2001 Furnace Creek 508

After last year's race I swore I would never do the 508 again, being totally burned out on (Ultra) cycling. This year Jim Pitre and I raced successfully in RAAM as the two man E- Caps team, which made me change my mind and get ready for yet another attempt to break the 50+ record of 31:21. Defending my title in the Badwater/Durango race as well racing in the proposed Badwater to Horse Shoe Meadows race should get me fit enough. This year however, Lady Fortune refused to smile on me. The weekend after RAAM, cresting a hill in great shape, I was run off the road in an accident very similar to the one which occurred on a recent PAC Tour. Fortunately the car's mirror hit my wrist rather than my head, but I could not ride for three weeks, so much for my after RAAM conditioning peak. Hugh Murphy retired from organizing Ultra events, so much for racing into shape. Add extra work and family commitments to the mix and there you have it, the ideal setup for a DNF.  Usually I am quite confident in my cycling abilities, but lately I don't seem to be able to keep up with my cycling peers. My muscles are sore, the joints ache, my attitude is poor etc., etc. Resting days did not seem to make a difference. After much soul searching I decided to not cancel my entry. All this litany of negativity serves to set the stage of a very apprehensive Penguin at this years 508 start.

Fortunately I have a great crew. Charlie Griffice, long time cycling friend, has a tremendous faith in my cycling abilities. Just not to let him down, I have to finish and finish well. Dan Crain is a very strong rider. I noticed him in 1996 and 1997 as someone who I often just could not shake from my wheel. He finished the (notorious? gruesome?) Adventure Corps Brevet series as well as the inaugural Everest Challenge out of Bishop, California. I can't let him down either. My wife decided not to crew at the last moment. She hated to leave the kids alone with the recent terrorist scares. Dick Dickinson ( another strong rider ) was gracious enough to join the crew literally days before the event. This is how the Penguin presented himself at the start: super crew, decked out support van, great heart but no legs. Oh BTW that suspension bike I was alluding to in last years report? Still on the drawing board.

The largest field ever!  More fast riders than I ever experienced in my prior 508's. Andrew Otto, Justin Peshka, Fabio Biasolo and Mark Patten, just to name a few. Even Seana Hogan is making her come back. Eric Ostendorff, good friend and former crew member, is racing this year as Ostrich. He is in great shape and will be tough to beat. Former team mate Jim Pitre is set to beat last years 60 + record.

" If I can just make it over the steep hill near the end of San Francisquito Canyon without blowing my knees . " Along with Doug "Dog" Sloan I am the first in the canyon. Lord only knows how many riders pass me by in the canyon. "Stay steady, keep toes down, point the right toes out, gear down, I will never DNF" is my mantra for the entire race. Damn headwind! Usually there is tailwind in the canyon ( I should know I have ridden this section of the 508 close to a hundred times) but  not on race day. Of course. "Space out more" yells Marie Handrahan, 508 official. That is easier said than done. I will be damned if I slow down and I can not sustain a faster pace. With the increased number of riders the rules should be relaxed somewhat in the canyon. It is hard enough to stay out of the way of all the support vehicles and especially those crewmembers  either with a death wish or demonstrating a complete lack of attention to anyone but their racer. Someone throws his wind breaker, nearly blinding me. Chuck "Gecko" Giles and I trade places for a while. He is very strong on the flats especially with headwinds but I am the better climber. I fear he is pushing himself too hard, he is 60 + and is hanging out with the front pack.

