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Racing Across America — By Bike

Vienna resident, corporation founder tackles 3,000 mile endurance ride for charity

Vienna's Len Forkas is going for a bike ride.

Forkas, founder of Reston's Milestone Communications, leaves later this week for the 12-day Race Across America (RAAM), a 3,000-mile endurance ride from Oceanside, CA, to Annapolis, MD.

Forkas, 52, will be riding solo, though a  nine-person crew will accompany him in a specially outfitted van. He expects extreme temperature changes, sunburn, mountains, desert and exhaustion.

He also expects to raise more than $150,000. Forkas is doing the RAAM to raise money for his . Hopecam connects children who are homebound due to cancer or other life-threatening illnesses with their classmates via laptops, webcams and other technology assistance.

Forkas founded Hopecam in 2003 after his own son, Matt, was treated for leukemia and used the emerging technology to keep up with school and friends. The nonprofit has since partnered with Inova Health System and Fairfax County Public Schools, among others, to help hundreds of children locally and nationally.

With more money, Hopecam can aid more children, says Forkas.

"We're doing this race as an effort to jump out of our comfort zone," said Forkas. "Four thousand kids nationally are diagnosed with cancer each year - so we are only helping a fraction."

As of Tuesday, Forkas had raised $120,000.

Will he be as successful riding hundreds of miles in a day?

Well, he says he is as prepared as can be, so it's a good start. But RAAM statistics show first-time solo racers have a success rate of only 30 percent.

Forkas has been physically preparing for more than a year, working with a trainer, boosting his nutrition, and of course, biking hundreds of miles.

In the last 90 days, Forkas has done training rides from California to Arizona, from Indiana to Maryland and from Arizona to Colorado.

"From a physcial standpoint, I am absolutely prepared," he says. "I am focused on what I can control - I can control my weight, my conditioning and who is on my team. I can control how well we prepare for transitions, navigating.

"What scares me is the headwind," said Forkas. "If the winds are blowing at me, it is like pedaling in slow motion. I also worry about the weather and what will happen to me."

Forkas says the crew training is crucial. Crew members - including Reston Patch blogger Steve Gurney - will work eight-hour shifts in teams of three. One group will be ahead of him, getting supplies and setting up for the next rest stop. Another group will be following him on the road. A third group will be resting in an RV.

No one else on Forkas' team is allowed on a bike during a solo race (some of the RAAM riders are entered as two-, four- or eight-person teams).

Forkas draws a couple of parallels between the RAAM and a child with cancer.

"There is a finish line for both," he says. "With the help of friends and family and a medical team, we can get there. There is a lot of hardship and ups and downs. When you feel like quitting, you can persevere.

"But there is a big difference - I have a choice to stop. This race is one-third longer than the Tour de France in half the time, but it pales in comparison to what a child with cancer goes through."

To read more about Len's Race for Hope, read Forkas' blog, make a donation or see a real-time map of his route after the race gets underway June 13, click here.

To read more about the Race Across America, click here.

Wien June 05, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Good luck and godspeed, Len!

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