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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Furnace Creek 508 video!

Turn your sound on and enjoy.

Facts and Figures


Average Speed 13 mph
Maximum Speed 31.3 mph
Distance 508.1 miles
Odometer 21,989 miles

Average Heart Rate 137 bpm
Maximum Heart Rate 187 bpm
TOTAL number of Heart Beats 371,749 beats for the event

Strangest thing this has never happened to me before...

Minimum Cadence 4 rpm
Average Cadence 61 rpm
Maximum Cadence 148 rpm

Gear Selection 49 x 17
Gear Ratio 2.88
Gear Inch 76.7
Pedal Revolutions 133,735

As far as my recovery (excerpt from an email sent to my crew on Thursday Oct 11, four days after the race)

1, I have a lot of pain on my left knee. It is swollen and painful. It is slowly hurting less but very painful. I truly believe any lesser man/woman would have DNF'd with the pain I was feeling. Brandy gave me so many IBUs that it helped--- slightly. The adreneline of catching other riders helped me focus away from the pain. (UPDATE TUES 10/23 HEALED)

2. I have a swollen left ankle and also painful but not as much as my knee. It is slowly feeling better. (UPDATE TUES 10/23 HEALED)

3. My left hand is still numb. My palm is very sensitive to pressure. My middle finger Ring Finger and pinky are still tingling. I'm sure it will go away but just feels weird. (UPDATE TUES 10/23 15 DAYS AFTER RACE LEFT HAND AND PINKY STILL SENSITIVE CAN NOT PUT PRESSURE ON IT. OTHER FINGERS ARE FINE)

4. My right tricep was so stiff and painful. I had done many sets of push-ups and dips to prepare for the prolonged pressure on them. I think it helped but 45 hours is a long time on the bike. The FG doesn't allow you to take pressure of your arms and rest on your butt and coast. I don't have tricep issues when I ride multispeed. I have a good core and ride light on the bars.(UPDATE TUES 10/23 HEALED)

5. I had gained 15 POUNDS from my pre-race weight of 156 lbs up to 171 by Tuesday night. 168 by Wed night. My legs swelled so much that the skin was pulled tight. It actually hurt to have my skin stretched so much. I'm slowly getting back down to pre-race weight. I was 161 today. (UPDATE TUES 10/23 159 LBS)

6. I always catch a cold or some respiratory issue from these Ultras. This time I think Brandy kept the supplements coming and I think I avoided it. My nose is still bleeding everytime I blow it. But otherwise I feel fairly healthy.

7. My Hemoroids flaired up on Tuesday from all the solid recovery food on Monday and Tuesday. I will eventually have to get them treated for the long term if I keep doing Ultras. (UPDATE TUES 10/23 HEALED)

8. My recovery has been slow because on Monday when I should have been sleeping I couldn't go to bed until after I put my son to bed at 9pm so I was awake since Sat 5am until Monday 10 ish pm I was awake 65 hours. Well that is the Ultra life when you have children.

And once again a very big thank you (crew) for your dedication to my success. Their experience and dedication showed in every effort that the made. They were truly there to see me through to the finish of this very difficult challenge and I could not have asked for a better team, it was a seamless effort all around. Thank you Terry. Thank you Timmer. Thank you Brandy. I have you to thank for this accomplishment.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear Solo Race Report Part 8

Stage Eight: Almost Amboy to Twenty Nine Palms, 58.2 miles. Elevation Gain: 4170'.

Arrived Monday 4:12am, 45 hours 12 minutes

From the 508 website

"After you pass through the funky throw-back hamlet of Amboy (where you can not count on any services), you cross the valley and at mile 472 begin the last climb: 1500 feet in 10 miles to Sheephole Summit (Mountain Section Ten). The climb begins gradually and gets steeper near the top. The shoulder is very sandy; the crew should be careful with the vehicle. A quick descent leads to the rough road and rolling slight uphill to the finish line"

Last year Almost Amboy was my favorite Time Station. They had the place decorated in a Hawaiian theme. It was cool and the energy from the volunteers was refreshing. This year it wasn’t manned by the same folks and it just didn’t have the same feel to it.

My only focus after leaving Almost Amboy was chasing down Thrasher. He was so far gone I knew it was a lofty goal but it spurred me on to take the last 58 miles and give it all I had left.

I was really tired (understatement) and falling asleep just putting in the miles on my way to Sheephole Summit. And then I started “chasing the lights”. I did the same thing last year. There’s something about knowing you only have 50 miles to go ---heck that’s just a club ride--- that really motivates you.

