After last year's race I swore I would never do the 508
again, being totally burned out on (Ultra) cycling. This year Jim Pitre and I
raced successfully in RAAM as the two man E- Caps team, which made me change my
mind and get ready for
yet another attempt to break the 50+ record of 31:21. Defending my title in the
Badwater/Durango race as well racing in the proposed Badwater to Horse Shoe
Meadows race should get me fit enough. This year however, Lady Fortune refused
to smile on me. The weekend after RAAM, cresting a hill in great shape, I was
run off the road in an accident very similar to the one which occurred on a
recent PAC Tour. Fortunately the car's mirror hit my wrist rather than my head,
but I could not ride for three weeks, so much for my after RAAM conditioning
peak. Hugh Murphy retired from organizing Ultra events, so much for racing into
shape. Add extra work and family commitments to the mix and there you have it,
the ideal setup for a DNF. Usually I am quite confident in my cycling
abilities, but lately I don't seem to be able to keep up with my cycling peers.
My muscles are sore, the joints ache, my attitude is poor etc., etc. Resting days
did not seem to make a difference. After much soul searching I decided to not
cancel my entry. All this litany of negativity serves to set the stage of a
very apprehensive Penguin at this years 508 start.
Fortunately I have a great crew. Charlie Griffice, long time
cycling friend, has a tremendous faith in my cycling abilities. Just not to let
him down, I have to finish and finish well. Dan Crain is a very strong rider. I
noticed him in 1996 and 1997 as someone who I often just could not shake from my
wheel. He finished the (notorious? gruesome?) Adventure Corps Brevet series as
well as the inaugural Everest Challenge out of Bishop, California. I can't let
him down either. My wife decided not to crew at the last moment. She hated to
leave the kids alone with the recent terrorist scares. Dick Dickinson ( another strong rider ) was gracious enough to join the
crew literally days before the event. This is how the Penguin presented himself
at the start: super crew, decked out support van, great heart but no legs. Oh
BTW that suspension bike I was alluding to in last years report? Still on the drawing
The largest field ever! More fast riders than I ever
experienced in my prior 508's. Andrew Otto, Justin Peshka, Fabio Biasolo and
Mark Patten, just to name a few. Even Seana Hogan is making her come back. Eric
Ostendorff, good friend and former crew member, is racing this year as Ostrich.
He is in great shape and will be tough to beat. Former team mate Jim Pitre is
set to beat last years 60 + record.
" If I can just make it over the steep hill near the end
of San Francisquito Canyon without blowing my knees . " Along with Doug "Dog"
Sloan I am the first in the canyon. Lord only knows how many riders pass me by
in the canyon. "Stay steady, keep toes down, point the right toes out, gear down, I will
never DNF" is my mantra for the entire race. Damn headwind! Usually there
is tailwind in the canyon ( I should know I have ridden this section of the 508
close to a hundred times) but not on race day. Of course. "Space out
more" yells Marie Handrahan, 508 official. That is easier said than done. I
will be damned if I slow down and I can not sustain a faster pace. With the
increased number of riders the rules should be relaxed somewhat in the canyon.
It is hard enough to stay out of the way of all the support vehicles and
especially those crewmembers either with a death wish or demonstrating a
complete lack of attention to anyone but their racer. Someone throws his wind
breaker, nearly blinding me. Chuck "Gecko" Giles and I trade places
for a while. He is very strong on the flats especially with headwinds but I am
the better climber. I fear he is pushing himself too hard, he is 60 + and is
hanging out with the front pack.
Along the way I talk to a few, they all are exited to ride
with the Penguin and are surprised I am not in the front, little do they know.
No dogs attack me on the "Avenues", that's a first. On to the Wind
mills, a lot easier than usual. Descent to Mojave. Strong headwinds, I actually
have to push the pedals hard to keep going. Gecko gets the "carpet "
treatment over the tracks. "Nice touch crew." " Next time leave it
on the tracks a few seconds longer, will you." Guess what? Headwinds to California
City. Steve "Scorpio" Winfrey, determined to beat me this year, is way ahead. As
easy as the Windmills were , as tough are the Rollers to Randsburg. Finally the
climb to Randsburg, Gecko is recuperating and changing bikes. There is a whole
string of riders in front of me but I haven't a clue as to who they are.
