The Silver State 508 bike race started in Furnace Creek, CA. called the Furnace Creek 508. It was a 508 mile bicycle race that started in Santa Clarita, CA, went out to a lovely mining town called Trona, then back through Death Valley, then through The Mojave Desert, CA, and ended in 29 Palms for 508 miles. In this race, competitors choose a totem rather than a race number. The chosen totem stays with the rider for life. This helps bond the race to the rider, and the rider to the totem. Almost every rider knows each other by their totem, and has no real idea what their actual name is. We have been the Great Basin Ichthyosaur. Then 6 years ago, The Government put a new Head Ranger in Charge of Death Valley, and she pulled all permits for everything inside Death Valley for a “Safety Review.” This put a stop the the Furnace Creek 508 until the “Safety Review” was completed. I then approached the promoter of the FC508 and suggested he bring his race to Reno, NV. where we could start in Reno, race out to Eureka, NV, then turn around and come back. Turns out it is 508 miles. That was the start of the Silver State 508.
I crewed the Furnace Creek 508 for a Tandem Team (Lion Fish) riding the 508 miles solo. I crewed for them twice, then rode it once as a 2 mixed team with Jami Horner. It was a shorter race, as that was the year Death Valley was shut down. So, we raced out to the entrance of Death Valley, then turned around and came back. The next year it had it’s inaugural Nevada opening. Now the Silver State 508, I have ridden it Solo , 2 person mixed, and 4 person mixed for a total of 6 in Nevada, and once in California for a grand total of 7 times, and each time is different.
If you ask me, Solo is the easiest. Yah, I know… SOLO???? Sounds crazy, but you find your pace or rhythm, and ride. I actually think it is harder on the crew then the rider. You just set your pace, and ride….. for 36 hrs. The next easiest is the 4 x team. This is a team of 4 riders that completes the course. Up until this year, the race course was broken up into stages . Stage 1 - Reno to Silver Springs 48.77. Stage 2 - Silver Springs to Fallon 31.35 miles. Stage 3 - Fallon to Austin 106.41. Stage 4 - Austin to Eureka (the turnaround) 70.5 miles. Stage 5 - Eureka to Austin 70.1 miles. Stage 6 - Austin to Fallon 112.5 miles. Stage 7 - Fallon to Silver Springs 24.45 miles. And stage 8 - Silver Springs to Reno 43.35 miles. You might notice that the legs out have different mileages then the legs back. They have to move the time stations to the opposite side of the road for the return, so they are located at different locations.
Before the team starts, you try to optimize rider position, because the rider that starts a leg has to complete that leg. If the rider can not complete that leg, the team has to return to the start of the leg, and rotate the next rider in. Then that rider has to complete the leg in it’s entirety, and continue the rider rotation in order, leg after leg. So, with a 4 x team, you find which riders do best on which legs, and you rotate through. The nice thing is that each rider knows when they will start, when they will finish, when they have to sleep, eat, drink etc. It gives everyone 2 legs, and a big break between legs for recovery. I would say that 2 person team is the hardest. Again, each rider has to complete their individual legs. So you get pulled out of the support vehicle, slammed cold onto the bike, then ride as hard as you can, then when you are done, you are slammed in a car, cramped, tired, and have to eat, sleep, and try to recover before you are again pulled out of the car cold, and back on the bike as hard as you can go. So, which ever way you ride the race, there is always strategy, except for solo. Set your pace and ride is really the only strategy you can have for that one.
This year a couple new categories of competition opened up. The 50/50 class. One person ride out to Eureka, the turn around, and one person back. The person coming back gets the fun of riding more than 1/2 of the way back to Reno in the dark ,and very cold. So, there is strategy here. The other class that opened up is the “Open Class.” This is like many other ultra endurance bike races like RAAM (Race Across America) where riders can interchange where ever and as often as they like (as long as you can interchange completely off the roadway.) So this year, the first for the open class, we entered as a 4 person Male Relay 40-49 year average category. We did have one woman, Rebecca Eckland on our team, who is as fast as the guys anyway. To be classified as a 4 x Mixed, we would have needed 2 women. This year, there were 6 teams in our category, and 13 total 4 x teams that we were still competing against, in our category or not. Everyone wants bragging rights. This year there were 95 competitors, 13 Nationalities, 33 solo riders, 13 4x teams, and 4 2x teams.
