Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2000-10-14 - Furnace Creek 508

Originally posted October 2000

2000 Furnace Creek 508
Post Race Report

A 508 mile solo non-stop bicycle race.
Or as I like to call it...
"An incredible, amazing, spiritual journey."

Where to start? How do I adequately put into words everything that I’ve experienced leading up to, during, and after the Furnace Creek 508? First off, thank you to everyone who sent me words of encouragement and congratulations. If was quite nice to hear from you and your words meant a lot.
Second, I must talk about my incredible crew:

Dick Allen (owner of Brentwood Cyclery) Dick was my crew Captain. I had the pleasure of meeting Dick on Jan. 1st, 1999 while the two of us rode up Mt. Diablo together. A friendship soon developed. I asked Dick to crew for me sometime in the early part of the summer of 2000. He could not have been more enthused.

Jim Ortlieb Jim and I met while going through the San Jose State University Department of Aeronautics in the early 80’s. We have been the best of friends ever since. Jim now flies for NorthWest Airlines where he is currently an Airbus 320 First Officer. I also lived about 2 miles away from him in Antioch. Jim was talking to my (then) wife one-day and she happen to casually mention something about the 508. Jim said, "what’s that?" The funny thing is that I originally never thought to ask Jim to crew the 508 with me. Since he wasn’t really an avid cyclist, the thought just never occurred to me that he might be interested. Well, he couldn’t have been more enthused either. It was just my excellent luck that Jim ended up on the crew.
And also the former Mrs. Martin. My wife then. But now the "Ex".

My entire crew was incredible. With their fantastic support, it literally would have been impossible for me NOT to finish. When I was hungry, they fed me. When I was thirsty, they watered me. When I was achy, they massaged me. When I was cold, they clothed me. When I needed cheering up, they told me jokes. And when I had to….well you know, they waited for me.
So here goes…

We were scheduled to leave for Valencia (the starting location of the 508) on Friday, October 13. Jim had come over to my house on Tuesday and Thursday and together he and I got the SAG wagon ready. The SAG wagon/Crew Vehicle was a 2000 Ford Expedition. Among the items we packed for the race were: my Litespeed, Dick’s Cannondale (my back up bike), my Marin full suspension mountain bike (in case I needed some relief on the extraordinarily rough desert roads…. I never did ride it), spare set of wheels for bike, 3 helmets, every piece of cycling clothing that I own, including 5 pair shorts, and 1 pair long bibs, lights for the bike and many spare batteries, flashlights for crew use, miscellaneous first aid items including lots of A& D diaper rash ointment (for my shorts), sunscreen, 17 gallons of water for racer and crew to consume, 48 Clif bars for both racer and crew (I never ate even one, until our trip home on Monday), 2 extra large containers (5.6 lbs. each) of Sustained Energy drink mix, 6 jugs Hammer Gel, 1 large box of encapsulated supplements/vitamins, bananas, oranges, apples, cantaloupe, oatmeal, rice, bagels, tools for bike repair, baby wipes, and T.P.
We left Friday morning as planned. We picked up Jim. Then it was on to Brentwood to pick up Dick.

The 6 of us then headed down I-5 to Valencia (which is right next to Magic Mountain). We stopped at Denny’s at the Highway 46 exit and had lunch. While eating lunch, we saw another car pull up with 2 bicycles on the roof. Two guys got out and both were wearing Furnace Creek 508 T-shirts. We talked to them after lunch. It turned out to be Rick "Amoeba" Anderson and Mike "Whale" Wilson both of whom are 508 solo veterans. This year they would both be acting as course officials. After a brief chat, we jumped in the crew car and finished our trip to Valencia.
Upon arrival in Valencia, we got checked into the Best Western (which is where the race starts from). Our next order of business was to "convert" the crew car from "travel mode" to "race mode." This included removing the rear most bench seat, getting all of the supplies set up, and attaching the "Jaguar" signs (which my sons Eric, 10 and Alex, 8 had made) to all four sides of the vehicle. My parents showed up during this process and they kept the rear seat for us and eventually would return it to us in 29 Palms. Eric and Alex also stayed with them until Sunday night where they met us in 29 Palms, as well.

Dick and Jim ran out to do a final gas up of the crew car. I visited my folks and took care of some last minute set up items, i.e. the bike, clothing, etc. I went over to the "race headquarters" also known as room 111 of the Best Western where I met Chris Kostman, the race director, and picked up my "race package." This consisted of a water bottle, musette bag, and 4 very stylish Furnace Creek 508 T-shirts and ball caps. One for me, and the rest for the crew. I also met with Steve "Beaver" Born. Steve is the ‘94 508 Champion and also last years runner-up. He is also a 3-time RAAM (Race Across America) finisher. Steve was at this years 508 representing E-Caps/Hammer Nutrition (where he is employed) and also acting as a course official. I mention Steve because over the last 2 months he became enormously important in my race preparation. My current friendship with Steve started out by me emailing him and asking for some 508 advice. Well, over the next 2 months Steve provided me with loads of invaluable information. He would also become a key player during the race, as you will read. I lack the words to express just how important he became both before and during the race.

It was now 6:00 p.m. and time to attend the pre-race banquet. So the entire crew, plus my folks, heads over.

This is the part of the "festivities" that started to build my excitement level. During dinner, Chris Kostman got up at the lectern and talked about the history of the race, the rules, his special ceremony for assigning animal totems to each racer, and then introduced the entire field of racers. Receiving the largest rounds of applause were Charles "Honey Bee" Hanson, age 70, solo racer and Jewette Pattee, age 77, racer from team Whippet. Dinner broke up at about 8:45 p.m. and we all headed back to the hotel for our last quality sleep for a couple of days.

