Jerry Schemmel Tackles Venture for Veterans Colorado Cycling Challenge to Raise Funds for Paws for Purple Hearts
On August 31, 2017 Jerry Schemmel, the MLB Rockies’ play-by-play announcer, is tackling the Venture for VeteransTM Colorado Cycling Challenge; A non-stop 468 mile race across Colorado benefiting Paws for Purple Hearts. Jerry is attempting to break the UltraMarathon Cycling Association’s record of 32 hours and 9 minutes.
We sat down with Jerry to discuss the challenge. It’s difficult to know where to begin as Schemmel’s background and experiences are rich and diverse. Jerry Schemmel has been described as hero, sports announcer, extreme cyclist and motivator. He’s a true Renaissance man!
Major League Baseball fans know Jerry Schemmel as “the voice of the Rockies”. Extreme cycling enthusiasts know Jerry Schemmel as a record-breaker and fierce competitor. The surviving passengers on United Flight 232 remember Jerry Schemmel as a “humble hero”, as ESPN documented. His community knows Jerry as a devoted husband, father and a man of deep faith. And thousands have been inspired by Jerry Schemmel’s motivational speeches.
PPH: We’re thrilled that you chose Paws for Purple Hearts as the beneficiary of your ride! How did you choose us over the many non-profits that work with Veterans?
Jerry: First of all, I knew I wanted to raise money for a Veterans group. My father served in the Army during WWII, my sister was an Air Force nurse and my wife’s father served as well. Although I did not serve in the military myself, I felt compelled to honor those who have bravely served our country. We have a mutual friend, Steffan Tubbs (iHeart radio announcer), and I asked him about a Veteran’s group to help and he told me about Paws for Purple Hearts. My wife is my partner in everything, including this ride (she’ll be in a support vehicle) and she’s a huge supporter of animal rescue and a dog lover, so fundraising for Paws for Purple Hearts was a natural fit for us.
PPH: All of us at Paws for Purple Hearts and the Veterans we serve are very appreciative, Jerry! This is our first Venture for VeteransTM and having you undertake the Venture for VeteransTM Colorado Cycling Challenge is huge for us. What are your specific goals for this extreme cycling challenge?
Jerry: Most importantly, I want to raise money and awareness for a great cause, Paws for Purple Hearts. And I want to beat the overall UltraMarathon Cycling Association record for solo non-stop cycle across Colorado. There’s not an age group for men’s cycling and I hope to set a new record. A good tail wind will help (laughs). But really, it’s all about Paws for Purple Hearts and helping more Veterans through the funds we’ll raise.
PPH: We are grateful and humbled. Thank you, Jerry. The Venture for VeteransTM Colorado Cycling Challenge is 468 miles with total elevation climbs over 18,000 ft. How do you train for such an intense ride?
Jerry: Since it’s baseball season and the Rockies play nearly everyday, training can be a challenge. When we’re playing at home in Denver, I try to ride in the foothills near my home before or after games. We’re on the road a lot, so I find myself in hotel gyms on a stationary bike when I can make time. Last night, for example, we had an away night game which didn’t end until 11pm. I was able to get an hour of hard interval training on the stationary bike pre-game and then a 1/2 ride on stationary bike when we returned to the hotel.
I have a light weight routine I do a couple of times a week in addition to road and stationary bike cycling, I’m hypoglycemic so I have to be really disciplined about nutrition for maximum output.
My life is a balance of family, baseball games and training. ~ Jerry Schemmel
PPH: Tell us more about how you sustain energy throughout such a long ride. What exactly do you eat and drink as your riding?
Jerry: As I mentioned, I have hypoglycemia, a blood disorder, so I have to be extremely careful about what I drink and eat during a ride. I have a couple low GI (glycemic index) drink supplements I use. And on this race, I will be doing a lot of eating while I’m riding. Probably mostly Cliff bars and protein energy drinks.
My general rule is to consume at least 24 ounces of drink mix each hour. And then supplement with appropriate calories from food. ~ Jerry Schemmel
Jerry Schemmel, Survivor and Humble Hero of United Flight 232
PPH: We’re in awe of your discipline and determination, Jerry! Let’s step back a couple of decades to your experience on Flight 232 which infamously crashed in Sioux City, Iowa. How did this experience change your view of life?
