Archive for the 'Furnace Creek 508' category

Recent FC508 Analysis

October 8, 2008 2:01 pm

This past weekend, Paul V. and I competed as a two man relay team in the 25th Furnace Creek 508 bicycle race.  We started on Saturday morning at 9:00 am and finished on Sunday afternoon at 5:17 pm, for a total time of 32 hours, 17 minutes.  I wrote a race recap here.

One stage that I didn’t feel I did well on last year was this stage 3, from Trona to Furnace Creek. This year my time was 6:03 compared with 7:17 last year, so nearly a 45 minute improvement. Part of this was due to less stopping time overall but most of the improvement had to be while on the bike.

Still I wanted to see where that improvement came from because I did not feel I was climbing any faster due to a strong headwind while climbing Townes Pass this year. Looking at my Polar HRM data, I can see that this year I actually took 5 minutes longer for the climb.

Breaking Stage 3 into three sections, 1) from Trona to the turn up Townes Pass, 2) to the Summit, and 3) from the Summit down into Death Valley to Furnace Creek, I get these results for this year and last year. You can see all of the time savings happened before I even got to Townes Pass. Since I had a stronger tail wind on section 1 and a stronger headwind on section 2, it is hard to know if I really did the main climb any better.

Furnace Creek 508 Results for Stage 3



Avg/Max HR
3 Sections: Trona to Townes Pass, Townes Pass Climb, to Furnace Creek

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Team Prairie Dog – Furnace Creek 508

October 7, 2008 4:07 pm
Team Prairie Dog - Furnace Creek 508

This past weekend, Paul and I competed as a two man relay team in the 25th Furnace Creek 508 bicycle race. We were lucky to have Russ and Sheila crew again for us. We started on Saturday morning at 9:00 am and finished on Sunday afternoon at 5:17 pm, for a total time of 32 hours, 17 minutes.

Watch Our Video


We started the trek on Friday. After loading up the van with bikes and supplies we headed down to Santa Clarita.

We had a few mishaps on the way down. The first one was Paul seeing in his rear view mirror that one of his spare wheels had bounced off the top of the van. We were on a freeway so we had to go to the next exit several miles down and back track. It was hard to figure out where the wheel was, so we stopped at a rest stop and searched. Sheila finally found it, still in good condition.

The other mishap was some exploding coke cans. We had put them near the dry ice to cool them fast, but they froze and exploded.

After arriving, Russ and Paul worked on getting the signs on the van and then we had the inspection.

Saturday morning it was up early and get ready. Since the start hotel was not that far from where we were staying, I decided to just bike over there instead of try to put his bike up on the top of the van.

Start Line

It was a lot of fun to have so many friends at the start doing the race on other teams. Franz, Gary F. and Joe F. were at the starting line.

Eight Stages

I did the “A” rider stages again this year so he started out with the first stage from the start to California City.

We had a police escort for the first 5 miles. The support vehicles have to drive out to the 24 mile mark and wait for the rides.

The 84 mile ride over to California City was fast with both a tailwind and a cross wind at times. I arrived at 1:25 pm and made the hand off to Paul. He then headed to Trona.

Paul made very good time on this state, averaging 20.3 mph.

This year we were doing much better which allowed us to drive the support vehicle on to Trona and wait. Last year we had to go into the follow the rider mode at 6 pm. Since we could get to the time station before 6 pm, we could drive ahead and be ready before Paul finished the stage. Franz decided to switch to his bike with the triple since he would be climbing Townes Pass.

Paul arrived at 5:27 PM, and I made my way towards Townes Pass as the sun was setting.

One stage that I didn’t feel like he did well on last year was this stage 3, from Trona to Furnace Creek. This year my time was 6:03 compared with 7:17 last year, so nearly a 45 minute improvement.

It was now dark as I started to climb up Townes Pass. Unlike last year, it was much warmer, but there was a strong headwind. Once he reached the summit, I switched to his other bike, which had the bright light on it. It was then a 5,000 foot drop down into Death Valley, then the long ride over to Furnace Creek.

At 10:56 pm, Paul took over and started the stage to Shoshone. That involves considerable climbing, up out of the Death Valley.

He arrived at 5:27 am, so we needed to do a night time switch, which meant I could not get out of the car and get the bike ready until after Paul reached the time station. It was still dark as I left for Baker. After 7:00 am, the support van could go ahead and get to Baker in time for Paul to enjoy a milkshake before I arrived.

I came flying into Baker at 8:53 am.