I started doing intervals on the climb. First couple of intervals were just at a moderate level—remember I was falling asleep so moderate is actually a step up. They didn’t last long only about 30 seconds, and then 1 min, and then 2 min. After a few of those I started building the intensity and was doing 30 sec and 1 min long intervals at very high intensity. As I got closer to Thrashers’ lights it motivated me even more. After a long chase, I passed him on the climb and again he passed me on the descent. This, like I mentioned before, was fun for me and it kept me alert and motivated.

If you look at the profile the last 25 miles are a steady incline. I caught Thraser again and I just wanted to keep him within reach but his follow vehicle yielded to the right so I sprinted past him as fast as I could remembering Chris Kostman’s comment on passing “….and then as you pass them you blow their doors off…” Not an exact quote but it is pretty close. REMEMBER I HAVE BEEN UP 40+ HOURS THIS WAS VERY EXCITING TO ME AT THE TIME! I hope now when you read this you can feel some of the excitement I was feeling. The way I see it, it is little things like this that fuel me to the finish line after so many hours. Thraser and his crew were very nice people and congrats to them for finishing. I also passed the 4x person team Pac-Rats in the last five miles.

As I was nearing the finish I asked that my crew cross the line with me. I thought it was important for them to share in my success since they played such a vital part in it. My crew was great. I was spoiled by them and I wonder how I will find a better crew. Brandy, Terry and Timmer thank you so much for all your support. I couldn’t have done it without you. And that’s it I FINISHED THE FURNACE CREEK 508 FIXED GEAR SOLO. One of only seven riders since 1983 to do it it Fixed Gear.

Shaking hands with Thrasher after the race.

Pictures courtesy of AdventureCORPS

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear Solo Race Report Part 7

Stage Seven: Kelso to Almost Amboy, 33.8 miles. Elevation Gain: 2280'.

Arrived at Almost Amboy at Sunday 11:16 pm, 40 hours 16 min Avg. Speed 11.22 mph

From the 508 website

Compared to the just completed Baker Grade, you now head up a slightly steeper climb: 2000 feet in 12 miles to the top of the Granite Mountains (El 4000’) (Mountain Section Nine). The downhill to the outskirts of Amboy is fast and long; watch out for cattle guards.


I got into Kelso and met up with Thrasher. His crew was amazed that I was doing the 508 on a Fixed Gear. And quite honestly at that point so was I. I was getting closer to the finish line with each climb.

By this time I had switched to my favorite cold weather climbing garb. I love wearing wool when it is cold and I'm climbing. It breathes well and I don't sweat as much as I do with synthetics. Then when I descend I don't get a chill. I see so many riders covered from head to toe with so much gear and all I'm wearing is an ultra thin base layer and a fairly thin wool jersey. Why did wool fall out of favor? It is really the best gear to ride in. I get my clothing from Vintage Velos.  The quality of their clothing is without question the best wool clothing I have had the pleasure to ride in.  Not to mention that some of the wool trainers look great with a pair of jeans on after a ride!!

I got a head start out of the Time Station but soon I could see the lights coming from my left of Thrasher’s follow vehicle. He had caught me and then passed me. This was the start of what would be an exciting exchanging of the lead between Thrasher and the Vireo, at least in my head.

On this climb I started to “see” things in the bushes and up above the bushes. I thought I saw at least five shooting stars. Would that be possible? I also thought I saw aircraft lights, and for a long time I thought a “light” following me. Yes I had been awake about 38 hours and I guess that is expected. At one point, I let me crew know that I was seeing things. I wonder what they thought. Terry being an experienced Ultra racer himself probably knew right away that it was normal and nothing to be alarmed about. But just to be safe I started doubling up on my Red Star Energy Tablets so I could remain alert. Red Star Energy has the energy boost of the popular energy drinks but much more convenient for a cyclist to carry on a ride since the tablets are lighter and smaller than a can of energy drink.

I saw Thrasher’s lights way up ahead on the climb and decided to chase him down. It took a huge amount of effort but I was less than 80 miles from the finish and I felt well enough to give chase. Except for the usual aches and pains of being on the bike that many hours I had really only about three pains specific to the Fixed Gear riding.

1. My left hand was numb because my right tricep was in pain and I was compensating by riding with only my left hand on the bars and my right arm in an imaginary sling.

