Screening of 2006 Fixed Gear Furnace Creek 508

Yesterday I turned 35 years old and pointed out to an also-recently-35 friend that we are the same distance in time to 50 as we are from 20.  Wrap your mind around that for a minute. If that doesn’t make you turn off your computer and run off to do something more productive, I’ll continue below.

Turns out that time is rather hard to put into perspective as this insanely helpful and great article with gradually increasing timelines shows. I’m feeling especially nostalgic because the weekend after this one is the Furnace Creek 508 and we are bringing back Team Bonobo: The 2006 four-person fixed gear team.


We were fixie famous before fixie famous was a thing. –Megan Dean

There’s even a documentary by Sasha Perry, the smarts behind our Day in the Life of Vegan Athletes series.


As an excuse to get together, hang out with friends at Golden Saddle Cyclery and eat Pure Luck burritos, we are hosting a screening of Eat! Sleep? Bikes! Thursday Oct 3rd at 630pm. If you are in the LA area I hope you can make it. It’s a free event with great people. I’d also like to point out that 2006 was as far in the past as 2020 is in the future. I imagine by 2020 we’ll be racing hover bikes and that predictive text will be good enough to just read my mind and I won’t have to put words in a certain order in my head or actually have to type them any more.

I’ve taken some time off from the 508 after racing it solo 3 years in a row. Two of those years involved swimming at either the pre-race meeting or the halfway point. Let’s see if we can work that in somewhere this year. If we finish, 3 of us will be in the Furnace Creek 508 Hall of Fame. I’m not sure if there’s a distinction related to swimming.


2010 Pre-race meeting. Photo by Lisa Auerbach.
2010 Pre-race meeting. Photo by Lisa Auerbach.


Thanks for reading! You can follow the race webcast here. Also, don’t forget that the No Meat Athlete book comes out October 1st and there’s a book tour; I’ll be along for some of the dates including this vegan book fair in Los Angeles.


Third Solo Furnace Creek 508 Finish!

(Background on this year’s Furnace Creek 508 here)

There are a lot of lessons in 508 miles. No matter how many times I do this race, there’s always so much I don’t know and so much still to learn about myself. Case in point: hallucinating riding up Salsberry Pass. Some say the desert is empty, I say it is full of plenty of stuff, some real, some not. The rattle snake that sent Dave running? Real. I heard that rattler from 20 feet away! The Golden Retriever with floppy ears on the side of the road panting because of the heat? Not real. I saw it, smiled at it, but knew it wasn’t real. Does that make it less of a hallucination?

This climb last year, at about mile 300, came after the insane headwinds. I raced up it. This year it was earlier in the morning, but I was taxed at this point. Yes, it is possible to undertrain. This ride taught me that! Anyway, I was having so much trouble staying awake that the van pulled next to me off and on just to check on my level of awakeness (which ranged from able eyes open and not hallucinating to full-on eyes closed falling asleep while pedaling). A four-person team passed me and not long after I looked up and said to Dave, ‘Whoa, what are all of those lights up there?’ It was the support vehicle. Again, I knew this, but not until after I said that. Dave was concerned.

At the top of the climb they gave me some potatoes cause I hadn’t eaten much on the long climb (everything tasted super duper dry- had trouble swallowing. From all the black tea? Anyone ever experience this?). They also let me in the van to sit and eat, which I would learn later was some drama amongst the crew. On the ride home Monday I was told the conversation went something like this:

Lisa: Why’d you let him in the van? He’s not suppose to get in the van for any reason.
Sabrina: He needs to eat! And sit! It’s okay.
Lisa: It’s not okay! Morgan said to never let him in the van under any circumstances!
Sabrina: He’s a human, damnit, he needs some comforts!
Lisa: He’s not human, he’s a machine and he needs to keep going!!

Meanwhile I had fallen asleep while eating. I woke up with half chewed potatoes in the my mouth and had no idea what they were. At least Dave saw the face I made which can best be described as the face one would make upon waking up with an unidentified substance in his mouth.

Needless to say, they decided it was unsafe for me to ride the fast, long descent into Shoshone, in the dark, while I was unable to stay away on my own accord. I laid down to sleep for 30 minutes, which would be the longest sleep I had ever had on this race.

After waking up and starting the descent my bike had a crazy death wobble. It was so bad I could barely control it in order to slow down. Scary.

What could possibly cause that? Notice I’m running two different Mavic wheels. I’d been having weird noises with my rear and it turned out to be the Patented Mavic Death Squeal. So I was running my old rear wheel, but we never figured it out and it didn’t happen again. Lots of flex in my frame though. Getting it checked out this weekend…

The hardest stage of this race: the 56 miles from Shoshone to Baker. False flat, headwinds, expansive, unchanging scenery. Miles 325-381. Misery.
Right after this photo I resorted to wasting time by sorting out my arm and leg warmers/coolers. Very slowly. I didn’t realize what I was even doing, but my crew did. After the race they’d tell me, ‘We let you do it once. But we weren’t about to let you sit and waste time again. Luckily you didn’t try to.’
The crew asked if there was anything I needed, still on that painful Shoshone to Baker section. I said, ‘Yeah a list of reasons I shouldn’t quit.’ Was I serious? Yes. I wanted to quit. I won’t lie like I’ve some deeply seated sense of triumph or courage that pushed me on. I wanted to quit because it was hard. The reasons on this list, even before I saw them, did push me on.

Wild Burros 4-person team passed me here and I’d never see them again.

