Friday, October 21, 2016

2016 Silver State 508


“The 508” is the granddaddy of ultra-cycling races.

It is one of the original qualifiers for RAAM (Race across America).

 The 508 has been a dream of mine for many years.
I tried to get into the race in 2013 but, as it turned out, it was the 30th anniversary and many veterans came back to race. There was not enough room for this rookie so I did not get in. I ended up doing The Inyo Ultra 466 that year. In 2014 I did Race Across the West on a team then the Hoodoo 500  in the solo division. In 2015 I did the Hoodoo 500 in the "Self supported Voyager Division" and The 508 on a 4 man team.

Now on the new course in Nevada, it is called The Silver State 508.

You can find info about the race at the following link:

Here is the link to the downloadable 2016 Race Magazine. Its a good read and has all the info on this years race:

The 508 doesn’t use ride numbers to identify racers like other races do. They use Totems. Riders are required to pick a totem. It should be an animal or mythical animal name.

 “White Owl” has been my nickname since high school and this is the totem I requested when I tried to get into the race in 2013 as a solo. It had not been taken yet so when we did the race as a team in 2015 we did it as team White Owl. I am now the holder of the totem as a solo also.

I chose a very experienced crew for this years race.

Crew chief: Ellen Monheimer Kirk is a good cycling friend and one of most experienced crew chiefs out there.
Second in command (per his request): Tony Musorafite. Tony also is extremely experienced as a crew chief and is out there everywhere supporting many riders and events. He was our crew chief on Race Across the West in 2014.

Last but not least, my partner in crime from 2016 Hoodoo 500 team 60+ Trouble Utes, Victor Cooper.
Vic was my crew chief for Hoodoo 500 on my first solo attempt and finish. He is also a 508 Hall of Fame inductee and was inducted at the pre-race meeting this year.

My awesome crew. (left to right. Tony, Ellen, me and Vic)

I guess you could say I had a very experienced crew or super crew.

My crew met me at my house on the Thursday morning before the race. 
Ellen, Tony and I getting ready to roll. Photo by Vic Cooper

We loaded up the rental van and headed up to Reno on Hwy 395. Boy that is such a nice drive along the Sierra the whole way.
Our plan was to get up there a day early due to all the  preparations necessary. We didn’t want to be stressed out trying to rush with everything.

My crew wouldn’t let me do anything. All they wanted me to do was rest. For someone who has always done everything himself, this was really tough. I just wanted to help and they kept getting mad at me.
I felt like a little kid being scolded……bwaaaahaa!!

After breakfast and prepping the van for inspection on Friday morning I just took it easy in the hotel and rested while they went shopping for supplies. 

Here is a little video of some of the prep with the support vehicle:

Then they came and picked me up for bike and vehicle inspection. Inspection went great. 

We next had check-in and the pre-race meeting. It all went like clockwork.
The 508 is quite large since it is such an old and prestigious event, and the meeting was packed. We all applauded when Vic was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Congrats Buddy!!!
The hall of fame inductee with Vic at the far left

Now it was time for dinner and sleep. We went to a local Mexican restaurant then crashed for the evening.

From the night before we left up until the race I was not able to sleep well if at all.
I always get so stressed up and filled with anticipation before events like this that I can never sleep.
I took something to help me sleep but it only helped some. Plus, I had been drinking and hydrating so much on the way up and while in Reno, I had to go to the bathroom at night I don’t know how many times.

Due to an event in Virginia City, the start time for the solo riders was moved up to 5 am.  I was really happy about this because I like early starts. I am used to riding early in my training at home.

I had a double shot canned coffee drink when I got up and my heart was racing before I even got on the bike. I have had these before when training or doing a less stressful event like a double century and this had never happened. Could it be anxiety over the whole situation of riding a new event solo?
Tony pumping up my tires

Ready to roll

My friends George and Lori on the tandem next to me at the start.   (Hutton's Vireo)

The solo entrants ready to go

They played the national anthem and we were off right on schedule.

 I was just taking it easy during the first part of the race where we are led out of town for about 8 miles to the start of Geiger Grade. It is a neutral section. We were just supposed to spin easy and warm-up.

Something was really off. Usually when I ride at this pace while training at home, my heart rate is below 120 and I am nice and relaxed. Here at the start in Reno, my heart was racing at above 150 and I wasn’t even working hard. Was it the coffee, the anxiety, the altitude or what? I tried pushing a little and it really spiked. Must be the coffee.

