Solo 508?? Forget it!!! Two man team?
Maybe. Four man team? Now you are talking. Just over 100 miles of cycling. A walk in the park.
Team "Poodle" consists of Doug
"Dog" Sloan, Tim Skipper, Joe Petersen and yours truly, Peter "Penguin" Pop. Supported by Tim Coleman, Tony Estrin, Linda
Pop and crew chief par excellence, Paul "Sparrow hawk" Biron.
Team Poodles at the pre-race mtg. : Tim, Peter and Doug. Joe
is still in Bakersfield rounding up crew.
How did our team get "Poodle" as
a totem? Our fearless race director, Chris Kostman, decided to combine Dog and
Penguin. Too much libation during deliberation, no doubt!
My first pull, in San
Francisquito Canyon, shattered my preconceived notions on team ultraracing. This
was going to be anything but "a walk in the park". Red lining the HR monitor,
having chest pains and being too out of
breath to even take the smallest sip of water, I am going
all out, to just keep up with the competition.
Jeez, this is hard. No way I am going to disappoint my team members, especially
"thunder thighs" or "freightliner" Joe Petersen. Joe is the city of Bakersfield's
claim to fame in team RAAM with numerous successful RAAM finishes. Us solo
riders are going to show him a thing or two!
First pull in San Fransisquito Canyon
Pass two riders. Get off my bike at
the stop sign at Spunky Canyon. Can't catch my breath! I have to do this twenty
more times?!?! Doug is up next, let him suffer for awhile. He is so fast, we are
sure to move up in the standings. Johnson Summit, Joe Petersen is up. Doug rode so hard,
his face turned gray. Looks like he is having "fun".
Doug Sloan near Johnson
Joe Petersen at Johnson Summit after transition with Doug
Joe is about as
big as Shaq O., but is more "aero" than Lance A. Can that guy
descend! High speed wheel shimmy? No problem he just puts more weight on the
pedals and keeps on going. There is headwind, but that is to our
"Freightliner's" advantage. At California City we are 11 minutes behind the
" Eels" a 50+ team. Somewhat disappointing since it took us
4hr16m to get there. Lead Solo rider Eric "Ostrich" Ostendorff
took 4hr22m to this first time station. We are all riding as hard as we can. By this time I perceive that
the ones working hardest on the team, may well be our crew. In my van, Linda is
the driver and Paul does all the bike changes. Is he getting a workout! Thanks
Paul! Tighten that quick release will you! Where are the lights? Those lights
need to be taped. No, not that one, this one. And so it goes for the whole race.
Joe wants to do the Randsburg rollers.
my guest. As it turns out there is just no safe shoulder to pull over for a transition
rollers take their toll. Even our Joe is getting tired. We make the switch after
crossing the rail road tracks. Doug is up. Halfway the climb, I take over. Tim takes it at the stop sign in
Randsburg and on we go. I get a long pull form the T crossing to the time station in
Trona. Doug gets his long pull on the climb out of Trona and then on the descent to
Ballarat. This time I am the "lucky" one who gets treated to the rough section of
Panamint Valley Rd. In the distance, the number of support vehicles with their orange
flashing lights is not to be believed. In past 508's, racing solo, I found
myself at or near the
front and never experienced this kind of traffic congestion. Joe brings us to
Towne Pass and then absolute CHAOS sets in. An unending
traffic jam of riders and their support vehicles "crawling" to the
top. Remember we are now passing the slower solo riders. Some are spinning,
barely doing 2 or 3 miles per hour. There goes Ron "Worm" Way, on his
mountain bike no less! I hope to be that fit when I reach his age. Just passing
the solo riders is fine, but throw in the teams with all their support vehicles and
it quickly gets confusing. Who is following who?? The transitions get tricky.
