Congratulations to Cynthia Norris – for setting a new Oldest USA W-E crossing record in the female , Standard bike categories at age 67 years 78 days. This is also a new GWR, displacing Lynnea C. Salvo (USA) at age aged 67 years 32 days on 23 October 2016.
Name: Cynthia Lynn Norris
Home Address: 1420 Moon Lane, Reno, NV 89521
Cell Number: 775-842-9054
Age at completion: 67 years and 78 days old
World Record Attempt: 2022-07-08: USA W-E attempt
Record attempt: oldest woman, point to point
Start Date: July 8, 2022
Starting Location: Anacortes, Washington
Finish Date: October 28, 2022
Miles Ridden: 3,322 miles
Ending date: October 28th, 2022
Ending Location: Henlopen State Park, Delaware
On August 15, 2019, I started riding my bicycle to work to improve my health and physical fitness. At that time, I was able to cycle a couple of miles before needing to stop and rest. Even so, I was determined to cycle the full 7 miles without stopping. Every morning, I woke up early and pushed myself to go just a little bit farther than the day before. After a month, I could cycle 7 miles each way without stopping. My body was getting stronger and stronger, so I just kept pushing myself to go a little farther and a little faster every time I rode. After a few months, I could cycle 40 miles at a time. Phoning my niece in Florida to tell her what I accomplished, she challenged me to ride from my home in Reno, Nevada to her home in Merritt Island, Florida. I could have refused, saying “Oh no, I couldn’t do that,” but to myself I said, “Heck, why not?” Right then and there I wanted to prove to the world that a senior citizen like me could still do something incredible. On a whim, I checked the Guinness Book of World Records for the oldest woman to cycle across the US. This woman was only 67 years and 32 days old. At that time, I was 65 years old, giving me two years to train and break her record. After all, heck, why not?
Looking back, I giggle at what a novice I was. My saddle the first year was 12” wide and 4” thick. I was too self-conscious ride with others. In fact, it took me a year to get enough nerve to join a beginner cycling class. Back then, I rode a hard tail mountain bike but quickly switched to full suspension due to severe back pain. The full suspension bike mitigated my pain, but I still needed to heal my broken body. Cycling across the US would mean months of long hours on a road bike in situations without support. So, I reached out to Thais Mollet, a Doctor of Physical Therapy for USA Cycling and the USA Olympic Team. Thais agreed to help me heal and train to build enough strength and flexibility to endure the long ride. She worked with me for two years, teaching me physical training tools to prepare me for the coast-to-coast challenge. I am happy to report that throughout the 3,322 mile ride, no major physical issues held me back.
From the moment I set my goal, I trained the best I could. Not a trained athlete, I still gave it my full effort and believed in my endurance. Being very stubborn, I did not waver one bit in my training, but remained steadfast and singularly focused on the end goal.
I have told my friends and family how I am the luckiest girl in the world. I have a husband, Rick Norris, who believes in me and supports me. From start to finish, Rick stood by my side. He did the hard work of driving support, logistical planning, and handling all official responsibilities. Rick’s efforts were undoubtedly more intense than mine, and his commitment to me never wavered. The two of us managed this ride with no outside help: I rode solo the entire route with Rick as my support. The ride might have been more difficult this way, but we treasured doing this together.
After two years of preparation and planning, the big day arrived on July 8, 2022 at 10:16 AM. That morning, I dipped the back tire of my bicycle into the Pacific Ocean at Kiwanis Waterfront Park in Anacortes, Washington. From there, I cycled along Washington Hwy 20 to US-2 at Grand Coulee Dam. Following US Hwy 20, I cycled through the northern tiers of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the northern peninsula of Michigan until I hit the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. From Michigan, I took various roads south to mid-Indiana where I turned east and cycled through Ohio and Pennsylvania to the finish line at Henlopen State Park, Delaware. I arrived on October 28 at 11:10 AM. Right there, 3,322 miles later, I knew I could become the new World Record Holder!
Rick drove my support vehicle every inch of the way. Our Jeep truck had flashing yellow tailgate caution lights and warning signs. Rick kept these flashing 100% of the time to warn oncoming traffic. A very pleasant surprise were the passing drivers, who were very considerate, and many cheered me on!
A major challenge was lodging and meals. Sometimes towns were hundreds of miles apart and very small. Decent hotels did not exist every 100 miles so we stayed in some not very decent hotels. We would have liked to pack camping gear had we enough space in our vehicle. We ate two meals a day and packed a lunch. Nutrition fell by the wayside as we ate mostly at restaurants, although I never regretted the chocolate-cream and pecan pies. I might be the only person capable of gaining 10 pounds after cycling 3,322 miles.