2. My left knee was in pain from all the very slow hard mashing and pulling up on the pedals on some of the steeper climbs.

3. My left ankle was in pain for the same reason as #2.

I chased and passed Thrasher on the climb and as usual he and all multi-speed riders passed me on the descent. He passed me going so fast he was a blur and then I could see Thrasher’s lights far off in the distance. They kept getting smaller and smaller on the long 20 mile descent.

I was concerned about the 20 mile descent in planning for the race. I remember how sore my shoulders and neck were from all the time I spent in the tucked position on my multi-speed in 2006. It was a long way down---- I couldn’t coast ---- and my butt was killing me----and I didn’t want to go any faster than 20 mph because everything hurt and bouncing on the saddle was not appealing to me whatsoever. But eventually I made it into the Almost Amboy Time Station.

Arriving at Almost Amboy I had completed 451.6 miles and 32,056 feet of climbing

Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear Solo Race Report Part 6

Main graph above. This section we will cover from Mile 381.6 to mile 416.5

Stage Six: Baker to Kelso, 34.90 miles. Elevation Gain: 2920'.

Arrived in Kelso Sunday 8:26pm, 37 hours and 26 min Avg. Speed 11.13 m

From the 508 website

"Leaving Baker, you climb a gradual but relentless 2500 feet in 20 miles (Mountain Section Eight). It may be heating up, so drink plenty. A long descent leads to Kelso at mile 418."

This next section is soooo boooorrrrinnng! The climb out of Baker goes on and on and on and on. Not steep but just “relentless”. It was warm but the sun was about to set in a couple of hours and I just kept plugging away. I remember Yodeling Plankton getting a lead on me leaving Baker but I caught him. Then he passed me as I was putting my lights on the bike--- it was nearing 6pm. And then I passed him again.

that red speck up ahead is Yodelling Plankton..

and here is the pass (seemed to be a really nice guy) ...

While I was training I couldn’t find a road to simulate the slope of this climb. But I actually was looking forward to the Baker climb. The gentle grade I thought was well suited for Fixed Gear riding and it proved to be just that. If you can get past the long boring slope it isn't that bad of a climb. I actually enjoyed it.

The roads are horrible in these last sections. They shouldn’t even call them roads. Descending was very "exciting" as I was trying to ride the fog line to keep from hitting all the potholes.

I had completed 416.5 miles and 29,776 feet of climbing

Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear Solo Race Report Part 5

Here is the main elevation chart. The section you are about to read is from mile 325 to Mile 382

Part 5 or 7

Stage Five: Shoshone to Baker, 56.3 miles. Elevation Gain: 2186'.

Arrived Baker Sunday 4:38pm, 33 hours 38 minutes Avg. Speed11.33

From the 508 website

"After an easy 750 feet climb up Ibex pass (Mountain Section Seven), there’s a killer, long downhill, then the road to Baker is mostly flat and straight. The crew should stock up on gas, ice and food in Baker as no supplies are available until the finish".

Once I turned right onto the 178 East/South 127 (same road) I was treated to a nice tailwind. It was the same last year. A short stop at Shoshone and a short chat with the “Ostrich” and off I went. But not until I ordered a “cheeseburger …add bacon”. It was daylight and I could ride without the need for direct support. My crew stayed behind gassed up got my cheeseburger and met me down the road just before Ibex Pass.

my usual Ultra comfort food "cheeseburger...add bacon"

I was very hungry by the time the crew showed up with the cheeseburger and I just devoured it. My feet were hurting just as last year. ONCE AGAIN THE FACT THAT I COULDN’T COAST OR TAKE MY FEET OUT OF THE PEDALS MADE IT VERY HARD TO GIVE MY FEET ANY RELIEF. My feet were killing from the terrible road surface and it would only get worse in the next 2 stages

As I rolled into Baker I felt relieved that I was going to make it. Somehow psychologically I always feel better once I’ve made it to Baker. It was warm not hot and I thought the next couple of climbs will be fine.

As I was leaving Baker Tom Parkes reminded me that none of the fixed gear riders had ever DNF’d. No pressure Tom. But it truly made me feel that I needed to step up my game because I couldn’t go down as the “only” fixed gear rider to ever DNF!

Arriving in Baker I had completed 382.9 Miles and 26,856 feet of climbing

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A couple more pics...

one of my favorites just look at how far you can see into and across Death Valley...

