Lhasa Apso pays the Red-Eyed Vireo a visit

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A couple of days ago John “Lhasa Apso” Culligan stopped by my store to pay me a visit.  He was in Newport Beach visiting from Salinas.  We told war stories for a few minutes.  During our conversation he mentioned to me that he was returning the 508 one more time.  One of the things, that made an impact on me was when he expressed how deep in to his psyche the 508 had gotten. I went further by saying what I think he meant to say — the 508 has gotten in to our souls.

It was nice to see a Furnace Creek 508 veteran out of competition.  The 508 is a non-draft legal 508 mile non-stop long distance bicycle race.  Basically, it’s a 508 mile time-trial. It’s illegal to ride alongside a racer for more than just the time it takes to pass the racer. The evening before the event there are so many activities you can’t really connect.  After the race it’s difficult as well since we finish all through the night.   I believe now you can see how precious it is to spend time with a 508 solo racer.

Good luck Lhasa Apso at the 2012 Furnace Creek 508!


Just for fun John had this picture to share with me.  This was taken on Day 1 of the 2010 Furnace Creek 508.  It’s a great picture the photographed captured us both smiling.


The Furnace Creek 508 Solo…is not really solo

No solo rider is ever alone.  And while he pushes the pedals every last inch of the 509.6 miles he is never too far from his crew.  I owe my success to my crews.  I thought it would be fitting to recognize all my previous crews in a blog post.

2006 my rookie year Robin Barsantee, Shelley Brown and Ron “Leviathon” Smith

2007 Fixed Gear Brandy Deluca, Terry Zmral, Timmer Vadhiem

2008 – my personal best Ticia, Brandy Deluca and Jason Hock

2009 Brandy Deluca and the Stokes

2010 Steve Rachel and Jaime

2011- record setting sixth consecutive solo finish- Jim Kehr, Lida Letowt and Carlo Cuento

and one just for fun!

Encinitas Palomar Mountain Cole Grade 130 miler


Maximum time in aerobars

Minimum time off the bike

Sub 8 hour total time 130 miles

All three training goals were accomplished.


Felt F2 with Di2 53/39 Crankset 11-25 Cassette.

Profile Design Sonic CSX Aerobars


130 miles 10,000 feet of gain almost 4,900 kjs with Normalized Power of 208 watts or 3 w/kg for the 7.5 hours.

Start Encinitas

North on Pacific Coast Hwy

East on San Luis Rey Bike Path

Camino Del Rey, West Lilac, Lilac

UP Palomar Mountain South Grade

DOWN Palomar Mountain South Grade

UP Cole Grade Road

Lake Wholford, Valley Parkway, Del Dios Hwy, to PCH

PCH to finish in Encinitas


I only stopped twice on the full 130 miles.  The two stops were for water only– no solid foods, no nature breaks or anything else.  The difference between my rolling time and total time was only 12 minutes.  Below I have detailed my two stops which account for 4 minutes and 39 seconds the remaining 7 or so minutes were traffic controls.

My first stop (1 minute and 5 seconds) at Bates Nut Farm (mile 47).  I filled one bottle, topped off a half full bottle, downed a bottle refilled it and I was back on the bike.

My second stop (3 minutes 34 seconds) was at Mother’s, the restaurant at the top of Palomar Mountain (mile 67), refilled three bottles with Infinit Nutrition powder , downed a bottle refilled it,  said hello to a friend and then was back on the bike. I then rode the next 62 miles without stopping for fluids or anything else. For those that are wondering the mile marker at the top of Palomar Mountain’s South Grade is 47.8

Total bottle count 1.5 bottles to Bates Nut Farm mile 47.  I downed 1 bottle at Bates. Then 3 bottles on Palomar Mountain climb.  Down 1 bottle at the top.  Then 3 bottles to get home.  Total bottle count 9.5 24 oz bottles!