Stage one: Reno to Silver Springs
47.65 miles
Elevation gain: 2,723’
Maximum elevation: 6,710’
Stage one elevation profile

My goal at my age, as usual, was to just to finish. My secondary goal was to try and break 40 hours. I thought this would be totally doable since I did the Hoodoo 500 with a crew in about 42 hours. Hoodoo is about 12 miles longer with 12,000 feet more elevation gain. On paper my goal should be totally realistic. Well…..I would soon find out that any course can throw things at you that can change everything!!

I just took it nice and easy from the start of Geiger Grade. I let the really fast people just take off. I let the younger people who always go out too fast, take off.
I was determined to just pace myself but due to my heart rate, even riding at a slower pace than normal, it felt like I was pushing hard. I didn’t get it!!

It was an absolutely beautiful climb up to Geiger Summit in the early morning darkness and at first light. After rolling over the summit I descended fast down to Virginia City

I passed about 3-4 people on the descent before turning left down 6 mile canyon. I was very careful at the start of the descent because it is close to a 20% grade leaving town and there are a couple of stop signs to negotiate. 
I couldn't help but need to climb this with almost 500 miles in my legs on the way back?!?
Very old....Virginia City
It was chilly going down but what a nice descent. I followed and passed a couple of self-supported riders who were drafting on the way down.
The sun rose while I was on the descent and it was so bright and blinding I had to slow way down.

I rolled to the bottom and waved at my crew as I rolled passed and made the turn on Hwy 50 toward Silver Springs.
Moon setting over the Virginia City area

Ellen talking to me on the radio

Here I come...blinded by the sun.

I was using a radio mounted on my helmet for the first time and it was great. It was fairly short range so my crew could only talk to me if I was not too far away. Ellen saw me coming in the distance and I heard her lovely voice in my ear piece as I approached.
“How are you doing White Owl”? The radio is voice activated on my end and I answered that I was feeling great.

The road to time station one had a nice wide shoulder but a lot of gravel . I was dodging rocks right and left but made pretty good time. I may have been pushing a little too much with so many miles yet to ride but I felt great now and my average heart rate was finally starting to go down some.

My time split on stage 1 was 2:55:00 with an average speed of 16.34 mph.
Overall race average speed: 16.34 mph 

Stage two: Silver Springs to Fallon
31.35 miles.
Total miles: 79
Elevation gain: 266 feet
Maximum elevation: 4,462’

I made it to Fallon pretty quick. I was wondering where my fellow Adobo Velo club mates Judy and Mark were. Judy is a really strong climber and I cannot keep up with her on any of the double centuries or climbing events we do. She is a beast on the climbs. 
Judy cruising into Fallon 

Yours truly cruising into Fallon

 Mark is a newbie to these types of events and a very strong young rider. I gave him some advice before the race to make sure he did not push too hard from the beginning and to just pace himself. So many young riders I see on the double century circuit with no experience in the long distances, just always go out too hard. I end up passing them about two thirds of the way through the event in many cases.
I stopped to go to the bathroom on this stretch and found out that the rider I could see up ahead was Judy. Her crew was stopped talking to mine when I stopped. Mark was just behind me and passed when I was stopped.

I rolled into Fallon with the same two self-supported riders I came down 6 mile canyon with. This was the only real large town we would see on the course after leaving Reno and on the return trip. 

Fallon is the home of the Navy's  “Top Gun” which used to be at Miramar Naval Air Station in the San Diego area but moved to Nevada years ago.

My time split on stage 2 was 1:35:00 with an average speed of 19.83 mph.
Overall race average speed: 17.56 mph 

Stage three: Fallon to Austin.
106.4 miles
Total miles: 185.4
Elevation gain: 5,049’
Maximum altitude: 7,245’

The stage from Fallon to Austin is where you really start getting out into open desert terrain which also includes some pretty good climbs which are very deceiving due to the desert climate.
I rolled into check-point to strip off my leg warmers and get some food. I took about 10 minutes here before rolling out.

I was feeling pretty good at this point. 

Riding in the vast desert landscape really works on you mentally. I believe and would really learn later that this is the toughest thing about this course. The relentless conditions in the desert plus what you see unfolding in front of you on the road can really make it extra tough. The long endless roads ahead at times can really put you in a tough spot if you don’t have the correct mind-set!!

After rolling over Sand Springs Pass and Drum Summit, I passed the “Shoe Tree”. This is a pretty interesting landmark out on the course. A tree covered with shoes?