I awoke at 5:00 a.m. to start getting ready for the day. My morning consisted of a shower, some light stretching, and my pre-race meal and supplements. Jim called me to make sure that I was up and moving. He and Dick were busy with the last minute preparation of the crew car. I mounted the bike and soft-pedaled over to the start line at about 6:30 a.m.
I rolled up to the starting line and waited for the magic hour of 7:00 a.m., Saturday, October 14th, 2000 to fall upon us. I think that this was one of the best moments of the entire experience. 40 solo men, 5 solo women, 1 mixed tandem, and 1 all-male tandem waiting to go. Lots of smiles, lot of camaraderie, really good stuff. I give Eric and Alex last minute hugs and kisses as well as the same for my Mom and Dad.

Chris Kostman is at the start line and after taking last minute roll call, he gives a 2-minute and 1-minute warning. Then with about 15 seconds to go, he starts the countdown. Quickly we hear, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! Sounds of applause and cowbells wash over us. We’re off. We’re pedaling. I hear Dick yell to me, "Hey Jeff, lookin’ good!" I’m thinking, "yeah, at mile zero." Dick is off to one side with his video camera going. Jim is too, but I don’t see him right now.

We make our way northeast out of Valencia. The first 4.3 miles of the race is under "yellow flag" conditions. That is, the entire field is supposed to stay together so that we all get through the couple of traffic signals at the same time. This is really the only time during this non-drafting event that we can truly be called a Peleton. I stay toward the back and end up riding next to and talking to Rick "Longhorn" Kent of Austin, TX. I mention that I am a rookie. He then mentions that he is a veteran of ultra racing and would I mind some advice? You bet. He then mentions that he is a 5-time RAAM finisher. He now has my undivided attention. Mostly he talks about pace. Starting easy. Saving something for the later miles. It seems to be the common theme anytime I talk to some of the ultra veterans.
Very soon we reach the 4.3-mile mark and the course officials are hollering, "The race is ON!" We make a left turn and start up the 1st "major" climb of the race - San Francisquito Canyon. It’s not terrible steep. I’m just riding my own pace and keeping one eye on my heart rate monitor to make sure I don’t go out to hard.
The crew is not yet following me. All of the crew vehicles must go ahead to the 12-mile mark of the race and wait. Simply because there is not enough room for 40+ racers and vehicles in this part of the canyon. The roads are not quite wide enough. Therefore, since they are not with me, I am carrying a flat repair kit, just in case. I have one tube, one tire lever, and one CO2 cartridge. Fortunately, I don’t need it (in fact, I never have one single mechanical problem the entire race) because I now see my crew at the 12 mile mark and they can now begin to "leap-frog" me. That is, drive ahead, stop, and wait for me to pass them and then do it all over. The race rules require this support method until 5:30 p.m. on Saturday evening.

So this is how we spend the first day of racing. I ride by and they hand me a water bottle or some supplements, or whatever I happen to need. When Jim would hand me a water bottle or supplements, he would make these incredible all-out running sprints so that our speed differential would be as small as possible. I would literally have to accelerate to catch him. He made the handoffs quite easy. At mile 24, I manage to drop and destroy the portable CD player I had been listening to. Oh well, no more music until 5:30 p.m. when the crew car will be able to follow me directly and play me some tunes on our external music system.

After the San Francisquito Canyon climb we descend into the Mojave Desert west of Palmdale and head north. This section is fairly flat. At mile 50 we start the 2nd major climb near some windmills. I’m thinking, "I don’t want to ride near windmills, because that means that there is usually wind." Sure enough, we are "rewarded" for our climbing efforts with a nice headwind. Not too strong fortunately.
We now drop down into the city of Mojave. This is where Jaguar and crew encounter our first "exciting" moment of the race. First off, I can see a train immediately ahead going across the road that I must continue on. So I start to soft pedal, figuring that there is no reason to rush up there just to wait on this train. The train passes and I never "break stride". Then my crew is out of the vehicle telling me about these 4 or 5 train tracks to cross and that as soon as I do, I need to make a right turn on Highway 58 (toward downtown Mojave). What the crew hasn’t realized yet, is that as soon as I make the right, I must make an immediate left. I do not know about the left turn. I continue straight. Oops! After waiting through the signal, the crew finally catches me and reluctantly admits that they have "goofed". After snapping at them (which I immediately regret doing), I execute a 180ยบ turn and return to the race route. End of excitement. We’re back on the course and making progress.

We head north on Highway 14 and at mile 74 make a right turn toward California City (where I first soloed an airplane in 1979 at age 17). At mile 82 we turn north and also reach the first of 7 time stations. I see Steve Born working at the time station and he tells me quickly that I am "riding an intelligent race." He’s talking about my pace. The crew checks me in and off we go. Time of day: 12:02 p.m.
We head through some more rolling desert terrain and at mile 107 we start the 3rd major climb. I look back in my head and realize that I have completed my first "century" of the race in 6 hours. Whoa! I’m going out a little too fast, I think. At mile 110, we take our first planned break. I have now been on my bike for 110 miles without ever getting off. This is definitely a record for me. I’m ready for a break.

