RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, TEXAS –
Twelve years ago, one Team Randolph member began her journey into the world of competitive cycling.
After breaking a time trial race record, Rhonda Womack, wife of Master Sergeant Jeff Womack, 12th Mission Support Squadron, has her sights set on a bigger finish.
She began as a recreational cyclist and developed an interest in charity rides. In addition to mountain biking, competing in sprint triathlons, circuit and criterium races, time trials and endurance races, she has now qualified for the Race Across America.
"I began competing in 2003 with the short races, but it wasn't until 2006 that I decided to work towards my goal of qualifying for and competing in the RAAM," Ms. Womack said. "I've always been intrigued with individual sports like cycling, swimming and running, because with these sports, the more you train, the more you'll improve."
On the surface, Ms. Womack leads a normal life. But, a look under the surface reveals that Ms. Womack competes with her own body as well as her cycling competitors.
She lives with Celiac Disease, which affects a person's ability to absorb nutrients, and due to the disease, she is highly allergic to wheat and gluten.
"I thought my training was going well until I changed the way I was eating," she said. "The change was day and night. I feel more energized and recover much quicker now."
She doesn't let the disease stop her from excelling in competition.
"My typical training week consists of 15-20 hours of training ranging between cycling, running and swimming," Ms. Womack said. "I have to balance my time between work, family and training, but I'm able to do it by eliminating time wasters from my day."
Recently, Ms. Womack completed a time-trial race that would qualify her to compete in the RAAM. To qualify, racers must cover 500 miles in 48 hours or less. Ms. Womack, being only the third woman to ever finish the race, crossed the finish line at 42 hours, 51 minutes, breaking the women's record by one minute.
"For me, cycling keeps me young and in tune with who I am," she said. "I love the solitude of the sport in the training and racing. You get a sense of who you are when you spend hours upon hours out on quiet back roads day and night."
Once qualified, competitors are eligible to compete in the RAAM at any point over the next three years. Noted as the "Worlds toughest sporting event" by Outside Magazine, this race will take her on a trek from San Diego, CA to Atlantic City, NJ in a maximum of 12 days.
"My goal is to compete in June 2008," Ms. Womack said.
Ms. Womack is always looking to the future. She is well on track to complete the RAAM, and is starting to train for the "Worlds toughest foot race," the Badwater Ultra Marathon. This foot race will take her 135 miles non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, Calif., in temperatures up to 130 degrees in 60 days.
"I strongly believe one shouldn't quit after a victory," Ms. Womack said.
So whether she is busy working, training or racing, this fierce competitor has decided to give life her all and meet its challenges head-on.
"There is a quote I read many months ago that puts everything into perspective for me," she said. "Always involve yourself with something that is bigger than you are, because that's where God is."