Furnace Creek 508

‘Our 508-mile course serves as a dramatic forum for bicycle racing, personal achievement and self-discovery.’
-from the Furnace Creek 508 press release.

The Furnace Creek 508 is this weekend! I have written about it previously, when Morgan raced solo in 2005 when I was crew chief and when Brian, Megan, Max and I raced as a fixed gear team in 2006.

This year I am racing solo.

It has been a long time coming! I wanted to race solo in 2005, but after riding a triple century I decided I was not ready. In 2007 I was burned out after the world’s hardest triathlon and the 760-mile Paris-Brest-Paris.

You pick a totem instead of a number

This race is different in that it is one stage. The clock starts when you roll out in Santa Clarita and does not stop until you reach 29 Palms. Can you sleep? Yes, but the clock is still running! The race offers no support, I am dependent on my crew, Morgan, Budge and Chris, that leap frogs and supplies me with food, water and anything else I may need.

The course (click for larger)

Why would I do something like this? Bicycles have been a part of my life since I was very young. When I was 7 I used to sneak out of my neighborhood and ride as far as I could- and still be able to find my way home. Once my neighbor found me 4 miles away and drove me home to tell my mom what I had been up to.
When I was 14 I started traveling the country to race BMX bikes. That progressed to traveling to ride BMX trails and skateparks. This is how I began to see the world. Within a month of getting my first road bike ($50!) I rode it from college to my mom’s house, 150 miles. I wore skate shoes and cut-off camouflage shorts and the idea of wearing a helmet didn’t even cross my mind. The following summer I rode 3300 miles cross-country. The 508 seems to be a natural progression.

How far is 508 miles?
San Francisco to San Diego or NYC to Columbus, OH

35,000 feet of elevation gain is greater than going to the top of Everest from sea level (see profile here).

There is a new route reconnaissance with excellent photos (some stolen below) and descriptions. Check it out!

The Trona bump before dropping into Panamint Valley

The mountains you climb into Death Valley- 210 miles into the race

The 13-mile climb up to 5,000 ft Townes Pass

Am I ready? It is hard to say. I have done a number of ‘long’ races this year from iron-distance triathlon to 100-mile mountain bike races and double century road events. But they have been ‘only’ 12-15 hours. How will I feel while crossing Death Valley at 2am? After a day of 90 degree heat, will I be freezing when it is 40 degrees and windy? When the sun rises Sunday morning and I still have 150 miles to ride, will I be happy about it? An event like this is about the journey, not the destination. It is not a race that you can go into saying ‘I’ll be happy when I am done.’ It’s the experience of the race that I am looking for more than having finished. Really, I look forward to the time I’ll have to think and what I will learn about myself.

A number of Swarm! riders will be out there racing and crewing. Brian ‘Emperor Moth’ is racing solo for the second year in a row and hopes to improve his 36-hour time. Megan is on a bad-ass all-girl fixed gear team-The Blue-footed Boobies.

You can follow the race’s webcast where photos, time splits and updates will be posted with surprising regularity. We are going to try to update my blog from the road as well. Please leave comments here and be sure to follow the webcast!

Tahoe Sierra 100 mountain bike race

Another hundred miler! (the veterans call them ‘hundies’):
Tahoe Sierra 100
results (google doc)
12hr 35min
35th out of 84 in Open Men
Cycling News coverage

Scene: Zeno’s bar in State College, PA. A live band is playing and we have to almost yell to be heard.
Characters: Matt, Steevo, Steevo’s bike racer friend Straub, Straub’s roommate Rich

Straub: Matt and Steevo are racing the Shenandoah 100 this weekend and Matt is racing the Tahoe-Sierra 100 the weekend after that.
Rich: I’ll be at both of those too. Sweet.
Matt: You are going out to CA for the 100?
Rich: I work for Giant Bicycles, so I fly back and forth between CA and PA a lot.
Matt: Maybe you can help solve my dilemma. I need to get my bike from one to the other and it is going to cost me a ton. Any ideas?
Rich: Hmmnn. I’ve got a trailer full of 2009 demo bikes in CA. You can ride one of those, unless you have to ride a rigid single-speed.
Matt: Whoa, really? I’d hate to be responsible for one of those bikes.
Rich: No man, it’s what they are for.
(Steevo nudges Matt’s leg under the table)
Matt: Okay. You sure?
Rich: Yeah man. I’ll have a 2009 Anthem in your size waiting.
Matt: Sweet!

