Critical Section

no joy in Badwater

Monday,  10/05/09  02:59 PM

Well, I didn't make it.  No shame, but I am disappointed.

Sunday morning at 7:30am, as I was fighting a 30mph headwind in Badwater, after having battled it all night, I dropped out of the Furnace Creek 508.  I was about 20 miles from the base of the Salsberry grade, which meant another four hours of spinning in 1st gear at 5mph, and I couldn't handle it.  I might have been up for it physically, but my head gave out.  I began looking for reasons to stop instead of reasons to continue.

Furnace Creek 508 - 2009 - no joy in Badwater

I was very nervous when the ride began, very conscious that I had never done anything like this before, and very aware of everyone's advice to take it easy.  I did.  The first leg to California City featured some climbing and some headwinds, but it was steady on, and I felt good.  It sure is wonderful having a support vehicle right there with bottles and food and everything.  The second leg to Trona featured a little more climbing, and some tailwinds (yay!), and again it was steady on, and I felt really good.  The third leg from Trona to Furnace Creek had three distinct parts:

In the first, through the Panamint Valley, I was flying with a beautiful tailwind.  We were well ahead of schedule, I was feeling strong, and ready for the climb up to Townes Pass.  At the turn to start the climb we passed the 200 mile mark, and I was amazed; I had done 200 miles in 12 hours elapsed, my best ever, and that was taking it easy!

The second part was the climb up Townes, and the descent down the back.  The climb was nasty, with a crosswind / headwind / tailwind / wind.  About 13 miles at about 8%, but the wind was the main factor; a couple of times I blew into the shoulder.  I started cramping a little, because I stopped drinking, because I needed both hands on the bars just to keep my bike on the road.  But I made it!  And felt great, because "it was all downhill from there".  Riight.  The descent down the back to Stovepipe Wells was awesome, a beautiful full moon lit up the valley, and although there was some crosswind it was smooth sailing.  We hit Stovepipe about four hours ahead of schedule, and I still felt great.

The third part was when reality set in.  It is just 25 miles from Stovepipe Wells to Furnace Creek, a flat road, good surface, should have taken about 1 1/2 hours.  But it was directly into the teeth of a stiff headwind.  On that flat road I was averaging 5-6mph, I must tell you it was harder than the climb up to Townes Pass.  It took me four hours to reach Furnace Creek, and I was exhausted.  We had planned to sleep there and we did, hoping the wind would die down.

Rocky the Squirrel, before the startSo then leg four.  I woke up, ate a little, and was pleased to note the wind had [apparently] settled down.  We took off for Badwater, and bam! the wind hit again.  Big time headwind, 30mph gusts, blowing sand, tumbleweeds, you name it.  It was 40 miles from Furnace Creek to Salsberry grade, and at 5mph that was going to take me eight hours.  What seemed on paper to be a mild little cruise through Death Valley became a nightmare.  After four hours we reached Badwater, my head exploded, and I couldn't take it anymore.  Maybe next year I'll be mentally ready.

I want to thank my most excellent crew captain, Joani, who did an amazing job of supporting me, she was a veteran of two previous 508s, and her experience and calm demeanor were perfect.  I also want to thank Greg, the other half of my stellar crew, for his yeoman work.  In addition to filling bottles and reading maps he also took a bunch of pictures which I have yet to edit; stay tuned for those...

So this year there was no joy in Badwater.  But wait 'till next year!

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