1998 > Death Valley Double > Lisa and KenS's Report

1998 Death Valley Double

D-E/200 mi/8400 ftx

Vital statistics:

Camelbacks consumed, 4.1
Tubes Gu consumed, 5.2 (0.8 refused to stay down)
Temperature range, high 30’s - low 80’s
Relative humidity, 0.00%
Wind, “could’ve been worse!”

Quotable quotes:

“I guess I’m going to live after all!” -- (Tom L. of TandemTomSarah, regaining consciousness after a near-fatal overdose of Chocolate Gu)

“This rock feels about as comfortable as my bike seat.” -- (Tom L. of TandemTomSarah, while comparison shopping between various sharp, pointed boulders on the side of the road at the lunch stop)

“If you lived here, you’d be home now!” -- (Morale Officer Ken, talking to himself while riding past Badwater, very tired, alone & in the dark)

Once again Team Bikeaholics participated in what has become an annual pilgrimage to that bike-friendly corner of the Mojave Desert, Death Valley. This year’s route was a variation of the original classic, an out-and-back from Stovepipe Wells, past Badwater and over Salsberry Pass to the quaint village of Shoshone. Variations for this year included a much earlier date (late February rather than late March) and a start/finish at Furnace Creek, with a 50-mile out-and back to Stovepipe Wells at the beginning of the ride. This was presumably ordained to avoid some of the afternoon windstorms the valley is famous for, as well as minimizing the temptation to DNF by stopping too long at Furnace Creek that the 1996 route offered. Participants in this year’s event included Bikeaholics Double Specialist Craig, Financial Adviser Lorna, Foreign Affairs Officer Thomas M., TandemTomSarah (composed of Tom L. and Sarah B.), and Morale Officer Ken S.

Since various Team members had signed up for “Brevet Credit”, a mandatory start time of 4:00 AM was dictated by the ride organizers. Accordingly, fresh from a 500 mile drive and 3-4 hrs sleep, Team Bikeaholics assembled at the departure station at 03:45. Another novel feature of this year’s ride was the use of bar code labels to log the start/finish times of participants. While most ultrariders submitted to this regimen without comment, various Bikeaholics were heard to shout things like “Price check, aisle 3!” and “Mooo!”. For some reason this commentary elicited riotous laughter from the Bikeaholics, but only quizzical stares from other sleep-deprived participants.

TandemTomSarah led off with a pretty fast pace, about 20 mph. We basically stayed in hammer mode all the way out to Stovepipe Wells, averaging just over 20. A novelty for Team Bikeaholics was the use of a standard in-line paceline, as opposed to the normal Bikeaholics-style pace line (that’s 4-abreast, taking up 1.5 lanes of traffic). Further research is still needed to assess which paceline technique is more efficient, although the general feeling was that the in-line formation might offer certain advantages. After checking in, we immediately started back towards Furnace Creek in the same aero-tuck-stay-behind-the-tandem-formation. It began to get light at about 5:30, and we rolled into Furnace Creek at 6:40. Craig disappeared to drop his lights and pick up fresh energy-drink bottles, while the rest of us munched contentedly on the usual assortment of bike food.

After waiting an unusually long time for Craig (who, unbeknownst to us, had already left!), Ken finally headed out at a slightly reduced pace, expecting to get passed any minute by the tandem. This was Ken’s first serious attempt at tandem-wheel-sucking, and much to his surprise, found it to be not all that degrading an experience. In fact, he began to actually appreciate how easy it was to go really fast behind a tandem, without his heart rate monitor emitting that annoying “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!”. At one point he even began to fantasize about what life might be like as a professional wheel-sucking-scum rider, waiting under cover by the side of the road for unsuspecting tandems to go by, then leaping out and immediately getting a tow... A few minutes later he actually got to experience drafting behind strangers when a dark blue Burley barreled by and he leapt on the back. In no time at all, he found himself at Badwater, feeling just a little bit guilty. The rest of the Bikeaholics arrived a few minutes later.