"Frankly my dear, I don't give a d...." As long as I can stay in front
of the 50+ and 60+ ( this sounds awful, like I am a card carrying member of the
AARP ). Make a right and a left and....... Darn! They broke the asphalt up on
Trona Rd. I used to ride Harleys and they are tough to control on these grooves,
let alone a bicycle. Change to the Softride, ChamoisBtrr (lots of it), first pee
since the start ( I was getting worried) and back on the bike. Having loads of
fun!! If you need a vasectomy, just do this road a couple of times and that will
take care of everything. Seana Hogan comes to mind, being a recent new mother, I
wonder how she is enjoying this part of the race. As I mentioned before, I
consider Seana to be Super woman or at least to have originated from that planet. While I am struggling to just keep up with the "peloton", she
is out there beating the tough guys. Unbelievable! Did I mention the asphalt on
the descent to Trona was broken up as well? Let's skip Trona. I knew the climb
out of Trona is long, but I conveniently forgot how truly long it is. All
"good" things come to an end and the view of Panamint Valley with the
late afternoon sun makes it all worth it ( you bet!). Can't wait to try out the
new pavement on Panamint Valley Rd. It is indeed smooth as silk. It is dark when we
make the right turn to the climb of Towne Pass. I have never seen so many
flashing light in front of me strung out over the mountain ( unfortunately ) and
so many headlights strung out behind me. This year the climb to Towne Pass was
the toughest of them all. My crew thought I was climbing well and indeed I was
passing riders, but I was suffering as never before. In fact I had the
"shakes" at the top and could hardly control my bike on the (slow)
descent. Through Death Valley we have mild headwind. I trade places back and
forth with Eric "Red Rooster" Wilson. He is faster, but gets off the bike a lot. Strong
headwinds to Salsberry make me change to the Spectrum, my climbing bike. My crew
mentions afterwards that I lost a lot of time on this climb, but I felt I
climbed well considering the headwinds. Charlie predicts tailwinds to Baker and
he turned out to be right, unfortunately only for 10 miles or so. Ibex feels harder this year
and no one can enjoy the road to Baker. This road goes on forever, climbs about 600
ft, headwinds and one is riding it trying to stay awake near daybreak. This year I am so worried about everything I forget
about falling asleep.
On to Kelso. During all this we are passed by the Davis
Tandem near Ashford Mills. Bill Palmer and Emmy Klassen passed us a ways before
Baker. With all the teams and the many solo riders neither I nor my crew really
know who is in front. Near the top of the climb I run into Doug "Dog"
Sloan, a very talented rider but bonking presently. He is in need of Hammergel!
Fortunately I have extra I can share. Next up Granite Mountains. That is one
loooong climb, it climbs higher than Kelso. We hit the top with Wagner's Ride of
the Valkeries blaring from the speakers. This is quite the emotional moment for
me, the memory of this will be a keeper. The next section, which includes the
long descent into Amboy ( today's Dante's inferno with 108 F), I truly learned to
hate. The potholes are hard to see, but they are ready to catch your wheel and
my rear end is so sore. If you have ever seen a horse rubbing its tail to the
stall wall ( this is considered a vice ) this is how I looked bouncing all over
the seat trying to be in less agony. Headwinds into Amboy, but headwinds here
tail/cross winds on the approach to Sheephole. After
bonking on this approach in 1995, I am always apprehensive here. Sheephole is
HOT! Kangaroo Rat passes me. More power to him. For a millisecond I am
considering chasing him. Forget it, just finish. Similar to last year, if you
don't pay attention to the mileage, the turnoff to Utah Trails comes up sooner
than expected. Thank you Lord! It is getting dark, put those lights on again (
no DQ for me ). A few more RAAM legal stops for Stop signs. Have to stay honest,
but it is sure hard on the old sore quads. Last killer hill is taken in my
triple and in the distance we can see the finish. I can't believe I made it. My
sixth 508 finish without DNF! First place 50+ Eighth place overall in 35:32.
Picture time. Paul Biron finished about 1/2 hour before me and does he look
tired but excited at the same time.
Well that is the 508 for you: periods of
agony and total exhaustion mixed with moments of bliss and ? ecstasy.
The "Penguin" Team.