BY MARK CONCANNON | PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT HAAS
If you don’t think Dave Haase is at least a little bit nuts, he figures he’s not trying hard enough. “That’s how I function,” Haase says. “When I look at something, I wonder, ‘Is that crazy enough?’”
The answer most times is yes. Haase is an endurance athlete who has run and ridden his bike for hours and sometimes days on end with little regard for his well-being.
He finished second in a 24-hour bike race in Iowa last summer and qualified for the Race Across America, a 3,000-plus mile jaunt from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., this June. At the age of 47, he will compete in RAAM for the fifth time, the first since 2008.
Haase, who grew up and lives in Fond du Lac, says he could never compete with his talented, one-year-younger brother, Dean, in the traditional sports, so he looked to prove himself in other athletic endeavors. His first job out of college was selling software in 1993, and one of his top clients was a bike shop.
“I got into cycling, did a few events and did pretty well, and fell in love with it,” Haase recalls.
He turned that love into a full-time job when he opened Attitude Sports, a cycling shop in Fond du Lac, in 1995. He opened a second shop in Pewaukee in 2010 and splits time between the two stores, working 50- to 60-hour weeks while still finding extensive time to train outdoors in decent weather and indoors during the winter.
“I’ll wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning then ride my bike until I have to go to the shop at 9,” Haase says. “And sometimes I’ll ride another 30 or 40 miles at night.”
In the 2004 Race Across America, Haase was riding in the mountains of West Virginia and suddenly couldn’t breathe. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered his kidneys were shutting down.
“They said if I had gone a little farther, my kidneys would have collapsed,” Haase remembers. Instead of taking a few days to recuperate, Haase left the hospital after 30 hours. And tried to finish the race.
“I went another 50 miles and couldn’t go on,” Haase says. “I had a crew with me and we were invested, but we didn’t know what the heck we were doing.”
His ordeal landed him a prominent role in a TV documentary about the race that aired on NBC. He was also featured in a book about the event, “The United States of Delirium,” after his best finish (third place) in the 2008 RAAM.
In his self-admitted quest for craziness, Haase has entered other events that he wasn’t “particularly good at,” such as 100-mile ultra-marathon runs in Colorado and the recent 65-mile Frozen Otter Run on the Ice Age Trail in Kettle Moraine, where he finished fifth.
“I believe in pushing my limits,” says Haase, who also won events in 2014 by riding 32 hours non stop in a gravel road race in Minnesota, 33 hours straight over 520 miles in Utah (with no support crew), and a 500-mile race across Oregon. He was the first American finisher in the 2007 Race Across the Alps, a 321-mile trek that included 28 total miles of vertical ascent over various sections of the route across Austria and Northern Italy.
But conquering the Race Across America remains Haase’s most passionate quest. After his near-death experience in 2004, he finished fourth in ’05 and ’06 and third in ’08, the first American to complete the course in all three of those years. Haase feels wisdom will prevail over age and is optimistic about his chances this summer.
“I’m not concerned about being 47. My body is stronger, and I’m mentally stronger even though I might not ride as fast,” he says. “I’ll be relying a ton on my crew.”
His seven-person crew will include a nurse, chief mechanic, technical support people and some folks in charge of marketing and social media. Haase says the latter contingent is critical to achieve the difficult task of attracting major sponsors.
“I’ve had some great (financial) help in these races from local businesses, but when many people save their retirement money, mine has gone to racing for the most part,” says Haase, who is single and has no children.
So while most people his age are winding down their athletic pursuits, Haase will ride more than 3,000 miles in just over nine days, sleeping a total of 10 hours and sucking down liquid nutrition packs hoping his body will hold up. You can call him crazy. He wants you to.
“I’ve been chasing this RAAM thing and trying to win the race, so I think this would be my last RAAM,” Haase says. “But I’ll do the other events. It’s fun. I guess I don’t really know anything different.”
To sponsor or donate toward Haase’s RAAM ride, go to davehaase.com or call (262) 695-7433 or (920) 923-2323. m