Rock Rabbit – Sighting on the Road Today

On the road today, I spotted my friend and 2011 Furnace Creek 508 Champion, Adam “Rock Rabbit” Bickett.  We ran into each other on the inside climb of Torrey Pines and did then rode together for about an hour before we went our separate ways.  I wish Rock Rabbit good luck at his next two big events, Hoodoo 500 and the Furnace Creek 508.





  2011 Furnace Creek 508 Solo Champion Adam “Rock Rabbit” Bickett –30:20:28

Six Consecutive Solo Finish at the Furnace Creek 508

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas pictured with six finisher’s medals 2006-2011

Just a quick post to announce that I finished the 2011 Furnace Creek 508 “the toughest 48 hours in sport”.  That’s six consecutive SOLO finishes at the Furnace Creek 508.  I was inducted into the Furnace Creek 508 Hall of Fame as Class of 2011.  From my research of the Hall of Fame records I have only seen two racers that have done five consecutive solos, Michael “Alpine Ibex” Emde and me, the Red-Eyed Vireo.  Although I can’t compete  or compare myself to the multi-time 508 Champion, Alpine Ibex,  I did one-up him in only one thing— one more consecutive solo (yes these little things make me happy).

I had a great race.  I had great legs and my nutrition was perfect.  I felt great except on three occasions.  I had to go down for two naps on the exit climbs of Death Valley, Jubilee and Salisbury Pass.  I took a 20 min and then a 30 min nap (approx mile 310).  I just couldn’t stay away (about 1:30am) Then I took about an hour off the bike at the Mad Greek in Baker, time station 5 (mile 382).  I was overheated and puking.  I changed my cycling kit, dunked my head in the sink, sat in the air-conditioned dining area, ate some solid food while my body core temperature cooled.  From Baker to the finish I didn’t get passed by any Solo rider but I do remember passing many riders along the way on each of the three long climbs.  I finished strong actually I always finish strong.  My time was 38 hours 41 minutes which falls in as my second best at the 508.

I have to thank my crew, Lida, Carlo and Jim.  They were awesome!  Even though they were all rookies they performed like pro’s. Whenever, I needed something the vehicle just rolled up and there it was!!   I made a good selection for my crew.  Lida was an excellent crew chief on her first time out.  Even on the drive home they were still laughing and telling stories about me, them and the other crews and racers….that’s a great sign that they worked hard but still  had fun.

I’ll put together a more thorough race report as time allows.

Click here for my results

Click here for the complete results

2011 Furnace Creek 508

George A. Vargas

Bib: Red-Eyed Vireo
Start Time: 07:00
Gender: Male
Age: 46
City: Newport Beach
State: California
Country: United States 
Nationality: United States 
Veteran: Yes
Category: Solo
Age Group: 40+
Time Station Miles into
the Race
Avg Speed Time from
Last Station
Avg Speed From
Last Station (mph)
CalCity 83.6 10/08 11:51 04:51:00 17.24 04:51:00 17.24
Trona 153.8 10/08 16:09 09:09:00 16.81 04:18:00 16.32
FCreek 252.9 10/08 23:38 16:38:00 15.20 07:29:00 13.24
Shosh 326.4 10/09 07:12 24:12:00 13.49 07:34:00 9.71
Baker 382.6 10/09 10:47 27:47:00 13.77 03:35:00 15.69
Kelso 417.6 10/09 14:30 31:30:00 13.26 03:43:00 9.40
Amboy 451.3 10/09 16:58 33:58:00 13.29 02:28:00 13.68
Finish 509.6 10/09 21:41 38:41:36 13.17 04:43:36 12.33

Less than 12 hours….2011 Furnace Creek 508 Solo

and my thoughts are: Once more unto the breach…

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

I have been inducted into the Furnace Creek Hall of Fame.  I feat that took five years.  Five Consecutive Solos and one Fixed Gear in 2007.  This year it’s time to just take a ride down memory lane.  I will enjoy my time on the bike and take in the sights and sounds of the greatest Ultra Cycling race I know!!


George Vargas
Newport Beach, CA

Furnace Creek 508 Hall of Fame
Class of 2011

Totem Year Age Category Status Finish Time
Red-Eyed Vireo 2006 41 Solo FIN 42:59:52
Red-Eyed Vireo 2007 42 Solo Fixed Gear FIN 45:12:45
Red-Eyed Vireo 2008 43 Solo FIN 37:34:41
Red-Eyed Vireo 2009 44 Solo FIN 42:21:24
Red-Eyed Vireo 2010 45 Solo FIN 40:57:20

And I leave you with this…we race 508 miles over 10 mountain passes for a cumulative gain of 35,000 feet through the Mojave and Death Valley Deserts for a jersey and a medal. Ok that’s the tangible thing but the intangibles of finding out what you are made of are priceless!

You can follow me on the race in many ways 

the 508 website will have a webcast here

My athlete Facebook Page here

my Spot GPS transmitter here  I will turn it one about 6am on 10/8/11 and you should be able to follow me on the race course.

2011 Furnace Creek 508 Crew Announcement

Every year the hardest thing about preparation for the 508 is recruiting and ultimately selecting my support crew.  Recruiting?  Yes recruiting.  What there’s no line of people volunteering to crew?  No there isn’t.  Selecting is also tough.  During the recruitment phase I may receive several volunteers but I have to consider so many things before selecting you will ultimately be on the crew.  I have consider things like:

What is their experience?

