Friday, October 27, 2017

Ultra Pedestrian Wilderness Challenge report - Owyhigh Lakes Loop

This is an overdue report of my first UPWC course ever.  I ran the Owyhigh Lakes loop with Chris Ragsdale on 9/3.

We arrived early to clear skies and cool temps - parking on Sunrise Road across from the Owyhigh Lakes trail head (we decided it would be best to start with the run up the road, and finish coming out of the woods with the car right in front of us).

The run up Summerland was amazing - we were up on Summerland a few weeks earlier and there was much less snow, and we still had a lot of wild flower bloom to take in.  Clear skies, light winds and perfect temperatures.  We met a lot of hikers and runners during the morning, and all along the Wonderland trail.

Descending from Summerland was tough on the old quads, with all the log steps and occasionally challenging with the narrow deep cut trail sections - we came across a lot of cool people taking in a late summer gem in MRNP.

Eventually we made the turn to Cowlitz Divide Trail - this was a new trail for me - forested rolling single track - super fun to run; there were a few washed out sections that required quick feet but this was a nice change, and quiet.

Cowlitz Divide winds down near the bottom of Highway 123 to a left turn on the Eastside Trail (passing by Grove of the Patriarchs).  Lets just say this is a popular section of MRNP - throngs of people on the trail and long queues of people on both sides of the Patriarchs loop suspension bridge waiting to get across.

I've biked up Chinook Pass many times on 123 - it was cool making my way up on foot for a change.

The ascent continued to a junction with the Owyhigh Lakes Trail.  Lightly traveled, with a notable switchback climb to get you to the top (it was getting warm and I was feeling it - Chris on the other hand was pulling away).  This is a phenomenal trail - old growth forest single track takes you to Owyhigh Lake - the view is worth the effort; the lake is situated on a plateau surrounded by peaks.  After taking in the lake view, it's runnable (and I know it's also walkable) trail back to Sunrise road.

If you're looking for an amazing day in MRNP on trails with spectacular views, this is your loop.

Details from my Suunto:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Silver State 508

We are resurrecting Team Falcon after a 10 year hiatus for this year's inaugural Silver State 508 in Reno Nevada.   Who's riding?  Paul and Wanda Kingsbury, Gary "Brodie Jones" Baierl and Jim "Brodie Bones" Ryan.

Stay tuned for race updates, photos, and post-race write-ups.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Furnace Creek 508 - Northern Spring Peepers

A companion race report to Paul Kingsbury’s eloquent piece regarding the assembly of this year’s record breaking mixed 50+ 2 tandem team, and a race report for the even-number stages ridden by Jeanie “where’s my zip lock baggie” Tomkalski and Jim “here’s the proper way to make a pickle cheese turkey wrap” Ryan, aka Pancake Tortoise.

Northern Spring Peepers Paul Kingsbury, Wanda Tocci, Jeanie Tomkalski, Jim Ryan

Team history and race preparations:

The team started to take shape during the winter months following the 2011 508.  Paul Kingsbury and Wanda Tocci – crewing for my solo efforts the last 3 years, were hoping to either 1) ride or 2) not answer the phone when I called in 2012.  Thankfully they asked if I’d be interested in riding in a two tandem team with the expressed intent of setting the 50+ mixed tandem record set the prior year by Willy Nevin’s team.

I have a tandem…in my garage…hanging way up in the rafters; so although I have ridden one occasionally, I am by no means an accomplished tandem rider.  What could make that a little more entertaining?  Well, how about convince some poor unsuspecting cyclist 3000 miles away to be my tandem partner, sight unseen – and we would meet for the first time at the 508.  Enter Jeanie Tomkalski – a daring willful co-conspirator who in addition to all those daredevil qualities, like me, has a healthy lack of judgment and common sense. To add to the intrigue, we will ride a borrowed tandem that I’ve ridden once, in March, for 2 hours, and my tandem partner has never seen.  For icing on the cake let’s make it a co-motion tandem with the periscope setup and S+S couplers so it weighs a shit load.

Dana Davidson (Wanda’s brother and pretty much the Mayor of Calais Maine) and Colin Bailey (the clean cut, non-cursing gentleman tootsie roll pusher / physicist from NY) were recruited as crew, videographers, and photographers.
Peepers and crew at the local Chipotle on Friday - Hay caramba!

 Each year Gary “Bear” Baierl opens his home to us for race staging and prep, and this year was no different.   Having said that, since Gary was riding solo, and we had 2 tandems plus team, we had 10 or 11 people (riders and crew) taking up every spare spot in Gary’s house and camper.  It was exactly like the VH1 Woodstock documentary by the time Friday morning rolled around.  We’re going to make breakfast in bed for like 200,000 people,  maaaaaan!

