domains/~jenorrbl. To find out more about RAW and RAAM, visit www.raceacrossthewest.org and www.raceacrossamerica.org.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.