Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blown Away

Sorry it took so long to post after Furnace Creek. We were...tired.
Here's the long - and the short - of it: Greg Olson, Oregon Sasquatch, finished the Furnace Creek 508. He was DFL. Not shabby - half of the field were DNF's. We arrived in Santa Clarita early Friday afternoon and sailed through h the inspection process. I got to meet/greet/hug about half of the race (it seemed). Good to see everybody!

Del was successfully inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday evening at the shortest Furnace Creek pre-race meeting in race history, and we got to the hotel in plenty of time to get rest. We didn't - we got an all-night party of Magic Mountain-goers rattling the walls instead - but we had great intentions.

The morning was a little crisp, but lovely, and punctuated by tailwinds. We were making great progress! Greg rode like a champ and took care of business. He was in 25th-30th place most of the race.

As it should be, the trip up Townes' Pass was difficult. The trip down to Furnace Creek started accumulating the winds that would be the undoing of many racers (and their crews). Between Furnace Creek and Asford Mills, the winds were horrific - steady 40MPH headwinds with significant gusts. Greg was making steady 5 mph progress through much of this stretch. We went several hours without seeing anyone. After Asford Mills, things calmed down, and the climb to Salsbury Pass (normally the bane of riders) was a huge, warm, sunny relief! We went back and forth with several solos and 2-person teams here, and everyone was in a great mood.

Clothing change and a nice breakfast in Shoshone, then on to Baker. "Light" headwinds punctuated the rest of the trip. We made decent time in this stretch and were calculating a finish around midnight to 2AM.

Del got Greg a milkshake in Baker, which perked him up quite a bit! So far, the nutrition plan had been a mix of Sustained Energy and HEED, with occasional gels, cup-o-noodles, and the omnipresent York Peppermint Patties. For the record, we also successfully tossed in a few Boost energy drinks, a couple of sandwiches, and the like....overall I thought that Greg ate barely enough (especially considering the hard work in the wind) but because he's diabetic I wasn't wanting to tinker too much. We were using about 50 mg of caffeine per hour in the latter parts of the race (Kelso on).

Despite everyone's best efforts, the wheels fell off 40 miles from the end. Greg had ridden extremely well to this point, but not without a cost: his left shoulder was weakened by the constant quartering winds, and his back had tightened up. Having to switch away from his favorite bike (the Trek Y Foil) did not help. He was noticeably crooked on the bike, and having troubles maintaining a straight line.

We took a quick break for downtime when he veered off the road and fell. He was pretty groggy - he'd been riding for 39 hours at this point - and we thought that a very quick power nap might help. He stayed down for about 10 minutes, then popped up wanting to ride.

The rest of the ride was very hard - the climb up Sheephole is not nice under good circumstances, and these were not good circumstances. By the time we were on the last stretch, Greg needed constant reminders to pedal. So as Del drove, I leaned out the car window and hollered "Pedal! Pedal!..." to keep him from coasting. It was a little disturbing to realize that the only thing keeping him pedalling was some deep, lizard-like reflex that heard my voice and reacted to it.

But - we made it. We got passed about a mile before the finish - actually a relief because it made it easier to show Greg the way in. His wife was waiting for us - she'd been waiting for some time, of course, and was worried, but was being a very good sport about it.

I was SO proud of Greg! He never considered quitting, never did less than his best, never complained (though he did mention, once or twice, that his shoulder hurt...), and out-performed riders who are serious legends in ultracycling.

Here's my slide show! I didn't have much time to take pictures, as you see...


  1. Amazing ride, especially considering the conditions and that you rode twice as far as you'd planned :)

    Congratulations Greg and crew!

  2. You guys are rock stars!!! Way to go! You're all an inspiration! :)

  3. Hey

    Saw you at the top of Sheephole. Your guy looked ROUGH. Pretty impressive to see him at the finish!


  4. Hey, congratulations!

    Anyone who can get throught those winds in Death Valley can do anything!

    I really think that the two most impressive finishers in a race like that are the ones who finish first and last. I know that sounds odd, but a race like that is a journey for everyone who dares to undertake it.

    Congrats on the finish!

    The Skink