Bear's house looked like Woodstock by Friday morning

We unpacked our gear Thursday at Bear's house and Paul (a co-motion dealer) and Wanda roll out their custom co-motion with a fancy paint job, custom 508 decals, belt drive and other secret “only dealers get this” crap on it…I don’t even know what it was made of – some space aged material that makes the tandem float in the air when it’s not moving…meanwhile Jeanie and I unearth “Titan” aka “Steamroller” aka “Super tanker” aka “Old ironsides” – for the rest of the article I’ll use “Big Bertha” - from Gary’s garage, and we start the process of putting a couple of lighter weight components on it so I could actually roll it forward.  We added drop bars for Jeanie, saddles and pedals.  Paul added some new tires and we were ready to take a test ride.

I was a little rusty on that test ride – probably because I’d only ridden a tandem one time this year – in March – and this time it was rush hour in busy Orange County, so that kinda spooked me. 

Jeanie was a trooper during those first miles as I tried to stay out of traffic and not tip over.  I only heard her mumble “oh Jesus” or “I’m okay…I’m okay” a few times – pretty good for our first time out riding “Big Bertha”.  We got the basics down pretty quickly and deemed ourselves “ready to win”.
While training up in Seattle I was able to get valuable pointers from tandem czars Mick and Martha Walsh – their advice rang in my head throughout the rest of the 508 (Thanks Mick and Martha!) – stuff like “stand a lot” and “the stoker chooses the gear” – words to live by (at least eventually, like Mile 400 for example).

After a Friday morning run to Starbucks and Albertsons, we came back to Gary’s house for some most excellent oatmeal then we were on the road to the start hotel.

This year the start line hotel has moved to the Hyatt Regency – a huge improvement all the way around for racers / crew and I bet the AdventureCorp crew putting on the event.
NSP Van at inspection

We got the van inspection completed no problemo – Wanda and Jeanie worked on additional signage for the van, and we test rode the bikes in the parking lot to make sure everything was in working order.  After inspection by 508 veteran Rick Amoeba Anderson, we hit the market for food.  It’s been 8 508s for me, and this year we set two market run records:  the biggest food bill dollar wise, and the longest receipt in length – over 40”.  We had enough food for a platoon.

The pre-race meeting was at the hotel, with Chris Kostman refreshing everyone’s understanding of the rules and acknowledging all the racers.  This year, no driving to the meeting required; how sweet is that?

Dinner that night – a nice walk down to the corner bakery with a big bonus – Wanda batted her eyes a few times at the manager and we all got free cake!

Race day start

We all got up in time to see the solos take off; Gary Brodie “Bear” Baierl, and lots of Seattle Randonneurs in the roster this year – Chris Ragsdale, Bob Brudvik, James McKee, Mike McHale, John Pearch were all riding – plus a bunch of randonneurs on their crews - great to see the NW so well represented at this year’s 508.

Something brilliant being discussed between the two Brodies (Pancake Tortoise / Bear at the solo start)

Solos off (including Gary on his insanely tricked out Carbent recumbent – his first 508 riding a bent) and we hit the gas station one more time.  Before we know it it’s go-time, and Paul and Wanda hop on the Stealth Co-motion, while the rest of us climb in the van to head to Johnson Road for the first bottle exchange.

Stage 2 | California City – Trona

My team skills are a little rusty, as I was in the rest room at the VFW hall when Paul and Wanda rolled in for the transition J.  Regardless, Jeanie and I got on Big Bertha and headed out.  The stage is a good first stage for two people who haven’t ridden together – good flats for 25 or so miles and we were able to lay out the communication plan for fine tuning our riding going forward.   

One thing about Big Bertha – you get the bike going, and it rolls forever – we carried great speed from the Cali City start to the T-intersection at Randsburg Road.  The rollers on the approach to the Randsburg climb were fun, as we were able to maintain our pace and then some on the approach to the climb.  The lower part of the climb is pretty gradual, then steepens near the top – we stayed in the big ring up front for the duration of the climb and rarely fell below 10 mph even on the steepest portions – not bad for a couple of newbies on a heavy rig.  Of course, that meant we were working kinda hard – and since we hadn’t done any standing on the bike yet, our asses were tired…but we didn’t care, as long as we kept getting all that tasty food and drink out of the van we were happy.

Looking fast as we get ready for a bottle exchange
The rollers out of Johannesburg can be kind of an energy sucking affair, but the temps were moderate this year so definitely not bad – it helps having two people powering through them on one bike!  The Trona descent was freaking awesome on that crazy tandem.  I’ve been blown off my bike here solo in a big cross wind – no danger of that with Big Bertha hauling ass down that hill – pretty sweet.  We used the aerobars here for the first time and it added a few MPH to the speedo, and rode super stable.
The run into Trona after the descent had a bit of a headwind, and didn’t feel quite as fast – I think we were both working hard to get to the time station before lights on; we missed it by 10-15 minutes, stopping just outside the entry into Trona for a minute to tweak the lights and get the follow going.