Heading toward Middlegate on Hwy 50

Feeling very small out there. Sand Springs Pass behind me in the distance. I have to climb that later?

I made the right turn on to Hwy 722.

Hwy 722 is just a beautiful road.
It takes you up over Carroll Summit at elevation 7,214 and mile marker 141 which is a very long climb but not too tough by my standards. It can be really tough if you are pushing too hard though.

Climbing Hwy 722

Ellen icing me down

I was pushing at a pretty good pace and it was at this point that I thought I maybe had gone out a little too fast. I started to get my first bout with “Hot foot” at about half way through this stretch. My average speed was not that far below what my speed was from last year on this stretch and this year I was doing it solo and had ridden all the way from Reno. Last year I started in Fallon and did stage 3 in close to a 6 hour century pace.

I stopped for a minute and Ellen iced down my feet by pouring ice water in my shoes. That worked great and it really helped. I was off and would not stop again until I was well over the summit.

Ellen pouring ice water on my feet

I kept a nice steady pace and started to leap frog my friend Mark and his crew at this point. Judy was somewhere behind me. She had stopped in Fallon but was not far behind because I kept seeing her crew.
Carroll Grade.                                                                                                         Photo by race director Chris Kostman

I could see Mark just up ahead of me but did not want to chase. Just pace Steve.....just pace.

Picture from near the summit. Photo by Vic Cooper

Going up one of the final switch-backs

Mark near the summit.                                                       Photo: Vic Cooper

Here I come right behind                                                                                 Photo: Vic Cooper

I bombed down the other side into the vast area called the Reese River Valley
I always think of my daughter Cherisse when I go through this area. We call her Reese for short.
 It is a beautiful area. Some really nice pictures come out of this area of the course. You really need to watch out for cattle on this descent. I almost hit two cows on this downhill last year.

Down into the valley I went for the long slog to Austin. The road was re-paved on the first part of this stretch but just as you reach this little farm along the road, it drastically changes to chip seal with big ruts. It’s a killer on the arms.

Tony waiting as I come off Carroll Grade!

There I go!

There is only about 30 miles to Austin from this point but with the tough road and Railroad Summit up ahead, it can be tough. (Mainly due to the rough road though).

This is the area where the first of the teams started passing us.
The team riders, which are much faster since they each relay between stages, started later than the solo riders who need to pace themselves for the long haul.
I had teams passing from this point all the way to the turnaround in Eureka.

Tony taking a nap

"Come on Tony......Steve needs us.....wake up....wake up!!!" now I know what is going on when my crew is MIA

I was really making good time to Austin and there was still plenty of daylight when I reached Railroad Summit. I could see the Austin area way up ahead and to the left as I rolled up the valley floor.

Austin was 15 miles shy of a double century for the solo riders and it felt like I had done a tough double when I got there. It never got too hot since I got up to the higher desert areas before the heat set in. It was still extremely hard doing this mileage without hardly a stop to rest the feet and stretch.

Climbing into Austin                                                                                                                                  Photo: Victor Cooper

I got a much appreciated massage of my neck and legs from my buddy Tony and Ellen treated my feet with some special anti-inflammatory cream. They said I was not eating enough either so they made me a huge sandwich. I could only eat a little bit of it. I nursed the rest of it while on the road.

I knew they were correct about my eating because I was getting grumpy and I was not mentally sharp and up-beat which is my usual thing. You usually can’t shut me up I am talking so much…..go figure.

My time split on stage 3 was 7:49:00 with an average speed of 13.61 mph.
Overall race average speed: 15.06 mph 

Stage 4: Austin to Eureka
70.15 miles
Total miles: 255.55
Elevation gain: 2,799’
Max altitude: 7,470’

Thanks to my awesome crew, I was now feeling pretty good for the climb to Austin Summit, the highest point on the event. I just put the bike in a low gear and gingerly rolled up the hill.
 It was starting to cool down fast and I was going into my favorite time to ride on an event, cool night air. My feet were feeling better as well as everything else. I was worried about getting cold on the descents though. It is brutal in the desert where the cold air starts to sink into the low areas. You hit one of those pockets when you are not dressed properly and its instant chill-time.
As I rolled up the climb out of Austin a big pit bull dog accompanied me up the climb. It was amazing. He just ran along side of me the whole way up until I reached my crew vehicle at the top. He was dehydrated so they gave him some water. At first I thought he was going to chase me but he just wanted to keep me company. Such a nice boy!!

My new found friend panting after he ran almost the whole way up the climb.

