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.



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