We rolled into Trona, switched bikes, did a quick bio break, and then Jeanie and I climbed into the van and started checking out all that fooood!  Oh, and Jeanie had trouble finding a misplaced zip lock bag with some shit in it.

Stage 4 | Furnace Creek to Shoshone.

I like all the climbs in the 508 – even Townes Pass – but for some reason I really like Jubilee and Salsberry.   This year I kept mentioning to the rookies on our team hat on the approach to Jubilee at night you tend to see a lot of white mice and spiders in the road that are illuminated by the van lights. 
Did we see any mice or spiders this year?  Nope.  Did we see a shit load of white moths flying into our eyes and mouths, attracted by the van lights?  Hell yeah.  Crazy desert.  

Rolling out of Badwater we ran up along Gary Bear Baierl and his crew; Recumbent guru Keith Kohan, the legend Steve Teal, and Vicki Tyer from the awesome state of Texas; We exchanged wise cracks, I told him how heavy his tandem was, he told me he took a nap, and I told him that Colin Bailey on our crew introduced me to a new thing we call a “special” – a mini tootsie roll with coffee beans squished into it; I’ve had about 32,500 specials since then (don’t tell anyone – it’s our secret recipe…wink wink).  I told Colin I was going to throw a pair of Chuck Taylor converse sneakers over the power lines in front of my house and start selling them in baggies.  Which reminds me – I’m pretty sure Jeanie will misplace another zip lock bag after this pull to Shoshone is over.

Tootsie Roll and coffee beans...who knew? Colin, that's who.

Jeanie and I climbed like monkeys on this stage, and we maintained a good pace – Jeanie asked for a lighter gear and a higher cadence, so we dropped it down and spun up Jubilee…near the top of Salsberry we started to grind it out, and she reminded me that there was a third ring on the front – something I’m not used to having; if she didn’t remind me I still would have been stomping on the pedals!   

The Salsberry descent was fast and stable; when we made the right turn to Shoshone we picked up a wee bit of a tail wind, so we agreed that we should “hammer in style” into the time station and rolled at over 30mph into town.

We rolled into Shoshone, switched bikes, did a quick bio break, and then Jeanie and I climbed into the van and started checking out all that fooood!  Oh, and Jeanie had trouble finding a misplaced zip lock bag with some shit in it.

Stage 6 | Baker to Kelso

This is a stage that I always need to improve upon during my solo efforts.  There’s something about climbing out of Baker in the morning after riding all night that is tough, and it’s important to push yourself or you’ll lose valuable time to the competition.  

Before we left we asked Colin to pick up some breakfast potatoes at the mad Greek that we’d eat later – more on that soon.  On the tandem, we had a really solid and consistent climb up Kelbaker.   
Tandems are never fast (I've been told since I barely know myself whether they're fast or not), but I felt good and Jeanie was climbing well; we did more standing through this climb and it 1) felt sooo good to stand and 2) we were getting more stable on the bike with each effort.  

The top of Kelbaker has the infamous ass-chewing pavement – on the tandem it was easier to endure; as we hit the last cattle guard crossing and rounded the top we started rolling for the descent.  
Riding the rough pavement on Kelbaker
There are a few sweeper turns at the top with slightly better pavement, then when the descent straightens out, we start to see the really chewed up road surface…after a cautious start, I just dropped into the aerobars and we positively bombed the descent – we blitzed into Kelso ahead of schedule, and Paul and Wanda got ready for their last stage.

Rolling into Kelso for the exchange - I sense a missing zip lock bag about to happen!
 After rolling into Kelso, we switched bikes, did a quick bio break at the rail museum, and then Jeanie and I climbed into the van and started checking out all that fooood – we ate our breakfast potatoes with peppers, onions and shitloads of ketchup and I WILL NEVER FORGET HOW AWESOME THEY WERE THANK YOU COLIN AND MAD GREEK CHEFS.  Oh, and Jeanie had trouble finding a misplaced zip lock bag with some shit in it.

Stage 8 | Almost Amboy to 29 Palms

What can you say about stage 8 other than “Sheep’s Hole”.  It was pretty warm as we jumped on Big Bertha for the last and penultimate stage.  Up to this point, I had still been pushing the big ring more often than I think Jeanie would like – I know this because the more two people ride together, the more open the stoker is about suggesting some things.  Probability that I was going to roll Big Bertha up Sheephole in the big ring without Jeanie mentioning it to me?  Um, how about zeeero!! 

