Team PHenomenal Hope – RAAM 2014

Team PHenomenal Hope RAAM 2014

Meet Team PHenomenal Hope (Photo courtesy of UPMC)

Team PHenomenal Hope started as a group of women who wanted to Race Across America

In 2010, two friends on Steel City Endurance, a Pittsburgh bike racing team, started kicking around the idea of racing their bikes across America. It began at the Biennial Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) International Conference, many in the audience were inspired by the story of three medical professionals who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness. It was at that moment, when Patricia George was sitting in that audience, that the dream of racing in the Race Across America (RAAM) started to crystallize.

Dr. Patricia George, physician and researcher in the Comprehensive Pulmonary Hypertension Center and lung transplant program at University Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and Stacie Truszkowski, Steel City teammate and colleague in the Pulmonary Division at UPMC, began discussing ways to turn the dream into a reality. Pittsburgh, home of two-time solo men’s winner Danny Chew, has a proud history with RAAM. However, to this date no team from Pittsburgh had ever raced RAAM. Knowing this, the teammates recruited two more women, SCE teammate Anne-Marie Alderson, super talented IronMan athlete and Ryanne Palermo, endurance mountain biker, whose energy on the bike is only surpassed by her tremendous spirit, to form Pittsburgh’s first 4-woman RAAM team.

While the idea of racing across the United States in and of itself is exciting, the team became completely engaged in its mission to race for a greater purpose – the PHA. After meeting with PHA President Rino Aldrighetti and his team, Team PHenomenal Hope, racing for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association, officially was born.

Momentum builds as we dedicate our training to improving patients’ lives

Soon after partnering with the PHA, as our team expanded to include supporters and crew members from within our clinic and cycling community, Team PHenomenal Hope was excited to partner with our home institution, UPMC, in our race to a cure. As we train for RAAM, raising awareness about pulmonary hypertension (PH) and funding to help find a cure for the disease, we will be working closely with UPMC, the PHA community, and our sponsors and supporters every pedal stroke of the way.

Riding to raise awareness for pulmonary hypertension

RAAM provides a tremendous platform to raise awareness, and we plan to fully utilize this race and training period to educate our communities about PH and the need to find a cure. Through traditional and social media, we will reach far and wide to expand our “team” in this effort. It is our goal that by the time we cross the finish line in Annapolis, “every person in Pittsburgh [and beyond] knows about PH.” Team PHenomenal Hope will serve as one spotlight for the PHA to reach out to people in the region and beyond, healthcare providers and non-healthcare providers alike.

Racing to a cure for pulmonary hypertension

In addition to raising awareness, we intend to work hard towards supporting the search for a cure. From now until after RAAM 2014, we plan to raise funds that will go towards establishing sustainable grants. At the end of 2014, all proceeds will be donated to the PHA to fund Team PHenomenal Hope grants. In this way, all money raised in our effort will go toward our mission.

Working together we can accomplish extraordinary things!

In June 2012, the PHA International Conference marked our official launch, and we are already hard at work in foundation building and fundraising for this tremendous effort ahead. Team PHenomenal Hope is excited to dedicate the next 2 years of training and racing to our PHA community. While a huge journey lies ahead, we embrace it in preparation for the hardest race of our lives (both on and off the bike), because in the words of Ryanne Palermo, racer, “A day without challenge is a day with victories unclaimed.”

The adventure continues

Throughout 2013 each rider pursued her own goals, whether in endurance or shorter forms of races, whether on the road bike, mountain bike, or in cyclocross races. The goal was to achieve baseline fitness in the aspect of cycling each individual most loved.

Team PHenomenal Hope also used this year to raise awareness about pulmonary hypertension in the PH community – attending local PH events, telling people about PH at the Pittsburgh Power Game, participating as bike marshals at the Pittsburgh Marathon on World PH Day, and spreading the word outside the PH community about what is pulmonary hypertension and why we ride. November 2013 brought many amazing PH community members on board in this effort, walking, riding, or doing whatever they could in Unity Miles events. The Race of Our Lives took hold, and the team drew (and continues to draw) a lot of inspiration from our team members from afar.  Meanwhile at the end of the year as our team began RAAM-specific training and our crew chief began to search earnestly for a group of people willing to make this crazy trip across the USA with us, to find the people who would get Team PH to the finish line…

It all comes together

Although much of the winter was spent indoor training as the streets were icy much of the time, when the weather broke, Spring 2014 brought the crew together with the team for practice sessions and an even greater excitement about what lies ahead. Our RAAM team comprises 17 people – 4 racers and 13 crew. We have a crew chief at the helm, assistant crew chiefs, drivers and navigators, medics, a team cook, mechanic, and media specialist. And everyone has a think-on-your-feet and get-the-job-done quality about them. And all contribute so much to our team. Learn more about each awesome crew member by checking out our updated team profiles!

Meanwhile our team grew even larger as the PH community stepped up and stepped out on the weekend of the PHenomenal Mile, joining in a national day of unity with PHA and Team PHenomenal Hope. It was incredible, and reminded us how Team PHenomenal Hope is bigger than 17 people who will travel coast-to-coast, it is all of us in the PH community, working together.

At almost one month to RAAM we look forward to this final push. Working together as a team, to accomplish something so few have the opportunity to do: race across America with the PH community. (To be continued)