Dr. Steven Morton, your current AOAO President, recently qualified for the Race Across America by completing a 444 mile ride from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS in a Herculean 32 hours and 8 minutes!
Read more about this and his passion for cycling.
Dr. Morton after completing a 10,000 foot climb at Mt. Haleakala in Maui
What type of cycling do you prefer?
I primarily do road cycling. I have on occasion done some gravel grinding, but mostly road.
How did you get into the sport?
As a kid I rode my bike everywhere growing up in a small town in Massachusetts. However, I really got into road racing over the last six years. One of my son’s friend’s dad started talking to me about cycling at one of our kids’ sporting events and it went from there.
Tell us about the Race Across America.
The RAAM (Race Across America) is a race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD every year on the first or second week of June. You have 12 days to finish as a solo rider and nine days for a team. You must ride over the Sierra, Rocky, and Appalachian Mountain ranges. It is 3,089 miles long with 170,000 feet of climbing.
What does it take to qualify for The Race Across America?
As a solo rider, you must qualify to apply. Just like having to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I qualified for the RAAM completing the Natchez 444,444 miles from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS in 32 hours and eight minutes. I had 44 hours to complete. Unfortunately, I gave myself a handle bar palsy that lasted for about six weeks. Luckily the motor is completely back, still some slight tingling though. I’ve made some modifications to the handlebars to combat that the next time.
Dr. Morton with the Natchez Trace Bike Car
What other big races do you have this year?
This year I am looking at doing two more long distance rides to prepare for the RAAM. A 500-mile ride (either the Texas Challenge or the HooDoo in Utah), which both have a 48-hour time limit. The other is a 1000-mile ride in Texas with 96 hours to finish. I think this would be a little more challenging because I would have to stop and sleep at some point. I’d like to see how I would react with this before tackling the RAAM.
How much do you train?
My training regime is to get as many hours on the saddle as possible. Last year I rode 8000 miles, which averages 150/week. The rides are longer and outside in the summer. In the winter I use a Wahoo Kickr Indoor Trainer. I think the indoor trainer, with the new virtual rides, is a game changer especially when it’s raining or snowing. I live in a relatively flat area so getting hill work can be a challenge. The trainer (Wahoo Kickr) paired with the program Zwift is what I have been using indoors. I have a few friends that will go out and ride with me. The local bike shop also has group rides weekly as well. Most of my training is solo.
Riding the Wahoo Kickr Indoor Trainer
What brand of bike do you ride?
My first road bike was a specialized Roubaix and my current bike is a specialized Venge Vias Pro equipped with aero-bars. These races require certain lights front and back. I use a Garmin Edge bike computer that I can load the courses into. The computer will track miles, cadence, power, assent, time, weather etc.
Do you ever ride or race at night?
The Race requires that a car follow you at night. You cannot advance at night (7pm-7am) without a support vehicle. Anyone interested in helping – please give me a call. There are only so many times you can tap into family and friends.
How in the world do you maintain motivation for this much cycling?
I’m not sure what motivates me the most. I’ll never be Lance Armstrong. I’m too big and wide to be fast. I do have endurance and determination. I don’t like to quit – or be wrong for that matter. When you are riding, there is a certain amount of freedom. I can have conversations with myself to solve problems, listen to lectures as I am still working on my MBA or to music. But then everything goes quiet. You stop thinking, questioning, evaluating and then you are just there and the next thing you know you are 20-30 miles into a ride. You start to notice other things, your breathing, heart rate, animals on the side of the road, the corn and soybean fields.
Have you ever crashed?
There are two types of cyclists. Those that have been in an accident and those that will get into an accident. Anyone who has used clip in shoes has fallen over, unable to unclip fast enough. I have been run off the road by a car. But luckily nothing worse than bumps and bruises and road rash/skin loss from wipe outs on loose gravel. Another risk is pit bulls in Mississippi trying to bite your legs!
Describe some cool experiences.
RAIN (Ride Across Indiana/165 miles in 9.5 hours), RAIL (Ride Across Illinois/180 miles) and RAID (Ride Across Iowa/300 miles) with two of my friends. Hotel to hotel rides, like the Memphis to Tupelo, Tupelo to Oxford, and Oxford back to Memphis (300 miles in three days) are fun because you have to plan for any problem that could occur and you have to carry the solution with you. They can be very challenging with blown tires and tubes, broken chains, broken spokes, physical ailments and all types of weather conditions.
It is critical on long rides you have adequate food and liquid intake, which is harder to determine than you would think.
How has endurance cycling changed your life?
My Dad had his first angioplasty at 47 and another at 49, bypass at 52. I’ve never smoked and when I turned 42, and received my fellowship in Boca Raton, I started into a health maintenance program. I lost 50 pounds, relocated to a different practice, and never want to be in that place again.
Biking has been a great activity for me. I can do some thinking until I can’t think anymore. It is a great mental and physical stress relief. The personal challenge is very rewarding.
Editor’s Note: After reading Dr. Morton’s inspiring story I immediately went downstairs and got on my indoor bike trainer. I lasted 30 minutes and ran out of gas! I guess he doesn’t need to worry about me catching him from behind.
If you enjoyed this article, send a note to Dr. Morton.