The crew is ready for me. They have the folding canvas chair out so that I can sit and rest. I change clothes. New shorts (prepped with A&D), new jersey, new socks, & a new headband. The crew "washes" me down with some moist wipes and reapplies a fresh coat of sunscreen. All too soon, my break is over and it’s time to remount the bike.

I finish the 3rd climb and drop into the tiny desert town of Randsburg. I used to come to this place in the mid 70’s as a kid to ride motorcycles with my family. It kind of looks like a ghost town, except that people actually live here. It’s very quaint.
We go through Randsburg (which takes all of about 13 seconds) and then we turn east on Highway 395. After only 2 miles we turn left and head north on Trona Rd. Again I’m riding past familiar motorcycling territory. Many memories. After some more rolling terrain, we turn right onto Highway 178 (at mile 140) and head into the town of Trona. At mile 152 in Trona is time station 2. I have the crew hand me the flat repair kit that I carried earlier and then with about 5 miles to go until Trona, they leave me to go on ahead. They will have to stop and get gas and something to eat, as the next gas opportunity will be in Baker at mile 381. As I ride through Trona, the crew is already fueled and ready to go. They have also purchased some world famous Trona burritos to get them through the night. They check me in with Time Station 2 as I pass. Time of day: 4:39 p.m.
At mile 165 we have a short stop (only my second since getting on the bike) to mount the taillight and headlight. The sun is setting and it’s time to "get legal." The crew also gives me a quick wipe and I grab another handful of A&D and reach inside my shorts to spread it around. Ohhhh! It’s heaven! They also change out the dark lenses in my glasses for clear lenses. We’re now rigged for night mode. The sun sets over the Panamint Valley as we start the 4th major climb over the "Trona Bump." During the climb, the leading female rider passes me: Jeanie "Bandicoot" Barnett, 43, Martinez, CA.. I have seen her and chatted with her at many double centuries this year. It’s her second attempt at the 508. Last year she DNF’d due to the extreme heat. This year she will go on to win the women’s division. However, even though she passes me on the climb, I pass her back on the descent into Panamint Valley and never do we see her again (until Monday in 29 Palms). Therefore, my fragile male ego is still intact. I have not been beaten by a girl!

As we roll through the Panamint Valley we are rewarded by some of the most impressive terrain on the 508 route. To the right is Telescope Peak at over 11,000 ft.