I had a good day on the bike.  My legs felt strong throughout most of the day.  I faded a little on Palomar Mountain but only near the top.  One reason might be that I didn’t stop at the store at the base of Palomar to refuel.  I had made my refueling stop 8 miles prior at Bates Nut Farm.  I rode hard from Bates through Rincon and attacked the climb just when the road kicks up by Harrah’s Casino (lowest elevation point of the climb).  Starting the climb in earnest from just past Harrah’s adds one more mile to the already long 11.6 mile climb.  This extra mile makes it a 12.7 mile climb 4200 feet of gain AND is in the steepest section (lower half) which can really put the hurt on you …but that’s why I’m out there right?

Garmin Player found here (click on the icon with four arrow next to the turtle and the rabbit slider for full screen view)

Screen shot from Training Peaks WKO 3.o from my 7900 Dura-Ace wireless SRM power meter

Notice the grey line (torque) in the above chart going way above the yellow line (power).  I was riding an 11-25 cassette today.  In this case the torque line is an indicator of  how steep Cole Grade is in certain sections.  Cole Grade was featured in the Tour of California on the final stage which also included Palomar Mountain.

Palomar Mountain is slotted in as 9th on John Summerson’s list of the California’s 10 toughest climbs.

All for now…please pass my blog on to your friends.

The Hand Up

I was reminded by the Furnace Creek 508 race director that your bottle Hand Ups must be executed perfectly to achieve success at the 508. I submit to you an exchange that was masterfully executed, and even more importantly, documented for posterity and educational purposes. The players are George “Red-Eyed Vireo” Vargas, the bottle hand upper Terry Zmrhal, the photographer Brandy Deluca. Taken at the 2007 Furnace Creek 508– Fixed Gear .

The Furnace Creek 508- One of the World’s Ten Toughest Races

In case you hadn’t seen this:

From the AdventureCORPS site:

“Furnace Creek 508 was recognized as one of the world’s ten toughest races by National Geographic Adventure Magazine this year. It’s sister event, also held in Death Valley and also hosted by AdventureCORPS, the Badwater Ultramarathon, was noted as THE toughest.” 

I thought it was really cool to have a third party confirm how tough the Furnace Creek 508 is in the vast world of  extreme sports.

Furnace Creek 508 Solo Finisher…again

The very first thing I would like to do is thank my crew; Brandy, Colin and Julie.  No Solo Finisher is ever …Solo! Thank you for sacrificing a long weekend of your personal lives to help me in pursuit of my FOURTH FURNACE CREEK 508 SOLO FINISH.  Thank you guys you kept my fed, hydrated, motivated and safe!

Next  I’d like to thank my friends who followed me on Facebook and my blog.  Your comments kept me motivated and laughing THANK YOU!  Brandy would like to post more but getting coverage is the only thing shutting her up 😉 JK…I love you babe!

Next I’d like to say except for my Fixed Gear run in 2007, this was my hardest earned finish out of four visits to the Furnace Creek 508.  The winds between Furnace Creek Time Station #3 (252.89) and Shoshone #4 (326.29) were brutal.  Keeping the bike upright was a significant challenge when I was going less than 4 mph because of the 35+ mph winds. I actually think the gusts were much higher than that my guess at least 50 mph.  Would I say that?  Well, I often stick my hand out of the window while driving around in town and the winds in Death Valley on Saturday night felt very similar to that.  Bet you were waiting for a much more technical answer huh? Huge props to Brandy, my crew chief who at 5:12 am (gotta look at the download what if it was 5:08 cool huh?) offered me a seat in the van to wait it out.
What’s the official word?  From the National Weather Service (it’s a dot.gov site) they say…

04 Oct 6:00 am    71    25    18    S    28    
04 Oct 5:00 am    72    28    19    SSW    27  
04 Oct 4:00 am    73    30    20    SSW    18  
04 Oct 3:00 am    76    31    19    SSW    15  
04 Oct 2:00 am    78    28    16    S    25    
04 Oct 1:00 am    79    27    15    SSE    23    
04 Oct 12:00 am    81    27    14    S    20    
03 Oct 11:00 pm    82    27    13    S    24    
03 Oct 10:00 pm    84    26    12    S    23    
03 Oct 9:00 pm    86    28    12    S    23  
03 Oct 8:00 pm    88    27    11    SSE    22  
03 Oct 7:00 pm    89    28    11    S    20   


And last but certainly not least the racers and crews you DNF’d this year’s event I wish to say if you gave it your all and you left it all “out there” then don’t worry too much about it.  It was really a tough year with the headwinds.   This event isn’t easy but when you add a little weather (high heat, high winds etc.) it makes it that much tougher.  Remember it’s called “the toughest 48 hours in sport”. 