Jerry: That experience completely changed me. I’m not the same person I was prior to the crash and my priorities are totally different post-Flight 232. I’ve realigned my priorities in a healthy way. I didn’t really have a spiritual foundation prior to the accident and my career was everything. Now I’m fully committed to my Christian faith and have learned life is short and can be taken at anytime, so I live my life to the fullest everyday.
“I hate comparing what I went through to what military members experience, as my situation was an accident, not going into war as a volunteer. But I shared the experiences many Veterans have of survivors guilt and post-traumatic depression. I certainly can’t compare this to someone who’s come back from war, but I can relate better, in a small way, to what many military Veterans feel. These feelings and experiences play into the passion I have towards raising funds for Paws for Purple Hearts.” ~ Jerry Schemmel
Jerry Schemmel; Humble Hero
PPH: In your book, Chosen To Live, you write about saving a baby on Flight 232. You ran back into a fire-encased part of the dismantled plane. What was going through your mind as you did this?
Jerry: I didn’t think. It didn’t even register to think about the risks. I moved on pure instinct when I heard a baby’s cry from inside the portion of the plane I’d just escaped from. I was able to find, grab and escape the flaming plane again with 11 month old Sabrina who’d been flying with her parents and siblings. Miraculously, the entire family survived the crash.
I stayed in touch with Sabrina until her untimely death at age 20. I wouldn’t have written the script this way, but I believe God has a plan for all of us and I just have to trust God’s plan. Maybe someday I’ll understand why her life played out this way.
PPH: Wow, such an intense story with a sad ending. But as you said, we don’t always understand God’s plans for us.
Let’s move on to cycling and Venture for VeteransTM Colorado Cycling Challenge. You’ve already set a number of UltraMarathon Cycling records and through them have raised funds for various groups. Please tell us more about your extreme cycling and beneficiaries.
Jerry: Last year, I was part of a 4-man cycling team that beat the fastest time for cycling across Colorado. In 2015, I was part of a 2-man team that ended in victory for the Race Across America. That race was filmed and turned into a documentary, Godspeed, The Race Across America*, which will play in theaters in limited release later this year. We’re working on getting the documentary distributed through Netflix as well.
(*The documentary about Jerry Schemmel’s race, Godspeed, The Race Across America won the Audience Favorite Award at the 2016 Breckenridge Film Festival.)
Each race (authenticated by the UltraMarathon Cycling Association) has been a way for me to raise money for causes I think are important. I’ve helped raise funds to build a playground at a children’s hospital in Denver. Another race, I raised money to build an orphanage in Haiti. And another was to build an athletic field for a local school.
I’m really excited about Venture for VeteransTM Colorado Cycling Challenge! As I mentioned, my wife & I are doing this one as a team. She’ll be in one of the support vehicles with my crew the entire race, which is a first.~ Jerry Schemmel
For this race, it’s all about keeping moving. I eat and drink on the bike and only take pit stops if absolutely necessary. At the 24 hour mark, I’ll start to hit the “sleep wall” and will have to fight through that.
The Venture for VeteransTM Colorado Challenge is a really tough route over the Continental Divide! I’ll be starting at an elevation of 3100ft, up and over Monarch Pass (12885ft) and finish at the Colorado/Kansas border (elevation 2100ft).
I’m taking this challenge in honor and deference to the Veterans who have bravely served our country. And I’m completely covering the costs of the race so all funds raised will go to Paws for Purple Hearts.
I’m excited for Venture for Veterans Colorado Cycling Challenge! Paws for Purple Hearts is an awesome cause! ~ Jerry Schemmel
Jerry Schemmel’s Cycling Equipment
Saddle brand: Selle Italia
Biking shoes: Pearl Izumi
Wheel set: Shimano Ultegra
Bike is Fuji Grand Fondo. I also have time trial bike which is a Blu Bike brand. But through the mountains I’ll be on the Fuji most the time.
My bike shorts are Performance Bike Shop brand. I usually wear two pair, one over the other, just for a little extra cushion.
The other clothing totally depends on the weather. If it’s warm, just a short sleeve cycling jersey.