By Seana Hoopoe Hogan, solo finisher and women's champion
It was fun to be back at the 508, this year being healthy and ready to go (last year I was still nursing my baby and he was along in the pace van). This year I brought two vans; The pace van had the crew: Pat Enright, Lee Mitchell and Andrew Bohannon. The other van had the rest of my family: my sons Alex and Austin; my brother, Pat, my nephew, Hunter and our nanny, Theresa. The "kid" van wasn't around us much once the race started, they went out on excursions in the desert and met us at the end.
I have been at the 508 every year but one since 1991 as either rider, crew or official. This year the overall weather conditions were the worst I have ever seen (this is the part I want the rookies to read). I have seen heat, I have seen extreme wind and sand storms, I have seen almost freezing temperatures, but I have never seen the continuous headwinds that we experienced this year. Usually there is a break somewhere, but not his time; it was work against the wind all the way around the course except the last 25 miles. Anyone who finished this year achieved a major accomplishment. So rookies, please do not be discouraged, the conditions this year were not usual and you will be doing yourself a disservice by not giving it another go.
When the race began on San Francisquito Cyn road, the riders began being separated by the many undulations on the road. This is a place were you want to hang around the upper middle of the pack; just enough so that you do not lose contact with the lead riders if you can help it (this year Ostrich, pretty much took off and I never saw him again). As I rode along I could see two riders ahead that didn't seem to be separating. the back guy was in full-on drafting position and it made me mad, I caught up with them and I yelled an the back guy, "Hey, no drafting!". He looked at me like I was nuts and reluctantly disengaged from the front bike. He tried to tell me he didn't understand English and he pointed ahead to two other riders that were close and claimed that they were drafting. We exchanged more words.
He asked, "Who are you?"
I said, "Seana Hogan."
He replied. "OOOOOO!"
I interrupted, "and I'm going to kick your a__."
I have very little patience for cheating. This guy was close to me for over three hundred miles; each time I would pass him I would glance over at him and say, "I told you I was going to kick your a__, and I am doing it." He looked at me like I was a deranged psycho but I was having fun messing with his head. He eventually was DQed.
All the way to Trona, I exchanged positions with Octopus and Gorilla, they would pass me on the climbs and I would pass them on the descents. At one point I said to one of Andrew's crew, "if Andrew is in front, then it must be a hill." The climb after Trona was the first one where I wasn't caught by Andrew and the Gorilla. I was making progress. Before Townes Pass, I passed Grouse which put me into second place behind Ostrich. Of course I was passed on the climb but I was able to regain my position by Furnace Creek. I do not remember where Blue Fox passed me but it was somewhere before Shoshone, he was looking strong and he took the second position. I felt pretty good up until a few miles past Shoshone.
I actually experienced an epiphany in this race. It seemed the race was like a compressed RAAM. I was in front for the first half and then began losing ground in t he second half. Unlike RAAM though, I was coherent enough to see the cause and its effects. I began retaining fluid (in fact, I gained ten pounds by the end of the race), my muscles had no power with all of this fluid. I had to helplessly watch as Panther, Gorilla, Octopus , and Flamingo all passed. I could not challenge any of them and it wasn't because my legs were too tired, it was because they were full of fluid. With this fluid came extreme pain and ache. This is exactly what happens to me on RAAM (it has always bothered my that this has been interpreted as me going out too hard and blowing-up; I have a fluid balance problem that I am not sure is solvable). I had the usual asthma caused by the desert (but practically everyone suffers that) and I had a sore bottom which only added to the agony. I also realized that my plans for racing in RAAM next year will need to go on hold.
Fifty miles from the end, I took some ibuprofen (we figured at that point, if it caused any ill effects, I could still limp to the finish). It did not, in fact, I felt a lot better and I was able to sit without pain and the ache in my muscles was reduced. The last 25 miles of this race are usually long and into a head wind. Not this year. We had a crossing-tailwind; my crew gave me a "Seana snack"—a quarter of a cheese sandwich—every five miles to make the last stretch pass more pleasantly. I won the women's race and was seventh overall. Not my best race, but I finished and that was a triumph in itself. Had it not been for my fantastic crew, I probably would have DNFed somewhere around Kelso. They were great and the van, at the end of the race, was neat and it did not stink. They were incredible! We had a great time! Congratulations to Ostrich for a great win! And congratulations to all who finished. It was a difficult race!
Thanks to my crew and my family for a fun and fulfilling race!