Soon it’s fully dark and we continue over some of the roughest roads that I have ever ridden on. It’s like Morgan Territory (one of my "local" rides) except a little rougher and it lasts for 31 miles. At around mile 175 or so, I look out to the right and am rewarded with the sight of major climb number 5: Townes Pass. I point it out to the crew. Even though it is dark you can tell its Townes Pass because you can see the headlights and flashers of the crew vehicles ahead of us. It is one of many surreal moments of the race.
At mile 199 we finally reach Highway 190, the road into Death Valley. At mile 200, the climbing starts. It's just before 8:00 p.m. At elevation 3000, I have the crew play the soundtrack from Rocky (on our external sound system) to help motivate me up to the summit. During the climb we pass Guppy and Longhorn who are both cramping and having a tough time. Guppy would later DNF, but Longhorn would finish 12th. We reach the summit (Elev. 4956’) at 9:15 p.m. where we take a break and get ready for the descent into Death Valley. 210 miles down. This is the farthest I have ever ridden my bicycle. From now on every pedal stroke will be uncharted territory. 210 miles down, 298 to go.
The crew has my chair ready. They dress me for the cool weather. They feed me soup. Man, does that soup hit the spot. In case you’re wondering: Miso with tofu. Yummy! How do you make soup in the middle of the desert? You buy a portable coffeepot that plugs into your cigarette lighter and use it to make hot water. Presto!
So now I’m dressed and rested for the descent. I have a 15-watt NiteRider system on the bike. I’m also wearing a 15-watt NiteRider system on my full-face helmet (which I wear for this descent only). Down we start. The descent is not terribly technical, but it is fast. I tell myself to take it easy, but I find out later that my computer reports my highest speed at 53.6 mph. Yee Haw! About ¼ of the way down I catch and pass solo recumbent rider Barclay "Beetle" Brown. I estimate that he is moving at around 35 mph while I am moving in excess of 50 mph. First I make my way around the left side of his crew car and then approaching him, I yell at the absolute top of my lungs, "ON YOUR LEFT!" The pass is without incident for Jaguar and crew.
A short while later while still moving at around 40+ mph I come upon some road construction and a bright orange diamond shaped sign that says simply "BUMP". I slow and bounce over the "bump." Huh, not too bad. Another mile or so down the descent I see the same sign. This time I let it fly. My logic? The last one wasn’t so bad, so how bad can this one be, right? Wrong. KAPOW! No damage to be or the bike, but at 50+ mph I now have a NiteRider light that has come unclipped and is dangling precariously from the front of my aerobars.
Dick is driving and doing his best to keep me in his sights. I give him the slowing/stopping sign. I remember that "Beetle" is a little ways back and seeing that there is no room on the right shoulder, I move over to and stop on the left shoulder to fix my light. It takes me just a few seconds and then we’re moving again.
Probably one of the most exciting/scary things for the crew to watch on this descent is when I go down into one of the large dips on the road. To them it must literally seem as though I have disappeared for a moment. I can actually see the shadow of the headlights above the level of my head. Cool!
After a 17 mile descent into Stovepipe Wells the road now starts to flatten out. I exchange my full face (heavyweight) helmet for my regular road helmet and we also shed the heavy NiteRider light in favor of the lightweight Vista light.
We continue and make our way through the rolling hills of Death Valley toward Furnace Creek and time station number 3. We gradually eat up the miles. I can not have any music at this point because we are in a designated quiet zone. We roll into Furnace Creek and TS#3 (mile 254) at 11:41 p.m. Saturday night. This is the half way point of the race. I couldn’t tell you why but for some reason I am delighted that I make it here before midnight. It means nothing, yet I am delighted by it. I must stop at TS#3 because it’s dark. Race rules require that the crew car stay with the rider at ALL times during the hours of darkness. Since Dick and Jim must jump out to check me in, I must also momentarily stop.
Kostman is there and along with one of his helpers, they point a video camera at me. My first words are, "Chris, I hope you don’t expect me to say anything intelligent at this point. Hell, I don’t even know my own name right now." Chris is definitely going to interview me so he is kind enough to start with easy questions. What’s the farthest I’ve ever ridden? How did I hear about the 508? I assuming that this interview will end up on the "official" 508 video that Kostman produces and will be for sale later. At the conclusion of the interview, I look over to see that Dick is still chatting with the time station officials. For the first and only time during the entire race, I am actually ready to leave before him. I grin as I make this comment to Kostman who turns around and yells; "rider is ready, let’s go!" They pile into the crew car and off we go into the wee hours of the morning.
A couple of miles up the road, we make the right turn toward Badwater. Badwater is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. I’ve already ridden this entire section of the racecourse from Stovepipe Wells to Shoshone twice during two different Death Valley double centuries, but I have never ridden Death Valley at night.
Death Valley is an amazing place in the daytime. At night, under an almost full moon, in the middle of a 508 mile ultra endurance bicycle race, with music from my crew vehicle playing, and fatigue setting in, Death Valley extends itself to just beyond the edge of "surreal". It is truly mystical. Too bad I had to ride 260+ miles to experience this!
We continue on through the night and over the lousy roads of Death Valley. Jim is now driving and it is Dick’s turn to go into the back for a well-deserved nap. Actually they ALL deserve to sleep, but unfortunately, only one can at a time.
We’re now well into the section of road past Badwater and this is where my crew tells me I’m getting a little goofy. The are playing one of my CD’s by The Cars. I’m waiting to hear a song that I really like called "Drive." I never do hear it. Figuring that I’ve missed it or that the CD player somehow screwed up, I make them play it again. And again. Jim tells me later (I don’t remember this part) that I asked him to play song number 21 on a 20 song CD. Finally Jim asks, "what is it, that you are wanting to hear?" I tell him "Drive." He takes care of "my problem" and gets the right song queued up. Now I’m happy. At least for a little while.
We continue through Death Valley and the temperature is fluctuating a little. One second it’s 68 - 70 degrees and the next it has dropped to 60. We go around a bend in the road and the temperature goes back up again. I ask the crew to get my arm warmers and my lightweight Pearl Izumi vest out. They had to crawl over the sleeping form of Dick to reach them. Now I’m thinking that the vest and arm warmers might not be enough so I ask them to get my yellow windbreaker. They think that I mean instead of the arm warmers and vest, when in my mind I actually mean "in addition too". So they return the vest and arm warmers to the back and retrieve the yellow jacket. A few minutes later I ask them for the vest as I’m finally starting to cool off too much. They tell me they just put it away. I’m thinking, "why’d you do that, I just asked you for it a minute ago." They're probably thinking, "I wish this tired sleep deprived cyclist would make up his mind."
Around 3:00 a.m. I’m pedaling along when Steve Born pulls up. He chats with me briefly, tells me I’m looking good. I ask him if he got any sleep and I think that he tells me he grabbed a couple of hours in Furnace Creek. I tell him thanks for stopping by and he motors on down the road. It always lifts my spirits to see him.
We reach the base of the 6th major climb, Jubilee and Salsberry Pass, a little before 4:00 a.m. Mentally this is a big climb for me, even though I’ve done it twice before. Most of the experienced 508er’s have said that if you can get to the top of Salsberry and still feel somewhat human that you can probably finish the race.
During the climb I catch Scorpion. We have seen a lot of each other during the race. All the way back as far as California City (mile 82). I pass one of his crewmembers who tells me that Scorpion is very sleepy. I sympathize completely.
Also sometime during the climb, Kostman comes up alongside me and takes my picture. I can only surmise that it is with the digital camera that they are using to post pictures on the website during the race.

At slightly past 5:00 a.m. we arrive at the top of Salsberry Pass. In the last 43 miles, we have gone from -282 feet to elevation 3315’, most of the climbing in the last 10 miles. For the first time in the race I am really starting to "feel the pain." Nothing specific, just pure exhaustion. My crew gives me some more soup and a much needed massage during my break at the summit. At this stop, as well as others, Dick is looking over the Litespeed as well as lubing the chain. What an awesome crew!

I change clothes. I put on much of my warmest gear as morning lows in Shoshone are expected to dip into the mid 40’s. Later we see 45 degrees on the thermometer.
So we’re all there at the top of Salsberry Pass. One second I’m joking with the crew and in a split second after that, my emotions have caught up with me, and I’m sobbing uncontrollably. I’m absolutely beat. I tell myself that if I can just keep going, when the sun comes up I will feel like a new man. Right now that seems a long ways away. Looking back, I now realize that I was actually too tired to cry during the climb. It took a rest break and some crew TLC before I could find the energy to shed tears.

