Our awesome little team of six for the Furnace Creek 508 awoke at dawn, grabbed some Starbuck’s for breakfast, and chamoised up for a shake-out ride on the tandems. In addition to the four of us racing, our two crew members, Max and Andy, saddled up on the spare tandem at our host house to join us for a short spin. How often do you see three separate tandems out riding together?

I’m pretty impressed with our ability to get up and running smoothly. My pilot, Jim Ryan, is a very experienced rider, and we were able to start, stop, shift to an optimal gear, and communicate really well together. We dialed in our bike fit (as much as possible within the constraints of the bike) and I feel confident we’ve optimized our positions.

The best piece of advice I received this morning was from our other tandem pilot, Paul Kingsbury (owner of Kingsbury’s Cyclery in Elmira, NY). He said the biggest adjustment as a stoker is that I will feel the bike do things that weren’t caused by MY input. I thought about that several times during our 9-mile ride this morning.

We rolled with my Cardo BK-1 bluetooth communication device. It’s a super-cool helmet-mount system that allows two riders to talk to each other. I’ve been testing it out in training the past month or so and I’m sold that it’s a really great system for two riders. If our crew is really smart, we’re also going to connect to one of their smart phones so we can communicate with the support van.

Communication will be key for this race.

 

Lorri, Jim, and crew member Max (in the background)

Lorri, Jim, and crew member Max (in the background)

 

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past month thinking about the experience of riding a tandem and also being supported by a crew. This is very different for me. I’m an independent girl. I live alone. I run my own business. I have no family. I’m used to doing my own thing. So, for the next couple of days I’m integrating into a six-person team and allowing others to advise me and take care of me. It’s a pretty neat experience.

There are so many funny soundbites about riding a tandem. But here are my thoughts as I embark on a journey from the stoker’s seat:

  • Trust is key. I need to trust in the bike. The bike will do what it’s meant to do if we don’t screw it up. I need to trust my pilot. I couldn’t pick a better pilot. Jim is a super-experienced ultra-endurance rider with experience as a tandem pilot on this event. He’ll take good care of me.
  • It’s okay to let others lead. I’m used to being a leader. I’m not used to being a follower. Following can feel uncomfortable to me. My role this weekend is not to be a leader. But I can be the very best follower I can be.
  • I can be a contributor. And that will be more valuable than being a leader in this situation. I will pedal. I’ll cheer. I’ll help out whenever I can. And I’ll let others lead.
  • Intuition is also very important. A stoker can’t be on auto-pilot. I can use verbal and non-verbal cues to help guide me.

We’re all packed in the van now and transferring to the host hotel in Valencia. We’ve got race check-in and safety checks on both the bikes and the support vehicle. We’ve got the race meeting this afternoon, with all 700 riders and support crew. And then it’s off to the grocery store to stock up on 24-hours of food for riders and support staff. We’ve been discussing nutrition options, ranging from all liquids to a variety of real food and sports nutrition products, to eccentric snacks like tootsie rolls stuffed with coffee beans.

I won’t likely update the blog until after the race is finished on Sunday, but you can follow our progress here:

If you’d like to follow along, you’ll find the official FC508 webcast here:

http://www.the508.com/2013web/

You’ll find time splits for our team (Northern Spring Peepers) here:

Northern Spring Peepers Race Page

And you can get live (well, every 20 minutes) updates here:

Northern Spring Peepers SPOT Tracker

Wish me luck!

********************************************************************************

Thank you again to Gary Brustin and Jan Medina for their sponsorship of my race. I wouldn’t be sitting in this 15-passenger van on the 5 in Los Angeles, discussing pickle juice and chamois creme if it wasn’t for their support.

This morning, I’m hopping on a jet plane (probably a prop plane, actually), bound for Los Angeles to meet up with my team for this weekend’s Furnace Creek 508. My journey leading up to this day followed a crazy, twisted road with a few bumps and potholes, but somehow I’ve arrived intact.

If you recall, five short weeks ago, I agreed to join the record-holding two-tandem 50-plus team, the Northern Spring Peepers, for this 508-mile race. I knew it would be a challenge to ramp up my volume to train for the event, but I was ready to take it on. I had 4 weeks of available training time and then a week to recover and stay fresh for the event (what some folks might call a taper).

The first phase of my training was to increase both my duration and climbing. I planned a series of three-day blocks with 10,000-15,000 combined feet of climbing with recovery between blocks. My first two weeks were going as planned. Well, maybe not quite as planned, as my teammate Pamela and I got a little carried away and rode 136 miles with 8,000′ of climbing to start my second week of training. But we survived, and I knew that I’d be able to complete my stages of FC508. I totaled 24+ hours that week, with 321 miles and almost 15,000′ of climbing.