Click here to see a larger version it really deserves to be seen this way

utter disgust of having to stop on a descent into a head/cross wind heading to Shoshone

Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear Solo Race Report Part 4

Elevation chart for the entire race the section you are about to read is from Mile 253 to Mile 325

Stage Four: Furnace Creek to Shoshone, 73.6 miles. Elevation Gain: 6744'.

Arrive Shoshone Sunday 10:30 am, 29 hours 30 mins Avg. Speed 11.07 mph

Part 4 of 7

From the 508 website

South through Death Valley, the alluvial fans are invisible in the dark, but you climb and descend several thousand feet through Badwater (El -282’) to the base of the exit passes (Mountain Section Six). The first climb starts at mile 300 and climbs about 1000 feet in five miles to Jubilee (El 1285’). A one-mile descent leads to the next climb, about 2300 feet in 9.5 miles to Salsberry (El 3315’). Each climb has sustained sections of 5-5% grade and usually poor road surface; in fact, all of the road is terrible after you pass Badwater.

I felt great as we left Furnace Creek and headed towards Badwater. But my drivers were getting tired and the sleep deprivation was getting to them. By the time we got to Badwater we had been on the race course just shy of 23 hours. I wanted to ride through Death Valley and stop for the night at Ashford Mills. I wanted to feel like I had gotten further on the race course riding Fixed Gear than the year before riding multi-speed.

As we left Furnace Creek I had this feeling that I could actually ride through the night without stopping. I had secretly wanted to beat my time from last year multi-speed and even though I wasn’t moving very fast on my Fixed Gear I wasn’t too far behind my 2006 multi-speed time. If I could just keep the wheels rolling I might makeup some time over last year.

You may recall, in 2006 I had had nutrition problems which caused me to be nauseous and off the bike puking most of the first day. So here we were with a slight tailwind moving through Death Valley and I was feeling great. But by now the crew was tired and once again I knew I had to take care of my crew.

Stretching my back after an hour stop...

We stopped at Badwater so that they could catch a catnap. After talking to my crew chief, we decided it would be a good idea for me to take some time off the bike even if I couldn’t sleep. Up until this point in my Ultra career, albeit short by most standards, I am not able to take 10 min. power naps and get back on the road. If I am to be a better Ultra racer then I need to learn to take power naps. In this case, we stopped for an hour. I laid down on a sleeping mat (crew chief read my 2006 race report) with an open sleeping bag and as usual couldn’t sleep but I heard my crew snoring.

After an hour, we roused up and got back on the road. It was good to be off the bike for a little bit. ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT RIDING FIXED IS SINCE YOU CAN’T COAST IT IS DIFFICULT AT BEST TO GIVE YOUR BUTT A REST OFF THE SADDLE BECAUSE YOU ARE ALWAYS PEDALLING.

long gentle rollers in Death Valley....

The slight undulations of the desert floor are perfect for Fixed Gear riding. The inclines allow you to motor up and the gentle downhill grades don’t require you to spin out as you descend. Things were going well and my legs felt fine and the rest did me good.

At the base of the two climbs on the south end of Death Valley I decided it was time to switch to my full zip jersey so that I could get some extra “cooling”. It was now 9am and it was starting to heat up on the desert floor. A quick change to my Velosport jersey and up Jubilee Pass I went.

I struggled on Jubilee and then again on Salsberry which eventually tops out at 3315 Elevation. By the way, you need to add another 200 or so feet of elevation gain just to get back up to Sea Level. Jubilee is five miles and Salsberry is 9.5 miles. The headwinds were really strong while climbing and just as strong on the descent to Shoshone. I pulled over twice I believe and had to do some “soul searching”. My legs were just giving out. I wasn’t tired. I just couldn’t “squat” anymore. So I pulled over and after about a minute I could take off and start climbing again.

Notice the downhill truck warning-- 8 miles....

It was along this section that I met “Yodeling Plankton”. He was impressed by me being on a Fixed Gear and I was impressed that with the heat he could climb in leg warmers and a camelback. We traded the lead several times and we just looked at each other. I had my headphones on and was just trying to get up the pass. I’m not much for conversation when I ride and especially when I climb.

Can you believe I actually had to stop on the downhill from Salsberry Pass? Well I did I just didn’t have the legs to push into the headwind and down a hill. Pitiful isn’t it? Of course by now I am 325 miles and 29 hours or so into the race.

Arriving at Shoshone I had completed 326.7 miles with 24,670 feet of gain

And now a word from our sponsors....