This year, we entered as a 4 person “Open Class.” Our team consisted of Rebecca Eckland, Brandon Tinianov, Kevin Weiske, and myself, Rich Staley, with my brother Dave Staley and Jim Newberg as drivers. Because all riders were fairly matched, we had a plan of taking 2ish hour pulls each in rotation. This would give each rider about 40 miles, and a 6 hour rest before they rotated back onto the bike. We are all more endurance riders, except Kevin. He does lots of shorter USAC (United States Amateur Cycling) events where it is one and done. So, this would be his first real endurance test. Because of this, we were going to take the return trip from Eureka by how everyone felt. Maybe change distance times to one hour apiece. But that was the plan until the Sunday before the event when Brandon called. He separated his bicep muscle from the bone. That took him out of the event. Scrambling, we managed to sucker Mike Taylor to jump into Brandon’s place. Talking with Mike, I realized that he is fast up climbs. Not just fast, but very fast. My best time up Geiger Grade out of Reno (when I was 28yrs old) was 33 minutes. Now at 50 my best time is around 36 minutes. Mike, at 51yrs can do it in 31 minutes. This changed our strategy completely. As it progressed closer to race day, I came to realize that both Mike and Kevin were going to be riding bikes without aero bars. Aero bars bolt on to the handlebars of the bicycle allowing the rider to lay down on his / her forearms to maintain a more aerodynamic posture. This will give the rider 1 - 5ish miles per hour faster because of the more aerodynamic form. Across the Nevada desert there are miles upon miles of nothing but straight roads where aero bars will give an advantage. Both Rebecca and I had them. This would mean that I would have to put Mike on most of the climbs, Kevin on the intermediate climbs where aero bars are less of an advantage. Rebecca is a magnificent climber, and can keep up with almost any man out there, but she is also a fantastic monster on the flats with the aero bars. She has posted many of the fastest (men and women) legs of the race where she raced the Stage Race format. So, I could use her anywhere. Thank goodness for that. Now for me, I am a monster on the flats, slight grades, and have the technical ability to take the downhills fast, even in the dark. So this set the strategy for the race. Give Mike most of the climbs, Rebecca we could put on the flats and climbs, Kevin got the intermediate sections, and I got the rollers, flats and downhills. The problem with this strategy? There was no real organized structure of the race. So eating, drinking, sleeping, and just resting were going to be tough to accomplish before the next rider was called up to ride again.
Because of Mikes climbing ability, he got the start. He would get to start in Reno, and climb Geiger Grade to Virginia City, then descend 6 Mile Canyon to Highway 50, 25.25 miles. Crew had to drive around Carson City to the intersection of Hwy 50 and 6 Mile Canyon to alleviate traffic congestion up Geiger Grade. For this reason, we did not get to see Mike going up Geiger grade. All I know for sure is talking to another competitor: “We were all headed up Geiger as a group when he just left us. All we could do is just watch him pull away!” And away he went. The rest of our team and the crew were waiting at Hwy 50 and 6 Mile Canyon for Mike to arrive. We knew he would be the first one there. Later he told me he tucked (aerodynamic form on the bike) the 6 Mile Downhill to make sure he maintained his lead, which he did!) the entire technical descent. As we were waiting at the intersection for Mike, we had planned a rider exchange where I (Rich) would take the flats / rollers past Fallon to Sand Mountain 67 miles. As we waited for the riders to arrive, I checked my phone for a “GPS Live Tracking” information. It showed Mike clearly in the lead. Another competitor was sure they were going to be first. As the first rider came into view, the other team said to me, “Those GPS Live Trackers are always wrong! Here comes our rider!” The disappointment slowly showed as Mike came into view with about a 9 minute lead, and I was off. 31 miles, 2520 ft of climbing, 18.3 mph avg.
My section was mostly uneventful. Mostly flat, a couple small rollers for about a total of 1000 ft of climbing in 67 miles, except for the construction section on Hwy 50. This section of road was down to a 2 lane highway. Oncoming traffic, and traffic heading my way. All lanes squeezed together as tight as NDOT (Nevada Dept. of Transportation) could get them. This was not their fault as new road way construction has to happen. However, with the large orange upside down trashcans with flashing lights atop each one left little to no room for a cyclist with large 18 wheelers pulling their cargo to Tesla, Panasonic, or just hay for livestock. they would pass 4 to 6 inches from my handlebars, only because they had no option, and passing at 60mph when I was doing 23mph. Steady nerves, and steady bike handling skills all while trying to avoid road debris from the construction vehicles.