         The crew supports, consoles, and encourages me as I remount the bike for the descent into Shoshone and TS#4. As we leave the summit, Scorpion rolls in. Down we go.
Dick tells me later that this is the closest he came during the entire race to pulling me off the bike. I’m not sure, but I think that I may have actually fallen asleep for split seconds during the descent. I mostly remember being dog-tired and very cold (even though I had many layers on). We reach the bottom safely and make the right turn onto Highway 127.
2 miles later we are at TS#4 in Shoshone (mile 325). It’s 6:07 Sunday morning. Several times during the first day, I comment to the crew that Valencia (the start) seems like another lifetime. This is one of those moments.

While the crew is checking me in at Shoshone, Scorpion goes flying past like a man on a mission. There is a nice tailwind blowing and he is really moving. He doesn’t need to stop, even though it’s dark, because he has 2 crew cars. One follows him directly while the other can stop and check him in at the time stations. His crew captain Charlie “Lizard” Liskey is out and walking around at TS#4 as we pull in.
This is the absolute low point of the race for me. Physically and emotionally. I’m spent. Once again, I tell myself that I’ll feel better if I can just wait for the sun to come up. The sky will start to brighten in about another 30 minutes. Already there is a very slight glow to the east.

I tell Dick and Jim that I think I’m just too tired to continue and that maybe I need a 20-30 minute nap. Charlie overhears us talking and approaches. He tells me that he is a 3-time finisher of the 508 and that I should keep going if I possibly can. He cites the rising sun and tailwinds as damn good reasons to continue. His logic is powerful and convincing.

When a veteran of the race tells you something, it’s best to listen. Ironically I would end up finish ahead of his rider, Scorpion, in this event. This points out one of the truly unique aspects of the 508. In spite of the fact that we are all out there competing "against" each other, I found that everyone was also out there helping one another. We ended up giving some Tums to Longhorn’s crew during the Townes Pass climb because he was cramping and having stomach problems. I guess we helped to create some of our own good karma.

I make a deal with myself and I think that I also tell the crew. Yes, I will get back on the bike and continue, but if I still feel like crap 30 minutes from now, I’m pulling over for a brief catnap.
After we leave TS#4 Jim decides to try and get some sleep. Well sure enough, the sky lightens and my spirits soar. Man, I feel great. It’s 7:00 a.m. and although I’m not moving very fast, at least I’m moving and I feel a whole lot better. We start up major climb number 7. Ibex Pass elevation 2090. This is probably the most minor of the "major" climbs, but still it’s good to have another one out of the way. At the summit is a sign that shows us entering San Bernardino County. Hey, at least we are finally in the same county as the finish line in 29 Palms. I take those small mental victories wherever I can find them.
So it’s light out, the temperature is coming up, my spirit has improved immeasurably, and the road is boringly flat going into Baker. Sometime after the sun came up, I asked the crew to remove the lights from the bike. I don’t want the weight if I don’t need it. The flat road is actually a welcome relief after 7 major climbs and many many rollers. What could possibly go wrong at this point? Nothing, right? Well it seems that the cycling gods also have their sense of humor.

At around 8:30 a.m. my stomach shuts down. I was just riding along (or as Dick calls it: J.R.A.) when I realized that my stomach was very bloated and starting to ache slightly. Not too much pain but definitely not good. Mostly I was annoyed. I thought that I really had my nutrition/diet absolutely down pat. Since using the liquid diet of Sustained Energy and Hammer Gel, I’d never had a problem. So I’m kind of baffled, confused, and mad. Moreover, I’m realizing that I don’t know how to fix this problem.
So I tell the crew what’s going on and that this could be a problem. Now I riding and thinking, "If I can just get to Baker, I know that Steve Born will be there and he’ll know what to do." The guy has forgotten more about ultra cycling than I’ll ever know. If I can just get to Baker, I’ll be able to see Steve. If I can just get to Baker, I’ll be able to see Steve. If I can just get to Baker, I’ll be able to see Steve.
The next thing I know, there’s Steve standing alongside the road out in the middle of nowhere. Literally, there’s nothing around but sagebrush and sand. Later the crew would start referring to Steve as our "guardian angel." He would just show up anytime we "summoned" him.

I holler to him. I tell him that I need to talk to him. He jumps in his car, goes past me, and gets out. As I pass, I ask if he can pull up alongside me while I pedal. He says that as a "neutral" course official that he really can’t do that. I understand. No problem.
I wave the crew up next to me and tell them to go back and talk to Steve. I’ll be okay for a little while by myself, but please go back and ask Steve what I should do about my stomach.
They return a short while later with the following info. First off, Steve says don’t worry, it’s quite normal. He says to tell Jeff, "Welcome to the world of ultra cycling!" Secondly he recommends taking some Alka Seltzer (which we have packed due to Steve’s pre-race recommendation). I take the Alka Seltzer. I also take one quick squirt of Hammer Gel for the calories for it’s been a while since I’ve consumed anything. The last piece of advice that Steve offers (for this crisis) is that when I get to Baker, that I should really try to move my bowels. I’ve been on this liquid diet for over 24 hours so I hadn’t even thought of this.
The Alka Seltzer is starting to make my stomach feel a little better. I’m so "moved" (if you’ll pardon the expression) at this point by Steve’s suggestions that I’m thinking to myself, "well, why wait until Baker? Maybe I should give it a try now."
I look around, the desert is flat for 50 miles in every direction, and the tallest piece of sagebrush is about 3 feet high and very see-through. Even after 350+ miles on the bike, I still have my modesty.
As these thoughts are rattling around my brain, I see these 3 (6 foot tall) piles of gravel 50 feet off the side of the road. Once again, I marvel at the cycling gods' sense of humor. First, they taketh away (thy stomach) and now they giveth back (thy own private bathroom).
I holler behind me to the crew. "We’re stopping!" We do. Fast forward 10 minutes (and not getting completely tasteless). I’m now feeling substantially better.