One thing that always gets me about this section is how long the run up to the climb actually is.  The one awesome thing about this year’s 508?  Traffic was way down.  No giant F350s pulling 40’ moto trailers, or RVs pulling wranglers, or Pickups with in-bed campers with canoes on top, pulling a boat with dog beds flopping around inside the boat.  

Jeanie was working through some hydration issues on the climb, and kept the crew hopping with special drink orders; after a quick break for a back massage and ice sock, and she was back in form and we put the sheep hole climb in the done column and headed down for the run in to 29 Palms.  

Jeanie using the complex series of hand signals she worked out with the crew to request different drink mixes...

I know how mentally screwy it is to want to be done, but have that slight uphill 15 mile run to the turn on Utah Trail, followed by the intersections and last hills you have to navigate before the finish. 

That familiar slog up to the turn onto Utah Trail!
Jeanie asked me a couple of times about the finish line and our proximity to it, and I gave the very informed and mathematically correct response “Don’t worry about it”.  As we neared the turn to the Burger King and the frontage road, I said “I can see the finish line, but I am not going to tell you where it is until we get there so you don’t stop pedaling”.   

We stopped at the frontage road so Paul and Wanda could climb aboard their lighter than air fancy pants stealth tandem, and we cruised up the hill to the finish.

Teaming up for the ride up the hill to the finish
A two tandem team with a whimsical totem – one tandem with a couple who met and fell for each other while crewing for Pancake Tortoise at the 2009 508, and the other tandem comprised of two riders on borrowed equipment who never met until race time - lays down the mixed 50+ tandem record.  Put that and a couple of “specials” in a zip lock bag and lose it!

Peepers crossing the finish in 33h 15m

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

RAW Deal

Pancake Tortoise (Jim Ryan) is headed to Oceanside CA to participate in the Race Across the West.  Temperatures are expected to be in the high 90's / low 100's - a far cry from the 50's and cloudy conditions of the Pacific NW. 

How do you overcome that?  With a great crew:  Gary Brodie "Bear" Baierl, Jun "Japanese Macaque" Watanabe, New York's finest - Andy Goodell and Maxwell Craft, and 508 crewman extraordinaire Lehrin Morey. 

See you in Oceanside - track our progress to Durango via satellite here!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Race recap - 2011 FC508

This year's 508 was dubbed the "lucky 7" tour on account of it's the 7th time Pancake Tortoise (aka the weakest link on Team Falcon) has ridden in this event.

The crew was comprised of Paulie "PK" Kingsbury, Wanda "Don't run with scissors" Tocci, and Lehrin "what was in my milk shake" Morey.  Same crew two years in a row means something ... it may mean that my crew doesn't have all their marbles, or it may mean that it's just great karma that they came back for a second year.  Regardless, the prep for the race went off like clockwork - it's almost like we didn't even have to talk to each other during pre-race logistics; everyone just knew what to do.

Race day starts off with a little chit chat at the start line with Mr. Bob Brudvik (Bush Baby) from Seattle - Bob was a riding fool this year and completed a sub-60 hour PBP with a group of like minded hard-chargers from the Seattle Randonneurs.  Bob looked fit as hell and had the bike to match; he also had Chris Ragsdale and Mike McHale on his crew, so I was kinda figuring that Bob wasn't going to be spending too much time in the van on account of Chris and Mike being all "stay on the bike or else" ... Also at the start was good friend Jun Watanabe (Japanese Macaque); with a staggering all-star crew of Gary Brodie "Bear" Baierl, Pete aka "JS" aka "lead monkey dancer" and Michele "this is the last time I'm going to crew...this time I mean it" Neri.  My understanding is that there was a lot of energy through out the race of Jun's crew and other crews on the route dreaming up ways of using Jun's totem in a sentence that pretty much had little to do with Japanese Macaque the animal, and had a lot more to do with ... well ... Animal House kind of stuff... By all accounts Michele was continuously entertained.

Race start is right on time at 0700, and the group goes out behind Chris Kostman in a Delorean and CHP.  Temps were cool with variable winds.  On the turn to San Franciscito canyon riders sorted out pretty quickly this year, with less bunching up than in 2010.  No monster tail winds to speak of, so for me the speeds were a little down (not like the love fest we had in Team RAAM this year in Kansas with those eye popping tail winds...we love Kansas!).  Picked up some refreshments at the Johnson Road meet-up spot; that's such a cool thing to have all the vans lined up on that road; loads of energy.