Now, here is where technology can get in the way. I know my power numbers. I know my pedal efficiency, or how much power is going forward with each pedal stroke. I run Garmin Vector Pedals that give me all this data in one screen. I love it. I had planned to hold about 260 watts on every pull, or about 3w/kg for those tech-no geeks out there, and hover around 90 % efficient for the entire ride. I figured I could keep it there every time I was on the bike. Well, as luck would have it, 20 miles in, my Garmin 820 told me I had just dropped 100 watts, and my efficiency was all over the place. I knew it was wrong as my power, speed and heart rate (I don’t wear a heart rate monitor) were all where they should be for my given speed and output. So I changed screens and just tried to maintain my average speed, listening to my body instead of my computer. I continued to drive to the next time station at the far end of Fallon. About 1 mile past the station, the other team (Coconut Crab) that thought they were first coming down 6 Mile Canyon pass me up. This was a 4 man team. Each rider had 2 bikes, one time trial bike, and one very light climbing bike. Their strategy was to take 10 - 15 minute pulls each. Pull over 300 watts for 10-15 minutes, then wait for 30 - 45 minutes, and out again for 300+ watts on what ever bike best suited the situation. This team crushed the course in 24hrs, 51min, and made up that 9 minutes on me in about 50 miles. They continued to pull away for the rest of the race. I continued on to the next exchange at Sand Mountain. 66 miles, 1000 ft, 22.8 mph avg.
At Sand Mountain, Kevin took over. He had a flat couple miles before he went up a moderate climb, Sand Mountain Pass, then down into the Naval Air Station Bombing Range of Dixie Valley. An interesting note about Sand Mountain. The mountain is in a little cove surrounded by mountains. The way the wind blows in this area, it creates an eddy of wind in this cove. So, as the winds pick up sand from the surrounding dry lake pan, it deposits the sand in this little cove, and the swirling winds keep the sand there. So this mountain of sand constantly shifts within the cove, and all the sand that is deposited here, stays here. So over time, Sand Mountain continues to get larger and larger.
Across Dixie Valley Kevin went, then up another moderate climb Drumm Summit. Once past the summit, he passed Middle Gate and the new Shoe Tree that is filled with people’s old shoes, tied together and thrown into a huge Cotton Wood tree giving it a full look, even during winter months, then across the flats almost to East Gate. Kevin completed 31 miles, 1850 ft, 19 mph avg.
This area has an interesting history. This is the path of the old Pony Express line. There are still foundations from the Pony Express along this section of the route. Between the desert, Indians, and the wolves (did you know that Nevada had one of the larges species on wolf in North America?) this crossing was not an easy one. This area had fantastic water resources, thus the stop for the Pony Express horses, and produced a very high quality horse hay at East Gate. Then in 1954 there was a 7.3 magnitude earthquake in the area (Earthquake Faults Nevada) that disrupted the ground water, thus starving East Gate of water and ending it’s ability to produce hay. This earthquake shifted the ground vertically by over 12 feet in given areas and changed the economy of the area forever. Now more of a desert ghost town or ghost ranch. Although people still live there, it is not what it used to be.
Rebecca would be the next rider up. We were gong to exchange at East Gate, but she looked at me and said: “We need to exchange before that, the Strava Segment starts there!” So we exchanged about 2 miles before East Gate so she could get a little warm up before she climbed Carol Summit on Hwy 722. Past East Gate she FLEW! We (riders and crew) have to “Leap Frog” the rider until we get to Eureka, then it is “Direct Follow” until 7am the next morning. So “Leap Frog we did. We had to go way in front of her, because every time we would stop, there she was. By this time, we were catching Solo riders. And catching them she was, one after another. We lost count at about 13 riders passed. Then Mike said: “Dam she is fast, and she is climbing this hill in her aero bars!” Well, she did climb, and she got that Strava QOM by 4 1/2 minutes over the next female, and sits firmly 7th overall, men included. She then dropped Carol Summit into Smith Creek Dry Lake Valley with dust devils the size of small tornados swirling around. This section of road is horrible, and wind from every direction. There are expansion crevasses in the old white asphalt every 10 to 14 feet. Not expansion cracks, but expansion crevasses, they are wide as they are deep. Flat across the valley, you want to stay as aerodynamic as possible, and every expansion crack feels like you just hit a speed bump at full speed every 12 ish feet. It takes a huge toll on the shoulders. But across it she flew, then up a small grade of Railroad Pass where I would take over. 37.5 miles, 2800 ft, 17.8 mph avg, 97 deg. F.