Looking down at Austin Nevada.  Photo:                                                                                                         Victor Cooper

I now had my knee warmers, arm warmers and vest on but not my long gloves yet. The temps were dropping into the 50’s so it was not too bad. I felt great as the sun set behind me.
As soon as the sun set, an amazing full moon started to rise right in front of me to the east. It was beautiful and mind altering to be out there in the middle of nowhere under the stars seeing that!!!

Another long road ahead.                                                                   Photo Victor Cooper

The temps continued to drop at this point and it got down to about 46 degrees at one point. I got the shakes on one of the descents when I hit a real cold pocket of air. I put my bike in a high gear and pedaled hard while at the same time applying my brakes to make it tougher on the descent. Doing this made my engine start to make some heat again and I warmed up. My crew had not caught up to me yet from my clothes change at the top of the last summit. Now I was doing good.
I was just enjoying the amazing full moon rising and now feeling great when my crew rolled up. We stopped and I put some heavier gloves and my full jacket on.

The ride into Eureka was just amazing. The full moon illuminated the surrounding landscape and it was just magical. I was in my element and loving it. Suffering…..but loving it!!

A magical time and place to ride a bike

View from the assault vehicle. Moon rising in the distance. The picture just does not do it justice.

I was still leap frogging with Mark and his crew at this point and had some more teams passing along the way.
I also started seeing the really fast racers on the return trip heading back to Reno. I recognized the first guy for sure. It was the amazing young Adam Bickett who would go on to break his own course record. As we got closer, there were more and more singles plus some of the fast teams on the return, all with their support vehicles following them in “direct follow” mode. 
On the return trip at night, the crew is required to direct follow their rider. This means that they must follow directly behind the racer with their rear amber flashers on so traffic can see a slow moving vehicle up ahead. (There was hardly any traffic out there in the middle of nowhere though. Pretty much only the racers.)

I could see the lights of Eureka way up ahead. I never seemed to get any closer to any of the other racers or the city lights up ahead. The visibility is so good you can see forever. Just before Eureka, I rolled passed my friend Mark who had stopped with his crew for a small break.

I rolled into the halfway point in Eureka at 11:05 pm.

That hot chocolate really hit the spot. I felt wonderful afterwards.

I took a good long break here at the halfway point. My crew got me some hot chocolate and I wolfed down some food.
I saw my friend Ray who was on two man team Garibaldi. He sat in the car and joined me for a while. Ray is new to the ultra-cycling world and is really jumping in strong. He was the guy who stayed behind Teresa and I in that gale force wind storm around Owens Lake during the night on the Southern Inyo Double Century. That was one of his first ultra-events and he did great. (Still can’t believe he stayed behind us all that time in winds gusting to 70 mph and sand blasting us all over.)

My time split on stage 4 was 5:46:00 with an average speed of 12.16 mph.
Overall race average speed: 14.13 mph 

Stage 5: Eureka to Austin
 70.10 miles
Total miles: 325.65
Elevation gain: 2,753’
Max altitude: 7,556’

Now I was really bundled up because this is the section that is notorious for being bone chillingly cold. I had two wool base layers on under my new dry jersey and then showers pass double century jacket. On my head I had a baklava which covered my entire head and face with only my eyes showing. (I was able to pull the face mask part of it down on climbs so I would not fog up my glasses).
On my hands I now had my heavy ski gloves on which kept my hands toasty the whole time to Austin.

Leaving Eureka, there is a steep descent out of town and the wind chill can be really bad. I felt great on this descent leaving town.  I was feeling really great at this point.

The cruise back to Austin is not too bad on paper with only about 2,700’of elevation gain in 70 miles. It is very deceiving though when you already have almost 300 miles in your legs. It is a long slog in the dark and you need to get your brain in a zone and just stay there. If you over think it you really put yourself in difficulty.

The plan was to go to about 4 am before taking a one hour sleep break. My hope was that this would be just before climbing Bob Scott and Austin summits and the next check point where I would just roll through as the crew checked me in.

I remembered my friend John Clare doing this section on our team race last year and how he just kept a nice steady pace in the cold. My plan was just to spin nice and steady maintaining a reasonable pace.

Again…..with the moon….this was a beautiful section. I was still seeing solo riders and a few teams going the opposite direction for quite a while on this section. I saw one of the self-supported riders laid out on a little hill along the road taking a nap under the stars. That was and awesome sight out in the middle of nowhere. I wonder what drivers going by thought and if any of them stopped.

