Stage 7- Kelso to Almost Amboy

From the 508 website:

Stage Seven: Kelso to Almost Amboy, 33.8 miles. Elevation Gain: 2280′.

“Compared to the just completed Baker Grade, you now head up a slightly steeper climb: 2000 feet in 12 miles to the top of the Granite Mountains (El 4000’) (Mountain Section Nine). The downhill to the outskirts of Amboy is fast and long; watch out for cattle guards.”

I was still very excited to be seeing different parts of the course in the daytime. It was really a totally different 508 for me this year.

Once again, the next climb isn’t difficult, but it just goes on forever. As is typical on these desert climbs, you get hit with most of the elevation gain in the last few miles.

So after my neck massage I felt like a new man– not really, but it sounds good. Anyway, in the next series of pictures I chase down a rider because I need something to do, and it helps me get up the mountain faster. The picture of me with one of my hands up is just showing one half my “chompers”. It’s just part of the game I play of Pac-Man on the climbs and gobbling up the riders.

Here I am cresting the Kelso Climb with Jaguar and his crew. Notice how I have to warn the crew vehicle that there is a car rapidly approaching.

I spent another 10 minutes off of the bike on this time station. Two minutes at Kelso and 8 minutes getting a neck massage and trying to rest a little. The total time off the bike is now 2 hours and 36 minutes in 32 hours and 41 minutes and 451.3 miles 32,000+ feet of climbing.

Almost Amboy 451.3 10/05 15:41 32:41:00 13.81 02:23:00 14.16

Stage 6 – Baker to Kelso

Stage Six: Baker to Kelso, 34.90 miles. Elevation Gain: 2920′.

“Leaving Baker, you climb a gradual but relentless 2500 feet in 20 miles (Mountain Section Eight). It may be heating up, so drink plenty. A long descent leads to Kelso at mile 418.”

Sunday Morning at 10:55 am. Almost 28 hours into the race, and the crew is looking a little tired. They are doing a great job out there. They went ahead of me going into Baker to refuel the van. When I checked into the time station, I took a few minutes to clean myself up, change kits and brush my teeth. I can’t tell you how good that felt. I rolled on ahead of them while they hunted down something for me to chew on. I was hoping it would be a double cheeseburger, add bacon…and they didn’t let me down. Here they are feeding me and getting me ready for the 21 mile Kel-Baker climb.

The 21 mile climb is not very steep, but it is totally exposed and there just isn’t anything distinctive about being one mile further up the road. It looks just like the last mile you climbed, and that mile looks a lot like the previous five miles you climbed. It can also be really hot through here. I felt good, but I had to conserve energy because the last 100+ miles has a lot of climbing in it. Eventually I started playing Pac-Man and chasing riders down. It is fun to do, and it helps to break up the monotony.

In the following video I talk about how I can’t stand the 21 mile climb from Baker and the question arises “Then why do you keep coming back?”

I spent another 21 minutes off the bike in this time station. Added to the 2 hours and 5 minutes I have now spent 2 hours and 26 minutes off the bike. In 417 miles in 30+ plus hours on the bike.


Stage 5 – Shosone to Baker

From the 508 website:

Stage Five: Shoshone to Baker, 56.3 miles. Elevation Gain: 2186′.

After an easy 750 feet climb up Ibex pass (Mountain Section Seven), there’s a killer, long downhill, then the road to Baker is mostly flat and straight. Watch for Baker’s world-famous, world’s largest thermometer in the distance. The crew should stock up on gas, ice and food in Baker as no supplies are available until the finish”

After a 15 minute stop at Shosone for a complete kit change and refueling the support vehicle we were off. It was 5:30 ish in the morning. I wanted to get to Baker as soon as possible. Baker by sunrise is a really nice goal. Something I had never considered. More importantly is doing the Kel-Baker climb before it heats up. Baker is always hot. There are always clear skies and the sun just beats down on you.

Here’s a picture taken in Shoshone at 5:31am

The course description says “easy”. And it is fairly easy when you are not tired or sleep deprived. Do you remember when I said that the great tailwinds would later become miserable headwinds? I experienced them going over Townes Pass. Now I am experiencing the headwinds on the way to Ibex Pass.

Here is a picture after descending Ibex Pass. 23 miles from Shoshone 30+ miles from Baker. The winds were slowing me down and it was warming up. I should have switched to my TT bike Portia but my undercarriage was in pain. THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TAILWIND! I kept saying to myself.