The stage to Baker was slower than last year but there was a headwind instead of the tailwind Franz had enjoyed previously. He was glad to get off the bike, if he could only get his leg over it! But when he did he found they had bought him a cheeseburger and fries. Wow that was great.

Powered by the milkshake, Paul made his way towards Kelso.

At 11:30 AM, Paul arrived at Kelso and I took the hand off and headed to Almost Amboy.

Being his last stage, I took off fast with the plan to ride this 33 miles as fast as he could, despite the climbing. Besides I had that power from the cheeseburger that he had eaten in the van on the way over.

After the 2,200 foot climb, it was a very long descent down to Almost Amboy. It was not as fast as last year when we had the tail wind but Franz still was able to average 18.9 mph. Paul then started the last stage to the finish.

The Finish

Just before the finish, as is customary, I got back on the bike so we could cross the finish line together.

It was really the effort of the entire team, both riders and crew, that made this such a rewarding experience.

We were happy we finished 69 minutes faster than last year and within 7 minutes of our target (See Results).

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Furnace Creek 508 – Ready or Not

September 27, 2008 9:45 pm

I did my last tough training ride today, before really tapering for the upcoming Furnace Creek 508 event in one week.  Last weekend I finished the two day Everest Challenge and should be still recovering, but I did a 117 mile ride today with 7,000 feet of climbing, averaging 17.4 mph.  That brings my total climbing for the past four weeks to 108,482 feet, which I am sure is a new record for me. While I was on the ride, I did push hard going up Old La Honda since I had not timed myself up there for 5 years. I did beat my old PR by close to two minutes, which made me feel good.

This chart shows my climbing during the 18 week training program (click to enlarge).  You can see I am above both my plan and above last year for the same period.

For the total miles bike I am also above plan and almost the same as last year during the same period.

These are several of the rides I completed in the past 6 weeks, including the recent Everest Challenge a week ago.  Some of these were on back to back days.

Furnace Creek 508 Training

Time (rolling/total)
Avg/Max HR
MPH (rolling/total)
Training Ride on 9/27
61 feet/mile
Everest Challenge 9/20 and 9/21
141 feet/mile
* includes the non-timed portion final descent for each day. Race times were 8:26:40 and 6:21:08 for a total of 14:47:48
Training Rides on 9/13 and 9/14
104 feet/mile
Training Rides on 9/6
94 feet/mile
300 Warriors Race on 8/16/08
96 feet/mile
99 miles
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11 2 EC 25 2 508

September 9, 2008 6:00 am

With only 11 days left before the Everest Challenge and 25 days to the Furnace Creek 508, I have moved into the final stages of my training. With these two major events only 13 days apart, I have been using a single training program, with the major emphasis on getting ready for the EC.  I figure if I am ready for the Everest Challenge, I will be ready for the 508.

The Everest Challenge will prove to be the most difficult cycling event I will ever compete in.  I registered as a Master 55+.  I wish they had a 60+ category but they jump to 65+.  When people hit their sixties, as I have, you age faster than you do in your 30’s and 40’s so why not move to every 5 years?

Last year I was training for the same event and decided the week before to cancel out for a couple of reasons.  First the weather had turned very bad and I was looking at biking up to snow, with rain and cold on the descents.  Second, I was going to compete in the  Furnace Creek 508 two weeks later.  Again I will be doing the 508 two weeks later but this year I am no longer a rookie in that event and know what to expect.

For the Everest Challenge, Day 1 has 120 miles with 15,465 feet of climb and Day 2 has 86 miles with 13,570 feet of climbing. However the actual racing distance (excluding neutralized start and neutralized last descent after timing finish) is 92 miles for Day 1 and 61 miles for Day 2, or a total of 153 miles.  I believe that the neutralized starts are included in the times, but not the descent after the last climb.  For Day 1 the neutralized start is 8 miles and for Day 2 it is 3 miles.  So the timed distance is 100 miles for Day 1 and 64 miles for Day 2.

I found this on the website:How long will it take you? A rough guide is – you should be able to do Day Two in 15 to 20% less than your Death Valley to Mount Whitney time, or 35 to 40% less than your Markleeville Death Ride time. Day One should take you 10-15% longer than your Death Valley to Mount Whitney time, or 10-20% less than your Markleeville Death Ride time.

