EngSci Joan Deitchman’s Race Across America

Cycling 3000 miles across America in just twelve days is not an easy achievement. When Joan Deitchman crossed the finish line at Race Across America (RAAM) last June, she became the first Canadian woman to ever accomplish that incredible feat, clocking in at twelve days, 18 hours and 46 minutes.

Joan has been competing in endurance events like Ironman since 2001, but it was not until 2006 that she began to compete in multi-day, “ultra-cycling” events. She immediately became hooked to the sport, and has continued pushing her cycling limits since, culminating in her second place finish at RAAM this year.

When not cycling, Joan is a software engineer at Netflix. She compares the balance of cycling and engineering to her experience juggling labs and tests in EngSci and says the key to both is good time management and efficiency. “I spend a lot of time on my bike thinking about engineering problems that I’m trying to solve in my work,” she says, “and I’ve often come up with potential solutions in this manner.”

Problem solving is also an important part of the biking process, given the often unpredictable nature of ultra-cycling. This requires cyclists to adapt to problems as they occur, and for Joan, it means examining her race from an engineering perspective to consider all the factors and solutions, before choosing the best course of action. In fact, much of Joan’s problem solving begins before the race even starts, as part of her ongoing mental preparation. A large part of building her confidence and ensuring a smooth race lies in knowing that she has a game plan ready for all the challenges she might face.

Still, Joan believes it’s important to remember that no race is ever perfect.

“At RAAM, my race did not go anything like planned, and I had to fight all the way across. That my crew and I were able to get me to the finish line despite all of those challenges was an incredible accomplishment.”

She may be finished RAAM, but Joan is far from done cycling. Next August, she plans to compete in the Tour of BC, a 5100km race that covers British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon.

“I want to take what I learned from RAAM and attempt to apply it to another similar race. Plus, I love the mountains!”

(For more on ultra-cycling and Joan’s RAAM journey, please visit www.joandeitchman.com)