Because of my weight, size, and aero bars, I was up again. This is just an 8 mile gradual descent, and a 8 mile flat section through Reese River Valley to Highway 50, just before Austin Nevada. This is a beautiful section of road. Relatively rough with small expansion cracks everywhere, but no road stripping on the right side of the road. This road, from the bottom of Carol Summit to Hwy 50 is all old white asphalt. The problem is that the shoulder is also white rock and sand. The same color as the road way. When I am in my aero bars, I look up to make sure the road is clear, then drop my head for a faster aero position, and I watch the white line down by my front wheel to make sure I am in the proper position of the roadway, occasionally looking up for any debris or obstacles in the road. This assures my maximum speed and keeps me going in a straight line. However, this roadway has no white line, and you can’t discern the road from the shoulder, so I am sure I looked drunk crossing this section as I had no reference as to what straight was with my head down.
This is a beautiful valley. It has some of the most sought after Alfalfa, as does Fallon, in the world. There are Alfalfa fields on both sides of the roadway that turns this desert valley, between 9000 ft peaks to your west, Desatoya Mountain range and 12,000 ft peaks on your right, the Toiyabe Mountain Range into a green oasis filled with deer and antelope. The problem with Reese River Valley is that it is a gigantic swamp cooler when returning at night. Because of all the irrigation and water evaporation, we have seen 17 deg F in this valley 2 different times. But beautiful it is. 16 miles, 131 ft (mostly downhill), 23.1 mph avg.
At this point, Hwy 722 intersects back into Hwy 50 just below Austin. Austin is an old mining town in central Nevada perched at 6605 ft. In fact it is so central that if you draw lines from the corner of the state to the opposing corner, and side to side, and up and down center to center, you bisect Austin every time. Well, pretty darn close. This old mining town initially born in 1862 by Alvah Austin who kicked over a rock to find silver, and the silver rush to Austin was on. Now mostly a preserved Ghost Town, Austin is known for it’s amazing Turquoise. To this day, turquoise is the main stay of this town, in both nugget and vein form. The McGunness mine produces some of the most beautiful nugget sunset sky blue turquoise ever. If you have time, many of the shops in Austin sell the turquoise mined in the Toiyabe Mountains.
Now back to the race. As I finished the last miles of Hwy 722, Mike was lined up and ready for his next leg. Taking a right on Hwy 50, he accelerated up the highway, east toward Austin. As crew, we had to stop at the Time Station and check in so that we were recognized as coming though, and given a proper time split. Quickly we checked in, took a quick bathroom and ice cream break from the gas station, all jumped back into our 7 passenger van, and sped up the hill after Mike. Well, we sped, and sped, and sped….. Austin Summit is a rather short but steep climb of 5 miles that averages 6%. Problem is that it is just an average. It pitches sharply right out of Austin, then levels only to pitch again, then levels to the summit. A quick decent, then up Bob Scott Summit, 1.4 miles at a steady 4%. We finally caught Mike 1/2 way up Bob Scott Summit, 8 miles after he left us. He ended up with a Strava KOM on the two climbs, almost 2 minutes faster than the next competitor. Yes, Mike is fast. He then had a long strait down hill off Bob Scott Summit, and flat and rolling terrain 1/2 way to Eureka. 42 miles, 2894 ft, 20.4 mph avg.
Again, the ride turned back to me. This section is mostly flat with a slight downhill into our turnaround in Eureka. Because of my aero bars, this section again suited me well. Further, Rebecca has a sleeping sickness. At about 10pm, she turns into a pumpkin and falls asleep. Does not matter where she is, down she goes. So, we all decided that she was best suited to ride out of Eureka 1/2 way back to Austin, then have Kevin take us the rest of the way back to Austin. So, off I went. A beautiful sunset with a smoky filled full moon rising in the east. Quiet, cool, and a perfect temperature of about 58 degs. There was a slight headwind as I watched the huge moon crest the mountains through the smoke from multiple wildfires in the state. It was a beautiful sight every time I looked up from watching the white line below my aero bars. 33.4 miles, 738 ft, 19.3 average.