Last year I did the Death Ride with a total time was 9:22 and a rolling time of 8:40.  I doubt I could do that again right now, but using that as a benchmark I calculate this.  Using the 8:40 rolling time, less 10% less for Day 1 and 35% less for day 2, plus 45 minutes for Day 1 and 35 minutes for Day 2 for stopping/less conditioning, I calculate what I consider the time I could do as:

Day 1 513 minutes or 8:33
Day 2 373 minutes or 6:13
Total: 14:46

The times for 2007 are not valid due to a course change.  For 2006, the time for my age group range from 12:40 (1st) to 18:04  (8th place), with 4 DNFs.   Third place was 13:24.  The difference between Day 1 and Day 2 was roughly 1:40.  With a time of 14:46 it would not be possible for me to place. That is no surprise since this race attracts the best climbers for the entire state of California.   Still I decided to enter as a race category because I want to get my time recorded.

In 2003 they did have a 60+ category and in that year the best time for 60+ was 15:29:04. I guess that will be a target I will go after which should give me a little bragging right.  So my target is under 15.5 hours.

So far I am on track with my training.  Here are a couple of training charts.  I have one training program for both Everest Challenge that the 508 because they are only two weeks apart.  The Everest Challenge occurs a the end of week 17 and the 508 at the end of week 19.   Click to enlarge.

Miles: Over the past 15 weeks I running about the same as last year and on plan.

Climbing: For the last 15 weeks I am running head of last year and above plan.

Recent Climbing: Compared with last year I have done more climbing in the recent weeks, closer to the EC.

Furnace Creek 508 Training

August 8, 2008 7:12 pm

I have updated my log with the training I am doing for the Everest Challenge and Furnace Creek 508.  The Everest Challenge occurs two weeks before the 508.  My miles are on track but my climbing is not quite there yet.  I am getting my weight down.

See here for all the latest charts.

Accelerated Training

July 28, 2008 10:05 pm

With July all but gone I am starting to feel unprepared for the big events coming up in the world of cycling.  Ann and I will do the 111 mile Ulcer Century on August 9th.  I am feeling rather comfortable that we will both be ready. But I am not so confident on my current condition for the Everst Challenge on September 20/21 and the Furnace Creek 508 two weeks later. I don’t know anyone who has sucessfully completed the Everest Challenge and the Furnace Creek 508 back to back like I hope to.  I guess it is something about turning 60 earlier this year that drives me to prove to myself I am not yet ready for the rocking chair.

I decided to go to my training log and create a training plan to make sure I am getting ready.  It helps me to compare where I am with where I was last year at the same time and how I am doing against my training program.  These charts show I am on track with total miles but am falling a bit short on climbing.  The one area I need to really focus on is getting my weight down and want to lose 5 lbs. in the next 5 weeks.  Click the charts to view enlarged.

I did get in a good ride on Saturday and did some hill repeats today up Thomas Grade,  It will be difficult getting in enough climbing due to travel schedules.  That means an accelerated training when I get the opportunity.  I feel the key is to make sure I am getting the right base level and then peak at the right time.  I followed that approach for the Devil Mountain Double last April and it paid off.

See here for all the charts on my training for the 508.

Furnace Creek 508 or Bust (or Melt Down)

April 21, 2008 6:16 pm

Against my better judgment, Paul and I have submitted our application to do the Furnace Creek 508 again October 4-6, 2008.  This year, instead of taking applications on a first come basis, they had us prepare a resume of ultra distance cycling and running accomplishments.  They are going to accept people in on that basis.  They sent an email and said they had a record number of applications.  I expect that we will be accepted since we are 508 veterans (Paul also finished solo) and we both have a lot of ultra distance events accomplished the last couple of years, especially Paul.

See this link to our website for last year’s event.

Furnace Creek 508 Video

October 16, 2007 7:31 pm

I completed this video of our Furnace Creek 508 adventure. Click the play button to view it.

Racing the 508 – Stages 1 and 2

October 12, 2007 12:00 pm

This is a recap of the Furnace Creek 508 race. Franz and Paul on a two man relay team. with the team totem “Prairie Dog”. Russ and Sheila were our crew. We all drove down together to Santa Clarita on Friday, October 5th and had our vehicle and bikes inspected.

Vehicle Inspection

We made our way over to the race start on Saturday morning. The race started from the front of the Hilton Garden in Santa Clarita. Our team is shown below, Paul, Franz (ready to ride) and our crew Russ and Sheila.

Team Prairie Dog

Franz started at 9 am with a police escort through the streets of Santa Clairta. This stage involved 83 miles with over 6,000 feet of climbing, as shown by the profile below. The route took us through Majave to California City.

Stage 1 Elevation Profile

This image gives you a better feel of the route.

