Furnace Creek 508 Race Report Fixed Gear Solo Part One

Here is my race report. I will release sections of my report one time station at a time. If I were to wait until it were complete it would take yet another week. And I know you are all just chomping at the bit…ok maybe not. So here is from the start to time station #1 California City.

I will quote from the extremely well document 2D and 3D course description available on the 508 website I believe it was done by Doug “Dog” Sloan. I also see John Gower mentioned as doing the elevation data. If I haven’t given credit to someone for their hard work it was not intentional.

Stage One Santa Clarita to California City, 83.6, Elevation Gain: 6176′

Arrived 12:57 Saturday, 5 hours 57 minutes Avg. speed 14.05 mph

From the 508 website

“After a 5-mile group ride across town, the race starts up San Francisquito Canyon (Mountain Section One). In the next 15 miles, you will climb 2,500 feet. The climb is generally moderate; the climb before the turn to Elizabeth Lake is short and steep. A windy flat section through the Mojave Desert leads to the windmill climb at mile 44 (Mountain Section Two). Over seven miles, you’ll climb 1000 feet, probably into a stiff headwind. Another fast descent takes you down to the town of Mojave with a couple of quick turns. There is a shopping center and Subway on the right before you leave town where the crew can grab food. Then it’s a fast shot into California City.”

Rolling out of the start I was thinking “am I making a big mistake?” I also remember looking at the other racers’ bikes and thinking “I have a light bike like that…I have carbon wheels like those…I have aero-bars like that…I have a PowerTap like that…” But I kept telling myself, “you wanted to do the 508 in the hardest possible form so here you are doing it Fixed Gear”. Just think about all the bragging you will do when you are done. Little did I know at that point how difficult the course would be for me.

Here are the rules for the Fixed Gear Division of the 508.

”E. Fixed Gear Division: Bikes must use the same fixed gearing (ring/cog/wheel) for the entire event. Bike frames shall be steel, traditional double diamond design (forks are unrestricted) and wheels (maximum 25 mm rim depth) with 32 spokes minimum. Aerobar attachments and aero-designed parts are prohibited. Wheel switches are permitted only for wheel failures, and must be identical or essentially identical to the failed wheel. Bike switches are not permitted. Riders may not coast with feet off the pedals. Riders must declare their gear (ring/cog/wheel size) choice at check in, which may not be changed thereafter.

Fixed gear division riders may abandon that division and switch to a multispeed bike in the “open” division, then complete the race on the multispeed bike, provided that they or their crew notifies an official as soon as possible; they will then be treated as having ridden the entire event on the multispeed bike.”

Oh and the second paragraph was given its due consideration and the idea of a spare multi-speed bicycles was dismissed just as soon as it was suggested. I did not want to have an out and I was going to finish this event FIXED even if I was outside the 48 hour time limit.


So there wasn’t any advantage gained by using a fixed gear bike compared to one of my ultra-lightweight carbon frames that weigh less than 16 lbs with 2 water bottles. Not to mention the availability for granny gear action.

As mentioned before I had assembled a great crew. Brandy had crewed for me on Race Across America (RAAM), Terry is the current RAAM Race Director and has raced and crewed many Ultra events, and Timmer who has just started doing Ultras but is very eager to understand the crewing process.

So we roll through the neutral start and it gives me a chance to talk to old friends and make a few new acquaintances. I rode with my friends Kenny Souza and Greg Matherly again (same as last year) and chatted. Of course they teased me because I was doing it FG and Greg even mentioned he might have some derailleurs lying around in his garage.

Well I am not that crazy, there have actually been seven other riders who have done the 508 FG before me Jeff Parrot Bauer, Sam Seal Beal, Barley Boar Forsman, Emily Archaeopteryx O’Brien, John Sabertooth Tiger Spurgeon . The 2007 class would include Terry Lentz and me. We would make a total of seven riders that have finished the 508 fixed in 33 editions of the race since 1983. So you see I wasn’t breaking new ground.

The racers go the first approximately 25 miles without support. No issues there, we train many miles a year unsupported. But this is the second time I have done this race and making that right turn onto Johnson Rd gives me huge sigh of relief.

I knew I was in trouble with my gear selection in the first 20 miles. I felt I was putting in more effort than I should’ve been for the climbs. There is quite a bit of elevation gain in the first 25 miles (almost 3000 feet) and it continues throughout the race of course. If you look at the course profile it is a steady and continuous climb from the start to mile 25 or so.

During this section the energy is high and the crew is excited and motivated. Hand ups from the side of the road are the norm and it is beautiful sight to see a well executed hand up. To the uninitiated, you run at full speed along side the road looking straight ahead not looking back at your racer and the racer just “swoops” by and snatches the bottle from the crew member without breaking his cadence or rhythm.

One of my favorite sections of the race is the windmills. I think back to how wonderful it must have been when people first discovered that they could harness this natural energy source. Of course, that is all well and good until the winds are whipping up over 60 mph gusts and your shack of a home is rattling and threatening to collapse and blow away.

After the “Windmills Climb”, which was into a stiff headwind, there was a general downhill section and into Mojave and then California City.

I felt good and strong throughout this whole section. I must have peed four times before getting into California City. A tribute to how well my hydration and fueling program was being executed by Brandy the designated “feeder”.

83.60 miles and 6176 feet of gain completed only 424.90 miles to go

Here is the link for the rest of the pictures.



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