Todd Carpenter, Idyllwild Arts Campus technical director and theater faculty, is putting his summer break to optimum use — racing in an endurance cycling event from California to Colorado.
Starting at noon Tuesday, June 14, Carpenter will race 860 miles from Oceanside to Durango, Colorado, stopping only to sleep. Asked what his goal was, Carpenter said, “I just want to finish.” Carpenter is hoping to ride the first 36 hours, from his noon start on June 14 to midnight on June 15, without stopping for sleep. He’ll then take a four-hour sleep break.
The Race Across the West is one part of Race Across America, one of the most respected and longest-running endurance sports in the world. The 2016 RAAM will be the 35th iteration of the event. The RAW event is the ninth time this breakout section has been held.
Unlike the European Grand Tour races, RAAM and RAW are not stage races; they are continual races from start to destination, much like a time trial. The race website notes that racers must balance sleep with riding since the clock does not stop when racers take sleep breaks. It also advises that top finishers on average sleep no more than 90 minutes a day. Others can’t afford to sleep more than four hours a day if they plan to finish within the time allotted for the race.
RAW cyclists have from June 16 to June 18 to complete the race. Both races begin in Oceanside. RAW ends in Durango and the coast-to-coast race ends in Annapolis, Maryland. Both are open to professional and amateur racers. In either race, whether solo or team, racers must have support crews following them.
Carpenter and his wife Bonnie have been full-time faculty members at IAA since 1998, after coming west from Wisconsin in 1997 to teach at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. Bonnie is currently IAA Arts dean and, like Todd, is a member of the technical theater faculty. And just as they have worked closely together at Idyllwild Arts, the couple is making this race an IAA Team Carpenter event. “I’ve crewed for all but one of his endurance races,” said Bonnie. “They call it a solo race but this is a team event for sure,” said Todd.
Bonnie is Team Carpenter crew chief. Todd’s sister Shannon Seegmiller, IAA Theatre Chair J. Barrett Cooper and former IAA theater student Eric Bulrice are crew support. Bulrice is currently facilities manager and technical director at the Durango Arts Center in Colorado. The crew will travel behind Todd in two vehicles. Bonnie runs the team and makes the critical-support decisions, including monitoring when to require Todd to sleep.
Cycling had not been a part of Carpenter’s life until he and Bonnie moved to Idyllwild. “I had always been interested in cycling but only got serious about it after we moved here,” he said. “I say ‘serious’ loosely because after all, it’s riding a bike, something we’ve all had fun doing since we were small children.”
But once he became serious, cycling became a passion. “I entered my first 24-hour race as a team event,” he remembered. “Over the next several years we’ve raced about 30 24-hour solo mountain bike races all over the country.”
After Todd and Bonnie had their second child, they took a break from competitive cycling and crewing to concentrate on expanding their home to accommodate their growing family. “This RAW will be the first race we’ve done in three-and-a-half years,” said Todd. “It’ll be exciting to see how we perform.”
Carpenter acknowledged it will be a challenge with 50,000 feet of total elevation gain. When the couple first moved to Idyllwild, they rented a cabin only for the nine-month period they had expected to stay. But Idyllwild worked for them.
“We love the town and the sense of community,” he said. “We’re fortunate to live in such a good community to raise a family. Our children are welcome on the IAA campus where they are exposed to our talented and inspirational students. In town, we enjoy running into friends all the time. Stopping to get the mail can sometimes take a half hour because of running into so many friends, a problem we love to have.”
Carpenter holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and an master’s in fine arts in theatrical design from Northern Illinois University. He worked professionally in the Chicago area at Oak Park Shakespeare Festival, Steppenwolf Theatre and Williams Gerard and Ravenswood Production studios.