1999 Furnace Creek 508 Race
Well, it was an adventure, and we gave it all we had. Of the 40 Solo Men who started the 512 mile race from Valencia, CA, and through Death Valley, 19 finished (one slightly over the time limit) and 21 did not. The temperature reached 97 on Saturday and 107 on Sunday and dry like you can’t imagine. I was the only rider on a recumbent: The purple Lightning P-38 Voyager (its 5th pack up and fly trip!).
As far as I know, I was in 18th place passing through Time Station #5 at about 10 p.m., 36 hours into the race. Everyone behind me had already quit. We went on, but I knew that with the time and climbing remaining (3 major climbs to go of the 10) it was very iffy whether I’d make the 7 a.m. “official finisher” cutoff. The next 20 miles were a single climb up Kelso Summit (2,500-foot climb) and all but did me in! A couple of brief stops and perhaps 2½ hours later, I made it to the top of Kelso. Starting down the other side I was falling asleep on the bike and was “dangerous.”
We stopped and slept for a few minutes, and I was wanting to continue. My legs were actually the least of my problems and still felt strong after 415 miles and perhaps 30,000 feet of climbing. But it was 1 a.m. and I could see there was no making the last 100 miles in under 6 hours with two major climbs left and me falling asleep. So we made the very tough decision to quit.
I HATE QUITTING. It was disappointing, but there’s some consolation in the fact that I think I was the LAST to quit, and did better than over half the Men’s solo field. More importantly, I gave it all I had. It was one of those huge personal challenges one takes on, and though knowing that success is in no way guaranteed, one is never quite prepared fully for failure. But maybe the finish line isn’t the only way to measure things.
The place, the route, the spectacle of the whole thing was amazing! Dramatic hills, shapes, colors and vast desert landscapes, punctuated by steeply rising climbs and descents into and out of valleys and over mountain passes. Everyone was very up, very helpful, very high spirited. I remember Springbuck’s team spraying me with water, perhaps a dozen times as I passed their van.
My crew, Brenda and Bonnie, did beautifully. They were always cheerful, always ready and told me they had a great time. I think they may have slept less than I did! They both describe the experience as “indescribable.” The one thing that gave no trouble at all was the bike! Tim Brummer of Lightning had even loaned us some fancy wheels and extra tires that we never needed.
Official results for the 1999 Furnace Creek 508 have been compiled (by us here at Cool Bike, and posted on the Furnace Creek 508 website.
What an adventure it was!