By Mark Panther Patten, solo finisher
First I have to let you know (that I know) , my totem name is not the Tortoise. It's just the perfect totem name to describe the way I raced the 508 this year. Slow, real slow, but I stayed on the bike! ( hopefully all rookies and veterans alike, read over that real quick.)
The riders meeting and the start of the 508 are the fun part for me. It gives me a chance to see people I haven't seen all year or maybe even years. Just seeing Brain Stark at the meeting reminded me of my first year of ultra rides and of doing his Central Coast Double with something like 15 other riders before it was a Triple Crown event. The 508 race is getting so big that Chris may have reserve Magic Mountain. to hold us all for the riders meeting next year. Most of the veterans at the meeting weren't racing, they were crewing! The field had a lot of rookies this year, but with a lot of experienced crew members.
My crew consisted of Cindi Staiger and Sarah Stewart, both veteran crew members. Both of them have seen me at my best and worse during RAAM and other races. They really didn't need much, if any, instructions on how to take care of me. They kept the food, water,etc. coming. I didn't have much problems beyond what everyone has during these races.
I personally thought the temperature was nice for the 508, the wind on the other hand was up to some games. Only in the deserts can the wind change with every turn. Turn right...head wind. Turn left...head wind. Turn down hill...head wind. Turn up hill...head wind. At some point the wind should be at your back, shouldn't it? Not until Shoshone did I feel much of a tailwind, by then I had blown my knee out and needed all that tailwind to help me get into Baker let alone the finish line.
I knew Cindi likes to be near the front of the race, but that just wasn't happening this time. I came into California City around 25th place and felt like I was wasting their's and my time. I just haven't been able to recover from whatever I did to myself this year in April training. I have no power in my legs, if the road does anything other go down at 3% with a tailwind I am in trouble. The only time I passed someone was when they stopped to do something. In the first part of the race I felt lucky to see anyone near me. It wasn't until Townes Pass that I passed someone on the road. Thank the Gods of Shimano for coming out with a triple for Dura Ace. It's the only reason I was able to make it to the top of all the climbs. I just sat there on my big fat seat (ass) and spun up all the hills. Every year I pass many people who stop at the top of Townes Pass, I stopped just long enough to put on my jacket and headed full speed down the other side.
I started to feel a little better as I was going across the floor of Death Valley. I must have pushed a little too much, because my knee started to hurt. By the time I made it to the base of Jubilee I couldn't stand and pedal at the same time. Not a big deal as far as the climbing went, but if I wanted to stretch etc. I had to stand then sit down quickly before falling over. Andrew Otto passed me going up Salsberry like he was a team member, only I passed him up on the decent like he was stopped. Which he was, on the side of the road.
The whole race went like this, rider passes me...rider stops on side of road...I pass rider...rider gets back on road...passes me (I think most of you have heard this story before, "The Tortoise and the Hare"). Gorilla may want to read this story again! I have to smile when I think of him jumping back on his bike in Shoshone as I passed yelling my name...only his crew wasn't quite ready to go yet! Last time I saw him was "on the side of the road" in Baker.
I also smile when I hear people talk about their "speed on the bike." That's all good when you are doing a short race and never get off the bike, but in Ultra races the clock keeps moving even if you're not! Almost all the racers at this year's 508 rode faster than me, but I spent only around ten minutes off the bike the whole race.
33 hours and 7 minutes after the start I finished the 508 in 3rd place overall. Not very fast on the bike, but on the bike.
One thing that was nice about being slow is watching all the lights going up Townes Pass, it looks like a large Christmas tree. The lights on the floor of Death Valley from all the riders reminded me of the Christmas commercial from Coke (with the Trucks lighting the road).
There you have it...an early Christmas present for me from Chris Kostman in October.
Thanks Chris, I had a good time as always!