Peter Jackson can’t help but smile when he looks at the picture of him lying motionless in a blue sleeping bag (bivy sack) in western Montana.
Jackson, a 30-year-old Juneau engineer, was only a few days into the 4,200-mile Trans Am Bike Race, and he was already running into mechanical issues. The Alaskan’s rear tire ripped apart and needed replacement, and all he could do was lay on the cool grass until the nearest bike shop opened.
“This was actually wet grass here,” Jackson said in an interview Thursday, referencing the picture. “I was actually shivering there. I was not sleeping when (my brother) took that picture.”
This was just one of the many obstacles he overcame to place fifth out of about 70 racers in the grueling race, which began in Astoria, Oregon, and finished in Yorktown, Virginia. Jackson rode into the small Virginia town last Saturday, 20 days, 10 hours, 38 minutes after taking his first pedals on the other side of the country.
“It was really bittersweet because I found out that I love these sort of events while doing it,” Jackson said of finishing.
The Trans Am cyclists were completely on their own: no support vans, no aid stations and no helpers of any kind. For three weeks, fans could chart the racers’ progress as they zig-zagged across the Western states before making a beeline to the coast of eastern Virginia.
Jackson started his training in October, spending up to 60 hours a month on his bike. The Juneau man ramped up his miles in January, averaging close to 800 miles per month from January to May.
On a single training ride this spring, Jackson covered all the major roads in Juneau: Thane Road, North Douglas Highway and Glacier Highway.
Jackson found out he was a gifted rider as a teenager, when he would bike 20 miles to and from work. The Fairbanks native was soon competing in long-distance races, such as the Fireweed 200. More recently, Jackson competed solo in the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay.
Even that volume of cycling couldn’t fully prep him for the Trans Am, which tested mental stamina more than physical stamina.
“Really, you can’t train for something like this, you just have to have the mental game,” Jackson said.
Jackson said his typical day involved rising at 4 or 4:30 a.m. and start biking at 5 a.m. Jackson was near the leaders until his progress was thwarted by a broken derailleur cable in conjunction with a road closure at Yellowstone National Park. Jackson, however, would be able to catch back up to the leaders in about four days.
“I impressed myself with that one,” Jackson said. “What I did there was my goal was to have the least time off the bike as possible, so every 10 hours of riding, I would give myself one hour of off the bike time. That could be changing a tire, restocking food, using the restroom, just anything off the bike had to be done in that one hour.”
“That was a pretty successful rule until I caught them, and then I started socializing a bit because you do that on these types of rides and my stop time actually tripled once I caught up to them.”
Jackson equipped his carbon-frame bike with several bags containing a water pouch, spare tubes, warm weather gear, rain gear, multi vitamins, other gear and of course snacks. Jackson said he tried consuming about 10,000 calories a day to keep him going.
The avid cyclist is hoping to compete in another ultrarace in the future. Jackson said he’s currently got his eyes on the Indian Pacific Wheel Race, Australia’s version of the Trans Am Bike Race.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.