Shortly after this stop, the crew manages to reach Eric and Alex on a cell phone. They are still at my folk's house. The crew car pulls up next to me and they tell me that they have my kids on the phone. I ask for the phone and spend the next couple of minutes talking to them. Another nice lift for my spirits.

We finish the road into Baker. Once again I am still feeling motivated by Steve’s suggestions. I visit an actual real bathroom this time. Yes, the stomach is starting to function again. Can I get a Hallelujah? We check in at TS#5. It’s 10:16 a.m. and we’ve covered 382 miles. 126 miles left. Just a double metric (200 K). Piece of cake, right? I change clothes for the final time in Baker.

The crew gases the car in Baker and we’re off still heading south on Highway 127. South of Baker the road turns rough. It seems to stay this way until the finish. That’s an exaggeration. I think that may have been 3 more miles of smooth paving somewhere between Baker and 29 Palms.

2 miles south of Baker we start the longest climb of the 508 (major climb # 8). It’s 21.4 miles and rises over 2600 feet. It’s only an average grade of 2.4% but the climb seems to last forever. Some of these desert climbs are so deceiving that you begin to wonder if there actually is a summit.

It is during this long climb that I reach another emotional low. I’m getting very sleepy again, in spite of the fact that it’s approaching high noon. Jim is driving and pulls up next to me. The crew then proceeds to entertain me with stories, jokes, and general conversation. It’s helping to keep me awake. A little farther up the climb, I begin to get teary again. It’s only my second cry of the race and it will be my last until the finish line. I’m almost laughing at myself inside while I’m crying on the outside. I’m so tired that I can’t even cry properly. It’s more of a sobbing, whimpering kind of cry. Not at all right! I stop crying. I seem to have gained some release from it.

A short time later, while still on this long climb to Kelso Peak, I begin to drool uncontrollably. The crew would tell me later that it was truly the only time during the race that they were worried. They were okay with the crying, but the drooling had them quite worried.

I actually remember drooling. I also remember thinking that it would take way too much physical energy to take the steps necessary to stop drooling. So I figured, why bother? I just drooled: on myself, on the bike, everywhere. I just didn’t care. Eventually I stopped. I must have found the power to swallow. I don’t remember. Finally after forever, we reach the summit of Kelso Peak. Elevation 3600’, mile 405. Just a century left now.

The descent didn’t seem to provide much relief as I remember. I think that the roads were just way too rough. Plus the fact that we only dropped down to about 2000 feet. At mile 417, I start up climb #9. At around mile 420, my cycling computer quits. Stone cold dead. I take it off the bike and give it to the crew. I also rip off my heart rate chest strap and toss that to them as well. I figure, if it ain’t working, I ain’t carrying the weight. This climb goes over the top of Granite Pass. The summit is elevation 4024’ and mile 431.

Just prior to the summit is TS#6. I arrive there at 2:36 p.m. During the climb I catch and pass Warthog and move into 9th place. He looks to be suffering. I am too; it’s just that he looks worse, to me anyway. I also make a brief stop to add some more A&D ointment to my backside. It’s really starting to scream at this point.

The descent after Granite Pass is 20 miles long. It’s still rough but it is quite welcome. It's during this descent that the combination of sleep depravation and fatigue begins to catch up with me.
I begin to hallucinate. The sagebrush alongside the road begins turning into people. For the life of me, I can not figure out why all these people would come out to watch this race. I mean, hell, a cyclist only goes by about every hour or so. So why come out for that. The other thing I can’t figure is why they are standing there so stoically. I mean they’re just standing there. They’re not clapping. They’re not cheering. It’s odd to me because everyone else that I have passed along the race route usually offers some applause and cheers. I just can’t figure why you’d come out here to the middle of nowhere to watch us cyclists (only one per hour) and then not even offer any encouragement. Stupid people (sagebrush).

On this same descent with the stupid people I also have my second concurrent hallucination. The road surface begins to develop a rather large crown to it. The odd thing is that no matter what part of the road I ride on, i.e. right side, middle, or left side of my lane, the apex of the crown always stays directly under my wheels. The apex actually follows me or is anticipating my moves. This fascinates me.
The logical part of my brain is saying, "you idiot, they’re just hallucinations." The other part of my brain is saying, "hey you, logical part of the brain, just shut the hell up, will ya?" Eventually the descent, as well as the hallucinations, end.

We cross Interstate 40 and 12 miles later (at mile 450) we turn right and head west toward Amboy. It is at this "T" intersection that I again see Steve Born. I tell him how much trouble I am having maintaining my focus. He says some encouraging words and I take off.

I tell myself that I have got to find some focus to finish this last 58 miles or I am well and truly screwed. So I come up with a plan. I tell my crew that I want them to tell me every time we have completed another mile. So Jim tells me we have 54 miles left. I wouldn’t need this info if my stupid computer was still working. The crew tells me that the kids (along with my folks) are on the way to the finish line.
So I start my own mantra. "54 miles. 54 miles to the finish. 54 miles to see Eric and Alex. 54 miles to being RAAM qualified." I repeat this out loud over and over. Jim tells me 53 miles. "53 miles. 53 miles to the finish. 53 miles to see Eric and Alex. 53 miles to being RAAM qualified." You get the idea. Well, it’s often that the stupidest things work the best. This really starts to work well for me and I find the focus that I so desperately need at this hour. I finally begin to ride like a man on a mission. In this section, I’m averaging almost 20 mph.