Monday, October 15, 2007

Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear Solo Race Report Part 3

Race Profile. This section we will cover from Mile 153.15 to Mile 251.8

Part 3 of 7

Stage Three: Trona to Furnace Creek, 99.2 miles. Elevation Gain: 7538'.

Arrived Sunday 0437, 21 hours 37 min Avg. Speed 11.71

From the 508 website

"Just north of Trona (mile 160) there is a 1000 foot climb up the Trona Bump (Mountain Section Four); the descent from there into the Panamint Valley is winding and may be fast with a tailwind. Some of the road ahead is very rough, but it used to much worse. At mile 200 you’ll begin the 13 mile, 3800 feet climb up Townes Pass (El 4956’) (Mountain Section Five). The climb up to 2000 feet is gentle, then there are steep grades of 10-13% to 4000 feet; the last few miles are gradual. It will be chilly at the top and you have a fast 17-mile, 5000 foot descent to Stovepipe Wells, where it may be hot! Desert rollers take you to Furnace Creek."

We left Trona with a full tank of gas and all our safety equipment on the follow vehicle and bicycle. The first obstacle was the Trona Bump. It is such a misnomer. Nothing that is 1000 feet of gain should be called a “bump”. For most people that would be a hill at the very least. But when the next climb is a 13 mile haul up Townes Pass I guess you could stretch it a bit and call it a bump.

After the Trona bump there is generally downhill rolling terrain as you lose altitude through Panamint Valley towards the base of Townes Pass. I was feeling great during this section but started to get hungry. I had been on an all liquids since the start. I think I had had two halves or a turkey sandwich about a couple of hours apart.

At the base of Townes Pass I thought it would be a good idea to take a little time off the bike and get some solid foods in. I was feeling great but those are “famous last words.” The challenge I had was that on a lot of the climbs I had to stand and that left little time to drink. I had to stand and muscle up the majority of most climbs as opposed to sitting and spinning which would enable drinking. Well as I as eating the sandwich I became naseous. I started heaving and decided "...enough is enough I know I should eat something solid but this is making me sick. I'm going back to liquids."

I was dreading climbing Townes Pass most of the day because on many of the rollers I was struggling just to keep the cadence above 20 rpm. I just knew Townes was going to be a challenge. It is however a a cool sight to see all the lights of the follow vehicles going up the mountain. After the first 1.6 miles the climb got steeper. Then after a few more miles the ramps of 10% or more started to wear my legs down.

The only analogy I can give you is go to the gym and load up the squat rack and start doing squats. And then keep doing squats until you legs start to fail and then keep doing even more squats. You see you can just walk away from the squat rack but on the bike you need to push one more pedal stroke OR YOU WILL FALL OVER.

Alas, I had to pull over a couple of times and finally, almost in tears as I was feeling sorry for myself, I asked my crew for my running shoes so that I could walk. Prior to giving in to the running shoes I had been doing track stands and tacking back and forth to keep my moment going. My crew must have been so attentive to my needs that there are no pictures of me tacking or walking up Townes.

It was at this point that as a decent climber I was feeling more than sorry for myself. How could I succumb to a 13 mile climb? I felt defeated. I’m not one to walk up any climb. But the 49 x 17 gearing I had chosen was puttin' a hurtin’ on me. After about 1/8 of a mile, I got back on the bike and continued the climb without walking again. This was the toughest section of the race for me. I whined like a baby but no one could hear me. I remember looking over my right shoulder and seeing the pullouts on the road where I had pulled off last year. I kept going until the summit. Once at the summit I suited up with warmer clothing because at 5,000 feet it was bitterly cold. I had time for a couple of pictures and then down the mountain I went.

Trust me that really is me...

And now the descent--- If climbing Townes was difficult you would think “oh goody a descent” Nope. Descending steep grades on a Fixed Gear isn’t that much fun. I did use a “drag brake” for the 17 mile descent into Death Valley. I could feel myself going through the different thermal layers as I descended from 5000 feet to below Sea Level. And all I kept saying to myself, “ I can’t wait to come back on my multi-speed next year”.

A few rollers and I made it into Furnace Creek time station. I was feeling really good now that I had “conquered” Townes Pass on my fixed gear. I said hello to Jack “Blackbird” went to the bathroom let my crew do their thing and then told my crew I was ready to roll.

253.2 miles and 17,926 feet of gain completed only 256.7 miles to go

Here is the link for the rest of the pictures.