I think as we crested the Johnson Rd hill, Jun put the hammer down and flew by... I caught him back on the descent and we were both laughing mucho... we stayed close for quite a while which keeps it fun; both crews are all friends so it's like a big Team Falcon reunion.  On the windmill climb I could see Jun ahead and he was definitely having issues with his back; I wheeled up to him near the top and we chatted a bit - he's a tough cookie (more on that later).  Bob Bush Baby Brudvik was also in the mix on the windmill climb... funny side bar on Bob; I pass his crew and ask "where's Bob and his TT bike with that fancy disk rear wheel?" - crew replies "he's coming right behind you"... so there's a guy coming up behind me and I'm thinking it's Bob... so I start off with "hey what's taking you so long?" - the guy replies "well you know... I'm doing what I can" (I'm still thinking "Bob")... I reply "You're climbing like a fool...I'm going to have to get your blood tested" (as he then rides by, I realize "shoot...this guy's not Bob)... but he was good natured about it as he schooled me on how to climb a hill!

Around Trona we started to hit some modest head winds...not huge - maybe 7-10mph, but it kinda lasted to Townes Pass summit which made things kinda pokey.  PK, Wan and Lehrin were superb at keeping the calories flowing, and we were in a good rythym throughout.  Townes Pass was extra special this year in terms of me going slow... I was so gassed it was funny.  I had picked up a nice cold/sore throat on Wednesday night before the race and it was in full bloom during the ride, so I'm sure that could have been a little contributor, but I think not having the benefit of any prevailing tail winds in the first 200 like we have in previous years also didn't help.  When I have those low moments, I just put one thought in my head: "Think like Ragsdale" - that guy can ride through anything and you don't want to stop when you're thinking that in your head!

Somewhere ... either heading to Randsburg, or to the Trona Bump - the Japanese Macaque van is stopped up ahead on a riser... Bear and JS are standing in the middle of the road doing this crazy-assed herky jerky monkey dance... if you stand bow-legged, then hold your hands up in the air, elbows bent at 90 degrees, then do this weird-assed jig where you lift your right leg in the air w/ your right arm, then step down with your right and pick up the left - keep doing that over and over - that's what I saw for pretty much the whole climb.  JS ran out of gas but Bear was Monkey dancing until I got to the top... I could see that Japanese Macaque had evolved from a totem to a way of life for these guys...and it's only 200 miles in.

The ride down from Townes Pass is always so shitting cool - I had a guy blitz by me at the top, and I got caught behind his van for a bit through the dips which was sort of a bummer, but we waited for the last few turns and once we got straight we hit the gas pedal and got to the front for a clear shot down.  5-6 miles from Furnace Creek a 4-man team passed, then the guy kinda petered out; I think he worked hard to catch then got by me and lost his rabbit -- he was nearing the end of his pull, so I'm guessing he was pretty tanked... we hung back for a few then re-passed; I don't pass many folks so anytime I can it keeps it fun... of course just past FC TS, they had a fresh rider up and he went by sooooo fast...

Jubilee and Salisbury - I actually like those climbs; these felt longer this year... maybe my brakes were rubbing or I had a tire going down or something ;-D ... even though it was slow, I felt good overall and was enjoying the ride.  We rode straight through Shoshone and headed to Baker.  The ride to Baker this year was good... Bear Baierl loves this section, and I usually love it a little less... I think we had a slight tail wind/cross wind, and the sun was coming up, so it was kind of a super section.  The crew went ahead to Baker to gas up and get some food.  I pulled up to the TS and they had an AWESOME Burger King Breakfast Sandwich waiting... Jesus was that ever good.  Lehrin also gave me some of his greasy tater tots which also tasted like HEAVEN.   I never eat at BK, and with Tammy on her Veggie/Vegan health kick meat has pretty much disappeared from the house (note for the Spousal Record: I'm not complaining, just stating a fact) - but that sandwich was something pretty special.

On to the Kel-Baker climb; it's starting to warm up; lots of riders around.  I got into a zone through here and took on calories/fluids whenever the crew handed them to me.  This was the section where the pickles and turkey started to come into play; super tasty.  The last 100 miles is always a challenge in this event; I probably lost 20-30 minutes from here to the end on "bumper breaks" and we also took a bathroom break at Roys in Amboy; where I had the opportunity to chat with a bunch of Harley Riders who said that "I looked parched, and would I like a beer".  I replied "If I have a beer, you'll need a spatula to scrape me up off the pavement".

The Kel-Baker descent was as rough as ever; the Granite Pass climb was not bad, however at the top we developed a substantial clicking in my new front wheel (carbon) - to be safe we did a wheel change at the top and headed to almost Amboy. 