Along the way I talk to a few, they all are exited to ride with the Penguin and are surprised I am not in the front, little do they know. No dogs attack me on the "Avenues", that's a first. On to the Wind mills, a lot easier than usual. Descent to Mojave. Strong headwinds, I actually have to push the pedals hard to keep going. Gecko gets the "carpet " treatment over the tracks. "Nice touch crew." " Next time leave it on the tracks a few seconds longer, will you." Guess what? Headwinds to California City. Steve "Scorpio" Winfrey, determined to beat me this year, is way ahead. As easy as the Windmills were , as tough are the Rollers to Randsburg. Finally the climb to Randsburg, Gecko is recuperating and changing bikes. There is a whole string of riders in front of me but I haven't a clue as to who they are.  "Frankly my dear, I don't give a d...." As long as I can stay in front of the 50+ and 60+ ( this sounds awful, like I am a card carrying member of the AARP ). Make a right and a left and....... Darn! They broke the asphalt up on Trona Rd. I used to ride Harleys and they are tough to control on these grooves, let alone a bicycle. Change to the Softride, ChamoisBtrr (lots of it), first pee since the start ( I was getting worried) and back on the bike. Having loads of fun!! If you need a vasectomy, just do this road a couple of times and that will take care of everything. Seana Hogan comes to mind, being a recent new mother, I wonder how she is enjoying this part of the race. As I mentioned before, I consider Seana to be Super woman or at least to have originated from that planet. While I am struggling to just keep up with the "peloton", she is out there beating the tough guys. Unbelievable! Did I mention the asphalt on the descent to Trona was broken up as well? Let's skip Trona. I knew the climb out of Trona is long, but I conveniently forgot how truly long it is. All "good" things come to an end and the view of Panamint Valley with the late afternoon sun makes it all worth it ( you bet!). Can't wait to try out the new pavement on Panamint Valley Rd. It is indeed smooth as silk. It is dark when we make the right turn to the climb of Towne Pass. I have never seen so many flashing light in front of me strung out over the mountain ( unfortunately ) and so many headlights strung out behind me. This year the climb to Towne Pass was the toughest of them all. My crew thought I was climbing well and indeed I was passing riders, but I was suffering as never before. In fact I had the "shakes" at the top and could hardly control my bike on the (slow) descent. Through Death Valley we have mild headwind. I trade places back and forth with Eric "Red Rooster" Wilson. He is faster, but gets off the bike a lot. Strong headwinds to Salsberry make me change to the Spectrum, my climbing bike. My crew mentions afterwards that I lost a lot of time on this climb, but I felt I climbed well considering the headwinds. Charlie predicts tailwinds to Baker and he turned out to be right, unfortunately only for 10 miles or so. Ibex feels harder this year and no one can enjoy  the road to Baker. This road goes on forever, climbs about 600 ft, headwinds and one is riding it trying to stay awake near daybreak. This year I am so worried about everything I forget about falling asleep.

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 On to Kelso. During all this we are passed by the Davis Tandem near Ashford Mills. Bill Palmer and Emmy Klassen passed us a ways before Baker. With all the teams and the many solo riders neither I nor my crew really know who is in front. Near the top of the climb I run into Doug "Dog" Sloan, a very talented rider but bonking presently. He is in need of Hammergel! Fortunately I have extra I can share. Next up Granite Mountains. That is one loooong climb, it climbs higher than Kelso. We hit the top with Wagner's Ride of the Valkeries blaring from the speakers. This is quite the emotional moment for me, the memory of this will be a keeper. The next section, which includes the long descent into Amboy ( today's Dante's inferno with 108 F), I truly learned to hate. The potholes are hard to see, but they are ready to catch your wheel and my rear end is so sore. If you have ever seen a horse rubbing its tail to the stall wall ( this is considered a vice ) this is how I looked bouncing all over the seat trying to be in less agony. Headwinds into Amboy, but headwinds here mean possible tail/cross winds  on the approach to Sheephole. After bonking on this approach in 1995, I am always apprehensive here. Sheephole is HOT! Kangaroo Rat passes me. More power to him. For a millisecond I am considering chasing him. Forget it, just finish. Similar to last year, if you don't pay attention to the mileage, the turnoff to Utah Trails comes up sooner than expected. Thank you Lord! It is getting dark, put those lights on again ( no DQ for me ). A few more RAAM legal stops for Stop signs. Have to stay honest, but it is sure hard on the old sore quads. Last killer hill is taken in my triple and in the distance we can see the finish. I can't believe I made it. My sixth 508 finish without DNF! First place 50+  Eighth place overall in 35:32. Picture time. Paul Biron finished about 1/2 hour before me and does he look tired but excited at the same time.

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 Well that is the 508 for you: periods of agony and total exhaustion mixed with moments of bliss and ? ecstasy.

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The "Penguin" Team. 

From l to r: Dick, Charlie, Penguin, Dan



Thanks to Chris Kostman for continuing to put on this great race. I can't wait to receive the spectacular new jersey. Thanks Charlie, Dick and Dan. You guys were fantastic. I hope I can return the favor.

Congratulations to all the finishers and winners. I am very proud of Eric Ostrich Ostendorff's great ride. Eric has crewed for me many times and has been a great source of inspiration and encouragement to me. 

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Special congratulations go to my former Team E-Caps team mate Jim Pterodactyl Pitre on a truly epic ride, beating his old record and finish in 37:55. This new 60+ record will stand the time.

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