Bevan Brontosaurus Barton, age 16, 2003 solo official finisher

By Steve Beaver Born, two-time finisher and 2003 staffer
Originally published in Endurance News V.41 by E-CAPS / Hammer Nutrition

The Furnace Creek 508 bike race is consider by many to be the most difficult ultra marathon cycling event in the country aside from RAAM itself. This year's race had many notable stories, perhaps none more than Bevan Barton's who became the youngest finisher in the history of this grueling race at the age of 16 years old. In the men's field, 48 men started, 27 finished, and Barton came in 19th in a time of 42 hours, 37 minutes, and 38 seconds. The 508 was the culmination of a great year of cycling, Bevan's first season in long distance cycling:

200 KM Brevet – San Francisco - San Francisco Randonneurs - February 1, 2003

  • Youngest finisher

Death Valley Double Century – Death Valley, CA - March 1, 2003

  • Youngest finisher
  • Course record, under 21

300 KM Brevet – Davis, CA - Davis Bike Club - March 22, 2003

  • Youngest finisher

Solvang Double Century – Solvang, CA - March 29, 2003

  • Youngest finisher

400 KM Brevet – Davis, CA - Davis Bike Club – April 19-20, 2003

  • Youngest finisher

Furnace Creek 508 – (508 miles) - California desert – AdventureCORPS - October 11-13, 2003

  • Youngest ever finisher, only solo competitor in the 10+ category.
  • Overall place: 23rd of 52 male solo starters

Think about it; what were YOU doing when you were 16? Chances are you weren't thinking, "Yeah, I think I want to ride my bike through the desert for 500+ miles." Having done the 508 a few times myself (that being me, Steve Born), I can tell you that it really is a brute of a race and for someone so young to display the kind of maturity (not to mention endurance) it takes to complete such an arduous endeavor is definitely worth spotlighting.

Q: Bevan, first of all, how does it feel to be the youngest ever finisher (by several years) of the Furnace Creek 508?

A: It feels good. I had been training for this race for many months, and it was great to see my work pay off.

Q: That's such a hard race that everyone gets very nervous before the start, even the veterans who have finished it before. What was going through your mind prior to the start and did you feel any extra nervousness because of your age and the fact that no one that young had ever attempted the race before?

A: Seeing the RAAM veterans lining up at the start made me more than a bit nervous, but once we got started I found it pretty easy to focus on my riding and not those around (ahead of) me. However, not being a favorite to finish the race, I didn't have all that much to lose, which was a psychological advantage.

Q: Indeed, there were several 508 and RAAM veterans who had difficulties out there and some didn't finish at all. Most everyone involved in the 508 knows how important having a good support crew is. Who was on your support crew and did they have any experience crewing an ultra marathon cycling race before?

A: My support crew was my dad Dennis and my cousin, Omalley who flew in from Connecticut to crew for me. My dad did his first century when I did my first double, at the Death Valley Double last March. He hadn't crewed for anyone before, but has been very supportive in my cycling endeavors. My cousin didn't have any crewing experience either. Despite this, they were a great team, and I credit my finishing to the motivation they gave me.

Q: What was your favorite part of the course?

A: Up until the Furnace Creek checkpoint (about mile 250), I was having a great time. The scenery the first day was very beautiful, and biking across the desert at sunset was awe-inspiring. I could say the same for the second day, but at that point my focus had shifted to my front wheel and the ground directly in front of it.

Q: What was the hardest part of the race for you? Did you take a sleep break during the race? When? Where? Was there ever a time (or times) when you thought, "You know, this is just too hard and I may not be able to finish?" If so, how did you work through those tough times?

A: The hardest part of the race for me was approaching Badwater (mile 260-70). The toughest climb of the course (Townes Pass) had taken a lot out of me, and, being inexperienced, I skimped on my nutritional needs on the long decent, and through the Furnace Creek time station, so I was feeling very bad near Badwater. I was nauseous, and fatigue was setting in, so I decided that sleep would be necessary if I was to finish the race. I thought I'd sleep for an hour or so, but when my crew awoke me, I knew I wasn't ready to continue. I was very nauseous, and the fatigue was overwhelming. At that point, I didn't think I would finish, and even told my Dad that I couldn't do it. However, I decided to rest instead (any amount of sleep would be better than ending the race.) An hour or so passed before I decided to continue on again, but after about ten miles I knew I needed more rest if I was to finish. Finally, around seven o'clock Sunday morning I got on my way again and, surprisingly, was able to put in another 18 hours or so to the finish without too much hurt. I had about six hours of rest throughout the race.

Q: Yeah, that section through Badwater can be pretty demoralizing; I know it gets to me every time and motivation can be tough to find. How did you stay motivated during the race?

A: Staying motivated was nearly impossible at some points during the race. The first night was one of those times. During training I had attempted to prepare myself for moments like this, and I had a mental list of things to think about which kept me going. This strategy worked well, and I think if I had been more on top of my fuel consumption I could have made it through the first night without a long break. Encouragement from other competitors, their crews, and race officials also helped me stay on the bike, much more so than one might think.

Q: Definitely, getting the fuel thing dialed in is a primary key for success. What fuels/foods did you consume? Any supplements?

A: My main fuel was Perpetuem, which worked great. I was taking Anti-Fatigue Caps in my water bottle along with the Perpetuem every hour. I had phosphate loaded with Race Day Boost for four days before the race, and had taken the recommended amounts of Enduro and Cardio caps an hour before the start. I also had some Hammer Gel to get me through the last few miles of the race. I complimented these supplements with real food, such as sandwiches, plums, beef jerky, and diluted soda. I had planned to do the race exclusively on Perpetuem, but found that I craved real food during the second half. I was trying to get about 280 calories per hour.

Q: What kind of mileage did you do in training?

A: When I peaked, I was doing around 300 miles per week. My training was structured around a long and fast workout with reps up Mt. Diablo (3000+), a ride of about 120 miles, which I'd do each week.

Q: What are your future goals?

A: My ultimate goal is to compete in RAAM before I turn twenty. I also plan to finish first at Furnace Creek, and do the race on a team. As for my shorter-term goals, I hope to compete in Round Czech Republic (780-mile RAAM qualifier) this summer, time and money permitting.