So three days after getting back from the PA trip, I am flying to Sacramento with Sufiya. We stay at my Uncle Bob’s house, the same awesome Uncle I stay with for the Auburn Triathlon (2006, 2007, 2008), the first night. On Friday we drive out to the campground start/finish which 45 miles on one windy mountain road from the nearest town.

This is what a lot of the course looks like
Definitely in a beautiful area


Friday night we camp, which is Sufiya’s first time camping. Ever. It went well. The stars were amazing and it didn’t get too cold. She asks me where I am meeting Rich in the morning. When I tell her we just said that we’d see each other she expresses concern that we have no plan. You didn’t set up a meeting point? Oops.

In the morning, after walking over to registration for some coffee, I notice a black SUV parked next to our car. It’s Rich and his crew. Who needs a plan? He hands me the bike. We roll over to the start and at the gun I take my first pedal on a bike I’ve never ridden.

Stole this photo that I am in from a forum on mtbr.com.

This is getting long so here are my notes from the course:
zero single track
super dusty
hot as hell all day!
5-mile climb twice in first 25 miles- brutal
undulating sections, lots of climbing
gravel, rock, dirt, double track
big rocks on dirt road downhills hidden by thick dust
not as fun as Virginia, course and riders
finished strong: passed about 12 people on the last two climbs and descents
no veggie burgers at BBQ. Only thing I could eat was corn
a rigid single-speed 29er is a lot different than a 26inch full-suspension cross-country bike

Stories and a good blog:

Thanks for the bike Rich. And congratulations on finishing 7th overall!

stop 6- Shenandoah 100 mtb race

The best way to describe the Shenandoah 100 is as a 24-hour party with a 100-mile mountain bike race in the middle. The race has beautiful views, long climbs and fun, fast technical single-track. An awesome awesome first mountain bike race.

Saturday afternoon we hung out at the group campground and pavilion where the race starts/end with hundreds of other riders (and there partners, kids and dogs). Ate, kicked it with the Dirt Rag magazine guys, went for a short cruise, scoped the observatory and settled in for an early night. Then there was a huge thunderstorm! I was dry in a bivy sac, but it was raining so hard it was hitting me through the material. Lots of lightening and thunder. Man, I dislike rain when I have to deal with it, but a thunderstorm in the summer is such a beautiful thing. It stormed about an hour. Then within minutes fireworks went off. Ah, the east coast. Apparently some West Virginia kids think the ride only counts if you party the entire night before. Love it.

Here is the recap in Cycling News and Steevo’s account of the day.

Race starts at day break

500 people signed up for the race. How would they corral that? Well, they didn’t. They said go and everyone rode away. I stayed way in the back, unsure of where I’d end up, riding rigid single speed and all. With that many riders the first 15 or so miles were tight.

Virginia woods

As I have never raced mountain bikes or ridden one 100 miles, I had no plan. Just ride and stay safe. I love riding single speed. On long dirt or gravel sections packs would form and I was able to stay with the faster geared guys by just tucking and pumping or riding a wheel really tightly, both skills acquired from BMX and road riding, respectively that apparently carry over. Sweet.

Luckily only a few short sections early on were like this

The course had awesome downhill single track. Miles at a time. Nothing like cresting a hill out of breath and cross-eyed and then navigating rocks, ruts, roots, turns, trees and wet leaves at 15 MPH. It was scary and amazing at the same time. Again, I thought I would be passed on these types of sections, but it rarely happened.

During the really fun sections
I didn’t want to stop so this is what you get

37th/71 in single speed and somewhere in the top third overall at 10hr 55min. It was a long day, but so much fun. Will road riding seem boring?

At the post-race meal I ran into an old BMX friend I have not seen in many years. That’s always fun. Jamie had also just seen Steph Surch another former BMX at a mountain bike race and the same friend I ran into at the Philadelphia marathon in 2006. Crazy.

