2 months ago while Souza was in Zofingen, I signed the two of us up to be a 2 man team for the Furnace Creek 508. That's right....508 miles starting near Magic Mountain (Griswald fans recognize this as Wally World!) in Valencia, Ca. Between the 8 check points of the race, we would both ride half the distance. The course winds through some mountains to get to the Mojave Desert. Then it takes a few twists and turns to put the riders in the Mojave Desert. A few more hils, then you are into Paniment and then Death Valley. Some of the names of the town in these parts are very fitting, Stove Pipe Wells, Furnace Creek, etc. If you look in the weather section of your newspaper, these are the sites of the US daily highs throughout most of the year.
6 weeks ago I was hit by a car while on my bike. Kenny either had to find a teammate or go solo! Kenny did not want to put anyone on the spot last minute, so he decided to go solo! In true fashion, there was little preparation, training or planned logistics. His support crew, which by rules, has to follow him every inch of the ride. The team consisted of Noreen, little Souza, Dalton, and yours truly. Our VW Euro Van, built for these type of events, was the only indication that we had a clue of on what we were getting ourselves into.
Thursday morning, while Kenny was out buying all of the necessary lights for the car/bike, (TOTEM signage for the car, PA system etc.,). I was out to break the biggest rule in any type of racing: changing something right before the race. I figured we had to make an execption to this rule, being an important race, and all! Kenny has been riding a beat up aluminum QR, one that was not going to be the answer for 508 miles. Thursday at 9am, I called up a good friend of mine that owns Laguana Cyclery. Patrick Fetzer and Kenny are the exact same size. Patrick has always told me I can ask him for anything. At 10:09am, I pulled into Laguna Beach to get a bit of inventory for the race. By 1:00pm, I was driving on Interstate 5 with $16,000 of KOUTA bikes! A KUOTA Kalibur with CAMPY Record and Reynold wheels. THe road bike was a KUOTA Kredo, with CAMPY Record, Reynolds KOM's. THis is as sexy as any other road bike I have ever seen!! What really put the icing on the cake, was the one peice VIKING bar/stem set up. The Viking bar was either going to make or break the bike fit. 2:30pm, I surprised Kenny with his new rides! He was excited and did not even think of the "no change" rule. 4:00pm, the bike fits were complete. Kenny rode around Village Square 5 times, and he was set on the Kredo. Before we took off the next day, Kenny rode the same loops on the Kalibur. He had this set up in the same position he rode his famous bike splits for the 30k bike splits back in the Coors Light Days. Was this going to be too aggressive????
We arrived at the race hotel Friday at 2pm. When we got there, Kenny, Dalton and Noreen went to check in. Knowing that I had to practice peeing into a bottle for the next 508 miles, this was a great time to practice. My bladder was so full, I filled up a SOBE bottle, close to 32 oz. The next hours was spent prepping his bikes by putting reflective tape on the proper points. During this time, Kenny was organizing the car (most organized guy I know). I had put that urine filled SOBE bottle in a discreet compartment in the van. While applying the tape on the crank arms, I heard my name being called by Noreen. It sounded like an emergency, so I dropped the tape and ran over. "Paul, did you pee in the Sobe bottle?" Noreen asked. As I answered, Kenny was making himself vomit out of the van. Kenny had drinken a mouthfull of my salty urine. He eventually said I need to cut back on my sodium intake! The race was still 16 hours away and we were already swimming upstream. He really had to dig to get to that bottle. He was the only one drinking SOBE, so you think he would have known that he finished the original bottle. I then got on our PA system and announced, "LAST CALL...free drinks at FAST TRUCK GECKO's (Kenny's totem) white Euro Van. We did have a German and Austrian come to the van, not knowing it was a joke. We did give them a jug of CLIF's new drink!
