TRONA TO FURNACE CREEK (MILE 153.8 TO MILE 252.8)
My stomach issues were gone and now it was a race to get to the base of Towne Pass before needing lights. Last year I was pretty excited to have been within throwing distance of the right turn onto Hwy 190 before needing lights. The Towne Pass climb begins after a couple of miles of making that right turn. This year my pace was about the same. I was excited with the real possiblity that I might actually “see” the Towne Pass climb again in daylight.
I crested the Trona Bump (mile 14 of stage) and began my descent into Panamint Valley. I was feeling good. I love the twisty descent off the Trona Bump and I have yet to have a crew film me on that descent. But there’s always next year right ? 😉 Tactically, the smart move is to feed your rider as they come through this chokepoint summit and then catch up with your rider on the open road. There is a lot of gradual descending into Panamint Valley. As a rider you can maintain a good average speed. So things were still looking good to make it to Towne Pass in the daylight.
However, Mr Murphy, of Murphy’s law fame, had other ideas. My crew vehicle had a blow-out on the descent off the Trona Bump. Luckily it wasn’t in the twisty part but it still must have been scary for them. So here I am down the road quite a bit looking behind me for my crew and I don’t see them. Nevertheless, I kept the pace medium to high maximizing the terrain and the tailwind to my advantage. After some time another crew vehicle pulls alongside me and offers me a bottle. They tell me what has happened to my crew and give me a bottle to help sustain me until my crew is up and running.
My first concern was for their safety. But that helpful crew (I wish I knew who they were) allayed those fears. Now my next concern was the 6 o’clock hour was rapidly approaching. The 508 rules state in part.
4. BICYCLE LIGHTING
A. While riding at night (defined as between 6:00PM Saturday and 7:00AM Sunday and between 6:00PM Sunday and 7:00AM Monday), each bicycle must be equipped with a legal front and rear lighting system and this system must be ON at all times.
Without my crew vehicle providing direct support with all associated safety equipment I would not be able to continue racing. I am now calculating how long it will take to switch bikes (for Towne Pass) and get the lighting set up WHEN my crew vehicle actually arrives. Tactically, the best move is to send the crew vehicle ahead, have them set up the vehicle and get your bike ready. Then you arrive, switch bikes and off you go in tandem with your crew vehicle.
As I’m doing my calculations, the race director pulls up alongside and asks me about my crew vehicle. I explain the situation and almost in synch we confirm to each other official race time and the importance of the 6 o’clock hour. I had already made the left turn onto Panamint Valley Rd which then leads to the right turn on Hwy 190. A few miles into Panamint Valley Rd it was 6pm and I pulled over. It pained me to see racers pass me as I was sitting on the side of the road healthy, willing and able to ride
Here are some photos from the 508 website copyright AdventureCORPS.
At approximately 6:25 pm my crew shows up. We do all the necessary things and we are off at 6:35pm. Why so long? Well I was almost 30 miles down the road (unsupported) and even at 60 mph it would take the crew 30 minutes to get to me. As I began my ascent on Towne Pass I looked back at the time off the bike as a blessing. I had time (almost 35 minutes) to rest and hydrate. So a blessing in disguise I’d say. You have to turn setbacks into positives or they mess with your head for the duration of the race.
I felt great on my climb up Towne Pass. I was passing solos and teams alike. I was climbing really well. I saw riders on the side of the road, riders walking and some just slogging along as I passed them. I kept saying to myself “the 35 minute rest–that’s your secret weapon” “steady- don’t blow up” and “don’t get passed”. Eventually the winds became stronger and stronger. The combination of the steep grades, 10%+, and the 30 mph winds began to wear on me.
Something I did differently this year was not stop at the summit for a picture and clothing change. My crew pulled up and asked what I wanted for the descent. I said, “Nothing I’ll freeze the first 1,000 feet but we are not stopping”. The temps weren’t that bad on the descent. As I crested, I saw a few racers/crews pulled over. I thought “good I’ll get a jump on them”.
On the descent of Towne Pass we couldn’t go any faster than 35 mph– safely anyway . Our space saver spare was virtually flat. It was tough to do but I kept the speed at or about 35 mph. Seemed like an awful waste of a good 17 mile descent but SAFETY FIRST. As soon as we hit the desert floor OMG it seemed like it was 80+ degrees in Death Valley. Julie asked if I needed anything and I said “No nothing. But can you turn down the heat!” I might have said thermostat :). It really did feel that hot down there.
This next passage might sound gross to some of you but it is what it is. After hours and hours of sports drinks my mouth was feeling pasty. I asked for my toothbrush and toothpaste so I could brush my teeth. I usually do this in Baker Time Station #5 (MILE 382.6) when I change into a fresh kit for the last 120 miles. But I just couldn’t wait. So brushed my teeth and felt so much better. And yes all while still being on the bike.
I started feeling stronger winds as I approached the right turn towards Furnace Creek. I couldn’t believe how windy it was. We pulled into the Furnace Creek Time Station (MILE 252.9) at 23:37 or 11:37 pm or 16 hours and 37 minutes elapsed time. My goal was to be there before my 2008 PR of 15 hours and 28 minutes. So now I was 1 hour and 9 minutes off from my PR. Funny how all the little things add up. The 15 minutes on Stage 2, the 35 minutes on Stage 3 waiting for my crew vehicle. The wind notwithstanding I was doing ok.
At Furnace Creek Time Station I spent a few minutes chatting with Blackbird and eating a turkey sandwich. We talked about the wind conditions and the time splits of other racers. My crew meanwhile filled the space saver spare tire with air. The tire blowout, the flat spare and the damage to the rental vehicle concerned me way too much. I eventually was able to shut it out but I do remember ruminating over it far too much.
Anyway, I took on some supplements and got back on the road.
MORE TO FOLLOW WE ARE ONLY 253 MILES INTO A 508 MILE RACE! LOL!!