By my calculation there were 59 Solo Starters two of them Fixed Gear.
There were 7 Solo women including one Fixed Gear.  There was only one solo woman finisher–  14% Finishing rate
There were 52 Solo men including one Fixed Gear.  There were only 28 solo men finishers–  53.8% Finishing rate

For the Solo field there were 29 Finishers out of 59– 49% Finishing Rate

Also interesting is that of the DNF’s in the Solo Field 20 (out of 30) were veterans of the Furnace Creek 508.

Just goes to show not only was it a tough year but there are no guarantees you’ll finish just because you’ve finished before.  Far too often I get comments from friends and customers who don’t know enough about Ultra cycling say things like “Oh you’ve done it before you’ll finish no problem.”  No, just ask those veterans  that DNF’d if they thought it was in the bag at the start line at 7am Saturday morning and then again in Death Valley during the windstorm.

Race report and pictures as soon as I can get my life squared away from this race.

All for now.

T minus 2 days until the Furnace Creek 508

It’s getting closer and closer. Now let’s continue with my mini-series of posts associated with the mistakes I’ve made in preparing and racing the Furnace Creek 508.
San Diego 200km Brevet

Let’s talk about 2007.  During the off-season of 2006-2007 I had this crazy idea of doing something epic on a fixed gear.  My long range goal was to do the Furnace Creek 508 fixed gear.  So I built my second fixed gear bike and started experimenting with longer distances.  I started with brevets (unsupported events) and then progressed onto supported Double Centuries.  My form was progressing nicely in March and then I was thrown a curve ball. 

I was invited to join a 4-person team for Race Across America which left in June.  I had always dreamed of doing RAAM — but as a solo racer.  I knew I didn’t have the time to train properly with family and work commitments so this seemed like a good alternative and great opportunity to experience some of the difficulty of RAAM.  Well the 4 person turned to 2 person and that was even more exciting to me.  I had to change my training completely from long endurance rides to short 2-3 hour medium to high intensity rides because of the demands RAAM relay.    Well after sorting out my training and completing RAAM 2 person in 9 days 18 hours and 55 mins.  A footnote- by partner DNF’d and the last day and half I rode Solo to the finish. It was interesting to do that after 7 days of suffering as a relay team. It actually felt better to just ride until I wanted to stop and rest. With RAAM done now it was time to refocus on my real goal for the year– the Furnace Creek 508 Fixed Gear Solo.
I did a few more climbing doubles multi-speed but would do all my training on my Fixed Gear.  On Wednesdays I would commute from my home in Huntington Beach 74 miles to reach my client’s house in Rancho Santa Fe by 615am.  That meant I would leave HB at 2am.  I would train with him for an 1.5 hours and then be at work by 8ish am.  I would sometimes hook up with our shop ride as it was ending and hold my own in the sprint.  I would report to work with a fixed gear century (100 miles) already done and it was only 8am.  Then I would ride home after work for another 65 miles.  I would only do that on Wednesdays but the other two days I would commute in and get 130 a day. 
Everything was going well until 6 weeks from the event.  I caught a cold that lingered and lingered and lingered.  I couldn’t kick it and I was sick on the final 6 weeks leading up to the event.  You could say I had fresh legs but I know I lost fitness.  In the end it didn’t matter because my goal was to finish.  My goal was to challenge myself and find new limits of my physical and mental toughness.  In the process of finding those limits I became one of seven riders in 34 runnings of the race to ever complete the Furnace Creek 508 on a Fixed Gear (49 x 17). 