We all shared a room at the Comfort Inn. Kenny and I were doing our once over after a 9pm dinner. He enjoyed a few Sierra Nevada's while he got more familiar with his 2 new hogs! I had not shown Kenny the ZIPP disc that I had borrowed from another friend. When I pulled it out from down below, Kenny said, "Dude, do you think it will be a fast wheel?" We put it onto the Kaliber and it looked like he was ready to go for the hour record. (most people that do this event have aero bars set up for comfort, not speed. His bikes were quite the eye catcher at check, with many photos taken by strange endurance folks!) I did not think that Kenny would ride the wheel for very much of the race, but figured the 13/26 cassette would come in handy for the Reynolds wheels.
We all wake up at 5am. Kenny had a Sierra Nevada left over from the night before. Before we went down for the free breakfast, Kenny finished, nearly, a full bottle of Sierra Nevada for his first course.
We planned that I would drive, Noreen navigate the difficult directions given, and Dalton was the bar tender, fixing CLIF drinks and bars for his dad. This worked very well. We held our positions in the van for all but 1 hour, where I had to let Noreen drive. Aside from that, I drove 25 feet behind the King of Duathlon for 26 hours. Dalton was relieved of any driving duties because of his age, 14. I did not take in any caffeine fore the trip, as it turns me into Frankenstein. Noreen had her diet coke, Dalton had cans upon cans of MONSTER, ROCK STAR etc..
The one thing I was worried about was Kenny's nutrition and clothing. He is not a big eater, on or off the bike. He lost several Zofingen attempts due to these wrong doings. Was he changed man? Sure, if he has someone telling him to eat, drink and use the proper gear, he will, and he did.
Immediately, he was following taking a 380 calorie bottle from Noreen every hour. He stuck with the drinks for the majority of the ride. At the top of each hour, he was finished with 2 bottles-1 water and 1 calorie. At this time Noreen would hand out the window 2 new bottles. With zero experience, we were feeling like a well oiled machine. Kenny had started out on the KREDO road bike. At mile 30, we did a 22 second transition before he was rolling on the KALIBUR with the ZIPP disc. He looked like a rocket. He would ride this for all but 80 miles of the remainder of the race.
The race was bunched up at mile 30. The only name most of you would recognize from this group is TINKER JUAREZ. TInker is about as accomlplished mtn biker there is. (www.tinkerjuarez.com) He is also the most recognizable. He wears long black dreads and rides his Cannondale with a very cool demeanor. He seems to be as nice as they come. He has dominated the 24 hours mtn bike races in the recent years, which made him the favorite for this 24hr+ race.
Kenny did not unclip for another 145mi. Our plan was to keep the bike moving. So far, so good! We stopped for another 79 seconds at the bottom of Towne's Pass, approx 12 mile climb with 4300ft. Had we not borrowed the Zipp with the 26 tooth on it, this would have been a dreadful climb. Kenny was very smart and cruised up the hill. At the bottom of the climb, Kenny had a 10 minute lead over second. At the top, he had 4 minutes,...a good thing. (Transition of 103 seconds as we had to put on warm clothes for the desent.) The Austrian tapped himself out. The bottom of the decent was Stove Pipe Wells. Kenny was passed by Mr. Austria (Alpine IBEX) while we had another transition back to the tt bike (88 seconds) For those of you that have never been to Death Valley, the names of the towns within, Furnace Crrek, Stove Pipe are very fitting as this is commonly the hottest place on the planet in the summer months. Thank god the temps never broke 100 for us. 20miles later Kenny was in the lead again. The sun was down with no light, but the high beams from the van and his light weight 12 dollar light on the bars!
I have pictures on my digital that I will post later on. Within these, are pictures of the dash of the car and Kenny in the back ground. The speedometer reads 26mi/hour, the time of day reads 3:08am while on flat ground. By check point 5, we had 40min on second. At this stop, they have a gas station with a pay at the pump. As we were about out of gas, we were glad to see this place did exist! Check point 6, the lead was just as big. We actually beat the race officials to the point. We blew out of Baker, without checking in.