What is their motivation for crewing?

What can they contribute to the team?

How compatible are their personalities?

I am proud to announce my support crew for the 2011 Furnace Creek 508.  Lida is an old  friend.  She’s also a triathlete who I coached this season.  She has reluctantly stepped up to be the Crew Chief.  However, I know she will make and excellent Crew Chief because she cares.  Carlo is also a dear friend and an athlete I coached.  He will make a great addition to the crew because he’s just one of the good guys who cares.  Jim, I met through my store.  We have had interesting conversations about ultras and I thought he would make a great addition to the crew.


I’m a total outdoor enthusiast but when I’m not “moving”, I’m an avid
quilter and reader.  I also volunteer at local events when I can and
enjoy doing things around the house and cooking; although I prefer to
bake cookies!  I’ve completed 6 double centuries, 5 Ironman
triathlons, and 6 marathons.  I’ve dabbled in xterra and cyclocross
racing and recently I’ve been enjoying the joys of trail running in
Colorado.  For base training, I do a lot of Crossfit and have competed
in the 2011 Masters Open .

I have travelled around the country and around the world hiking and
biking.  Some of my greater accomplishments include: a 9 month journey
all over the US camping and biking, through hiking the Appalachian
Trail, summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro, trekking to Machu Pichu, hiking to
Annapurna base camp and swimming with the sting rays in Grand Cayman!

The next year includes: about 5 or so cyclocross races, a local
Masters Crossfit competition, the Modesto Marathon, painting the
interior of my house, enjoying the training journey with friends for
the Rev 3 Cedar Point Iron Distance triathlon and finish making the
drapes for all the uncovered windows!  And or course – soaking up

A few of my favorite sayings/mantra’s:
It’s all relative.
Smiling is part of my survival kit!
Stay in the moment, it will change.
Always look good for the photographer.
No peeing in my shoes (hmmm, does George get off the bike to pee??
I’ll find out during the 508)
I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose!

Born July 23, 1972, a Programmer Analyst by profession for First American Corp, lives in Costa Mesa, CA.

A beginner cyclist to say the least, I probably bring the least experience to this team but I am hoping to offset my lack of riding and racing experience with my enthusiasm and dedication to the tasks at hand. George has been instrumental in my own growth as a cyclist and supporting him in this historic endeavor is my own way of saying thank you and showing my appreciation for what he has done for me. I am looking forward to relishing moment while I learn the intricacies of ultra cycling. I am excited to work with a great set of people and forging lifelong friendships. Lastly, I am looking forward to seeing my local hero endure pain and suffering on the bike. It is a a feat that I have yet to see hahahahahaha.

Architect, 68, avid cyclist, sailor/boat builder & mountaineer.  Ultra
cycling, randonneuring, became my passion several years ago after completing
the California Triple Crown several times.  Currently spending cycling time
at the velodrome where team pursuit is event of choice — training for 2012
Masters Championships at state and national levels.

Looking forward to George’s sixth 508 solo adventure!  I hope to bring the
wisdom of age to the crew while experiencing the event as an observer.  I
cannot wait for the sun to go down Saturday night and see it rise again on
Sunday morning while having kept a watchful eye on our rider through the
beautiful hours of night riding.  It is going to be a fantastic voyage and I
want to make it George’s best, most memorable 508 to date — hopefully
breaking the 36 hour threshold.

Jim Kehr
Laguna Beach, CA

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.





Newport Coast Drive PR (6:50 Normalized Power 321 watts 4.8 w/kg) & May Month End

On the last day of a 75 hour, 1274 mile month, I set a new PR on Newport Coast Dr.  My new time of 6:50 is 12 seconds faster than my previous PR from earlier in the month of 7:02 and 31 seconds faster than the PR before that of 7:21.  I held 321 watts for almost seven minutes.  My weight was 147.4 and my 4.8 w/kg was the highest and longest time frame I have ever held for that w/kg.  Keep in mind, the pros hold 6 w/kg for 30 minutes or more once again proving I’m just your average working stiff that enjoys riding a bike.  And speaking of working, that 1274 mile month was done by riding 2-2.5 hours in the morning and 1.5- 2 hours at night after work.  I often see Crow going in the opposite direction. ONCE last month we were going the same direction and chatted a few minutes.  I had a few centuries thrown in as well.  You may not know but I can’t ride on weekends because I am either working or I have my six year-old son.

George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas sets new PR on Newport Coast Dr of 6:50

New Power Profile after PR

Month End numbers for May.

As you can see above, May was my first thousand mile month in a long time. I’m fortunate to have a good base from my first years of Ultras where I would do 12,000 – 15,000 miles a year. Why the big ramp up this month? Well because every May I start my preparation in earnest for the Furnace Creek 508 I now have to put in four months of solid training.  By September, I am doing more speedwork (intensity) so the mileage (duration) is shorter.  I would like to do Everest Challenge just before Furnace Creek 508- just like last year with one week apart. AND there is also Interbike in September so basically September is a wash.  Hence, May through August is when I really need to focus on my 508 training.

Stay tuned for more Furnace Creek 508 specific training….

For those that wonder where I am timing my Newport Coast PR’s here is a graph.  1.55 miles 450 feet of gain about 6ish% grade.