The Sheephole climb was super good - much less car traffic this year, although our crew did experience a hostile driver moment... two ladies driving a diesel pickup pulling a trailer were trying to get by...I could hear the horn beeping over and over behind me and looked back a couple of times to see what was going on; this was near the section where the road bends right and you get onto the main part of the sheephole climb... as they rode by the van, they threw a handful of tortilla chips at our van....pretty aggressive move, as some of those triangular chips are sort of like ninja stars and all... On sheephole, Siberian Husky rode by... I didn't have the gas at the moment to run after him, but figured I'd try to ride hard in the last 20 and see what came up (what came up was, he finished before I did :))

The final run into 29 Palms was good - usually there are quite a few lights and riders to go after but not this year; we get onto Utah Trail closing in on 62 and at the stop sign PK says "Rider up behind you"... I ask "solo or team?" - he says "I don't know" so we put the hammer down just in case and gapped them pretty well ... in the end it turned out to be a team.

It was another super year of riding with some amazing folks and teaming up with the best crew in the business...Afterwards we grabbed some dinner, then did some tracking to find out where Jun was in the mix; it turned out his back was causing major issues for him, and his progress had slowed quite a bit, but he was still riding despite the back injury.  In the end, we got a text message around 3:30 am that he was on Utah Trail so we all booked up to the finish to wait for him to cross.  He came across around 4:00 am or so, messed up back and all... by all accounts it was an epic show of discipline, with an extra display of digging deep starting in Kelso; that's a testament to the mental toughness that you have to have to ride these things so super job by the Japanese Macaque.

A couple of other shout-outs; great ride by Bush Baby Brudvik - if you look on the webcast his finish line pictures look like he hasn't even started the ride addition Dave Nash - super crew from RAAM 2011 rode 2-man (with Chuck Clements on crew) and he and team mate threw down a great ride; we were able to connect briefly at Almost Amboy and Dave looked fresher there than he did during some of those mid-night moments driving the R/V during RAAM.

It's been a great year of riding, and 2012 promises more adventure - make sure to get out and ride, and be safe!

Pancake T.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

2011 508

Time flies when you're having fun.  Another 508 is just around the corner - Pancake Tortoise will make another trek to Death Valley - 4th time solo.  I'm crazy lucky to have Paul Kingsbury, Wanda Tocci, and Lehrin Morey back for another 508 as crew;

We'll be setting up at Bear Baierl's house on Thursday, then head up to Valencia for pre-race check-in, meeting, and the ever so important "grocery run".  Lehrin has requested Red Vines licorice and I promise - we won't disappoint.

Stay tuned for regular posts leading up to and during the race.  In the meantime, I'm riding again this year for the Death Valley Natural History Association - fire up a link from this page on the right and make a donation that will help preserve one of the coolest places on earth!

Pancake Tortoise

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2010 508 - Pancake Tortoise

If you come across a desert tortoise during The 508, the most appropriate action to take would be to stop until the tortoise has crossed the road and is no longer in the road corridor.  It is not advisable to drive past or to take any other actions that might frighten the animal.  If a tortoise voids its bladder (a typical reaction from fright), it can die from dehydration. 

- Chris Kostman, Furnace Creek 508 email update #4

Yeah, that sounds scary, but hey - in the world of Tortoises, the Pancake Tortoise is a faster, "less-likely-to-pee-its-shell-and-get-dehydrated-in-the-desert" Tortoise.  With that disclaimer in hand, enjoy this year's race report.

After several visits to Death Valley in October as both rider and crew, I can tell you that the one thing that stands above all else is: It is damned fun.  Before, during and after the race timeless moments accumulate, and each year in retrospect it's hard to believe that so many experiences unfolded over the course of just a few days.  Here's a quick recap of this year's 508 for the Pancake Tortoise.


2/3 of the PT crew (Paul and Wanda) arrived on Wednesday for a little R&R before race activities took up all their free time.  1/3 of the PT crew (Lehrin) had work responsibilities that required him to balance priorities and get into Valencia Friday night.  The pre-race activities were comprised of meeting up at the home of Gary Brodie "Bear" Baierl (aka "Camp Brodie") on Thursday for van and bike set up, and to sit in Bear's front yard eating pizza and shouting "Brodie" a lot.  Good thing Bear has understanding neighbors because we probably think we're a lot funnier than people around us might think we are.  Team Pancake and Team Bear worked on final set up; and Team Pancake performed the necessary "modifications for van readiness" to ensure we'd have external music for the race itself (always an entertaining part of the pre-race logistics). 

Friday breakfast for some of us was at an Orange County Starbucks near Camp Brodie where I must say, the Starbucks manager was so insanely wired with caffeine that it was like a Seinfeld episode.  The dude was saying to every single customer in line something like "hey how are you welcome to Starbucks would you like to try one of our iced or cold coffee beverages today would you they're so great and really go down smooth what can I get you?????" - but when you read it do it at the pace of "peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers" and you'll get what I mean - he was drinking the hi-test stuff, no question.  It was the most frantic Starbucks I've ever experienced - living in the Seattle area, that's saying something.

