Extreme Ride of a Lifetime: Taking on Cross-Country Bike Race

Race Across America participants have 12 days to prove they can ride 3,000 miles coast to coast.
7:08 | 07/08/14

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Transcript for Extreme Ride of a Lifetime: Taking on Cross-Country Bike Race
endurance. From California to Maryland. This grueling coast-to-coast bike race is not for the faint of heart. ABC's Neal Karlinsky went along for the ride. Reporter: Welcome to an endurance test so hard, so unimaginable -- Saddle sores already. Dehydrated. Maybe this wasn't the greatest idea. . Reporter: Racers are virtually guaranteed to suffer injuries and quite possibly hallucinate. I've hallucinated before. I sue a chupacabra that I'm pretty sure wasn't real. Reporter: They call it's race across America, or R.A.M., billed as the world's toughest and craziest bike race. It's nonstop, 3,000 miles. There isn't anything close. Reporter: 3,000 miles from California to Maryland. No hotels, no beds to sleep in. Just a bike, a support team, and a camper. And the willpower to right night and day through rain and sweltering heat, all of it before the 12-day cutoff. We cross 12 states, 88 counties, 350 different communities. . Reporter: Racers come here from 27 countries. It is an eclectic group. This year including pippa Middleton as part of a team and dozen of athletes most people have never heard of. "Nightline" followed two teams on an odyssey that is more cannonball run than tour de France. How are you feeling? Way better now. It's 10:00 at night and still 95 degrees in the California desert when we find p.j.lingley, a firefighter and family man, suffering badly during his first ten hours. Little bout of diarrhea going up the hill. Oh, really? Oh, no. That was no fun. Did you have to stop? I made one pit stop. He's done about 150 miles so far, P.J. Has, and he tells us he wants to go another 200 before he takes his first nap. Reporter: P.j. From Arizona worked closely with the 19 firefighters killed in a Yarnell wildfire last year. He told us at the start the suffering on the bike is for them. It was really hard for me because it was, you know, close to our back yard. When I saw it on the news, that they had not heard from the 19, I was hysterical. Reporter: P.j. Is raising money for the victims' families, and in fact even though it's not a race requirement, most R.A.M. Racers we met are testing themselves for charity. Teddy George is a doctor who treats pulmonary hypertension, a rare and sometimes fatal disease that causes shortness of breath. She assembled a four-woman team for the cause and to mark her own personal milestone. When you turn 40, you have a choice to make. You either can put up signs that say "Lordy, lordy, look who's forty." Or you can race across America. I say bring it America. Let's go. Reporter: Only a few hours in it's evident that the race is cruel. Out on the road one team is moving at top speed when disaster strikes. Unfortunately we had a crash. Pretty bad crash down by the hospital. Broken shoulder. Reporter: Early on for patty and the ladies of team phenomenal hope just keeping on course is proving a challenge. At first she's saying straight. Patty, you're going to be turning right to get onto 76 east. Reporter: The next morning we find P.J. Struggling. He's behind schedule and faces disqualification if he can't make up lost time. Pretty rough day. Really? How so? I just didn't have any go. Trying to get food and drink now. Reporter: To get a better sense of what p.j.'s going through I grab a bike and join him. What do you say to people who look at you and others in this race and say you're nuts? You're nuts? I agree. Wholeheartedly. Reporter: During our ride the temperature alone is inhuman, ranging from 115 to 118 degrees. Have you thought about quitting? You're human. The thoughts must creep in. They do. I fight like hell to get them out, but they do creep in. And I don't share them. But it's a fight. Absolutely. And anybody who says it isn't is lying. Reporter: I happen to be a cyclist who loves this sport. But this is beyond anything I can imagine. This is no joke in this heat. My heart rate is really high. And you're doing this all day and night for a week. Reporter: By 11:00 P.M. P.j. Finally gets a break. Not to rest but to pay tribute to his friends, the Yarnell firefighters buried in a cemetery just off the route. It's hard to wrap my head around it. We get to stop in and kind of share this with everybody. It was a long road getting here. Very long. We're going to keep going. Reporter: Day four, and somewhere in Kansas the ladies of team phenomenal hope start to feel their bodies break down. Giving my quad a massage, trying to roll out the knots on a foam roller. It's really painful but when you get up your expectations are -- Reporter: They improvise to get by and strangers offer them a kiddie pool turned ice bath. We borrowed it from you guys. Thank you. Reporter: For P.J. The race with himself was becoming too much. His crew began documenting his struggles with knee pain and swelling. Eight days into the race we got this heart-wrenching voicemail from his wife Colleen. P.j. Ran into this really serious hallucinating last nig night. He's done. The race is over. Reporter: He wasn't alone. Only 27 of 48 solo riders made it to the finish line. Back home P.J. Describes the mind tricks he experienced on the bike. My hallucination was my crew was making me ride extra miles and making it tougher than it had to be. The best way I can describe it is it felt like an alternate reality. It was very strange. Reporter: Will he race again? Maybe. He gives it about a 50-50 chance he'll try again in two years. Pippa Middleton crossed the line with her team in 6 1/2 days. While the ladies of team phenomenal hope were greeted by supporters only 17 hours later. I wanted to laugh and smile and cry all at the same time. I did. Reporter: Crazy? Maybe. No one gets rich or famous on the race across America. But the mighty few who survived it know that it's really all about the race within. I'm Neal Karlinsky for "Nightline" in Prescott, Arizona. This year the winner finished the race in seven days, 15 hours, and 56 minutes.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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