The following week I planned another 20+ hours with 20,000′ and was on track when tragedy struck — I was hit by another cyclist while riding. I was very fortunate that my injuries weren’t too severe — no broken bones, but lots of soft tissue damage and my right leg was deeply contused (and is still sore almost 3 weeks after the collision). This basically destroyed my training plan. I was conflicted: I needed to train, but I needed to heal my injury. I completed a few rides, feeling very slow and suffering with pain. I cancelled my planned tandem training weekend with my partner, Jim Ryan, in Oregon. I decided to be conservative, and let myself heal.

So, weeks 2 and 3 I only rode about 12 hours total (150 miles with 7,000′ of climbing). My 4th week, I climbed everything I could, knowing that would be the biggest bang for my training buck. My leg still hurt, and I still felt slow, but I needed to do some damage control so I didn’t completely lose fitness. I was able to ride 17 hours, for a total of 200 miles and 17,000′ of climbing. My last long ride was a solid 75-miles with 7,000′ of climbing.

This week my goal was to recover and then keep my legs fresh. I’m feeling pretty good, so I guess I met my goal. We’ll see how I feel later today when I go for a spin with my tandem partner.

This year’s Furnace Creek 508 has been a challenge for the race promoter, before we even hit the start line. Apparently, two separate parts of the traditional course were washed out with flash floods, forcing a re-route of one section and a van shuttle of the other section. Then, the federal government shut down. Since the route goes through two different national parks (Mojave and Death Valley), the promoter hustled to find alternate routes (and obtain permits for those routes). At this time, we don’t know if we’ll be permitted to ride the 508-mile course, or if the race will be shortened to 356 miles (an out + back route to Trona that skips all the really cool desert land). While I’m certainly disappointed, I think we’ll still have a great experience.

The modified route for my tandem team would be 177 miles total (instead of 240 miles). We would ride stage 1 (107 miles with 6,000′ of climbing) and stage 3 (70 miles with 4,000′ of climbing). The other tandem team (Paul Kingsbury and Wanda Tocci) would ride stage 2 (70 miles with 3,000′ of climbing) and stage 4 (107 miles with 5,000′ of climbing). Wait a minute! How did my team get more climbing? So while the overall race distance has been reduced, the impact for each of our teams is not that significant. We’ve still got our work cut out for us.

Of course, the logistics of changing from a 508-mile point-to-point race that begins in Santa Clarita and ends in 29 Palms about 33 hours later to a 356-mile out-and-back race that begins and ends in Santa Clarita less than 24 hours later means changing lodging and such, but our awesome team has handled all this without blinking.

So now, we just wait and find out which course we ride. We all packed for the long course. We have flights and lodging based on the long course. But I’m guessing we’ll end up riding the short course.

Later today we build up the tandems (they were shipped out from New York), go grocery shopping, have a test ride, and prepare the support van. Today’s also the day we all get to know each other. Actually, the other three riders and two crew members all know each other already, so I guess it’s the day that I get to know everybody else. On Friday, the bikes and the vehicle both have to pass safety checks and we have rider meetings and dinner and spend the night in Santa Clarita. And then on Saturday, we roll out @ 9:30am.

I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a bit nervous. Of course I’m nervous. I’m jumping back in, still injured, riding 177 miles and 10,000′ of climbing in less than 24 hours. On the back of a tandem. With a man I’ve never met. I’m nervous and excited and feeling surprisingly calm. I guess the reality of what I’m about to undertake hasn’t sunk in yet.

If you’d like to follow along, you’ll find the official FC508 webcast here:

http://www.the508.com/2013web/

You’ll find time splits for our team (Northern Spring Peepers) here:

Northern Spring Peepers Race Page

And you can get live (well, every 20 minutes) updates here:

Northern Spring Peepers SPOT Tracker

Wish me luck!

********************************************************************************

I want to take a minute to thank a bunch of folks who’ve helped me arrive here:

Gary Brustin and Jan Medina for their sponsorship of my race.

Pamela Levine for being the best training partner ever.

Winnie + Dan Brehmer for loaning me a wheelset when mine was destroyed in the crash.

Annie Gianakos for scraping my broken body off the pavement, taking me to the hospital, and nursing me on the day of my crash.

Jason Pierce who dragged my tired butt around on the bike and shared all his accumulated wisdom about FC508.

And all my friends and teammates who’ve shared rides with me, listened to my stories, calmed my fears about being injured, and supported me on this crazy, bumpy journey!

I always love the anticipation associated with participating in a new event. The interwebs make it easy to while away the hours viewing photos and videos and reading race reports. Yeah, it’s great to read the official data (maps, GPS, rules, etc), but I like the real-life stories of folks who’ve experienced the event.

Now that the reality has set in that I’ll be riding my inaugural Furnace Creek 508, I spent some time today clicking around and sharing other riders’ experience. I thought I’d share with my friends + fans.

