Third Solo Furnace Creek 508 Finish!

(Background on this year’s Furnace Creek 508 here)

There are a lot of lessons in 508 miles. No matter how many times I do this race, there’s always so much I don’t know and so much still to learn about myself. Case in point: hallucinating riding up Salsberry Pass. Some say the desert is empty, I say it is full of plenty of stuff, some real, some not. The rattle snake that sent Dave running? Real. I heard that rattler from 20 feet away! The Golden Retriever with floppy ears on the side of the road panting because of the heat? Not real. I saw it, smiled at it, but knew it wasn’t real. Does that make it less of a hallucination?

This climb last year, at about mile 300, came after the insane headwinds. I raced up it. This year it was earlier in the morning, but I was taxed at this point. Yes, it is possible to undertrain. This ride taught me that! Anyway, I was having so much trouble staying awake that the van pulled next to me off and on just to check on my level of awakeness (which ranged from able eyes open and not hallucinating to full-on eyes closed falling asleep while pedaling). A four-person team passed me and not long after I looked up and said to Dave, ‘Whoa, what are all of those lights up there?’ It was the support vehicle. Again, I knew this, but not until after I said that. Dave was concerned.

At the top of the climb they gave me some potatoes cause I hadn’t eaten much on the long climb (everything tasted super duper dry- had trouble swallowing. From all the black tea? Anyone ever experience this?). They also let me in the van to sit and eat, which I would learn later was some drama amongst the crew. On the ride home Monday I was told the conversation went something like this:

Lisa: Why’d you let him in the van? He’s not suppose to get in the van for any reason.
Sabrina: He needs to eat! And sit! It’s okay.
Lisa: It’s not okay! Morgan said to never let him in the van under any circumstances!
Sabrina: He’s a human, damnit, he needs some comforts!
Lisa: He’s not human, he’s a machine and he needs to keep going!!

Meanwhile I had fallen asleep while eating. I woke up with half chewed potatoes in the my mouth and had no idea what they were. At least Dave saw the face I made which can best be described as the face one would make upon waking up with an unidentified substance in his mouth.

Needless to say, they decided it was unsafe for me to ride the fast, long descent into Shoshone, in the dark, while I was unable to stay away on my own accord. I laid down to sleep for 30 minutes, which would be the longest sleep I had ever had on this race.

After waking up and starting the descent my bike had a crazy death wobble. It was so bad I could barely control it in order to slow down. Scary.

What could possibly cause that? Notice I’m running two different Mavic wheels. I’d been having weird noises with my rear and it turned out to be the Patented Mavic Death Squeal. So I was running my old rear wheel, but we never figured it out and it didn’t happen again. Lots of flex in my frame though. Getting it checked out this weekend…

The hardest stage of this race: the 56 miles from Shoshone to Baker. False flat, headwinds, expansive, unchanging scenery. Miles 325-381. Misery.
Right after this photo I resorted to wasting time by sorting out my arm and leg warmers/coolers. Very slowly. I didn’t realize what I was even doing, but my crew did. After the race they’d tell me, ‘We let you do it once. But we weren’t about to let you sit and waste time again. Luckily you didn’t try to.’
The crew asked if there was anything I needed, still on that painful Shoshone to Baker section. I said, ‘Yeah a list of reasons I shouldn’t quit.’ Was I serious? Yes. I wanted to quit. I won’t lie like I’ve some deeply seated sense of triumph or courage that pushed me on. I wanted to quit because it was hard. The reasons on this list, even before I saw them, did push me on.

Wild Burros 4-person team passed me here and I’d never see them again.

Feeling better. Less hot.
I slept again in Kelso. Unheard of! At this point I just want to finish. Beautiful skies on the second to last big climb. Within 100 miles.
Sheephole Summit and the last leg, on paper, look horrible. But I embrace it. It’s cooler. The end is in sight. I love riding in the evening. I push on. Tired, but not falling asleep. It’s kind of quiet on the roads. Last year I somehow passed four solo riders on this section. Not this year. I passed a few stopped on the side of the road and wouldn’t be passed by any. Though someone threatened at the end and I wouldn’t believe my crew. ‘We are not fucking with you!! Seriously, someone is coming, ride faster!’ is what I heard at like mile 503. Ugh. Okay!
I couldn’t think of anything funny to do this year at the finish, like last year. Though Kostman did say, ‘Alright, your slowest one yet!’ which I took in stride.
I’m posting the crew+rider finish photo again cause it’s so important. We stumbled into our hotel ‘cottage’, I ate, showered, ate again and fell asleep on top of the covers with all of my clothes on…

I bet the Swarm! 4-person team Wild Burros $80 that they couldn’t close the two hour gap between the solo and team starts. I lost, this is me paying them at the post-race breakfast. They did great! On a good day I could have fended them off, but not with the ride I had.

This is the post post-race-breakfast breakfast in Joshua Tree with 3 of the 4 Swarm! teams.

Thanks so so much to my crew: Dave, Sabrina and Lisa for being SO awesome and supportive. You took a whole weekend to help me ride my bike 500 miles, not many people would do that. You rule. And special thanks to Lisa for all the photos.

“ Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.”
– Polly Berends
I stole this quote from here, which is a blog I found after BikeSnob posted her VEGAN neck tattoo. I guess there’s some learning there. Or something.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Third Solo Furnace Creek 508 Finish!

  1. nice work matt, again. i wanted to pass you while you were riding so we could chat and take our minds off the terrain, but alas, you were stopped fixing a light or something.

  2. dude, funny post. oh man, sounds tough. lisa sounds tougher! morgan wouldve totally let you in the van for a nap and good conversation.

  3. Great post about a great battle for survival! I'm glad you mentioned my finish line comment to you; that represents what good friends we are. Not many people could have handled that humourisity as well you did! Congrats, Matt! Soon you'll be in the 508 Hall of Fame!

  4. Jeez Matt! Thanks for making me sound like such an insensitive bitch!

  5. @Lisa You were just doing what you were instructed to do and what needed to be done!

  6. Lisa, you sound like a perfect crew member, especially for a slacker (not!) like Desert Locust! Plus, if he had gotten cold. you could have loaned him a sweater!

  7. "I won't lie like I've some deeply seated sense of triumph or courage that pushed me on. I wanted to quit because it was hard."The reasons for quitting in any physical endeavor usually seem mundane, and often are mundane. I've never heard it characterized so well before though.

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  9. Paul

    What’s up cus!
    I realize you did this ride a while ago, but happened to be checking your site out and came across it. Pretty amazing ride, you are definitely living your own life and enjoying it, good for you!
    Good luck with the project.
    Paul

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