This was my lowest point of the race. I’m over the 24 hour point. I haven’t slept and we are 350 miles and over 25,000 feet of climbing into the race. Usually once the sun comes up I am invigorated. “It’s a new day!”

But this was a lull. I knew what it was. I could indentify it. I have had lulls in my Ultras before. That is the first step in overcoming your lull. Indentify it. Then think what can I do to get through it? What haven’t I been doing? What do I need to be doing? Clothing change? Equipment change? Hydration? Food? Massage?

Unlike most people I like to look at how far I have gone rather than look at how much I have left. I do that because I get charged when I realize that I have come 350 miles. That is more motivating to me than I only have 150 miles left.

Coming into Baker

My goal for Baker was 28 hours. I had lost the 2-3 hour cushion I had earlier in the race and I was down to less than an hour. I got in officially at 27 hours and 7 minutes. My average speed had dropped to 14.11 from the start. And the section that was supposed to have a tailwind took me 4:45 at an average speed of 11.84 mph.

Total time off the bike had gone up A LOT on this time station. 1 hour 20 previous now add another 45 minsutes for a total off the bike time of 2 hours and 5 minutes.

Baker 382.6 10/05 10:07 27:07:00 14.11 04:45:00 11.84

Stage 2 California City to Trona 70.2 miles

From the 508 website:

“From California City, head north over flat desert terrain to the Johannesburg climb at mile 110 (Mountain Section Three). You’ll climb 1500 feet in seven miles; the desert climb is steeper than it looks and grows progressively steeper. Drink plenty; each year some riders overheat here. After Jo’burg, you’ll ride over a series of pesky rollers before a long fast descent to the road to Trona. The crew must gas the vehicle and get ice and drinks in Trona as there is no gas overnight until Shoshone and no services until Baker”

I was feeling great, having surpassed my Stage 1 goal. All I kept thinking was, “I am putting money in the bank for later” The tailwinds were still blowing and I was still making good time. I knew eventually that those great tailwinds would be miserable headwinds. In 2006, I started to have stomach issues on this stage. No stomach issues this time, so keep the press on.

I was still on the P3C – Portia. I didn’t find the early climbs too difficult on the P3C, so I will ride this bike again on the first two stages.

One of the many things that makes this race so difficult are the long, long, long stretches of road with nothing to distinguish where you are. Just look how far back you can see the long straight road.

What do I eat on the 508? Everything, if my stomach is good. Here Brandy is making Turkey sandwiches on ONE slice of bread with hamburger sliced dill pickles. Carbs, protein and sodium. YUM!

Notice how I am leaning into the crosswind

When I got to Trona I changed in to my Kenda kit. The Sho-Air shorts had already started to chafe me. As I mentioned before, my stomach was feeling good so I asked for a carne asada burrito from the Trona stop.

I spent 7 minutes off the bike in this time station including changing my kit. Total time off the bike since the start 7 minutes. Mile 153.8 and only 7 minutes off the bike.

My goal was to get into the time station in 9:30 Total Time I got in 8:22 Total time. Thank you tailwinds.

Official Time Station data

TS #2 Total Miles Date Time Total Time Avg Spd Start Time TS Avg Speed TS

Beginnings of a Race Report

Nathan Sports sponsorship took care of all my reflective needs.

Most of the gear that got loaded into the van.

Part of my pre-race prep is to change all the batteries in my Power Tap hubs and CPU’s.

The crew assembled at my house early on Friday morning. We did some last minute running around, picked up the rental van, packed it and drove to the race start in Santa Clarita/Valencia. It is just outside the Magic Mountain theme park.

Chris looked relaxed as Brandy and I were turning in our crew waivers and picking up my goody bag.

While the crew sets up the vehicle with lighting and signage, I get my pre-race mug shot taken. These are great for before and after pictures so your friends can see how much you suffered.

Vehicle Inspection seemed to take longer this year. While it seemed there were less inspectors available this year, we were assured that there were three of them out there. It was pretty comical to see Cindy “Pitsnake” Steiger as mama duck and all her little ducklings following her around the parking lot as she inspected vehicles and bikes. Our guess is that all of the ducklings flocked to Cindy because she is so recognizable with her involvement in Furnace Creek 508 every year.

