Silver State 508 Race Report - Part 1

It has been a long time since I’ve raced the Furnace Creek 508, 10 years to be precise. 2004 was the year of my first and only participation, the year of my comeback from lung operation (after pulmonary embolism at RAAM 2003). Tweety Bird (the name picked by my than 5 years old daughter) rocked the course and won convinsingly. I loved the race and would certainly liked to have made more, it is just so difficult to fit all of the races I wanna do into my yearly schedulle. But for the 10th anniversary, I kind of loved the apeal of Tweety coming back and try to better my result (time wise). So, I was seriously considering it but with limited budget it was still going to be a struggle. Until a friend stepped in and offered to sponsor my entrance fee. Thank you Ray!

 

I should mention here that the course for the 508 has changed this year, because of the closing of Death Valley for all sporting events. Chris Kostman, the race organizer, has found a perfect place to keep the race going as he moved it to Reno, Nevada. We were just getting into the planning with Irma, how (and who) to get to crew for me and another struck of luck happens. In my mailbox there was an e-mail from RAAM veteran Patrick Seely, offering his and his partner’s Marlies’ help in crewing for the Silver State 508. It so happens that they live in Reno, have both done the 508, he saw me registered for the race and was kind enough to offer his help with crewing, as well his RAAM follow vehicle and their house to stay in before the race. Thank you so much Pat & Marlies!

It’s a (too) long story how it came about that Irma was able to join me too, but it has to do with Ray again. Thank you! I was able to come to USA two weeks prior to the race and did some awesome climbing in Colorado. With Ray we did Trailridge Road, Independence PAss, Cottonwood Pass and the half of Mt Evans, which unfortunately was closed for traffic at the upper part. We had to be carefull with our effort at the altitude (some over 12.000 feet), so it was surely not the perfect training with the race coming, but the scenery was breathtaking and well worth it. We were able to acclimatise to the altitude, that’s for sure.

Some personal issues hampered the last days of training, but as soon as Irma arrived, I was on track again. We had a nice drive from Denver, slept at Ely and than started my course reckon from Eureka to Fallon and than Reno. A day of rain slowed us down a bit, but we had a nice day in Fallon and even checked a part of the course to Virginia City in the car. Than we were of to Reno (with a bike of course) and visit our new friends Pat & Marlies. One more ride over Geiger Summit, a couple of recoveries before the race and there it was - a day before the race. You could feel the buzz at the race host hotel Atlantis, with all the racers and crews arriving. We had our car ready with Tweety stickers and all equipment, so the inspection went smoothly as expected. We had a nice chat with old friends Dex, Dave, Rob, Joan, Mike, Tina, Peter  and met some new ones like George and Lori and others. Sorry, to many names to remember, but all really great people, ultra-cycling community is like a second family for us. We do love meeting new people and share our experiences, even after 14 years in ultra-cycling we are still eager to learn new tricks. There is always room for improvement... ;)

A nice pasta dinner and we were off for a bit short sleep, as we were up at 4.15 AM. A quick breakfast, getting dressed for a cold start of the race and at 5.45 we were at the start line. Fortunately I could do a no. 2 at one of Atlantis restrooms, which usually means I won’t have to do it in the race. Talking about time saver! Every minute counts...

The group of racers that gather at the 508 is awesome, it brings together most of the best ultra-cyclists from the USA. I knew all my main adversaries bar one. I’m talking about Sean Cuddihy a.k.a. the Crow, who is the two time winner of the 508, so I knew he would be a threat. Other candidates for a victory were Adam Bickett (Rock Rabbit) with whom we had a great race at RAW last June, Dave Haase (Holstein) my dear RAAM friend, Mike Walsh (Irish Hare) and some others like Thundercat. In the woman’s field the favorites were the 5-time RAAM champion Seana Hogan recovering from knee operation and Sarah Cooper, a mom from Iowa that blew onto ultra scene this year and was kicking even most of the male competitors’ butts in races.

What was my plan? I am almost embarassed to tell. ;) I wanted to go out slow(er), follow the main contenders and only fire up the afterburners on the way back from Eureka. It was simply to do with a wish I have to do a negative split, meaning doing the second half of the race faster than the first one. On the other hand there was a record to go after and going slow(er) in the first half could mean not so good average speed. The deciding factor was the cold. The slow ride behind race director’s car to the bottom of the Gaiger Summit didn’t do me good, except the possibility of chat with some friends. I was cold and at the front of the pack, so I just went with the tempo that suited me and kept me warm. I didn’t even look back for a few miles, until the first switchbands, where I could see that the field was spread far behind me with only one of the races close enough to see him. My hunch was it was Rock Rabbit. I kept on plowing and kept the power at desired Watts. At the top I was just a few hundred meters up on my follower and decided to just drop down the descent, which is the one reward you get from climbing a great hill like this.

I went slowly through Virginia City, upholding the speed limit which was highly recommended by race director. A really nice city, but there were turns to be made, stop signs to stop at and race to continue... I was fast descending the Six Mile Rd, with only the Crow’s crew vehicle slowing me down for a couple of minutes, which did piss me off a bit, so I kept shouting and waving them to either go faster or move away. They finally let me pass and I was back on the way to the first meeting point with my crew at  intersection at 29,7 miles. I stopped at the stop sign, removed the spare tire, the pump (which I had to have on as we were self supported for this first part of the race), changed the bottles (two empty out, two full in) and Irma managed to turn on my iPod that stopped working somewhere up the Gaiger. I was off, turned left on Hwy 50 and waited for the news on my followers. After my crew cought up to me some 20min later, I got the confirmation the the closest one was Adam, 1 minute behind me and Dave another minute behind him. I know what you are thinking and yes, I was laughing at myself too, failing miserably to uphold my tactic. But, here I was at the head of the field once more and I was simply enjoying myself. Enjoying the Nevada vast scenery, the fact I was in the lead and riding fast at what I was sure was a sustainable pace for a race of 500 miles. My power output was steady and I especially liked the average speed data, it was great and growing fast. I knew there would be climbs later on that would slow me (us) down, so I enjoyed seeing it reach up to 37km/h before the first climbs out of Fallon.

 

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