Eureka, like Austin is an almost living ghost town that sits at an elevation of 6481 ft, and has more activity that Austin with Rodeos, farming, and just more overall activity. But as you come into town, you feel like you are riding into the old western movie Rawhide. Old wooden and brick buildings line the streets, and even at almost 8pm, everything was quiet on a Friday night.
Eureka was founded in 1864 by miners that again found silver. One miner flipped over a rock to discover silver ore and exclaimed “Eureka!”, and yes, that is how it got it’s name. Later in it’s mining years, lead became the mining element that keep the city alive, as well as it’s tremendous night life with a legendary Opera House that opened in 1880 and is still open today.
Quickly the riders and crew prepared the big white van for our return trip to Reno. Rebecca was affixing lights and warm gear. The rest of us were putting hazard flashers on the van roof, “Caution Bicycle Ahead” sign on the back of the van, and all piling in to follow Rebecca out of Eureka. Everything had to be ready at the same time. At this point in the race, the rules dictate that we have to “Direct Follow” our rider. The rider can’t leave without us, and we can’t leave without the rider. So it was a mad dash to all be ready to go at the same time. And off she went. Quickly she climbed out of Eureka, and then everything went dark. I climbed shivering into a down sleeping bag, cramped on one of the bench seats, trying to share the seat with a large cooler, and I fell asleep. Every so often I would hear the crew talking about her smooth pedaling, her speed, her power…. 32.2 miles, 600 ft, 21.5 mph avg, 52 deg F.
Suddenly the van stopped, an in jumped Rebecca, and out went Kevin. Rebecca was riding for 1:30 minutes, not nearly enough time for what I knew was coming up. So again, I must apologize for my lack of understanding of Kevin’s fantastic ride back to Austin, as I again passed out. I knew I would get the next leg out of Austin. So, again, asleep I went. I actually think Rebecca beat me to sleep, but it was a close competition. The next thing I knew, my brother, whom was driving, woke me up to tell me Kevin was about to descend into Austin. Quickly I bounded up, put on my warm gear and waited for the vehicle to stop. If Kevin would have been just a little slower, I would have gotten more sleep. And because I was asleep, I had to refer to Strava for some help here. From Hickson Summit, down through Big Smoky Valley, over Bob Scott Summit and over Austin Summit (24.5 miles,) Kevin ended up 4th overall, right behind some big hitters. 38 miles, 2445 ft, 17.6 mph avg, 48 degs.
Now Half asleep, I bounded out of the van for my next leg. Watching Kevin descend Austin Summit, I could tell he went hard. Every time he tried to tuck and coast down into Austin, his left foot would shake uncontrollably. A clear sign of being on the verge of cramping. I knew he went hard. Now 48 deg. F. This is where I began to worry about tactics. Mike was starting to ask me about nutrition, which is a bad thing to be asking this far in the race, Kevin was on the verge of cramping, and Rebecca was exhausted. I knew Rebecca would pull through with all her ultra distance experience on the bike. She has 4 (now 5) 508 races under her belt, and many double centuries under her belt. However, I did not know how each rider was going to fair as we continued closer and closer to Reno.
Back on the bike I descended slightly into the great swamp cooler of Reese River Valley. I expected it to be cold, but was pleasantly surprised at a balmy 38 deg F. Warmer than I expected, I was back on that horrible white asphalt with no lines to guid me while tucked in my aero bars. Mile after mile, now heading up a slight grade , I would pass Burrowing Owls, either flying in front of me in the light of the van and light of my bike, or they were perched on the side of the road wondering what strange creature would cross this expanse at midnight? I was wondering the same thing, but there we were! There was an occasional Jack Rabbit that would play chicken with the headlights, and the occasional cow pie mine field I would have to dodge. Good thing there was no white line to watch, it kept my head up, watching for these minefields. Mile after mile of this strait moderate climb, strait as an arrow, that road that goes on forever, and the party never ends, then finally over Railroad Pass. Now down into Smith Creek and across the road from hell. Like Rebecca heading out, every 12 to 14 ft was an expansion crevasses that felt like speed bumps. The shock of each bump finally took it’s toll. I could not stay in the aero bars. So I would sit up and ride for a couple minutes, then back into the bars. Bump after bump, in then out across the valley. Finally reaching my exchange with Mike for his ascent up the Eastern Slope of Carol Summit. Off went Mike, and out I went. Sound asleep while shivering in my down sleeping bag. 32.5 miles, 833 ft, 17.1 mph avg, 34 deg. F.