Before I know it, there is 38 miles to go and we are at the base of the last major climb of the race. Climb #10. Sheep Hole summit awaits 10 miles up the road. I can see the summit out in the distance. I am still riding like a man possessed. I totally attack this climb. Looking back, I have no earthly idea where I found the strength. As I start the climb, I see Scorpion just up ahead. We had been catching glimpses of him ever since the sun came up, but I was never able to catch him. Now, I know that he is within my grasp. I absolutely blow by him and move into 8th place. He is still friendly enough, in spite of the suffering, to say "Hey Jeff, how ya doin’?" I offer a very cryptic, "I’m just doing okay." I continue to hammer the climb.

Later at the finish line, Steve Born would tell me that he has never seen anyone climb Sheep Hole like I did that day. He says he is amazed. I’m gratified to hear this from him. 1994 508 champion, 1999 runner-up, 3 time RAAM finisher, and I think he has crewed the 508 something like 4 or 5 times. You bet I was gratified to hear those words from him.

2 or 3 miles from the summit I realize that I will finish in the dark and that we will have to put the lights back on the bike. I wave the crew forward and ask them to wait in their current position so that I can find out how many minutes Scorpion is behind me. I’m in full-on race mode now and I’m trying to decide if we’ll need to hurry at the top and rush to put the lights on the bike.

My crew says that they can’t even see Scorpion and that I should just worry about finishing. They are right, of course, but by now "my brain has capsized" (Steve’s expression). They are worried about me and want to stay with me. I try to convince them that I’ll be okay, but they don’t want to do it. Well, now I’m starting to get a little annoyed that they are not cooperating with me. So I come up with a compromise. I figure that if we have 4 minutes at the top that that will give us plenty of time to put on the lights and not drop back into 9th place. So I ask them to wait for 4 minutes. They reluctantly agree. I have no watch, no computer, so for all I know they waited 2 minutes and then came back up to me. The crew tells me that they really waited 4 minutes. I believe them. It doesn’t even matter. When they catch up to me, they inform me that after 4 minutes they still could not even see Scorpion. So now I know we’ll have plenty of time at the top.

Just short of the summit is TS#7 (update: not any more, it's been relocated). This is the one time station that no one wants to stop at. If you have to stop at TS#7, it means that you have broken a race rule and must serve a time penalty as determined by the officials. As I approach TS#7 a man starts walking toward me. My first thought is, "damn, I don’t remember breaking any of the rules, but after 479 miles, I’m going to have to serve a @#^%&*%*& TIME PENALTY! He then says, "welcome to time station 7." I’m thinking that in no earthly way do I want to be "welcome" to TS#7. I looked at him (mind you, I’m still climbing) and gasped, "if I don’t have to serve a time penalty, then you need to find words other than ‘welcome’." I realized later that he was just being friendly. In fact, they had decorated TS#7 with a Hawaiian luau theme and were handing out lei’s and small cans of pineapple juice, which the crew grabbed as we were driving by. The lei even has a sign on it that says, of course, "I got lei’d at Time Station 7! 2000 Furnace Creek 508." On another day, I might have been able to laugh. Not today!

We passed TS#7 at 5:45 p.m. and reached the summit shortly after that. It turns out that I put 18 minutes on Scorpion by the top of the climb. Basically, I pulled a Lance! (UPDATE – November 2001….I have since come to find out that I wasn’t as “great” as I thought I was that day. You never are, right? It turns out that the only reason that this rookie rider was able to put 18 minutes on {now 4 time finisher…[amazing]} Steve “Scorpion” Winfrey is that he stopped to take a short break. Blame my misconception on the exuberance of being a rookie finisher. Sorry Steve! And Congrats to you and Charlie on your 2001 2-man team RAAM finish. Awesome!)

There was now 28 miles to the finish and 6 of that was downhill. At the bottom of the descent awaits the cruelest part of the race. After 30,000 feet of climbing and 485+ miles of riding, it is a slight uphill all the way to the finish line. Not much, just enough to be annoying. I still had Jim counting down the miles for me. It’s mostly a blur but we finally reached the outskirts of 29 Palms. After navigating a couple of stop signs and several traffic lights, and one more nasty little roller of a hill, we could finally see the finish line at the Best Western.

I make a left off of the main drag followed by a quick right into the driveway of the hotel. I could see Eric and Alex holding the finish line tape. I could see my Dad and Mom. I could not see much else. I crossed the line in 36 hours, 49 minutes at 7:49 p.m. and burst into some quality crying. I hugged Eric and Alex; I hugged my Mom and Dad. By now the crew had run up to the line and I cried with and hugged all of them. I was even still straddling my bike at this point. The moment was incredible. I’m actually "welling up" again as I think about it and write this.
Race Director Chris Kostman is at the finish line also. One of the truly cool things about Chris, is that he goes without much sleep because he wants to be there for EVERY finisher. He hung a finishers medal around my neck. Cool. He actually told a story at the dinner on Friday night about one of the women solo racers who said that she wouldn’t come to the race unless there were finishing medals. I’m glad she talked him into it.