Then Steevo and I drove 5 hrs to Pittsburgh, I packed, slept a few hours then flew 4 hours back to Los Angeles. Totally worth it. Thanks Steevo and Amy!

stop 5- Virginia (it’s in the south)

In Harrisonburg, Virginia we ate at a Workers Collective called The Little Grill, after barely getting in the door before closing (at the odd hour of 3pm on a Saturday). Kids who look like they are in all of the bands I went to see as a teenager served us average vegan food for decent prices. But how often do you get to eat at a worker-owned spot? Exactly.

In the south people take dogs for rides in convertible 3-wheeled vehicles

At the campground where the Shenandoah 100 starts/ends:
I was trying to shoot the dogs playing. Really, I was!

Pasta with marinara the night before the race? Yes. Thank you.

What’s distracting me this morning

Reading bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com is something I look forward to every day. Like my friend Stephen says, ‘His writing is better than what multiple cycling magazines with editors can produce.’ I agree. Yesterday’s post discusses death and how cyclists occupy a middle ground,
‘…the death membrane has extraordinary wicking properties, so sometimes all you need to do is touch it in order to wind up on the other side of it in a puff of vapor like an evaporating bead of sweat.’

On one hand we use every bit of caution available riding to and from where we need to go to avoid death. Then I watch something like the video below (ripped from Trackstar(r) they should put two r’s on there Gangstarr style) and I see how others walk right up to it and say, ‘I don’t give a shit, I’ll tailwhip out of a manual and 360 both ways down stairs.’


HooDoo 500 this weekend

The HooDoo 500 ultra-distance cycling race is this weekend. For a variety of reasons Nicolas, Brian, Jack and myself, our team that raced last year,will not be making the trip to Utah. I am really bummed! It’s a great race on a beautiful course. Our hope was to race for 1st this year in the 4-person team division, but that will have to wait. Check out the webcast and think about how nice it would be to spend the weekend road riding in Utah.

Last year’s finish line photo

stop 4- Philadelphia, PA

An amazing thing happened here. I was in Philly and ate none of the following:

soft pretzels from the pretzel factory
vegan chinese

Our total time there was probably only 12 hours. We saw my good friend Mary who recently collaborated with her husband on a project to produce a new person called Jayna. She is a combination of both their genes. When Jayna is the same age as Mary was when I met her the year will be 2029. Will one of the Bush twins be President? I hope Jayna has a couch I can crash on when I am in town.

Hipster Fixster Mixer

I tend to find most ‘anti-hipster’ rants as annoying as what is being ranted against. Yes, everyone hates to have their particular obscure sub-culture invaded and exploited by those who are deemed ‘less committed’, but the term ‘hipster’ is thrown around with such reckless abandon that you seemingly cannot ride a bike, listen to music, wear fitting clothes or glasses, eat at outside restaurants or have a beard without being labeled a hipster. It’s like Trotskyists arguing with Anarcho-Syndicalists: the differences are so obscure and open to debate that arguing, instead of working with the 99% of the population who doesn’t give a shit about any of it, is a waste of time.

But (there is always a ‘but’), I love this article: Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization in Adbuster’s Magazine.

This quote says it best:
‘An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it.’

Has everything new already been created and turned inside out? Is this it? I doubt it.

Thanks to Joshua at Discerning Brute for pointing me toward this article.

stop 3- Bethlehem, PA

The obligatory Vegan Treats photo (peanut butter cup cheesecake!)

trip playlist:
Chokehold, Content With Dying
Ignite, Call on My Brothers
The Get Up Kids

Wed night- Attempted to ride Jordan Woods with my long-time BMXer turned flat-track racer friend Mark, but had some mechanicals and darkness. Rode through Allentown in the dark sort of street riding.

One of Mark’s bikes

Thursday- Salsibury Mountain in am with John from Action Wheels and John from Steel City Tattoo. Fuuuuuuun. Some BMX-y sections with berms and drops, fast parts, tight turns and packed dirt. Good times. Thanks Johns!

Attempt to ride trails behind Lehigh in pm, but Steevo hit a grey chain over a grey road that should not of been there. He kept all of his teeth, but we still had to fix his face. See his post (with photos) about it or my previous post.

Friday- Jacobsburg Park in am. This is where I rode when I was in High School, also on a rigid! Really fast-packed over-maintained trails. Got a little lost in the rain. Didn’t matter. In the parking lot a kid in a Audi recognizes me from BMX. Small world.