Furnace Creek 508 Training Q & A

I have been receiving a lot of questions recently about how I prepare for the Furnace Creek 508 (508 mile 35,000 feet of climbing).  I thought it would be wise to post those questions and answers here so as to create an open forum in which to discuss my training and interact with potential 508 racers.  Please feel free to post your questions and I will respond to the best of my ability.

So let us begin…

Hi Geroge,

Was wondering if you do very much group rides during your training? I have been focusing a lot on solo riding as to simulate 508 conditions as much as possible. I have a lot of friends inviting me to group rides but I have been reluctent to join in, just trying to prepare as much as possible for my upcoming 508. I’m part of the killer Bees.



Thank you for your question.  I do group rides from time to time to test my “red-line” fitness. I find that I feel faster, if even in my head, when I do a group ride once a week.  Having some training intensity is important even for an Ultra Cyclist.  However, I prefer to do most of my training solo.  Nothing can prepare you for the 508 like going out and riding 10-12 hours alone.

If you want to do the intensity but don’t want to deal with the egos, safety concerns or the prescribed route that comes with group rides then you should consider doing intervals.  Begin with shorter intervals, say 5 minutes, until you get the discipline and focus to move on to longer intervals of 10 -20 minutes.  If you find that doing a timed interval is too hard try doing hill repeats.  Find a hill 5 minutes long, then a hill that is 10 minutes long and so on.

Hi, I’m riding in the 508 on a coed 4X team this year (2011) and was wondering if I could ask a few questions. How many miles per week and what kind of hill work did you do for training? Any other words of advice?
Lonnie (Killer Bees)


Thank you again for you questions.  IF I was doing a 4X relay at the Furnace Creek 508  my training would be focused on riding 2x a day for a minimum of 30 super intense miles during the week and 50 miles 2x a day during the weekend.  You need to know how your body responds to doing a hard effort and then sitting around for 4- 6 hours before doing another hard effort.  The 508 has only one long leg in it, Trona to Furnace Creek 99 miles.  The other legs should be done in about 4 hours when you have a fresh rider on the course.

When I was training for 2007 Race Across America (RAAM) 2X relay I did three workouts a day.  I had a 3 hour 45 minute 70 mile commute to work, then a 20 mile lunch time ride (super hard), then 4 hour 70 mile commute home.  When my teammate DNF’d I finished RAAM on my own.  You may want to be prepared, at least psychologically, to complete the 508 solo.  It’s rare that a 4X relay team DNF’s but in 2009 Furnace Creek 508 the winds were so bad even 4X relay teams DNF’d.  I rode solo that year and finished while riding in 60 mph gusts through Death Valley.  Weather is the X-factor …you never know what to expect…be ready!

In response to your mileage and hill work question- I have a really good base of miles on my legs.  I don’t have to do a lot of miles anymore.  I will post my mileage per month for you and the other readers soon.  I had some hard drive issues in May and I lost a lot of data.  However, my work schedule and my child custody limits the amount of training I can do.  I focus on quality miles.  I use a power meter to make sure every workout counts.  I generally do about 200 miles a week or 12 hours.

As far as hill work, I do a dedicated hill workout or hilly ride per week sometimes two.

First is in regards to training and intensity. Do you ramp up and taper like a marathon runner might do? And is there a set program you follow?


Thank you for reading my blog and providing me with moral support!!  My training plan is quite simple …it’s my life that is complicated 😉

In the “off-season” (Nov, Dec and Jan) I do longer rides with less intensity.  I prepare for my first event of the season, the San Diego 200km (125 miles 8,000 feet of gain) which is held usually the first week in January.  I then continue to ride longish miles through February, March and April.  I will do the Spring Death Valley Double and a few climbing centuries held by AdventureCORPS.  May and June I begin double workouts and shorter intervals maybe an occasional group ride.  July and August I do a lot of climbing and then September is all intensity and low milieage with clubs. That usually prepares me for the Furnace Creek 508.

In regards to tapering.  I have never really felt much need for tapering. Last year I did Everest Challenge (29,000 feet of climbing 2-day stage race) less than a week before the Furnace Creek 508.  My legs felt amazing during the 508 so much so that I will do it again this year!


Shaun Stegosaurus Arora asks:

When you did 508 fixed what was the toughest descent? Also I struggle with gloves for steep fixie climbs. Do you have and recommendations.


Thank you for your question.  The 508 fixed is something I’d like to erase from my pain memory bank :).  It was extremely painful.  I think both Towne Pass and the descent into Almost Amboy were very tough.  Towne Pass is 17 miles.  The descent into Almost Amboy seems just as long even though it is many miles shorter.  I had to stop and take a nature break on the descent into Almost Amboy (400+ miles into the event) because of all the bouncing I was doing in my saddle.  My pedaling was no longer fluid and any cadence over 120 RPM was really a chore. As far as gloves I don’t usually wear them but on the Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear I had a lot of hand numbness even months after the event.

You can read about all my issues here in my 2007 Furnace Creek 508 on a Fixed Gear report during the event and then there is some stuff at the end of my report.  Good luck to you.





5 thoughts on “Furnace Creek 508 Training Q & A

  1. I have a ton of questions as we are trying to get in for next year.

    First is in regards to training and intensity. Do you ramp up and taper like a marathon runner might do? And is there a set program you follow?

    I’ll wait and see if others might ask the same questions I have so I don’t take over your blog with just my questions…

  2. Hey George. I wish you well in your training. Can you share with us your training and racing nutrition plan, pre, during (cal/HR. , fluids/hr, supplements, etc.) and post. Is there a particular product line you endorse? When you’re not training, what is your dietary schedule and goals
    Thanks friend!
    John Josephs
    Jacksonville, FL

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