I finally dismount my bike and more photos are taken. I collapse into the nearest chair and take off my shoes. What relief.
I revel in the moment. Stunning, fabulous, wonderful, exhilarating. None of these words come anywhere near describing my emotions at that moment. I wish it could have lasted forever. I’m glad that Steve Born was there at the finish line. I hugged him. What a wonderful human being. The crew tuned into just how important Steve’s advice was to me both before and during the 508. In fact, they were so tuned into it, that during the last 120 miles of the race (when I was in my most uncooperative phase) anytime that the crew wanted me to do something. i.e. eat more, drink more, etc., they would simply say, "Steve says you should do this." I was none the wiser and that was all it took to get my cooperation. The crew had created a new game. Not "Simon Says," but, "Steve Says." Brilliant!

 I finished the Furnace Creek 508!

That about says it all. I finished the Furnace Creek 508. I finished in the top 10 (8th place). I finished in time to qualify for RAAM. I’m still getting used to it.

I swear if it wasn’t for the video, photos, and 3 live witnesses I might not believe it. We hung out at the finish line until Scorpion came in about 21 minutes after me.
Shortly after that I said goodbye to my Mom and Dad, as they had to go on home and go to work on Monday morning. Then I was helped to my hotel room where I stood in the shower for about 40 minutes. I fell into bed while the crew went and got dinner. The crew brought back a wonderful seafood combo from the restaurant that they had eaten at. The food was delicious after 2 days of liquid nutrition. I was fast asleep shortly after eating.
I awoke at 7:15 Monday morning and was surprised to find that I could actually move. After Dick and Jim came back from gassing the car we all went to the post-race breakfast at the local coffee shop. Many more smiles were exchanged that day.
We came back from breakfast, loaded up, checked out, and headed back to Antioch.
I have to say one more time, that without such an outstanding crew, I’d have never made it. I consider myself lucky to have been surrounded by such a quality team.
I think we’re all STILL smiling. I know I am.
Crew Comments by Jim Ortlieb
- crew for Jeff "Jaguar" Martin
2000 Furnace Creek 508

As I write about my “508” experience it must be said that I cannot fully put into words the emotions and feelings that I had prior, during, and after this event. The 508 is the most amazing, overwhelming, and insane athletic event I have ever witnessed. All my preparation before the race did not prepare me emotionally for the wave of feelings that I experienced. I had watched Jeff prepare and knew that physically he could do the event. I also felt that Jeff's years of flying on the backside of the clock would be a huge asset both mentally and physically.
My build up to the race began during the time we loaded up the truck. Having “ergoed” the truck up I felt that this was like our bat mobile. It would be like the mothership tending to its child. As we got to the race hotel I was emotionally overtaken by the scope of this event. As a crewmember I didn’t want to show my emotions so as not to affect Jeff. Race day, 0500 wide-awake and revved up to go. My eyes welled up at the start of the race knowing that the journey ahead would be huge. From the start to the hourly feedings I was exhilarated at Jeff's progress. Dick and Jeff both knew the racecourse quite well. I on the other hand tried, but was totally naive as what laid ahead.
Here are many of my race thoughts in no specific order:
- Trona burritos
- White vest, no yellow jacket, no white vest (Jeff unable to decide which clothes to wear)
- Play track 21 (Jeff asking for song 21 of a 20 song CD)
- The look in Jeff's huge gapping microsleep eyes as we pulled up to him in the early hours of Sunday morning
- The breath taking beauty of the desert
- Talking about my rectal exams to keep Jeff awake with some laughter
- The cactus people (Jeff's hallucinations)
- Passing “recumbent boy” on Townes Pass
- Dick’s amazement at how “cool” the sand dunes looked
- The absolute feeling of fear as Jeff's stomach shut down
- Enjoying teasing Jeff about what the cactus people looked like
The time during the race that I truly felt it might be close to being over was when Jeff was having hallucinations, but little did I know that he would prove me wrong. I also felt horrible as we went through Amboy trying to find the correct way. I thought, "my God I can navigate airplanes across the world but I have gotten terribly screwed up on reading simple directions during my friend’s pinnacle event of his life." As we approached Sheephole I was in awe as the “possessed” Jeff powered through to the finish.
Although I didn’t cry during the race, my stomach was turning with angst and concern. It wasn’t until days latter watching Dick's video with Carole (my wife) did I shed tears. Carole knew that not only had it been a life event for Jeff…it had been for me too. As Jeff crossed the finish line I was beaming because he had overcome all that was thrown his way. Emotions were in full force at the finish line and I intentionally tried to stay to the side allowing him to experience the event with his immediate family. In a way I wanted to be low key, as it was Jaguar's hour. I know the support team helped, but hey we were in the air conditioned/heated comfort of the truck. I was in complete amazement of the athletic feet completed and feel honored that Jeff was comfortable in our friendship to cry, yell, and be in complete pain in front of me. I only hope that I can reciprocate the unselfishness that he showed me. The drive back home the next day was very cathartic for me. I felt in a small way were we like warriors returning home from battle. That night as I lay in bed I felt blessed to have been a part of this event. Our friendship is stronger for it. Everyday I think about the 508. Life does not seem so tough anymore and even if it gets worse…it all can be overcome. I think about Dick and Joyce and the long hours of time that we had to work as a team and live like a family. It is November 3rd today and as I said it might take a while to fully put what I witnessed on paper. Thank you, Jeff, for having the confidence in me to be on your team. I will remember the “508” the rest of my life. It was that significant!

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