It is really too bad that Mike is such a fantastic climber. Again, because of his climbing ability, we threw the poor guy on most of the hills. However, the Carol Summit west side downhill is a technical one. With all the previous Silver State 508 races, the leg from Austin to Fallon was always mine. I was the only rider that had ever ridden from 2am strait through sunrise. So, I always drew this card. This year, because of the new open category, we were able to break this 116 mile leg into pieces. That makes it much easier on me. No so much for everyone else, but definitely for me. Because I know the descent well, I got the downhill of Carol Summit in the dark. So there I am, 1/2 asleep shivering in my down sleeping bag, and again I am awaken by my brother, “Rich, he’s almost up!” “Crap, can’t he climb slower?” I don my down jacket, tights, booties and wait for the van to stop. 12 miles, 1325 ft, 14 mph avg, 34 deg. F.
Shivering in the cold, I wait for Mike to jump into the van. Now 2:30 am, and dressed in my Patagonia light down jacket, I drop into my aero bars and plummet down the hill reaching speeds of 45.5 mph. The faster I pedal, the faster I warm up. Into the first switchback like a motorcycle racer, body in, knee out, and tires clutching to the ground, I whip the first turn. I fully expect to drop my brother driving the van. I switch my headlight to full power, and the van sticks with me. Well, lets see what happens in the next corner. Pedaling hard, determined to drop that white wale, I whip the next corner, down the strait, and bunny hop a cattle guard in the aero bars. And that dam wale is still behind me illuminating the roadway. I continue the descent to the old dried up ranch of East Gate, then 6 rolling miles on to Hwy 50 where Mike will again take the next leg. For a side note, my brother has driven behind me on a bike for years. He knows how I ride, how I corner, and what speeds I am comfortable at. However, he is not so good are realizing at what speeds the other crew member is comfortable at. This caused a little friction is the passenger seat of the van. The other riders did not seem to mind as much as I am told that somehow they slept through the slamming from side to side. And according to Strava, I have the KOM on that downhill. 17.5 miles, -2000 ft, 28.4 mph avg, 39 deg F.
At this point in the race, fatigue is setting for everyone. Drives are switching off regularly to sleep. As a rider, you realize that you don’t have any power left. This is about 350 miles into the race. Although you don’t have power left, you do have strength left, and this is where the endurance kicks in. You have no more sprint, but like a freight train, you can slowly bring the bike up to speed, then you can sit at that semi comfortable speed. You can’t go any faster, but you can maintain that tempo.
Again, Mike takes to the road. I have no real idea how he did because again, I was out like a light. I know this section of road well. You ride out of Middle Gate, over Drumm Summit, not much of a climb at all, but you look across the Naval Air Station Bombing Range of Dixie Valley, only to see the strait road in front of you continue strait as an arrow across the valley and up the other side to Sand Pass. Again, this is the road that goes on for ever and the party never ends. You drop into the valley, and the road on the other side just never gets any closer. Finally it does, and with out any power left, unless you happen to be Mike, you slog up the other side. Mike again took the Strava KOM on the climb by 8 minutes. Then a fast strait descent to Sand Mountain. 27.3 miles, 679 ft. 23 mph avg, 46 deg F.
I barely realized the rider switch to Kevin. I knew Kevin was hurting. On his last stage, he was cramping. Although Mike and I rotated pulls this only gave Kevin 5 hours of recovery time. As well as physical drain, the mental aspect hits you hard. From Sand Mountain to Fallon, you cover a great expanse of nothing but strait roads through a dry moon scape dry lake bed with crystallized salt across the dry pan. After multiple crossings of this moon scape, and almost 400 miles into this race, I have seen aliens, space ships, and a 6 year old child crying on the side of the road with a flat tire on his tricycle. He was asking me to fix his flat as I rode by. Half of your brain knows your hallucinations are exactly that, but the other half thinks, “Whoooo dude…. Cool aliens!” I have no idea what Kevin saw or thought, only that he got us to Fallon, and a little beyond. 26 ish miles…..???