The weather at this point turned really quite nice, with temperatures climbing into the 60’s and little or no wind. The road had numerous spots where gravel, mud, or sand had intruded as a result of the previous weeks’ stormy weather, but these were easily avoided. A real treat was an abundance of wildflowers in what would normally be a barren salt plain. The area around Badwater had the appearance of a lake resort, again the result of the previous weeks’ storms in the surrounding mountains. We covered the next 20 miles past Mormon Point at a comfortable pace. As we approached the rest stop at Ashford Mill the wind began to pick up, and riders began to bunch up into mini-pacelines in an effort to conserve energy. After a brief stop at Ashford Mill (mile 94), we headed out to begin the long (18 mile) climb up to 3315 ft. Salsberry Pass.

The climb up to the pass was uneventful, and the air temperature actually began to warm up to short-sleeve levels. Unfortunately Morale Officer Ken began to experience an incipient bonk, and was hard pressed to go any faster than about 7-8 mph. Bikeaholic Thomas passed him, and TandemTomSarah began to catch up. After a brief water stop at the summit, we headed down the 10 mile descent into Shoshone.

As expected, TandemTomSarah blasted by early on the descent, leaving a wake-vortex that threatened to overturn single riders. The mystery of Craig’s whereabouts was finally solved, as he was spotted ascending the pass from Shoshone, perhaps 30 min in front of us. Much to my surprise, on making the final turn onto Hwy 190, I observed the tandem by the side of the road, with CaptainTom stretched out on the ground, looking quite pale, while a as StokerSarah stood over him shouting soothing words like “I TOLD you not to eat that much Gu!”. At first I suspected mechanical problems, but then quickly surmised that CaptainTom had indeed become a victim of Gu-overdose. I stopped to document the scene with a small camera.

Once a firm diagnosis had been made, we got out the first aid kit and administered a single dose of Gu-antivenin to CaptainTom. While still somewhat shaky, we were able to get him back on the bike, and we slowly headed into the turn-around point in Shoshone. Once there, StokerSarah administered a turkey sandwich/cup-o-noodles mixture to Tom, and he began to look like his old self again. A quick search of his jersey pockets revealed a large number of empty Gu wrappers, confirming that he had indeed over-imbibed in the stuff. Team Bikeaholics contented itself with munching on turkey sandwiches, potato chips, and cup-o-soups, slowly regaining strength for the 76-mile return to Furnace Creek.

After a too-short rest, it was once again time to head out. The climb back up to the pass (1700 ft from the Shoshone side) was uneventful but slow. Once again Morale Officer Ken’s reverie during the long 18 mile descent was interrupted by the shock wave of the tandem blasting by at a high Mach number. Ken’s arm muscles were also beginning to give out, and the rough road surface had numbed all feeling in his hands. Hopes of a pleasant R&R at Ashford Mill were dashed by waning daylight and a severe shortage of edible food (no cookies, only potatoes, some peanut butter, & cup-o-soups). It was becoming apparent that we weren’t going to finish in daylight. StokerSarah amused herself by surreptitiously reading other people’s heart rate monitors and making fun of their cardiovascular status. After a few minutes, TandemTomSarah and Thomas started to head out, but at a pace that Ken just couldn’t maintain. He dropped back, secure in the knowledge that he had enough battery power left for 2-3 hours of headlights.

Daylight was just beginning to fade when Ken pulled slowly into Badwater. Luckily this particular rest stop still had plenty of cookies, and Ken began to replenish a severely depleted blood sugar level. The Tandem & Thomas had been there some time and appeared ready to head back out, but their departure was aborted by the discovery of a severely flattened front tire. CaptainTom managed to repair the thing in record time, despite the distraction of having to listen to an apparently endless stream of flat tire jokes from the other Bikeaholics.

Once again Morale Officer Ken was forced to ride alone, this time in near-total darkness, but luckily without significant wind. Somewhat panicked about his energy state, he adjusted his lights to the lowest possible setting (2 watts, which corresponds to the light output of twenty or so anemic fireflies) and pedaled on at 15 mph. This last stretch was only 17 miles, but it seemed to go on for FOREVER. The final turn onto Hwy 190 and the finish at Furnace Creek was made at around 7:15 or so. After submitting to the indignity of being barcode-scanned, Morale Officer Ken was released into the general population, and another DVD was over.

A final wrap-up: Craig had of course finished way early, coming in just before 5:00. TandemTomSarah & Thomas were in around 7:00. Lorna took a bit longer, but made it in around 10:00. As expected, Team Bikeaholics had NO DNF’s.

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