Stage 8 Almost Amboy to Twentynine Palms

Stage Eight: Almost Amboy to Twenty Nine Palms, 58.2 miles. Elevation Gain: 4170′.

“After you pass through the funky throw-back hamlet of Amboy (where you can not count on any services), you cross the valley and at mile 472 begin the last climb: 1500 feet in 10 miles to Sheephole Summit (Mountain Section Ten). The climb begins gradually and gets steeper near the top. The shoulder is very sandy; the crew should be careful with the vehicle. A quick descent leads to the rough road and rolling slight uphill to the finish line.”

This ranks as the point of the race where I hurt the most. On the way to Baker from Shoshone was my lowest point mentally. But Amboy, for a brief moment on the Sheephole climb, was my lowest point physically. I was hot. My triceps hurt. I couldn’t switch to my TT bike because my undercarriage hurt too much. I was getting a headache from dehydration. AND I was just done with this race. I did my best to push through the hurt. I sucked down a 50 oz hydration pack of plain water from Nathan Sports and was thinking that’s just not enough.

Thank you to Motor Tabs for providing different flavors for my CarboPro Motor Tabs cocktail.

Amazingly in this desert landscape, I found a shrub just tall enough to crawl under. I got off of the bike, crawled underneath the shrub and folded over like a towel on a rack. I was not having fun. I sat there and tried to hide from the afternoon sun.

I then realized that would not be enough either. I resorted to ice cold water poured on my head. Brandy then began to work on my triceps, which were aching.

The next series of pictures shows what a little water, a little shade and A LOT OF LOVE AND CARING can do. Notice how I go from the depths to new highs! Thank you Brandy and crew for taking care of me. Ticia, you captured a very important moment of the race-something that Brandy and I will always reflect on as a turning point. And Jason, steady Eddie, always there. Thank you all.

The look on my face should explain that I am not happy with the current situation. On the descent off of Sheephole Summit my Nightrider MiNewt headlight was loose. The MiNewt headlight is attached to a bracket which “clamps” to your handlebar by a tiny screw. Tighten it too much and you can’t rotate the light, too loose and it will eventually fall off.

The very poor condition of the roads had rattled the headlight loose and at over 45Mph per hour I was trying to hold on to the light and/or work it completely off. But you don’t have access to the screw because the head of it is on the underside of the bracket. I was trying to take it off with my left hand but I needed to refuel from the climb because I had 25 miles of steady uphill towards the finish. I would put my left hand back in the drops and drink with my right hand. For some reason I only drink with my right. Don’t ask me why.

Well the headlight fell off the bar and hit my spokes. LUCKILY, I was going so fast it could not get stuck in my spokes and richocheted off to the left side of the road into the bushes. Emergency procedures now. Flag the crew vehicle careening down the road behind me over 45 Mph, come to a complete stop as soon as possible, get off the road, get the crew vehicle off the road and tell the crew what has just happen. We had to stop right away or risk loosing the general area where the light was ejected. You travel huge chunks of road will traveling over 45 Mph (if you have to walk it).

Why the heck would Vireo stop on a descent when he loves descending? I tell them what happened and the world’s greatest crew jumps into action. Brandy grabs the spare lights and zip ties. Jason doubles back on the road UPHILL digging in the bushes. The search is made more challenging because the light is NOT illuminating– the battery pack is still on the bike. Ticia is instructed to grab the camera and document. Within five minutes light is found, screw tightened beyond rotating tolerance, reaffixed, crew in van and we are down the road. What a great example of teamwork 36 hours into the race!

Ahh the Finish Line

I spent 28 minutes off the bike in the final stage of the Furnace Creek 508. Added to my 2 hours 36 brings the total of off the bike time to 3 hour and 4 minutes. Not bad in 37 hours of racing. I am pleased with how little time I spent off the bike. It is a huge improvement over years past. But NEXT YEAR I would like to break 36 hours and that means I need to stay on the bike at least one more hour out of the 3 hours I spent off the bike this time.

Just for S & G’s I took the 3:04 time off of my total time of 37:34.
I then computed my average speed with just 34:30 and that came out to 14.7 Mph Avg Speed. So the point here is even if you can’t ride faster spend less time off the bike and you can improve your overall time significantly.


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