So the lesson learned was too much training with too much sleep deprivation.  Another lesson learned  was DO NOT MESS WITH YOUR SADDLE HEIGHT!  I raised my saddle about a 1cm a week before the event.  I had to move the saddle forward so I also raised it and the combination of those two things wreaked havoc on my left knee in the event.  I think I also choose the wrong gear.  I was gearing for the flats and the downhills (35,000 feet of climbing means a lot of descending lol!) but some of the climbs Towne Pass in particular really hurt.  Towne Pass, which comes at mile 199 and after 11k of climbing, is a 13 mile climb with a 6 mile section that averages 9% ouch!  My nutrition was good this time and the only sleep problems we had was the crew couldn’t stay awake through Death Valley so we had to stop in Badwater much to my chagrin. It took me 45:12:45 to finish “the toughest 48 hours in sport”. 

San Diego 200km
Fixed Gear 121 miles and 6600 feet of gain

Butterfield Double Century
Fixed Gear 204.5 Miles and 8300 feet of climbing

Solvang Double Century
Fixed Gear 194 miles and 7200 feet of climbing

Mullholland Double Century
203.7 miles with 17,000 of climbing

Breathless Agony
5:40 72 miles 11,000 feet of climbing

Heartbreak Double Century
Heartbreak Double Century 202 Miles and 17,000 feet

Race Across America

Furnace Creek 508
Fixed Gear

T minus 10 days Furnace Creek 508

The Furnace Creek 508 is 10 days away.  I have an unusual calm as the days tick away.  I am usually a lot more stressed out about my gear or nutrition.  But this year being the fourth year racing the “toughest 48 hours in sport” I feel ready and healthy. Over the next few posts I will recap my experiences from my previous three races.  For new readers it will give you a chance to see that I’ve probably made every mistake in the book 😉

In 2006,  I had incredible form.  I had had a good full season of Ultras.  I had done fast doubles, climbing doubles and climbing centuries and unsupported brevets.  I even had a great month of August training in the mountains with 1650 miles and 124,000 feet of climbing.

January San Diego 200km Brevet 125 miles 6,500 feet

 February I was hit by a car.

February Palm Springs Century weekend   340 miles 20,000 feet

March San Diego 300km Brevet 186 miles 11,400 feet

Hemet Double Century  202 miles 6,000 feet

Mullholand Double Century   202 Miles with 16,500 feet

Breathless Agony  11,000 feet in under 75 miles

Heartbreak Double Century 200 miles 16,500 feet

Death Ride 129 miles 15,000 feet

Everest Challenge 29,000 feet in 2 days

Furnace Creek 2006

Death Valley Northern Route 196 Miles 10,500 feet of climbing

So where did I go wrong?

My breakfast was a bit too heavy (Moons over my Hammy with a stack of pancakes) too close to the start of the event.  Then too many calories over the first five (5) hours.  I was putting in over 350 calories an hour and I hadn’t trained with that much intake.  As many of you know, when you are out training alone you conserve your calories because you either don’t want to stop or the services are few and far in between.  I fall victim to both scenarios because my training routes are very remote.  Well this totally locked up my stomach and my intensity had to drop significantly.  I puked many times on the side of the road until finally my stomach was back in good shape but I was very fatigued.

Are you asking yourself why was I taking in so many calories? Because I was intimidated by the event.  The 508 miles the 35,000 feet of climbing.  I thought I would really fuel up this time.  I would really take in the calories to make sure I wouldn’t falter on the course.  But that was a big mistake and I paid for it for miles miles and miles and hours and hours of poor performance.

So in short, I had great fitness but my nutrition made for a horrible first 152 miles.  Sleep deprivation also was a major problem through the first night and I was still in Death Valley (about 300 miles) by daybreak.  I learned a lot from my first Furnace Creek. But as you’ll see I still had a lot more to learn in the next couple of years.

Furnace Creek 508 2009

T- 17 days until Furnace Creek 508 2009. I go into this event burnt-out from a full year of ultra racing. My season began with the San Diego 200km Brevet back in Jan 3rd and will end with FC508 on Oct 3rd, a full 10 months! Follow labels such as Race Reports, races, Brevets, or training, mountains, high intensity to read up all the races and training leading up to the Furnace Creek 508, my goal event of the year.

On my website, http://www.epictrain.com/follow the link “Race Reports”. There you will find 2006, 2007 and 2008 Furnace Creek 508 Race Reports. Or you could “skip the book and see the movie” here in my video gallery.

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