Kenny had rigged up the PA System (the one I used to announce last call for the urine!) to give directions etc. During the long dark hours, I used a rubber band to hold down the talk button and put the handle over the speakers for some rock and roll. This became very usefull in those dark hours in Death Valley. One song that was very fitting in the mystical darkness, was The Doors' Road House Blues. I sang through the CB along with the song, "Keep your eyes on the road and hands up on the bars." What really hit home was when I belted out, "You woke up this morning and got yourself a beer." This was a great reflection on Kenny and his Sierra Nevada 22 hours earlier. From StovePipe Wells onto Baker, the iPOD and jerry-rigged PA system sounded lots of GNR, Mettalica, Janes's Addictions, Rage Against the Machine, Zepplin, Ozzy, and Motley Crue, which we definitley felt like! Also, during these hours, Kenny started with Clif's special energy gel, which is made for their sponsored athletes. This gel packs 100mg of caffeine. They are called Fast Freddies, after Clif sponsored athlete Freddy Rodriguez, pro cyclist. Because Kenny was turning the cranks at an average of 24mi/hour on the flats in Death Valley while being fueled by these gels, we hope to have Gary Erickson consider the name Fast Kennys for the second generation of the gel!
Throughout Death Valley and the dark hours beyond, Dalton kept looking out the rear window for what he called "the enemy." With the sky as black as can be, if there was not any hills, he was able to see any visible light...there was none. Occasionally there would be passed by what DAlton called the "watch dogs." These are race officials that are sent out into remote parts of the course to make sure there was no cheating. The watch dogs came up empty handed each time that checked on FAST TRUCK GECKO.
When the sun started to rise I was reminded me of the old partying days. While we were excited to get this thing over with, there was kind of a depressing feeling for all of us, just as if you have partied throughout the night. This is also the time when Kenny had run out of Fast Freddies and reality and fatigue was setting in. Kenny rode out of his head for 480 miles. The last 25 miles we all were very worried. He physically and mentally breaking down. Although he had a huge lead over 2nd, he must have looked back 30 times over the last 1.5 hrs. The last 20 miles were into a 30 mile/hour head wind. Even the crew in the car was getting delirious. The houses that we saw in the desert were worsening the situation. It felt like we were in a Mad Max movie. Pure desert with junk yard houses. This was getting crazy.
On Amboy Rd, Kenny was lucky to ave 10/mi hour. We did a great job keeping his bike moving forward, until this point. He stopped to have his back cracked 4 or 5 times. He was really losing it when he would ask how much further on Amboy to the turn that would elliminate the head wind. He thought we were lying to him when we responded with only a mile less than the previous answer. He was going nowhere.
When the finish line at the Best Western was in sight, Kenny tore through 29 Palms up the final hill. The crowd gathered at 10:22am finish was a small one. Chris Kostman, the race director, was there in his polka dotted Jacket holding the finish line, a 7 foot peice of toliet paper, for kenny to break. Kenny did. He immediately hit the floor! HE was done. Cooked. Finished. While he was still on the ground 9 minutes later, TINKER crossed the line in 2nd. The MEXICAN Wolf was just as happy to be done.
It is the next morning, and Kenny just stopped by to return the KUOTAS provided by Patrick at Laguna Cyclery. He was disappointed to go into my garage to see that there was 1 RED BULL left in the cooler. Alhough his mind was shot, he remembered drinking only 7 of the 8 we bought the night before the race. He is now off for a 4pm flight to KONA out of LA. I have a 4:22 out of SD to KONA, so I am out! Hope you enjoyed the read. I do not have time to proof read, so I applogize for bad grammer or typos!
Race for the experience, not the noteriety!
The awards were short and brief. He won $100 gift certificate for Hammer products and a finishers medal. His true victory was the experience. If he had hoped for a big celebration, media etc, it would have been anti climactic. By 11am we loaded up in the van for the trip back to SD. I tried driving for a while while Kenny looked dead in the back. Noreen took over the wheel and I lied down in the folded out bed in the back with Kenny. The average person could not have been able to tell the difference on who the racer was, until Kenny started barfing into a few towels. I slept through the sickness. Was it the beer after the race, the 8 gels in the last 90 min of the race, or could have it been something else?? I know it could not have been from the SOBE bottle 38 hours earlier!
results & some pics are on www.the508.com. I'll post some of our pics later.