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