Friday morning we left Camp Brodie we drove up to Valencia; 508 inspectors were out in force, and we were completely ready, inspected, and registered by early afternoon.  We then made the customary market run to Albertsons using Paul's GPS - older Garmin software was fun in that it constantly fubar'd which side of the road the destination was on - so the cool part was all the roads around Valencia are like 3 lanes each way - the GPS lady is doing her thing: "destination on right"; which was then typically followed by Paul making the obligatory u-turn to get to the opposite side of the road where the destination actually was.  After a while we started automatically just doing the opposite of what she told us and it worked better.  

The 2010 Market Run included boat loads of food and drink that you need just in case you need a lot of nutrition options, but inevitably you end up at the finish with lots of stuff...We always get to leave the vast array of leftovers with Bear Baierl each year, which he then in turn brings the following year to Race Across Oregon when we can finally consume it, some of which has the best if used by date well passed.  

After the Market Run was complete, we hung out on a grassy knoll outside of the hotel and snacked on some food - we spent a little time with Bob Brudvik and Chris Ragsdale - Bob was pitching the idea of the "Charlie Miller PBP 2011 sub 56 hour plan"... as long as Chris promises to stay at the front the entire time and pull everyone else through the French coutryside for all 750 miles, I told him I'd consider it.  Bob's logic was "even if you fall off the back in Brest and have to suffer your way back to Paris on your own, you'll still PR just from the fact that you rode a super fast time to cover the first half..." I like the way Bob thinks, although I have some work to do as my trick to riding with Chris is to leave a lot earlier than he does then chat for a few minutes when he catches me - that's the 'riding with Chris' part...

The pre-race meeting was in a new location but already too small for the racers and crew; even with room logistics being tight, all the important stuff was covered efficiently and we were back at the hotel in good season for a relaxing evening.  Pancake crew member Lehrin Morey arrived sometime after 9:30 and PT was already in REM sleep ... We all grabbed a quick breakfast before the start and then I rolled over to the start line with about 20 minutes to spare.

The Race

The field gets stronger every year; Bear and I hung out at the back and told "Brodie jokes" for 15 minutes before the start - I wish I could remember them because Brodie B was laughing a lot and I was thinking I had some good material going... I made a feeble attempt after the race to try and remember my best quips, but I couldn't remember what happened 5 minutes ago, let alone a conversation from Saturday morning.  We rolled out for the start behind the CHP escorts (I wish I had them for regular bike commutes) and before long we were making the turn onto San Franciscito Canyon.  The one thing that I remember about the first 25 miles was how tough it was to carve out some space so you weren't on someone's wheel, or someone was on your wheel.  I did a couple of sprints to get some free space that eventually got me some separation.  We didn't have the same impressive tail winds we experienced in both 2008 and 2009 through to Trona; it was warm but there was some overcast that kept the temperatures in check.  Lots of good racing going on from Johnson Summit all the way to Randsburg - gone are the days of getting out of California City or Trona with no one around you; unless of course your Chris Ragsdale or Terry Lentz - it's lonely at the top.

I just stayed on the bike until lights on before the turn for Townes Pass; the TP climb is always tough, so I just established a rhythm that I could maintain and listened to music - My iPhone had about 15 hours of music on board, but selecting shuffle resulted in it playing the same 15 songs over and over ... that's where a crew earns their Trona Burrito - improvising the song order and connecting their own devices (like Lehrin's killer song collection) to keep the tunes fresh.

No need for stopping at the top of Townes Pass - it was nice weather so we just bombed over the top - going into those dips on the top half of the descent never gets old for temporary pucker factor.  Slap a tiny little cateye light on your bars, get yourself up to 55 or so, then drop into a dip that causes the van lights to temporarily (and completely) disappear and you've got a crazy ride going.  Things got nice and warm by the time we hit Stove Pipe Wells - we rolled through Furnace Creek and headed on to Badwater (a favorite rest room stopping place along the route).

How about those crazy white mice?  I can't remember exactly which section it was - maybe enroute to or just after Badwater?  There were bright white mice hanging out in the middle of the road every 1/4 mile or so - they didn't even flinch when we came up on them (which could explain the couple of flat mice I saw)... I also saw 4 scorpions, a shit load of spiders, sasquatch on one of those electric bikes, and a pink giraffe drinking a mai tai - okay - maybe I'm a little hazy on the last two.