The sun was just coming up when Rebecca climbed out of the van for her final pull. Slightly rolling, she shunned off fatigue and dropped into her aero bars and flew past the next time station at Silver Springs. We pulled the van into the station to see our friends Paul and Ellen Gammel manning the station. I think that deep down they hated us for arriving so early. If we had ridden slower, they would have gotten more sleep. Rebecca continued the rolling terrain, tucked neatly into her aero bars, riding into a slight headwind and wondering if it really was windy, or if she was just slow. Fatigue is an amazing mental challenge, and one that she amazingly overcame. And yes, it was getting windy, even this early in the morning, and expected to get much worse for the riders behind us. 20.7 miles, 650 ft, 18.3 mph avg, 46 deg. F.
Now at 7:30 am, I got back on the bike to take Mike to the base of Six Mile Canyon. I am so glad I did not have to climb that miserable hill. This section mostly flat, and slightly windy. I just put my head down and watched the white line. I reached down for my water bottle, and realized that I had one bottle on my bike with about 3 sips of water left. So I rationed my 3 sips of water across one small roller that I could not power over, but did not have to, like a moving freight train, I just rolled over it and on to the next exchange. 14.4 miles, 351 ft, 18.4 mph avg, 54 deg. F.
The van was waiting for me at Six Mile Canyon Road and Mike was on his bike ready to go. With a quick exchange, Mike was off, and I was off to sleep. About 3/4 of the way up the climb, I woke up. Watching Mike smoothly glide up the hill. I don’t think I have ever glided up this hill. We leapt ahead in the van to the top and waited for him to arrive. The last section of this hill is the worst. It pitches up to almost 20%. A nice ending to a climb. Mike was using all of his body to cover the last block of this climb, then a quick right and a gradual climb to the summit of Geiger Grade. Even after as many miles as he put on, Mike still placed 8th over all on this Six Mile Climb. 11.8 miles, 2444 ft., 12.5 avg., 60 deg. F.
On the way driving up to the summit to get ready for my last leg of this journey, I requested that Dave drive down Geiger following me. This is when I got to learn about his driving in our previous descent down Carol Summit. Lets just say that Jim did not want to give up the drivers seat for this next descent. After a little negotiation, we convinced Jim that Geiger was not a technical descent, and that Dave would keep the rest of the paint on the side of the van. Reluctantly, Jim agreed to relinquish driving to Dave. Dressed and ready on Geiger Summit, I waited for Mike to arrive, throw his bike on the back of the van, and off we went down Geiger with Dave behind me. Dropped in my aero bars the entire descent, I hit speeds of 45.6 mph., carving every corner, knowing we were almost home. Down of Geiger with the paint still left on the van, I continued to the finish line at the Hilton Garden Inn. 14.6 miles, 27.9 avg., 61 deg F.
The Great Basin Ichthyosaurs finished 3rd across the line. There was one solo rider that had a 2 hour head start, Shane Trotter (Canis Latrans- scientific name of the Coyote) that beat us to the line by 30 minutes. He won the Solo division with a time of 28hrs 18 minutes, and we were trying hard to catch him. The 4 x male Coconut Crab team beat us by 1 hr, 41 minutes with a finishing time of 24 hours 51 minutes, and we finished with a time of 26 hours 38 minutes for an average speed of 19 mph. across 508 miles of the Nevada Outback.
Every year I learn something about myself. I have ridden this race 7 times now, and many other ultra-distance events, including a strait shot across Hwy 50 from State line Lake Tahoe to the Utah border. 427 miles in 17 hrs. With this experience, I have come to know ultra-distance cycling well. I have always had a problem with giving direction. I have always wanted to make sure everyone is part of the decision making so that everyone feels included. This was tough at first. Everyone was looking at me to delegate who rode where and when. So, it took me about 100 miles to settle into my Commander in Chief role, and dictate who went when and where. Then had to flex a little for the evening shift. I knew for sure which sections I was taking for either safety because I knew the corse best, or because I was best suited for that section regardless of what I wanted to ride. This was all about using each rider to their maximum ability. It did not matter the distance or the speed, only that each rider was best suited for each segment. And over all, I must say that I could not have asked for a better team. Each rider dug deep, never questioned their role or their leg, they just went out, dug deep and hammered to exhaustion. This was an amazing race, an amazing crew, and an amazing team. It could not have happened without you all. Thank you all so much!