2012 FC508 blog from Jim (my tandem captain). I’m happy to report that Big Bertha has been retired: http://pancake508.blogspot.com/

2012 FC508 blog from Paul and Wanda the other tandem on our team: http://www.kingsburyscyclery.com/?p=191

Stunning photos and time-lapse from Scott MacDonald Photography: http://www.scottmacdonaldphotography.com/2012/12/06/the-furnace-creek-508/

FC508 YouTube Collection, because a video speaks a million words: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=03027EAC14FC9819

I can’t thank Gary Brustin and Jan Medina enough for supporting me in my Furnace Creek 508 quest. Without their support this wouldn’t be possible. I’m really looking forward to this event. I can’t wait to add my blog and photos to the interwebs for eternity.

Wondering how this came to be? Read my original Furnace Creek 508 post here:

http://velogirlscoaching.blogspot.com/2013/08/this-just-got-real.html

Aug
27
0

This Just Got Real!

I’ve done some incredibly crazy things in my riding career.  Some really impulsive things.  Some things that, if a coaching client asked my opinion, I’d say “no way, Jose!”  Like what, you ask?  How about riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the California AIDS Ride when I hadn’t been on a bicycle in decades.  Or the time I agreed to race a 24-hour mountain bike race even though I could barely ride a mountain bike (and had never ridden one at night).  Or building up a touring bike and riding solo self-supported around New York for 3 weeks.  Or attempting the Death Ride when all I’d been doing that season was road racing (and no long endurance).  Yup, these might all be considered crazy…..or stupid.  And sometimes the result is less than magical.  Once in a while it’s amazing.  Let’s hope the latter is true for my next challenge.

Less than a week ago, one of my cycling friends from my hometown of Elmira, NY, contacted me about an opportunity to join the record-holding two-tandem relay team at this year’s Furnace Creek 508 on October 5th – 6th.  My initial reaction was that I would be happy to help him find someone to fill the team.  Both the riding and funding to participate in this event were beyond my grasp right now.  But somehow, over the course of a few hours during our discussions on Facebook, I agreed to do it, assuming I could find personal sponsorship to cover the expense.

So, I contacted my personal angels, folks who have supported me in my crazy dreams for many years, and thanks to the generosity Gary Brustin and Jan Medina, I funded this latest endeavor.   Now I had no excuse not to participate.

 

 

So, let me tell you what’s crazy about this event.  It’s called the Furnace Creek 508 (as in 508 miles).  The route begins in Santa Clarita, CA and ends in Twentynine Palms, CA, via Mojave, Death Valley, Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek, Badwater, and a bunch of other similarly significant-sounding desert towns.  It’s one of the premier ultra-cycling events in the world.  I’ve known many folks who’ve done it in the past and they’re all serious endurance bad-asses.  I see the crazy rides they do and think “why would you want to ride a bike for 20 or 30 or 40 hours at a time in the dark and the extreme heat and the rain?”  Luckily, as part of a relay team, I’ll only be riding 230 miles with 17,000′ of climbing.  Since I completed the Death Ride in July (125 miles with 15,000′ of climbing), I could see that the mileage and elevation were within reach……if I’d actually kept my endurance up the past 6 weeks.  And, since it’s a relay, there are breaks when the other team is riding.  So really, it’s only 4 segments of an average of 65 or so miles, right?  I can ride 4 65-mile rides over the course of a day and a half.  No problem!

But, to add to the fun, I’ll be riding this event on the back of a tandem.  With a man I’ve never met.  Maybe he won’t notice if I’m not actually pedaling?  Yup.  A tandem.  Now, I’ve tandemed exactly twice in my cycling career:  once in 2002 with a man I’d gone on one date with (and decided there would not be another date after that experience) and once in 2006 with a man who was riding a tandem solo from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the Panama Canal.  The latter filmed his adventure which was later featured at the Banff Film Festival, so I got to see myself on the big screen.  But that’s not exactly the resume of someone who’s ready to undertake a serious (or seriously crazy) endurance event as stoker of a tandem.

So, all the stars aligned and I just got an email welcoming me to the team.  And it all makes sense now.  I’ve got my work cut out for me in the next month, but I’m in good hands.  My tandem partner is the legendary Jim Ryan of Seattle.  He’s a 9-time Furnace Creek 508 finisher (solo, 4-man, and 2 tandem).  He’s a FC508 Hall of Fame member.  He’s a FC508 record holder.  He’s ridden other crazy endurance events like Race Across the West (RAW).  And he seems like a really nice guy.  In last year’s race, he met his tandem partner for the first time the day before the race and they survived.  Heck, they set the record for their division.  Joining us on the other tandem are Paul Kingsbury (owner of Kingsbury’s Cyclery in Elmira, NY) and his fiance Wanda Tocci.  They were the other tandem on last year’s record-winning team.  I’ve ridden with Paul once before (not on a tandem) and he assures me we’ll have a great time.  Joining us will be our support crew, also veterans of the event.  What could go wrong, right?

So, for the next month, I’ll be logging the big miles.  I’ll be climbing the long climbs.  I may even meet up with Jim in Oregon for a training weekend.  And I’ll make sure to update this blog with training updates as I prepare for what might be the craziest, most impulsive event I’ve ever ridden!

Yup.  This just got real!  (gulp)