We saw a few vehicles at Badwater - we made a quick rest room stop, then headed out for the Salisbury and Jubilee climbs.  We passed flamingo just coming out of BW - he had gone down on the pavement - and I think somewhere through here where Mighty Mouse (who we had sort of been trading positions with for a while) finally put the hammer down and pulled away.  The Godwit team rode by on the Jubilee climb (Cara Gillis I think? Super fast climber); Jubilee was a pretty good climb; Salisbury was a bit more of a slog, but again - I just got a rhythm - the crew kept me fed, and we did our thing and got over the top.  Somewhere around here I was talking outloud to myself to stop thinking "sleepy thoughts" - so I waved the van up for a no-doz; that plus the Starbucks doubleshots kept me reasonably alert.

Following the descent off Salisbury, we headed to Shoshone; we stopped in Shoshone for rest rooms (and I think we got gas for the van?) - then headed out. Wade Baker (Wren) was there at the same time - he left just in front of us, and he totally pulled away on the way to the Apex summit.  I felt pretty good heading to Baker (but obviously nowhere near as good as Wren felt) - with a few miles to go before town the crew went ahead to get food; I had a very tasty AM/PM microwave breakfast sandwich (you know how it is - later in the race solid food rules the day) ... I'm not sure what the breakfast sandwich was truly made of - I don't think it had too many organic ingredients - but I read a perpetuem label and I'm not exactly sure what I'm eating so what the hell.  It tasted good - sitting on the van's back bumper eating my generic Egg McMuffin, the sun's out - life is good.  I made quick work of the sandwich and we headed out for the Kelbaker climb.

I was half expecting Bear Baierl to come up behind me through this section as his riding style is ideally suited for the Shoshone/baker and Baker/Kelso sections.  

The skies were clear on Sunday and it warmed up A LOT - I was definitely feeling the heat as we had a very cool summer in the NW; we used the tried and true "tube socks full of ice" to keep cool - which melted sooooo quickly - I just paced myself on the climbs and tried to keep stopping to a minimum (and brief sit-on-the-bumper stops only - no sitting in the van, otherwise the crew turns on you and starts making threats).  The descent off Granite Pass didn't seem as bad this year.  Well, you ask "Hey pancake, did anything positively suck in the last 100 miles?  It all sounds so rosy..." - 

Making the left turn out of Amboy to head for the Sheephole (aka "sheep's hole") climb - last year there was what I can only describe as a fabulous tail wind that got us to the climb itself super fast... this year?  Well you know what they say about "pay back".  It wasn't the world's worst headwind, but I can tell you it definitely took some time to get from the turn to the base of the climb... so much time in fact that I was starting to wonder if I missed a turn, or there was an additional upcoming turn that I had forgotten... when I finally got to the climb I was happy - I'd rather be climbing then dorking along in a headwind on the flats... 
The descent from Sheephole was windy, keeping speeds down, and that last 20 miles is a brain-drainer for sure, but we made it to 29 Palms and finished well;  SUPER job by a killer crew Paul/Wanda/Lehrin - they were a well oiled machine that made it easy to stay on the bike... and speaking of well oiled...hey crew - how about that Bag Balm, eh?  Pretty shiny stuff...


After the finish we went to pizza hut for some solid food; that pizza tasted so damned good - and I almost face planted in my pizza 3 or 4 times - something about Pizza Huts make me sleepy.  After dinner we headed back up the hill to watch Bear come across (discussing different race plans for 2011 as he crosses the finish line, and already sizing up aspects of his ride before he came to a complete stop (actually I think he was discussing it while doing a track stand) - if we hooked up an EEG machine to his brain and my brain at the finish, you'd see impressive brain activity on his EEG read out, while on mine you'd be saying stuff like "is this thing on?" or "try it now...".

Monday morning we went to the post-race breakfast - there were some last minute logistics that were delaying the food...and more importantly, delaying the coffee; more people poured in while the restaurant staff had increasingly panicked looks in their eyes... we figured that we should cut back on the demand by rolling out and heading to Denny's - so we loaded up the vans and we moved to beverly - hills that is, swimming pools, movie stars...wait a minute - I'm mixing in a different story here...we went to Denny's...that's what I meant - while there many omelets were consumed and many laughs were had.  It also helped that we had a quick witted waitress (highlight - everyone orders coffee except Jun, who orders hot chocolate - so she says "got it - 7 coffees and 1 sissy la-la" - Jun's hot chocolate? 1.59, the immediate crowd laugh from her one-liner?  Priceless); we laughed our asses off for 2 hours, along with a few other riders/crews that came in after us.  We kicked around plans for 2011, told jokes, and swapped race stories - it was a real "Brodeo" and a great way to end the weekend.

Thanks so much to Team Pancake (Wanda, Paul, and Lehrin, to Tam for supporting me and keeping everyone informed, and Team Bear (and BRODIE!) for the laughs, hospitality, and of course, fun.