LUBBOCK, TX - The Race Across the Alps will not have Lubbock's Shanna Armstrong on the "Finish" list in 2009. The RATA was the Ultra Athlete's newest challenge, but after riding 19 hours through inclement weather with an injured hip, she made the hard decision to bow out of the race.
Armstrong knew she had a bigger challenge than usual ahead of her when she left Lubbock with a very large hematoma on her thigh and hip, due to an injury in a previous race. She was hit by another biker during a race in the Palo Duro Canyon area, causing her to fall on her side. The rain and snow on the Alps didn't help, and neither did the ill-fitting rain gear that her sponsor sent her to wear. She also had mechanical issues with her bike.
The RATA , a 780k, or 484 mile trek began June 9 in Nauders, Austria. The route climbs over seven mountain passes and crosses into parts of Switzerland and Italy. The cut off time for the race is thirty-two hours - a feat that is not foreign to this endurance athlete. "It is the most popular ultra cycling event in Europe, bringing mostly pros to the race. "Shanna said. "Competitors have to apply and be accepted into the race."
Armstrong was the last of only two women competing to not complete the race.
"Under other conditions I would have completed this with a hurt hip or not but riding on wet roads was becoming a danger if I were to fall again, Armstrong said. "My hip was blowing up as the ride went on. My downhills were no longer fast so I was loosing time there as well. I felt like I could have done the course but I was not sure if I was doing more permanent damage to my hip and it became obvious I would have an unofficial finish. I am a little bummed about the choice I needed to make but it was the best decision to save my body and to be fit for my races back home. This is only my second road bike injury so I feel fortunate."
"I do have what it takes for this course and I will complete this race next time around. Another male competitor told me he has done this race several times and that this was the worst weather conditions he has been in, so I need to be prepared with better clothing," Armstrong said.
Following the RATA event, Shanna will continue to Switzerland to compete on July 3-5 in the Swiss Gigathalon for the 2nd time. This grueling three day, five sport contest includes inline skating, mountain biking, road biking, swimming and running. Her approximate ten hour days will begin and end in St. Gallen, Switzerland. She is currently the only American registered for the race.
Shanna has competed in two Race Across America events, once as part of a two-member, co-ed team, and once as an individual. The co-ed team had the fastest finishing time in the 2005 race, from San Diego to Atlantic City, NJ. They completed the 3050 mile race in 8 days, 17 hours, 36 minutes. As a solo competitor, Shanna was the only woman to finish the 2006 race, in 11 days, 22 hours, completing 3,043 miles.
The RAAM events were her ticket into the RATA race. "In the early days of RAAM, the route was more Southern. Since the route changed to cover the Appalachians, which is the route I was on both times, only two women have completed the race." She feels like this accomplishment gave her the boost she needed to be accepted into the RATA event.
Shanna will return to Lubbock on July 7th. She will continue motivational speaking on behalf of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lubbock, as well as LISD students and corporations. "It's important to me to tell kids my personal story and inspire them to realize that they can lead a great life if they will choose to surround themselves with positive people, embrace their talents, and work hard."
Armstrong's sports bio includes dozens of accomplishments: She is the only person to win the Ultraman World Championship five times, beating the world swim record by seven minutes to set a new course swim record; and won Third Place Female at the Badwater Ultramarathon, which is a 135 mile foot race. Shanna has successfully competed in many other races, such as the Furnace Creek desert endurance race, four Ironman World Championships, and Southwest Challenge Series. She has won over 75% of races in her age group.
For more information on Shanna and to follow her blog, (click here).