Now I had my friend Tony manning the radio, (I think…or Ellen’s voice had changed and I was hallucinating), and he was keeping me amused on this section. I still remember him telling me, “Dude…..your like a metronome… such a steady pace….don’t think I have seen anyone with such a steady pace”.
That made me feel real good. I was in a good zone and this section went by pretty fast as I remember it. (My average speed for the section was slow but that was due to the long stop for sleep break). I had direct follow behind me this entire time. I only stopped once on this section and that was at a rest stop area about half-way so I could go to the bathroom.

Not long after the rest stop, we passed a van with a tandem laying in front of it and no person in sight. There was only one tandem in the race this year and I knew it was my friends George and Lori. (Hutton's-Vireo totem). I saw them coming out of Eureka as I was coming in so I figured they were down for a sleep break.

I kept rolling through the amazing countryside and the rolling high plains until we reached a good spot for a sleep break. It was a large dirt lot at the foot of the mountains leading to Austin with what looked like a little power plant next to it. We pulled in, I took another nature break under the moon and we went down for our hours sleep. (With getting ready and everything I think it ended up being about 1.5 hours of a break total.)

I reclined in the front seat and everyone was out in a second including yours truly. I would hear a few riders passing in the night as I slept. I didn’t care at this point. My crew needed a rest as much as I did and this was necessary.

My thinking was that this course looked so much easier on paper as I mentioned earlier, that I may be able to go no-stop without a sleep break, but no, when you get out there nature has its own idea about when you need a break!

The alarm went off….I still had my shoes on…I put on my helmet…I slogged down an Ensure and a breakfast burrito…I got on my bike….and I was off in a flash.

Just as I was getting on my bike, one of the awesome women racers passed with her crew. I waited for my follow vehicle to come around the rear and I was off.

I started right off the bat just slow in my low gears to get warmed back up but I felt pretty good and continued my steady pace. My pace probably would be construed as way too easy by some on the double century circuit but on a race like this, it is all about a steady pace that can be maintained for 500+ miles. At my age, the steady pace is much slower than some of my younger compatriots.

We started the climb up the first grade which was Bob Scott Summit. I passed the young lady and her crew who had just passed me and I could see others up ahead. I eventually passed one other rider and crew then came up on my friend Ray who was riding on the two man team Garibaldi.
Just as we were starting the climb, we saw a van pass us driving really fast with a tandem on the back. That only meant one thing and that was, my friends George and Lori were bowing out of the race. I was perplexed and new it must be something serious because those two are really tough, fast riders and have done the course before.

Ray looked like he was really struggling which surprised me but I totally understood what he was probably going through.
Having done Hoodoo 500 just 3 weeks prior on a two man team, I was more tired at the end than any other of my long solo attempts. On a 2-man team you are doing a much harder effort. It is almost like doing intervals on and off for 500 miles with only a break in between.

On the 508 each team rider must alternate stages on the course. You then get a break while the other rider/riders are on the bike. On a two man you get less of a break. When I did the 4-man team last year, I got a long break in between my turn. I only had two stages to do. #3 and #7, a 106 mile tough stage and a 30 mile easy stage.
Since Ray was on a two man, each of them had to alternate stages which is tougher than doing it 4-man.

You are maxing out on your heart rate and effort on each turn and it really takes a toll. It is not at all like pacing yourself for the long haul and you really feel it at the end. That is how I felt. It is my opinion or maybe just my age but I was toast after a two man team race!!

As I rolled passed and said hi to Ray, I could hear my crew talking to him in the back encouraging him. I knew he would make it to the next time-check with no problem and his team would be passing me before long.

I rolled over Bob Scott summit and then had a very cold descent to the start of Austin Summit grade. I think the temperature was in the low 30’s at this point. I was very comfortable in what I was wearing though.

Climbing to Bob Scott Summit in the cold morning air

Austin Summit

I rolled over the summit at first light and took it easy on the descent down to Austin. There is a 25 mph speed limit in Austin so I didn’t want to get beaned for going over the limit.

Descending into Austin before sunrise

I rolled into the Austin check-point and saw my friend Cindi there as we had throughout the race. She was everywhere it seemed.
She told me I was on schedule to finish the race before dark at the pace I was going. In my head I was thinking that on paper the course is easier going back with the exception of the beast that is 6 mile canyon to Virginia City. (It is all downhill from there though).
Another voice in my head was saying, “Wait a minute buddy, you don’t know what the conditions are going to be like heading west-bound, things could be much tougher than you think”.

