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June 13, 2010 / teamoperationprogress

Race Day 1 – Team OP #425

Saturday June 12th, 2010

The motto coined by Kristina Rippatti, “Train for Life,” has become a mantra as we begin the second day of RAAM and Mother Nature puts Team Operation Progress to the test. Supported by a crew of twenty two men and woman consisting of 75% LAPD officers and 25% adventure nuts, bicycle enthusiast.  All share a common goal to experience the thrill of a 24/7, cross country bicycle race raising the hope of the youth who need inspiration in their  lives to make it to their own finish line by graduating high school and going to college.

The logistics of Team Operation Progress is to work as a relay team, taking turns with short spurts on the cycle, keeping the wheels turning all the time. To accomplish this each team member is taking twenty-minute shifts or seven-mile intervals rotating between all four riders. Every four hours, one rider will receive a two-hour power rest to recharge and get ready for the next leg.  This strategy has been working well for the first 24 hours, but as time drags on and the weather gets hotter, fatigue is expected to setting in.  “Training for Life” has never been more important for our riders and crew.

The flagship behind Team Operation Progress is Kristina Ripatti, who started off on the strand in Oceanside with fellow South West LAPD Officers, family and the builders of her Extreme Makeover: Home Edition House looking on. Kristina rode the strand and then picked back up about thirty miles into race and cruised past the pastoral and scenic vista along the banks of the Lake Henshaw. Cattle grazed and a gentle tail-wind allowed her to cycle through Indian reservations handing over the reins to Mark Burson, the only male rider in the group.

Mark has earned the nickname Bionic Burson for his machine like consistency staying above 20 mile per hour average as well as his ability to set off metal detectors at airports due to the many metal objects in his body from previous biking accidents. Some people dream of orbiting around the Earth, Bursons’ dream has been to complete RAAM ever since his injuries dating back to 2007. Mark sees RAAM as a transformational experience that will both humble him and put him in awe of the beautiful country that we are all a part of.  His jovial spirit and inspirational attitude always keeps the crews smiling.   Despite encountering a locust storm in Lake Henshaw, some calf cramping, Mark, has come through as a power horse for Operation Progress, rallying the team through some of California most challenging terrain up an 8% grade towards peak where the mountains drop into the desert know as the Glass Elevator.

At the top of the Glass Elevator, Kristina relieved Mark and began her descent from the mountains into the desert.  Kristina’s husband and fellow LAPD Officer Tim Pearce trailed behind her in one of the  2011 Toyota Sienna “follow vehicle” donated by Toyota for this event.  The temperature rose from 65 to 90 degrees in a matter of five minutes.  In a similar fashion to most inner city Police Officer’s who face danger head on, Kristina leaned in and out of the hairpin turns like an Olympic bobsled athlete, breaking  the 45 mile per hour speed limit and her own personal speed record multiple times and descending 4,000 feet in elevation in a matter of 10 minutes reaching the bottom with a beaming smile.   Tim’s excitement for his wife was evident as he later stated that it must have felt like the “ultimate freedom” given her life is now restricted to a wheel chair.  For Kristina it was nothing but a thrill ride, having so much fun on the road.

With dusk settling in along the high desert of Borrego Springs and a small earthquake shaking the ground to remind the team of what they have in store, Kristina then let the strongest female rider, Franziska (Fran) Williams, a German native, now an American, get her first look at the California desert.  Fran rode strong well into the night passing one team along the way and never losing focus of the road ahead.  Her serenity and composure on the bike seems effortless and it is rare, if at all,  to see her panting after a long ride.  Fran sees the world on a bike as place where we can get back in touch with nature and its’ many wonders. Riding for the first time through the Imperial sand dunes along the border of Mexico, under the glowing starry skies was like floating in the cosmos. Once descending into the open desert of Arizona it was time for the forth rider, Nancy Guth, to spread her wings and ride.

Nancy Guth is an extraordinary woman who proves that neither age nor sex determines who can be an elite, endurance athlete.

Tough as nails but sweet as cherry pie, Nancy radiates an uplifting spirit.  You will never hear a negative thought or see a negative emotion come out of her.  A twenty five year veteran school teacher turned administrator, her passion for impacting the lives of youth through education couldn’t  make her a more ideal representative of Operation Progress. To add to her list of accolades, she is the oldest female (age 60) to compete in a four-person team in RAAM. Joined by her husband, John, crew chief for the team and fellow competitive bicyclist, they are an example of supportive partnership in every way and  show all who are watching how you can  “Train for a Life” together for eternity.

Sunday June 13.

Sunrise in Parker Arizona 6:30am.  The temperature has already reached 80 degrees. The lizards are nodding on the rocks, birds chirp on cactus and our crew is lathering up for a second day with the Murad’s Hydrate #3 Waterproof Sunblock. SPF30, age proof suncare.

After six grueling hours of relay night riding Kristina has taken a break from the action as Mark, Nancy and Fran pull through the hilly section of Arizona to reach Flagstaff, Arizona by the end of the day.

The team is going strong as Fran and Mark trade off every seven miles.

After riding into the sunrise, Nancy is nearly delirious.  Nancy has gone over twenty four hours without sleeping.  She is due for a two hour nap.  All signs point towards passing the 400 mile mark for every twenty four hours which would put us in Maryland in just over one week.  In order to keep it up we need your support all across America, police stations, teachers, bike enthusiast, the disabled community, senor Citizens, let’s all rally and get Operation Progress to the finish line.  Visit


One Comment

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  1. shelly obrien / Jun 13 2010 10:55 pm

    Thanks so much for posting the blog as we are all on the sidelines praying for team OP… you guys are such an inspiration to us all, including all the crew.. keep up the great work… you guys are the best

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