By Jerry Wildermuth, Team Whippet, 1999 508 team finishers
I had the honor this year to be asked to by the renowned RAAM 70 Plus Team veteran Jewett Pattee to ride on Team Whippet. I rode the first three years that the Whippets completed Furnace Creek 508, 1995, 1996, and 1997. This year our team was the only team of 50+ mixed riders, finishing the race in 33 hours and 15 minutes. The riders were Jewett Pattee at 76 years, Carmelita Sellers at 65 years, Katherine Kearney at a mere 37 years, and myself at 52 years. Our average age figured out to be 57.5 years young. I would like to thank our crew of four, Jim and John of crew B and Jim and Bob of crew A. Their many sacrifices helped to ensure our successful crossing. Thanks, guys! To watch Jewett and Carmelita push themselves across the desert was my inspiration to ride on, despite the difficulties that are so normal to any 508 crossing.
Each year I grow as a rider and as a person. There are few other formats that demand so much from each and every participant, i.e., crew, rider, and 508 staff. The incredible fact of this event is each year the course remains the same, yet it is always different. One's crew may be different, or on the veteran teams the riders may be different, and the weather conditions are most likely to be different. And somehow each mile I travel I find myself seeing this trek across and through canyons, desert, and mountain passes so very new and challenging.
For me the community of crew, riders, and officials, and of course the race director, Chris Kostman, have become family. Even though most of us will only briefly at most touch each other's lives, we are woven into this awesome fabric of human endeavor and courage and love. I've seen it in the tender caresses of a crew member kneeling over their rider, putting ice on their hot, weary body and trying to place their own energy into that person. I've felt the encouragement reach out to me as a crew vehicle passed by me on Jubilee Pass and shouts of enthusiasm filled my weary lungs and legs.
And of all the acts of true caring and nurture is Chris Kostman's stretching forth that victory tape across the finish line, cheering us as if we were the first one to finish. Where else can one gain so much in such a relatively short space of time? I doubt there are many such events. I hope for those that read this story and the other stories about the 508, and have never done the event, will consider coming out and participating in this incredible event in some way. Come join this family of people too busy to spend their lives watching others—join those of us that look fear and doubt right in the face and "go for it." I dedicate this article to the ever energized and extremely talented Race Director, Chris Kostman. I'll see you all next year, God willing and the creek don't rise.