My bicycle was a handmade steel CoMotion standard two-wheel upright bike. This bike proved strong enough to survive rough roads and it was smooth enough for fast cycling along good roads. On a couple of occasions, we needed help changing tires, but in the middle of nowhere, we quickly learned we had to maintain the bike ourselves. The bike started out tubeless, but we quickly learned a blown out tubeless tire needed a pressure pump. Between Troy and Libby in Montana, we were unable to fix a flat, with the closest bike shop 70 miles away. We drove those 70 miles to get that tire changed. Once there, we switched from tubeless to tubes and then drove 70 miles to continue the ride. My new Gatorskins held up remarkably well.
Not all flat tire stories are bad ones. In Pennsylvania Amish country, a nail pierced my rear tire. Rick luckily found an Amish bike shop at a point where I was feeling very stressed and anxious about yet another setback. I was mistaken. The trip to the Amish bike shop was one of the best days of the entire ride. The man at the shop had never seen a bike like mine but promised to do his best for us. Using my spare tires and tubes, this very kind and gentle man started working on it, and with great care, tuned that bike up better than ever. Back on the road, that bike rode so smooth, it just hummed, without further issues for the rest of the ride. His kind wife showed me their horses and buggies and I shared pictures of wild Nevada horses. When I heard that their horse averages 22 mph, I challenged them to a horse and buggy race. I did try to race the buggy on the road, but it won on the hills! My anxiety just faded away and I felt much more relaxed the rest of the ride.
Nearing the finish line, I had 95 miles left to meet the targeted finish line date. Many people were counting on me, and family had traveled cross country to be there. Normally, a 95-mile ride would have been no problem, but not on this day. It was cold, windy, and rainy, and I had not rested for quite a while. I had no choice but to cycle 95 miles to make it on time to the finish line. Soaking wet and extremely tired, I kept pedaling. It took everything in me to reach that finish line. Getting myself to that finish line was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. Having said that, the last 95 miles was the best part of the entire journey because I realized that I didn’t have to prove anything to anybody because I already proved to myself that I could do it. I did it! I did it! I did it!
Throughout this ride I became quite popular with the news media. Various news stations across America featured me as an inspirational story. I became known as the #cyclinggrandmother. Google my name and you will find many of these articles. I had so much fun doing interviews and meeting so many people. It was a very rewarding experience!
A standard Strava app recorded each ride along with the corresponding heartbeat measurement. WUCA official, Larry Oslund, received this information. In addition to Strava records, we recorded GPS exact latitude and longitude with a Garmin InReach. As a backup, we recorded photos of the Garmin stats for each corresponding Strava. On occasion the Strava app would stop recording for an unknown reason. Maybe I accidentally did something, but I believe that no app works perfectly all the time. For this reason, we used InReach as a back-up. Strava also seemed to malfunction on cloudy, rainy, or overcast days or in isolated locations.
Here is a fun story:
I had just finished climbing and descending the last mountain in the Cascades and believed most of the climbing was now behind me. Wrong. Three days later we were following the back route of Highway 2 through orchards in western Washington. These narrow roads had steep short hills and no shoulders unlike those of the Cascade mountains, where traffic could pass us. Cycling through the orchards, traffic was backed up and forced to wait until I could pull over. On this Sunday, many impatient campers were heading home pulling their RV’s and boats. The situation made me nervous, inadequate, and overwhelmed, and I was giving it everything I had. How could I manage my rising anxiety? Soon a big white truck pulling a beautiful red speed boat passed me and then suddenly sped up about a half mile ahead of me. It then pulled over. Surely the driver was angry and pulled over to let me know. Coming down the steep hill, I watched him intensely. He got out of his truck, walked around to the passenger side, and pulled something out. I couldn’t see what it was. Walking back to the front of his truck, he then stood waiting at the side of the road. I kept looking back at Rick to see if he thought I should stop or keep going. I was very scared and didn’t know what he was up to. As I got closer, he held out his arm and I could now see he had something in his hand. Slowing down to make out what it was, I saw an ice-cold bottle of green Gatorade. That very second transformed me! Wearing a yellow jersey like in the Tour De France, I grabbed that Gatorade out of his hand and loudly yelled, Thank You! Thank You! That very second showed me I was not in this alone and that people everywhere needed me to succeed. People everywhere needed to see someone like me, who started from nothing, achieve something magnificent. This man saw that I needed help and he helped me. He did not know me, but he saw me. He saw me and I saw him!
I am eternally grateful to so very many people who helped me and cheered me on. I do not have words to describe my gratitude!