Furnace Creek 508

An Update from the Original RAAM Qualifier

By Chris Kostman

This annual 508 mile single stage bicycle race through Southern California's Mojave Desert and Death Valley got underway at 6:30am, October 2, 1993. Ahead lay 35,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain, challenging desert terrain, and temperatures upwards of 100 degrees. Altogether, the race field consisted of 27 men, 3 women, 2 tandems, and 3 four person relay teams, representing six States, plus Switzerland and Canada. Divisional favorites included John Hughes, the winner of this race in April of 89, and Team PacifiCare/TREK, the champions of the 93 Team Race Across AMerica.

By the California City checkpoint at mile 84, Frank Goulard, an Ironman triathlete from Portland, OR, who had placed fourth here in '92, had taken the lead. Over the next 50 miles, though, he would become the first of a long string of racers to succumb to stomach and dehydration problems. With Goulard out of the race soon thereafter, Mitchell Lesack of Bristol, PA, took the lead near Trona, the 155 mile mark. First over 5,000 foot Towne Pass, the portal into Death Valley, Lesack would hold onto the lead until past Furnace Creek, the halfway mark and namesake of the race at mile 253. Meanwhile, Emmy Klassen of Ojai, CA, had taken a commanding lead in the women's field, while a team of Canadian triathletes was holding off Team PacifiCare / TREK in the team race.

As the racers sped past such landmarks as Badwater, the lowest point in the Lower 48 at -282 feet below sea level, more were forced to abandon due to dehydration, nausea, and heat exhaustion. But the frontrunners kept the hammer down, with John Hughes taking the lead en route to Shoshone and the two front relay teams trading places regularly. By sunrise Hughes had built a commanding lead over Lesack, Klassen continued to lead the women's race, and the Canadian team was preparing an all-out assault on the team RAAM champions. Hampered by only having one support vehicle and with no support crew (they crewed for themselves), the Canadians, Les Glennie, Mike Stirling, Scott Boyle, and Richard Browne, were waiting for daylight to make their move.

Continuing into the second day, Hughes build his lead over Lesack and the other men, and went on to place first with a time of 32 hours, 24 minutes, 55 minutes, becoming the first two time winner ever in the process. Lesack followed two hours, 36 minutes later, earning a spot in the 1994 Race Across AMerica. Klassen took the women's crown in 39 hours, 17 minutes, 37 seconds, with Jody Groesbeck of Sharon, NH, following two hours, 14 minutes later. The Canadian team managed to upset the favorites, posting a course record time of 25 hours, 13 minutes, 8 seconds, while the Texan team crossed the line a mere fifteen minutes later. The tandem team of Ken Bell and Sue Doss, both of California, became the first tandem ever to complete the course, with a time of 37 hours, 34 minutes, 5 seconds. Finishers of the race received the coveted hammer and jersey awarded to those who survive the race commonly known as "The Hell of the West," the Furnace Creek 508.

Race Notes


1) John Hamster Hughes, 44, Portola Valley, CA 32:24:55 (hrs:min:sec)
2) Mitchell Lemur Lesack, 35, Bristol, PA 35:01:16
3) John Walrus Williams, 45, San Clemente, CA 37:41:41
4) Jeff Brown Bear Bell, 34, San Francisco, CA 40:39:02
5) Brian Sheep Stark, 45, Paso Robles, CA 41:24:52
6) Reed Flamingo Finfrock, 47, Fillmore, CA 42:18:15
7) Michael Whale Wilson, 48, Saratoga, CA 43:16:28
8) Jude Kiwi Katsch, 32, Felton, CA 44:44:40
9) Erik Newt Nordenson, 53, Concord, MA 46:38:17
10) Mhyee Mouse Mergler, 26, Clinton, MA 47:19:10

Did Not Finish:
Willy Zebra Zuber
Robert Bobcat Babbitt
Richard Hyena Heiss
Rick Anteater Adolf
James Cheetah Chudej
Rob Steelhead Satterthwaite
James Duck DeCaro
Premananda Crawfish Childs
Matt Foxhound Ford
Bernie Cockatoo Comeau
Kevin Wolverine Walsh
Bill Antelope Albers
Frank Gazelle Goulard
Jeff Blue Jay Born
Pat Eaglet Enright
John Orangutan Oliver

1) Emmy Kangaroo Klassen, 35, Ojai, CA 39:17:37
2) Jodi Giraffe Groesbeck, 34, Sharon, NH 41:31:28
DNF: Karen Kingfisher Koppenhaver.

1) Tandem Bighorn: Ken Bell, 45, Roseville, CA 37:34:05 COURSE RECORD
Tandem Bighorn: Sue Doss, 32, Foresthill, CA
DNF: Tandem Snapping Turtles: Rick Stark and E.J. Harpham.

Four Rider Relay Teams:
1) Canada/Gaggle of Geese, Ontario, Canada 25:13:08 COURSE RECORD
-Les Glennie, Mike Stirling, Scott Boyle, and Richard Browne

2) PacifiCare/Trek/Armadillos, Texas 25:28:55
-George Thomas, Will Klein, Steve Horne, and Ric Ramos

3) Cyco-Path/Swarm of Bees, California 30:15:14
-Les Campbell, Herb Fitzpatrick, Chris Simmons, and Randal Mayer