My time split on stage 5 was 7:35:00 with an average speed of 9.24 mph.
Overall race average speed: 12:69   (this included my sleep stop)

Stage 6:  Austin to Fallon
 112.5 miles
Total miles: 438.15
Elevation gain: 2,730’
Max altitude: 7,446’

It was now daylight and I did not need direct follow any longer so I took off for the Reese River Valley. It was a very easy cruise on paper to the start of Railroad Summit. The road was not too rough. It was still pretty cool so I had my warm clothes on still.
What a beautiful time of day in this area. It was spectacular. I started getting warm so when my crew caught up to me I started shedding layers.

When I reached the Railroad Summit grade, I really started to notice the miles in my legs. That was one tough grade on the east side heading west, much steeper than on the west side.
As I approached the summit I could see my crew van up ahead. Then I saw Tony laying in the middle of the road with his camera. I was thinking….wow….I hope a car doesn’t come….then I realized that we were out in the middle of nowhere and you could hear a car coming for miles and miles.

Heading up the road westbound toward Railroad Summit

Tony waiting for me on Railroad Summit

I struggled a bit going over the summit and then came a really tough section for me. The ruts and rough chip-seal road on this section of about 10 miles seemed worse to me that the old ruts after Sage hen summit on the Eastern Sierra Double Century.
This road was bone numbing!!!!
I couldn’t even carry any good speed on the descent because it was just killing me. When I got into the flat rolling section it just seemed never ending. I had to stop a few times just to recover from this.
Since the crash I had on my tandem bike in May on the Central Coast Double, my neck and my thoracic area of my spine have not been quite right. I think I had some damage to my intercostal muscles also and those were still coming back. This just compounded the problem on this stretch of road.

Finally on a smooth road and starting the climb up Carroll Grade

I was so happy when I reached that big ranch out in the middle of nowhere which meant I would be hitting the good road finally.
The road was like butter but now I started the long slog up the Carroll Grade.
As I starting climbing at the foot of the grade, Ray’s team mate passed me and was just flying up the hill. He was definitely recovered!

The foot of Carroll Grade

It was getting warm now and incredibly dry compared to on the way out to Eureka.
I just kept it slow since I had never gone up this grade before. It did not seem all that steep as I descended it last year and on my way out this year.

About one-third of the way up, I saw my crew coming back toward me. They yelled out that there was a ginormous bull in the road and they wanted to shield me as I passed him. They also stopped another team rider who followed my vehicle past the monster.
They honked their horn and the beast just kind of looked at them like, “no big deal”. I think he moved just slightly as we passed.
That's a big bull!!!

The grade got steeper and steeper as I approached the summit and I was really anxious to get to the descent which was a nice long one which would allow me to recover and just take it easy.
At this point I was still thinking about what Cindy said as far as finishing in daylight which would probably allow me to break 40 hours easily.

I saw my cheerleaders up ahead and it was getting pretty steep. I geared down and just grunted it over Carroll Summit. My hot foot was kicking up again already and it was still morning.

My own personal cheer leader

This was a tough one for me!

Carroll Summit is in view!!  Yay!!

This is where it all started going downhill, and I don’t mean the wonderful descent I was on.

As soon as I came down off the upper switch-backs at the summit, I started to get a very warm head-wind coming up the grade. This is what my little guy in my head was telling me all along. What are the prevailing winds in the desert on the west coast of the US? Westerly winds!

I was getting so dry in the mouth and throat already that I could hardly swallow and it was still relatively cool out. I had quite a few miles left to get to Fallon and some very long alluvial fan climbs to go over, Drum Summit and Sand Springs Summit. Then the very long flat slog into town, all into a headwind and probably 90+ degree temps by the time I get there.

I just took it easy as I went over the rollers before reaching the end of Hwy 722.


I rolled back on to Hwy 50 again heading west and it was getting hot and windier.
When stopped, it did not feel too bad but the wind at this point was just bad enough coupled with the dry air coming off the salt flats to parch you to the max.
I really had a hard time downing solid food at this point and started getting into the mental doldrums. I remembered what a fellow ultra-cyclist friend once told me. “When your mind gets in this state, you just need to keep moving forward because it always passes”.
Great advice and I went in and out of this mental state all the way to Fallon as it got hotter and hotter.

Sand Springs Pass. This was really tough!!

Summit of Sand Springs Pass. Tony giving me some encouragement.

