2015 Silver State 508 Race Report

2015 Silver State 508 Race Report

My first 508 was in 1991 when the race was called The Furnace Creek 508.  That first year there were 25 racers.  I grew to love riding through Death Valley at night and was disappointed when the race was forced to move due to a park ranger that thought it was too much of an impact on the eco system of Death Valley.  The 508 new home starts in Reno and is now called the Silver State 508.

Having raced solo three times and once on a four-person tam, I decided to add another category to my bucket list – two-person mixed.  My partner in this chapter of the 508 would be Karin Weller.  Special thanks go out to crew chief Arlon Harwood and the crew of Paul Brown and Audrey Thomaston.

This route brought new challenges of altitude causing us to breathe faster and deeper at higher altitude.  I have been an ambassador for BRL Nutrition for the past four years and have been using EPO supplements.  For this race, I combined it with Altitude Rx supplement.  No doubt this combination of supplements provided us the ability to slow our breathing and enabled us to perform at our highest level. Karin and I both took Altitude Rx as prescribed and the results were incredible.  We didn’t suffer any ill effects from the altitude.      

My pre-race concern was missing all the pre-race meetings as I would not arrive until 10 p.m. Friday night, after spending four days on my feet at Interbike.  Arlon and Paul picked up the rental van in Modesto, CA and completely set up the van to be race ready.  Karin, Arlon, Paul, and Andrey made the drive to Reno, took care of inspections and attended the pre-race meeting.  I arrived in Reno at 10 p.m. and Paul was there to pick me up.  After a short discussion of the meeting, it was time for bed.

The course was out and back.  I had been watching the winds for the past week and was expecting them to play a role in the race.  The average weather for the route suggested lows near or below freezing and highs in the low 80s.  We were prepared for whatever temperatures we would encounter.  I told Karin our goal was to finish first in our category and to finish in 30 hours.

We decided that Karin should start stage 1 which included Geiger Grade on the way to Virginia City. As we waited at the crew / rider meeting spot, Karin was the first woman to come through. The race turned eastward on Highway 50, billed as the "Loneliest Highway in America."  It was busy enough though that crews were advised to not stop until Time Station One, in Silver Springs, Nevada. We were at time station one, 20 minutes prior to Karin’s arrival.  While awaiting her arrival, I discovered that I had forgotten my heart rate monitor at the house.  I told myself not to stress with self talk of “you know your body, just ride hard and hold nothing back”.

Karin arrived and I was ready to race stage 2 - a flat section.  I choose my new Specialized S-Works TT that had been displayed the day before at Interbike.  Thanks Specialized for this great frame, Shimano for the components, along with Vision wheels and Continental tires.

Karin arrived at Time Station One, (Silver Springs) at mile 47.6 in 2:47:003 with an average speed of 17.12.  I took the hand off and was on the road racing.  As I entered Fallon, the largest city on the route, I couldn’t get a break.  It seemed as if I had to stop at every traffic light and there must have been more than 15.  Once through town, I was able to put my head down and push the pedals on my TT bike feeling better than expected after spending four days on my feet.  I arrived at Time Station 2 in 1:33:00, with an average speed of 20.25.

Karin was up for the longest leg of the race 106 miles.  At mile 48 with the flat roads behind, Karin made a right onto Hwy 722 - an lonelier road yet.  Then the 18 mile climb to Carroll Summit, 7214 ft.  Karin pushed up the climb with incredible strength.  She arrived at Time Station 3 in Austin, in 6:17:00. Total miles for the race 185.4 in 10:37:00.  Karin snagging the Strava QOM.

With no warm up and being stiff from sitting in the van for six hours, I took the hand off and immediately began climbing.  It took a few minutes to get my legs.  As I began to push, my breathing was normal and I felt as though I was home riding at 700 ft. in the California central valley. Thanks to Altitude Rx I pushed up the three-mile climb to Austin Summit at 7,480 ft. breathing with ease.  I was 10 miles from Eureka when I saw the first solo riders coming back on the out and back course as they started one hour before us. Before I knew it, we arrived at the halfway point in Eureka, NV.  70 miles in 4:17:00, average speed 16.37.  Total time into the race 14:54:00.  We were on pace to make our goal of 30 hours.

After a short stop and exchange, we were back on the road and in direct follow behind Karin on the road back to Austin.  The temperatures started to drop, but Karin pushed hard back to Austin. 70 miles in 4:47:00, average speed 14.65.

After another short stop in Austin, I was back on the bike.  Descending fast, I was told to be on the lookout for the left hand turn at 1.5 miles.  After turning left, I settled into my pace to ride 100 miles when the crew informed me we were low on gas and they didn’t think we could make it to the next time station.  Now my mind was racing - do we stop and drive back to the time station or gamble and ride on?  I was having a hard time pushing as my mind was racing.  I choose to stop to discuss our options.  The temperature had dropped into the low 30s and I began to shiver in the cold so I got in the van for the discussion.  With the heater blasting, it wasn’t long before I was warm.  We calculated the distance before the next gas and knew we would be cutting it close.  After about 20 minutes I was back on the bike. Arlon called his sister who lives in Fallon and asked if she could bring us gas, if needed.  We had a plan and my mind eased as I began riding again.  I began to pray for the crew NOT to worry and that we’d have enough gas to get us back to Fallon.  I was feeling strong and started pushing hard to make up the lost time.  Daylight was coming up behind me and I started to warm up.  The crew saw a gas station on the left that wasn’t on the route slip.  They fueled up as I continued on. My prayers had been answered; we found gas in the middle of nowhere.  We arrived at Time Station 6, Fallon, 112 miles in 7:21:00.  Even losing the 20 minutes, I had the KOM for 2015.  We were now at mile 438 in 27:02:00. 

Karin was ready and waiting to roll as I pulled into the auto parts store.  Karin was on her last stage and put the hammer down, giving it everything she had on this flat section.  We arrived at Time Station 7, Silver Springs, and waited for Karin to arrive.  She blazed through this stage in a fantastic time 1:19:00. 19.34 average speed.

I was straddling my bike when Karin came in.  I was immediately off and heading down Hwy. 50 starting out fast on this flat section.  I knew that when I made the right hand turn on Six Mile Canyon Rd. the work would start, as I had to climb 12 miles.  It started out at about 4-6% grade but turned to 10%.  I passed my friend and legend Seana Hogan.  I felt like I had no legs and couldn’t make it up the climb; I looked down and now had a flat.  Are you kidding me?!?  The crew quickly changed the wheel and off I went.  At the top of Geiger Summit we change the wheel back.  I was so looking forward to the decent into Reno but as I started down, I was hit with cross swirling winds.  It was all I could do to keep the bike straight going down.  Instead of a 40 mph decent, I was breaking at 25mph. I rode as hard as I could to the finish at the Atlantis Casino.  Our total time was 31:59:29 to finish first place in our age group, 50-59.