Four "POODLES" pedaling all out

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. Oh, really?

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.

2002508prerace.jpg (56233 bytes) 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! 

2002508petersf.jpg (81383 bytes)     2002508sf2.jpg (146141 bytes) First pull in San Fransisquito Canyon

2002508timsf.jpg (84114 bytes)  Tim Skipper

 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".

2002508doug.JPG (62334 bytes)  Doug Sloan near Johnson Summit       2002508transitiondougjoe.JPG (63903 bytes)  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. Please, be my guest. As it turns out there is just no safe shoulder to pull over for a transition and those 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?

2002508peterpm.jpg (45257 bytes)   by Chris Kostman in Death Valley    2002508dougdv.jpg (66148 bytes)   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 finish, 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 thanks 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 splits, etc

Team results

Route route and profile by Doug Sloan, courtesy the 508 Webcast









Hit Counter