  I stopped for a minute to cool down and eat some hamburger and when I started to leave,
Tony started making one of his comedy videos again. I played along. He made a video like this while crewing for our friend Rick on the Hoodoo 500 this year. Everyone thought he was serious when he got mad and threw a sandwich at Rick while he was riding away. It was hilarious!!
Here is the video.

It was a major challenge crawling over Drum and Sand Springs summits after seeing those long climbs up ahead. The visibility was so good that it just looked insurmountable up ahead. Mentally challenging to say the least. The hot foot was again my biggest challenge as it was on the Hoodoo 500 in 2014. I had to keep stopping to get my feet cooled down.
I was hydrated fine and my core was in good shape. I never even had a tinge of a cramp the entire race. An ice sock made up by my crew at one point did really feel good though as the temp reached 96 dry degrees. I had to take it off though at one point because it was dripping down my shorts and causing some strange chaffing which was pretty painful.


The hardest part for me though was the long flat stretch getting to Fallon. It just seemed never ending and the road was not the best with the rumble strips installed right in the middle of the shoulder section so you needed to be in the road with traffic. I could not get into my aero bars because I was so paranoid about the cars and trucks passing me so close. It was a miserable section for me.

Well, I finally made it to town and it was blazing hot in the parking lot. Victor gave me a Mountain Dew and it really perked me up. I rested for about 25 minutes before rolling out for Silver Springs.

Cooling off in Fallon. It was really hot there!!

My time split on stage 6 was 9:21:00 with an average speed of 12.04 mph.
Overall race average speed: 12:51

Stage 7:  Fallon to Silver Springs
 22.5 miles
Total miles: 463.65
Elevation gain: 499’
Max altitude: 4,560’

Riding through town was really hot and I still had a head wind. Last year when I did this stage on a four-man team I averaged about 21 mph on this section with no headwind and perfect conditions. It’s an easy section.
This year was a different story. When I reached the turn out of town toward Silver Springs the headwind got worse and the heat really went up. The sun was just beating on me in the western sky.
I just kept a nice steady pace and again was cussing at the traffic as I was not able to comfortably get into my aero bars with the state the road was in.
It took me twice as long as in 2015 to get through this short, boring section to Silver Springs but I made it with my feet burning big time and I was really slowing down.

I needed another break and I took it.

My time split on stage 7 was 1:56:00 with an average speed of 13.17 mph. Overall race average speed: 12:55

Stage : Silver Springs to Reno
 46.75 miles
Total miles: 510.40
Elevation gain: 2,844’
Max altitude: 6,779’

After resting for a while and talking to friends who were on the staff at Silver Springs, I rolled down the highway into the ever increasing, hot, headwinds. The sun was going down to the west and it was blinding. I couldn’t wait for it to go down so the temps would cool down.
If you would have told me that it could take me over 5 hours to do the last 47 miles, I would have started laughing. But nature and my body told me otherwise.

While it normally takes me a little over 3 hours to do my usual 50 mile training rides with some climbing, it is a whole different animal when you have over 450 miles in your legs in blazing/dry desert conditions. Throw in some unique things pertaining to my brain tumor removal that would come up later……I was not laughing at all!!

This last stretch started out hot with a head wind and I could hardly swallow so I was just taking in as much fluid as possible and most likely not eating enough due to this situation. I could tell I was lacking energy but just couldn’t get myself to eat solids at this time. It was a tough stretch in that wind and I did not start feeling a little better until the sun went down and I made the turn on 6 mile canyon. I cant believe how long it took me on that 17 mile stretch to the turn. It was ridiculous!!

Fighting the blasting, dry, head- wind heading to 6 Mile Canyon

We had a little discussion before the turn as I stopped and had the best pickle. You can tell in the video that I am getting much better mentally compared to the one where I was melting mentally and being cooled off by Ellen.

Only leap-frog support is allowed on this canyon road due to its narrowness. We stopped at the turn and I took a little break. I gulped down an Ensure, a double-shot coffee drink, and some sandwich.

I was feeling really good after this stop. I put it in a low gear and commenced the attack on the very tough 6 Mile Canyon heading for the summit in Virginia City.

This canyon gets progressively steeper as you get closer to the summit with two 20% grades at the top.

I was feeling really good and spinning at a pretty good pace up the climb. The wind was now a nice cooling cross-wind but blowing pretty hard and whistling in the trees.  My feet were feeling better. Everything was feeling better. I heard in the radio my crew talking about they must of lost me because I just disappeared and it took them a while to leap-frog up to me.

