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Colorado Sports Broadcasting Veteran Jerry Schemmel Prepares For Solo Race Across America Quest

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Jerry Schemmel is about to embark on the challenge of a lifetime: a 3,000 mile cross-country known as R.A.A.M.

Video Transcript

ROMI BEAN: Jerry Schemmel has been a staple in Denver sports for decades. He spent 18 seasons broadcasting Denver Nuggets games, and then spent 10 years as the Rockies Radio play-by-play announcer. These days, Schemmel hosts a radio show called "Amazing Americans." And he might need to interview himself, because amazing is the only way to describe Jerry and his latest endeavor.

Jerry Schemmel is about to embark on the challenge of a lifetime-- a 3,000 mile cross-country race known as Race Across America, or R.A.A.M.

JERRY SCHEMMEL: I'm giving it all she's got, Captain.

ROMI BEAN: This isn't the first time Schemmel is racing in R.A.A.M., but it is the first time he's doing it alone.

JERRY SCHEMMEL: I did that race in 2015 as part of a relay. And it was sort of a test to see if I wanted or could do it, in my head, as a solo racer. And for a couple years, I didn't think it was feasible. And then I started thinking, other people have done it. Why not give it a shot?

ROMI BEAN: As he traverses through the diverse terrain of 12 states, Schemmel will battle through everything-- from 100-degree desert heat to climbing 170,000 vertical feet. And he'll need to cover at least 250 miles a day.

JERRY SCHEMMEL: If you want to finish this thing in 12 days, you've got to be in the saddle. You've got to pedal. So my plan is to be riding at least 18 hours a day. The sleep plan is to try to sleep from midnight to 2:00 or 3:00 each morning, and to get back in the saddle by 3:00 AM.

ROMI BEAN: R.A.A.M. is not a stage race. Once the clock starts, it does not stop until the finish line. It's the ultimate test of physical strength and mental fortitude.

JERRY SCHEMMEL: After about three days of doing this, it becomes psychological. It becomes mental. And you just have to tell yourself, I've got to be disciplined. It becomes a race of the mind more than the bicycle after a while.

ROMI BEAN: For Jerry, the key to fighting the mental fatigue is remembering why he's on the bike. His goal is to raise funds and awareness for the Kyle Pease Foundation.

JERRY SCHEMMEL: I think that's what keeps a lot of us going and motivated is, we think back why we're doing this. I'm not doing this for personal glory. I'm doing this to raise money for what I think is an incredible effort, a nonprofit that helps athletes with disabilities. And I think about those athletes a lot, and I think I will during the race.

ROMI BEAN: Jerry's love for cycling and his desire to help others are intertwined, both born from tragedy. Schemmel was aboard United Airlines Flight 232 when it crashed into a cornfield in Iowa in 1989.

JERRY SCHEMMEL: I think a part of me died in Sioux City, Iowa in that plane crash, and cycling makes me feel alive again. And I found that out, and then I realized I could do this to help other people. And it was just a great combination.

ROMI BEAN: After being given a second chance at life, Jerry hasn't wasted a single moment. He now lives not just for himself, but also for those who weren't so lucky that tragic day in Iowa.

JERRY SCHEMMEL: When 112 people died and I survived without any serious injuries, it gave me a lot of incentive. I just, I remember telling myself, a couple days after the crash, said, hey, you're going to live your life as best you can. You're not going to waste this thing. You got a second chance that all these other people didn't get, including everybody around me. Everybody died around me, and I got my life given back to me.

And this is kind of the way I look at it. Everybody dies, but not everybody really lives. I want to really live.

ROMI BEAN: Those are words for all of us to live by. You can find more on Jerry's story and how to donate to his cause at cbsdenver.com.