RAW 2016 entrant Joe Frank went into the US Navy on his 17th birthday and four years later when it was evident that he was not your average sailor he was chosen as a Navy Seal candidate, “I went into Navy Seal training in 2007,” he said proudly in a recent phone chat.
“But while in training I got hit head-on by a drunk driver, which put me in a wheelchair for a couple of months with two broken legs. I had hardware in both legs and for a time it took running away from me.” During that time in which he couldn’t walk, much less run, Frank realized how much he missed being an athlete, “After I recovered I did five or six marathons and I had some buddies doing Triathlons so I tried that and did some half Ironman distances.”
More recently he began concentrating on just cycling, “I did my first century (100-mile ride) in 2011, he said, “And then I went on-line and found out there were such things as double centuries and so a couple weeks later I did one. Not knowing anything about that side of things I did some more searching around and found out that there are actually triple centuries! And then there are 500 milers, there’s RAW and there’s RAAM, so I guess for me RAW is just the next step, the next opportunity.”
Frank started RAW last year, but as with many of last year’s entrants the desert heat of the first day proved too much. He made it as far as Brawley, California, 145 miles from Oceanside before withdrawing. Undaunted he went on to race the Silver State 508 last September on a 2-rider team and he raced the Hoo Doo 500 as a 3-day stage entrant. In November he crewed for Mark Skarpohl at the 24 Hour Time Trial World Championships. There he met RAAM 2011 Rookie of the Year Alberto Blanco, “He’s taken me under his wing since,” Frank said.
Blanco will be Frank’s RAW crew chief and has been coaching and mentoring the 30 year old. Frank was surprised by some of what he’s learned from Blanco, “The big miles aren’t necessarily the best thing for you. My vision was that I’d pile on tons of miles. But Alberto taught me that it’s more about consistency with the miles through the months. I’m doing 200-400 per week on average. Before I’d go out consecutive days in a row and just do a lot of climbing and didn’t think too much about it.” Frank lives in San Diego, but is currently on two-week training trip in Seattle with Blanco.
Frank is fully in education mode these days, and not just regarding Ultra Cycling, “I’m getting into a grad program for exercise and nutrition,” he revealed. How does a student afford to do RAW, “It’s all coming out of savings and some sponsorship here and there,” he revealed, “That’s something that I learned real quick is that this game gets expensive real quick!” To limit those expenses Frank will have a minimal crew, “We’ll have one Dodge Caravan and a crew of three. That’s it.”
Sadly, the crew member Frank most wants to have will not see his return to RAW. “My father Joe passed away earlier this year,” Frank related. “The last race I was in, the Hoo Doo 500, he was my crew chief. That was the last time I got to see my dad. I wanted him to be a part of RAW. So now this race takes on a different meaning. He was supportive of me getting into these events. I’m thankful that he was able to be there for one of my full distance Triathlons in 2014. “ He concluded his phone chat by saying, ”There are things you can control in sport; how you eat, your weight, your emotions, but there are things that are out of your control—humbling things that can and will happen.”