Getting steep

Still feeling good at this point

I got to the first of the steeper kickers at about 18%. It was relatively short but I started noticing something that I had not encountered before.

When I had my tumor removed back in 1994, my acoustic nerve and my balance nerve on my left side were also removed since the tumor engulfed them. I am also deaf on my left side. Part of the adjustment process your body make with loss of balance is the use of your eyes to compensate.

I was using my helmet mounted light in this pitch black canyon. I started having issues with my equilibrium on the very steep sections at slower speeds and I think it was due to the motion of my light mounted on my head throwing me off. Add that I was very tired on top of that and it just compounded the situation. I was fine when it flattened out and my speed was up but trying to balance at slow speed was really becoming a challenge.

I was feeling pretty good when I got up toward the summit but then when I started to hit the steep upper section I could not hold the bike up and had to jump off.

As soon as I got off with Virginia City right there in front of me, I almost fell over.

I felt like I had just gotten off a boat at sea where I had been in rough seas for two days and suddenly was on solid ground. Being in the dark just made it worse.
I took my shoes off and walked up those final two grades by the stop signs with Ellen walking along with me keeping me company. Then my legs and feet started going numb due to my back issues that did not bother me the entire race. Go figure.

When I reached town I could barely stand steady on my own and for the first time I thought I may DNF with Geiger Summit and Reno just a stone’s throw away. I only had a few miles to go and I was not going to let this happen.

Here is a little video of some of the very dark climb:


My common sense told me that everything would equalize once I got on the bike and started rolling at a better pace in some better light.
I ate some more food, hopped on the steed and started up the road for the finish.
I was right. I guess my balance mechanism had become so accustomed to balancing on my bike for that long period of time it couldn’t handle being slow and stationary in the dark without the use of my eyes. I felt totally normal again as I picked up speed for the summit of Geiger Grade which was really easy on this side.

Then came the final issue. My facial nerve damage. Due to my surgery I also lost full use of my facial nerve on my left side which makes it difficult to blink my left eye. This is the reason I always use gasket type cycling glasses that cut the cross wind from my eyes, especially in desert conditions. This whole issue if what caused me to DNF on the Death Valley Double Century in 2011. I went temporarily blind in my left eye due to my eye being sand blasted in the wind, even with glasses on. Not fun!!

This time, I believe, the nerve was just weakened due to tiredness because I couldn’t even blink my eye and it was totally drying out as I started the descent. (Even with the goggles, it was just too dry out)
 I had to stop and put drops in which did not seem to help much.

I could not descend comfortably so I lost a chunk of time on the descent too due to taking it at just a crawl. I am usually a very fast descender even in the dark with lightning quick reactions but not on this evening.

Descending to Reno......Woooooo Hoooooooo!!!!

Well……I made it to the bottom with no issues other than sore hands from braking so much. I rolled through town with a new lease on life knowing I only had a few miles to go.

I rolled into the finish feeling pretty good around 11 pm I think.

Finish time: 42:16

Here is the link to "Trackleaders". You can watch the race replayed. The light blue racers are the solos and the other colors are the teams. I am (WO) for White Owl.

Receiving my medal and jersey from Race Director Chris Kostman

Thank you Ellen, Tony and Vic!!! You guys made it all fun and possible.

Here are the total final time splits for the race:

Here is the Strava link:

A big thanks go out to all my friends and family who have supported my races this year. It would have been almost impossible for me to get through everything necessary to do 3 of these events this year without your help. It means the world to me.

Thank you to the Adobo Velo family. This club is just amazing with the most wonderful people. Thanks to all for all your support and for cheering me on in all my endeavors.

Thanks to Ellen, Tony and Vic. You guys made this difficult event so much fun before during and after the race. Your support was epic and I wish I could do more to repay you for all your help.

Thanks as usual to my family. I again was doing this event in memory of my late brother Dave who passed away suddenly in 2011. I hope I made his kids proud. Dave was with me all the way down the loneliest Hwy in America!

Of course I need to thank my wife Ginny for putting up with my long hours of training, my endurance events and these long weekend trips for the ultra-races. I am blessed to have you as my soulmate and you are in my thoughts all the time when I am out on the bike. 

1 comment:

  1. Steve.. . your remarkable persistance is an encouragement to mankind, your dedication to the effort is inspiring. Such an awesomeness to be able to experience the experience with you. I loved the adventure in its entirety. And along the way, you've become a pretty good
    story-teller. I was engaged from start to finish.

    An amazing accomplishment!! Thank you for the enjoyment.