There are only so many hours in a day. What we fill them with is up to us.
Usually, work consumes the largest portion of our time, especially when working in the trades as of late. Then there are kids and spouses who require, and deserve, a good deal of our attention. After that, typically, is the rare and elusive “free time,” to be spent as we wish. Maybe those hours are dedicated to a hobby, physical fitness, church, a philanthropy, or just relaxing.
Matt Lapp, owner of JM Lapp Plumbing & Heating, in New Holland, PA always has a full plate. The 38-person business maintains a full schedule, and also recently purchased, renovated and moved into a new shop.
Above (L-R): Jason Ranck, General Manager, Matt Lapp, President and Carl Devine, HVAC Sales, outside the new JM Lapp headquarters in New Holland, PA
Beyond work and family, Matt has found a way to consolidate his free-time passion with physical exercise, fun, giving to those in desperate need, and as if that’s not enough, to claim a major life accomplishment for himself.
Lapp has been riding bicycle seriously since 2012. His goal is to average 3,000 miles this year. Once or twice a week, he sets out on his own or with friends and cruises the countryside of southeastern Pennsylvania.
He’s no slouch, either. In 2018, he completed a one-week leg of a ride hosted to raise funds and awareness for Zoe International, a group founded to stop human trafficking worldwide and help those who’ve survived the atrocity.
After completing the Zoe ride, conversations between Lapp and his riding partners turned to larger challenges. The largest challenge, in fact. They set their sights on RAAM, or Race Across America for 2019.
“I have five children of my own, and it breaks my heart to think of what life would be like for children involved in human trafficking,” said Lapp. “I know I can’t do everything but I can do something to combat this source of evil.”
Above: Matt Lapp discusses why he decided to compete in the Race Across America for Zoe International.
The Mt. Everest of bike races
Armed with his Specialized Venge cycle and the will to support Zoe once again, Lapp set out to tackle the most imposing long-distance cycle race in the world. RAAM is seen as a pinnacle of athletic achievement not only in cycling circles, but the greater sporting community.
There is no other cycle race that combines the distance, terrain and weather the way RAAM does. It’s a true test of speed, endurance, strength and camaraderie. RAAM is 30 percent longer than the Tour de France, covering over 3,000 miles, 12 states, and climbing over 170,000 vertical feet. Each year, racers from at least 20 countries compete. This past year, riders started in Oceanside, CA, and rode to Annapolis, MD.
While solo racers must qualify to compete, anyone may organize a relay team and race. This is exactly what Lapp did, with friends Elmer, Allan, Allen and Jonathan Fisher, Brad Ortenzi, Kyle Sensenig and Sam Lapp.
During the year leading up to the race, the team prepared physically, and by gathering sponsor support for their charitable cause.
Above: The Race Across America (RAAM) is one of the longest running events in the world. It is over 3000 miles and has over 170,000 feet of vertical ascent!
No free ride
“We had an eight man team and a 15 person support crew, between a follow vehicle, a 15-passenger van and a media vehicle” said Lapp. “Each rider was responsible for a certain level of funding for Zoe. I had multiple sponsors to help reach my goal, U.S. Boiler Company being one of them.”
“We set out on June 15. We spilt into two four-man groups. Each group took a 12 hour shift,” he continued. “During your 12 hour shift, each team member rode 15 minutes every hour to stay fresh and sprint when riding. Once a rider was dropped off, the van would leap frog ahead and prepare the next rider for his 15 minute sprint. During the day, we could transition with traditional, relay-style rolling stops, but at night, transitions had to be full stops. In either case, a rider could proceed as soon as the incoming rider’s front tire passed his rear tire.”
Some people imagine that RAAM would be a fun way to see the country, but Lapp explains that there’s nothing leisurely about the pedaling. It’s a race that consumes every ounce of the rider’s concentration and stamina. The Zoe Team’s goal was to maintain an average speed of 20 MPH.
“Everyone on our team was a rookie,” said Lapp. “Going into it, we didn’t really know what to expect, but we assumed that the largest challenge would simply be physical exertion. In reality, sleep deprivation was the hardest thing to overcome. We slept about three-and-a-half hours each night.”
Extremely challenging or traumatic events allow you to see the true colors of the people you’re with. Groups of people can really get to know each other, and concrete friendships are often formed this way. RAAM 2019 was no exception.
On June 21, the Zoe team wheeled into Annapolis, successful. It had taken them six days, six hours and 52 minutes. They maintained 20.4 MPH on average, breaking their pace goal by a comfortable margin.
“Our goal was to raise $150,000, and we were short by roughly $2,000 when we crossed the finish line,” said Lapp. “But we hit that goal by time we got on stage to receive awards. As of today, we raised $175,000 for Zoe International.”
Lapp and his riding partners are planning to compete in RAAM in 2021, this time with more ambitious pace and fundraising goals.
“There’s a great sense accomplishment having completed the race,” said Lapp. We’ve found a way to take one of our passions and turn it into an opportunity to help and raise awareness for a cause we all feel very strongly about.”
Above: Matt Lapp’s Race Across America re-cap.