Derek Hill, a Kenmore resident and Kirkland police detective, and John Bergen, a Kirkland resident and a partner at Ernst and Young in Seattle, are teaming up for an epic race across the United States next month.
On June 17, they depart from Oceanside, Calif., to bike the 3,089-mile Race Across America course to Annapolis, Md. They are participating in the two-person relay event and have nine days to complete the trek.
“The race itself is epic,” Bergen, who was the first American finisher in the 2014 Race Across America solo event, said. “It’s a race like no other.”
During the race, the participants are GPS-chipped and there are 55 checkpoints along the way.
“It’s a very well-organized and marshalled event,” Bergen said.
If all goes well, Team Bergen Hill wants to get the race done in six and a half days, breaking the record of six days, nine hours and 41 minutes — figures Hill could immediately recall.
“We’d like to win the two-man relay,” Bergen said.
The two men have known each other for about a decade, bonding over shared experiences in various endurance events.
“We’re very competitive, always pushing one another,” Bergen said.
They were both athletes in high school, and once they began their careers, they were looking for ways to be more active, starting with a variety of marathons, triathlons and Ironman events in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“It became a process where I can continue to test my limits,” Bergen said.
“It’s been my passion,” Hill added.
They are both members of the Seattle-based Pauole Sport triathlon team, and when Bergen participated in the individual version of Race Across America in 2014, Hill was his crew chief.
“We were talking over the radio, and Derek said, ‘I don’t know about doing this by myself, but the two-man relay looks kind of cool,’” Bergen said.
To train for this event, Hill and Bergen have been keeping up with their regular fitness routines and endurance events, but they have stepped up their time on their bikes.
“We’ve been focused on more bike riding in the last six months,” Hill said, adding that they’ve been going on long training rides and participated in camps that simulate the race conditions.
Crew, community support
This trek across the country is about more than these two athletes. They will be joined by a 12-person crew in three vehicles as they make the trip. While Bergen and Hill focus on making it through the 24-hour-a-day cycle of biking across the country, their team members serve as drivers, navigators, mechanics and food runners. Their crew consists of family members and friends, including some who participated in Bergen’s 2014 solo trek.
“We strategically picked a few who have skill sets that are valuable,” Hill said, adding that one person is a physical therapist and another is a registered nurse.
Bergen said the race is much more than a physical challenge, it’s also mentally and emotionally challenging, and having a solid crew to support the racers is key.
“Your crew is your lifeline,” he added.
Ahead of next month’s event, the team is trying to raise money for two purposes, including collecting donations for the Issaquah-based Behind the Badge Foundation.
“It was established to help out families of law enforcement officers who have been killed or seriously injured in the line of duty,” Hill said.
Bergen and Hill also want to make sure they have enough funding to cover the expenses for all 14 people.
“We’re also trying to raise a few dollars for the team,” Bergen said. “It’s an extremely expensive event to pull off.”
For more information about the team or to donate, visit teambergenhill.com.