The 2003 Furnace Creek 508

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

The 20th Anniversary of the AdventureCORPS Furnace Creek 508 bicycle race was held on October 11-13, 2003 and what a race it was. Ideal weather conditions throughout the majority of the race greeted the near record field. Considered by many to be the premier ultra marathon bicycle race in the world, the Furnace Creek 508 begins in Santa Clarita, California, passes through a large portion of Death Valley and surrounding desert areas, and finishes, after 508 miles and 35,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain, in Twentynine Palms, California.

Arguably the most competitive women's race in years took place this year and when the dust had settled, Lisa Marie Dougherty from Los Alamos, NM claimed the victory in 35 hours, 36 minutes, 41 seconds. Riding in close proximity for a good portion of the race were rookies Janet Christiansen (Poway, CA) and Carol Chaffee (Arvada, CO), with the three within an hour of each other at the Furnace Creek time station (252 miles). The battle between Dougherty and Christiansen was an epic one and it wasn't until after the last time station at the top of the Sheep Hole Pass (479 miles) that Dougherty reeled in a tiring Christiansen and went on for the win. Christiansen finished second in 37:51:07 and Chaffee took third in 38:38:43.

The men's race looked like it was going to be a competitive one from start to finish but by the time Andrew Bohannon (Sunnyvale, CA), a former RAAM finisher and 508 champion, had crested the summit of Townes Pass, the race's toughest climb (a 10-mile, 3,400' of elevation gain brute), he started pulling away from a deep and talented field. When Bohannon reached the time station at Furnace Creek (252 miles) the gap was close to 30 minutes and by the Shoshone time station (325 miles) he had built a two-hour lead. Bohannon claimed the victory in a very-fast time of 29:19:18, almost exactly two hours ahead of impressive rookie Jeff Landauer (Fair Oaks, CA) who finished runner-up in 31:19:22, 19 minutes ahead of last year's winner Eric Ostendorff. Forty men in various under-50 age group categories started the race with 27 finishers including the youngest finisher ever, Bevan Barton (Piedmont, CA) who took 19th in a time of 42:37:38 (see Athlete Spotlight this issue).

In the 50+ division, Eric Wilson (Palmdale, CA) took the win from a highly competitive field in 33:10:05. Four of the eight entrants, including a couple very talented RAAM/508 veterans, succumbed to the fast pace being set or other various maladies and were unable to finish.

In the 60+ division, Dick Weber (Clackamas, OR), 61 years young, broke one of the 508's venerable course records, that of Jim Pitre, and broke it substantially. He not only won his division by nearly 10 hours, he broke the existing 60+ course record by over an hour, winning in 36:50:44, a time that placed him 13th overall.

Another course record was set by James Kern (Sunyvale, CA) in the solo recumbent division in an incredible time of 33:43:15. Anyone who knows how mountainous this course is understands how difficult it is to do it in a recumbent, let alone in such a phenomenal time.

In the team divisions, the two-man team of Matthew Iness (Tempe, AZ) and Dan McGehee (Mesa, AZ) set a new course record of 25:38:08. The four-man team of Pat Tafoya (Redwood City, CA), Chris Hahn (Santa Barbara, CA), Kerry Ryan (Bakersfield, CA), and Mike Wracher (Santa Barbara, CA) took top honors in 23:46:30.

All in all, eight course records were set in various divisions in this, the 20th edition of this great race. The 2004 Furnace Creek 508 is scheduled for October 16-18 and more information, photos, results, and stories can be found at