You are not quite sure if it is a competitor or a team mate approaching. Once
committed to a switch, it's hard to bail and get out of harms way after
the discovery of your error. Different colored flashers on the bumper should
help identifying each team. Next year (yeah right!), I will install one. Since we are saving "the Freightliner" for the descent, I
get to enjoy a few extra pulls. Fine with me, I like climbing Towne Pass. Years
ago, Ken "Elk" Eichstaedt likened the 508 to an "out of
body" experience. A journey of discovery of the mind. Climbing those major
climbs of the 508, especially, at night is indeed awesome and inspiring. Towne
Pass certainly ranks number one. If only I
could catch my breath!! At the summit I take over from Linda, to give her a well
deserved rest and to closely
follow Joe on his hair raising descent into Death Valley. Remember those two
"dips" where you loose sight of the road? THEY ARE STILL THERE!!! I am
driving on the wrong side of the road so that if he crashes, I won't run him over.
Linda is terrified. You guys are CRAZY!
At Furnace Creek, time station number two,
we are 17 minutes behind the Eels and 2 minutes behind the Falcons. With all the
solo riders and the two man teams, I don't have a clue who is where. Racing
through Death Valley is boring but fun. Passing Bad Water and the slow rollers
to Ashford Mills reminds me again of all the agonizing and great moments I
have had doing the previous 508's and Death Valley DC's. Remember the elation
you experienced in gaining rapidly on the red flashing lights in the distance,
only to find out the humongous "U" turn in between?
by Chris Kostman in Death Valley
Doug "redlining" it in Death Valley
I can do without the atrocious road
conditions though. Climbing Jubilee Pass and Salsberry
Pass, we all
share short pulls. Joe takes the descent again. Finally Baker and then the 18
mile gradual climb of Kelso. By this time everyone seems kind of worn out. Still a
long way to go though. After a few more extra pulls we reach the power station
at the top. I am redlining it, but am I wasted. Across the tracks at Kelso and
there we go again: the climb to Granite Pass. Very deceptive.
When you think you there, there is still a long way to go. We have slowly gained
on a two man team, they are tough, but Joe puts them away. Hurrah! Joe takes the
longest pull of the day: the descent into Amboy. Before you know it we
arrive at the dreaded approach to Sheephole. Always hot. Always headwind. Four man is a
lot easier though. We keep the pulls on Sheephole short and sweet. Transitions
are tricky with the soft shoulder and all the traffic. There is the usual
compliment of frustrated drivers, honking their horns and shouting obscenities.
F.... you too! I don't know what gets into the crew every year near the top of Sheephole.
The crew always wants to run ahead, right where the traffic is the most
hazardous and where it is the most beneficial to have the van between the rider
and all those angry drivers. " Please Paul, stay behind me will you".
As usual, Joe thunders down the mountain to make the right turn to "Wonder
Valley" Road, the 508's bane to ultra cyclists. You think you are near the
but too bad, you know better. Mucho suffering yet.
My recollection of the last 20 miles or though
is somewhat vague, but after a couple of tough pulls all four of us are
riding over the finish line. Third place team in 26 hours and 44 minutes. I am
not sure about the others, but I am pretty much spent. So is my wife by the way,
she can't wait to get back home after driving most of the course.
My thanks to the crew, they were terrific.
Thank you, my fellow racers, I hope I did not slow you down too much. My
to all the wonderful volunteers who make this race work. As always, thanks to
Chris Kostman for putting on this great race.
Would I do this again? I doubt it. Too
much concentrated suffering and not enough glory. Somehow I don't think Team
Poodles will make it into the annals of the 508. Solo is harder but not as nerve
wrecking as compared to team. The pressure of not
letting your team down while on the bike is non relenting. Am I taking enough of a pull? Riding
hard enough? Riding solo is basically simple: ride as hard as you think you can sustain for
the entire course and damn everything else.
Training for speed would have helped, but
for me it was the classic excuse: too little, too late. As Doug alludes to in
his write up, this team race is not for people "copping"
out of solo because of lack of training.
Congratulations to Eric "
Ostrich" Ostendorff, this years solo winner and especially to Steve
"Beaver" Born, the first to do a double 508. Unbelievable!! Welcome
back to Seana "Hoopoe" Hogan!!
Doug's write up.
Furnace Creek 508
2002 Webcast for route info, more pictures, time
Route route and
profile by Doug Sloan, courtesy the 508 Webcast