3D Map of Start to California City

Franz on Stage 1

Franz on route to California City

The van went ahead and Paul got ready to ride when Franz arrived at 1:54 pm.

Sheila pumping up Paul's Tires

Franz averaged 17 mph. He briefly passed Joe. from the Nutcracker team, towards the end, but Joe would have nothing with that so Joe went ahead and came in one minute before Franz

Franz and Joe Congratulating Each Other

Paul then next took the baton for Stage 2.

Paul taking the baton

Paul had a 70 mile route, with 4200 feet of climbing as shown with this profile.

California City to Trona Profile

Paul made good time on his route, averaging 17.0 mph.

Paul on Stage 1

We stop just before Trona because at 6 pm, we had to change to night time rules and follow the rider. We came to the time station at 6:02 pm. Since we were in night time rules, Franz had all his bike clothes and shoes on and ready to role so we were able to make a quick switch over at Trona. During the night the rider can not go ahead of the van. Franz then took off toward Furnace Creek for Stage 3 about two minutes after Paul arrived. See the next blog entry for Stages 3 and 4.

Racing the 508 – Stages 3 and 4

11:00 am

This is a continuation of the race recap for the Furnace Creek 508. The hand off for the start of Stage 3 occurred at Trona, at 6:02 pm and Franz started the toughest and longest stage of the race. Ahead was riding mostly in the dark for 99 miles with 7,500 feet of climbing. The race started out without too much climbing as shown by this elevation profile. Initially Franz felt strong and passed several riders. Pacing during the night time rules was a bit complicated because the support vehicles needed to stay behind their rider.

Trona to Furnace Creek Elevation Profile

By the time of the first climb it was totally dark and Franz could see the lights ahead of a caravan of support vehicles, all following their rider. Unlike the daytime where the various support vehicles would leapfrog the riders and stop and cheer on all the riders, it became dark and lonely. Having a headwind and cool temperatures only made it harder. After the gradual descent in Panamint Valley, Franz made a stop to get more clothes on. The crew offered to put on the outside music using the iPod that Franz had brought along with his own selection. One of the first songs to come over the speaker was “Against the Wind”. That was very appropriate. The music helped a lot and it was fun ridding in the dark, passing some of the riders on the climbs with the vehicle behind you playing your music.

Franz in Panamint Valley

After a right turn, with increased headwind, the climb up Townes Pass started. Franz went up the climb with his double crankset, which was a mistake and should have switched to his other bike with lower gearing. He was also feeling the effects of the 83 mile stage earlier in the day and could not get his heart rate up above 145 whereas he can usually drive it to 165 for a sustained climb. Fatigue was really coming into the picture as Franz would need to frequently stand while pedalling to get some power to the pedals.

At about 3,500 foot elevation Franz made an stop to get even more clothes on because the temperature was now in the high 40’s. The crew offered to get his other bike down from the top of the van, but Franz decided to slug it out since there was only another 1,500 feet to go.

Franz stopping for more clothes

He finally made it to the summit and was too cold to stop with the temperature now 46 degrees. Having already put on the clothes needed for the descent, Franz rolled right down Townes Pass. It was still a strong headwind so it made going down a bit tricky but Franz had a very good BR light that illuminated up the road well, even when the support vehicle was dropping back on the curves. It was a 5,000 foot drop to Death Valley.

Once on the valley flow the temperatures were getting much better, around 70 degrees and it was now a cross wind as Franz headed to Furnace Creek. With over an hour left to bike Franz took another break and drank a coke and ate a donut. It was a long stage he felt. He could now see the lights of the caravan of support vehicles bending toward the right, which meant the cross wind would turn into a tail wind. He finally made it to Furnace Creek 1:19 am.

Everyone was now taking a break and Paul was getting ready to ride. He left at 1:39 am and was not enjoying the benefits of the strong tail wind that Franz had enjoyed for the last part of Stage 3. Paul was riding strong, moving along well over 20 mph.

Paul riding to Shoshone

After a fast and flat long section, Paul hit the climb up Jubilee Pass and the winds were no longer a tail wind.

Furnace Creek to Shoshone Elevation Profile

It was a long climb up, and even after reaching the summit of Jubilee Pass, there was only a short descent before the climb began up Salsberry Pass.

Furnace Creek to Shoshone 3D

It was then a descent to Shoshone where Paul arrive at 6:43 am. Since the night time driving rules applied until 7:00, Franz had to make a quick switch at Shoshone to get ready to head toward Baker. See the next blog entry for stages 5 and 6.