Our turn finally arrive and the inspection was done and out of the way. My routine after inspection is that I like to go to the hotel and relax while the crew gets groceries for me and for themselves. While they grocery shop I always wish I could fall asleep, but it never happens.

When they returned we went to the pre-race meeting. I have been to three of these and by far, I enjoyed this year’s the best. Hearing John Marino speak about how he got started in this craziness was incredible. Because of his vision and his grandiose goals, we now have the Race Across America, the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association and the Furnace Creek 508 — just under a different name and distance than it was at first. I thoroughly enjoyed his talk. I just wish I had more time to talk one on one with him.

While at the pre-race meeting I saw some old friends. Here is Francis on the Left and on the right the guy that talked me into a triple century as my very first Ultra Roehl.

After the meeting it is back to the hotel to get some rest. I never sleep well before these races. On the way though we stopped at a gas station and Robyn Benincasa was there. She kindly drew some legs on my legless bird.

Morning of representing for Sho-Air.

The crew just before the madness began

I’ll post more tomorrow and every day over the next week.

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The Down and Dirty of my Furnace Creek 508…

I wanted to drop a quick post as I compile the data and sort the pictures and videos. Yes there will be videos this year yay! Subscribe to the blog to get updates.

First off I want to thank my crew. Brandy, Jason and Ticia they were AWESOME! When you have a great crew your event goes off a lot smoother. I also had the benefit of cool foggy weather the first 30 miles and then massive tailwinds for many sections of the first 100 miles. The Heat Miser stayed away and I believe it was in the low 90’s for most of the first day. I would pay for the benefit of the tailwinds with just as massive cross and headwinds especially going up Townes Pass.

One of my greatest treats was getting to the base of Townes Pass before sunset. I was about 1.5 miles from the right turn onto HWY 190 which I consider the base of the climb when the 6pm hour hit. At 6pm until 7am we MUST mount lights on the bike and turn on the yellow flashing lights and install our safety triangle. I HAD NEVER SEEN THIS IN THE DAYLIGHT. I was so excited. Basically I did an 11 hour double century with about 12,000 feet of climbing to get to the base of Townes Pass still about 300 miles left though.

All for now but thank you all for following my progress and I will post again later today and throughout the week.


Brandy here again, guest blogging while George is sleeping. We’re here in Santa Clarita, on the eve of Furnace Creek 508.

Upon our arrival this afternoon, we checked in and waited what seemed like an eternity to get the van and bikes inspected. Lots of familiar faces here at the race hotel and it was nice to see so many people back for more suffering and pain this year.

Once we were done with the pre-race formalities, we made our way to our hotel, and then to dinner at Denny’s. Despite George’s bad experience in 2006, he hasn’t sworn Denny’s off and ate not one, but two meals.

After dinner we left George to nap while Jason, Ticia and I went grocery shopping. We were all stuffed and nothing at the grocery store sounded particularly appealing, so we ended up with turkey, pickles and cheese for sandwiches, mini bagels, cream cheese, carrots, crackers, Oreo cookies, Diet Coke and Pepsi. Not much of a spread for the next two days, but it was all that we could agree on at the time. We realized that we had wandered around for too long and that we only had a few minutes to get back to the hotel, pick up George and get to the pre-race meeting on time. We needed to come back and grab a few more things, including ice, but we thought we would just swing by in the morning.

The pre-race meeting hall, once again, was packed. George found a few seats for us and we enjoyed listening to Chris Kostman talk about the history of the race before he introduced both John Marino and Michael Secrest spoke about the early years of ultracycling. We set our watches to race time, wished our friends “good luck” and made our way to the van, where Jason was napping.

I decided that I needed a soda with ice, so we stopped at a gas station, where we also topped off the gas tank. While there Robyn “Athenian Rottweiler” Benincasa decided to draw some legs on the poor legless vireo on our signs on the car. Thanks Robyn! Back at the hotel, George went straight to bed while the three of us organized the back of the van. It’s actually spacious enough with the seats down, for someone to take a nap back there. Now, there’s no guarantee that some random objects won’t fall on your head, but there is enough room!

We decided to hit the grocery store for the second time tonight and grab a few extra things and ice, to avoid to the rush in the morning. I spied the business center in the hotel lobby, so I thought I would run over here and quickly update everyone. This may be our last post until after the race, so be sure to keep up to date via the Furnace Creek 508 Webcast.

Keep George in your thoughts during this epic weekend!