Former Race Across America Director, Jim Pitre, posted the sad news to the RAAM Yahoo Group that Randy Van Zee was killed yesterday while riding his bike. He was struck and killed instantly by a vehicle from behind as he was riding west into the setting sun near his home last evening.
Randy is survived by his wife, Denise and family in Sheldon, IA. A funeral is planned Tuesday afternoon April 8th at Vander Ploeg funeral home in Sheldon. My prayers are with his family.
In 2004 Randy finished RAAM even though he had crashed and couldn’t get on or off is bike by himself. After finishing RAAM, he went to the hospital and found out that he had a broken pelvis. In 2006, the year I attempted RAAM, he was planning to race again but a training accident kept him from racing.
The last finisher in the solo race was 52-year-old Randy Van Zee of Sheldon, IA. He finished in eighth place (second night time solo finisher) on Friday morning at 2:40 a.m. with a time of 11:16:26 over eight hours behind Moonen.
Riders have to finish in less than 12 days and 2 hours to be official, i.e., by noon, Friday, July 2. Randy had over nine hours to spare. He had the classic solo RAAM finish – exhausted with failed neck muscles and terribly swollen feet and ankles; he had to be helped off his bicycle by crewmembers. Having an all rookie crew with just two minivans, he slept on cement at times. Waking up at 4 a.m. to ride before work every day in training finally paid off, though he said, “I never trained enough for RAAM.” When his neck gave out on him in New Mexico, he had to start wearing an Allen Larsen-inspired neck brace. His friends made it after they watched Larsen’s RAAM videotape. Two ladies he works with brought him this device and adjusted it on him. He crashed near Troy, OH, injured his groin and cracked his pelvis. Although he couldn’t walk, he could still ride!
Randy’s daughter Rachel lives in Germany and flew to Atlantic City to see her father finish. Her husband Chris (serving the USA in Iraq) learned by e-mail of Randy’s finish. Standing very proudly on the Boardwalk, Randy said, “If you can do RAAM, you can do anything.” So how can a 52-year old, full time worker and grandfather finish RAAM while other much younger men training full time have to drop out? The difference has to be in attitude. Van Zee had an iron-willed desire to make it to the finish line regardless of whatever obstacles were thrown into his way. When his neck muscles gave out in New Mexico, he could have thrown in the towel. When his feet and ankles became painfully swollen, he could have checked into some hospital and had a doctor tell him things will only get worse if he keeps riding, but he didn’t. My vote for the Ian Sandbach inspiration award would have clearly gone to Randy Van Zee, but then the award couldn’t have been handed out at the awards banquet on Wednesday evening. So I hereby create a new award called Chew’s Most Tired Award given to the solo rider who finishes looking the most exhausted/beaten-up thus embodying the true spirit of RAAM. Few people got to see Randy finish in the wee hours of the morning that night (many officials, media people, riders, and crew had already left for home), but those who did will forever remember Van Zee’s courageous/heroic finish. His neck muscles will heal and the swelling of his feet and ankles will go down, but his finish will never be forgotten. Randy became the 169th person (including unofficial fin ishers) to finish solo RAAM – a number far less than those people who have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest.
“Van Zee had an iron-willed desire to make it to the finish line.”