Feeling better. Less hot.
I slept again in Kelso. Unheard of! At this point I just want to finish. Beautiful skies on the second to last big climb. Within 100 miles.
Sheephole Summit and the last leg, on paper, look horrible. But I embrace it. It’s cooler. The end is in sight. I love riding in the evening. I push on. Tired, but not falling asleep. It’s kind of quiet on the roads. Last year I somehow passed four solo riders on this section. Not this year. I passed a few stopped on the side of the road and wouldn’t be passed by any. Though someone threatened at the end and I wouldn’t believe my crew. ‘We are not fucking with you!! Seriously, someone is coming, ride faster!’ is what I heard at like mile 503. Ugh. Okay!
I couldn’t think of anything funny to do this year at the finish, like last year. Though Kostman did say, ‘Alright, your slowest one yet!’ which I took in stride.
I’m posting the crew+rider finish photo again cause it’s so important. We stumbled into our hotel ‘cottage’, I ate, showered, ate again and fell asleep on top of the covers with all of my clothes on…

I bet the Swarm! 4-person team Wild Burros $80 that they couldn’t close the two hour gap between the solo and team starts. I lost, this is me paying them at the post-race breakfast. They did great! On a good day I could have fended them off, but not with the ride I had.

This is the post post-race-breakfast breakfast in Joshua Tree with 3 of the 4 Swarm! teams.

Thanks so so much to my crew: Dave, Sabrina and Lisa for being SO awesome and supportive. You took a whole weekend to help me ride my bike 500 miles, not many people would do that. You rule. And special thanks to Lisa for all the photos.

“ Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.”
– Polly Berends
I stole this quote from here, which is a blog I found after BikeSnob posted her VEGAN neck tattoo. I guess there’s some learning there. Or something.

Furnace Creek 508 some photos

All photos by Lisa Anne Auerbach unless otherwise noted.
This pool was right next to the pre-race meeting and I couldn’t resist! Better to swim now than at mile 254 of the race, like I did last year!? Stress reducing.

At the start. I know what I’ve gotten myself into, but do they?

Obligatory devil-horns. Photo by AdventureCORPS.

The clouds and storms kept the temps low at the expense of the usual first day tailwinds.

The crew had a lot of this. Looking and waiting.

And then lot of this: bottle hand-off.


Trona bump. Here I’m wondering why I’m so far behind last year’s time. It was the less favorable winds. What a difference! I was getting sore and tired and I hadn’t reached 200 miles or Townes Pass yet.

Approaching Townes Pass, elevation 4956ft, the entrance to Death Valley. Mike Sz rode this section for the Wild Burros team and would later say it was the hardest thing he has ever done.

I’ll keep posting photos and short stories to break all of this down. I bike commuted yesterday with a heavy bag and it was confirmed that I do indeed have the worst saddle sores I have ever had.

some 2010 Furnace Creek 508

Well I finished! So many experiences out there that words never seem enough. My crew and the other racer/crews are such a huge part of this, too. Wow and thank you is all I can muster right now. This was the hardest one yet. Here are some photos, stories to come. The AdventureCORPS webcast has photos, videos, splits, results, etc and the Swarm! twitter has a rich timeline as does the hash code #fc508.

Furnace Creek 508 all weekend

Tomorrow is the 27th edition of the Furnace Creek 508 aka The Hell of West aka The Toughest 48 Hours in Sport!!

I’m racing solo. Again. Third year in a row. I’ve written about this race enough that it has its own tag. Check out this post from last week for my history with the race including links to reports, etc. My close friend Morgan ‘Goat’ Beeby, the first of our crew to race this, wrote a great story about his experience as my Crew Chief on my first solo race which gives an idea of what it’s like out there.

I’m so stoked and feel incredibly privileged to have the health, ability and resources to even attempt this race. The days leading into the race are very stressful- the logistics are complicated (and expensive!!) and that feeling of not having trained enough will wake you up at night! But the day before I feel a peace with it all and just can’t wait to get to that start line.

Racing fixed gear in 2006. This seems so long ago!

Let’s go to my favorite format of all time- FAQ’s- to cover what all this is about. Thanks for reading and think of me riding all day on Saturday. And Saturday night when you go to sleep. And Sunday morning when you wake up. And hopefully when you’re eating dinner Sunday night I’m crossing the finish line…

Can I follow the race online?
Yes. I’m updating the Swarm! Twitter when we can. My time splits will be posted here as part of the AdventureCORPS webcast. This is the page to follow! Photos, videos and updates will be posted all morning. My pre-race mug shot will be up by tonight!

What’s this ‘Desert Locust’ thing about?
Instead of a number you get an animal totem that is yours for life! I’m Desert Locust, but last year I was Dessert Locust which is the dessert totem of my animal totem. This year I’m a combination of both and the jpeg above is the sign that must be on all four sides of the support van.

Do you ride the whole thing yourself?
Yes. Every mile. You can race team as I did in 2006 where you switch at every time station. About 80 of the 200 racers are solo.

Is it a race or just a long ride?
The fastest folks finish in under 30 hours. That’s a 17 MPH average over 508 miles and 35,000 feet of elevation gain! The time limit is 48 hours. National Geographic Adventure (RIP) called it the 8th hardest race in the world.

Do you race it?
Ugh. Sort of? I got tenth last year, only cause faster folks dropped out in the 50+ MPH winds in Death Valley and my crew had the tenacity to push me on. It was actually much uglier than that, but I’ll spare you the details of puke and piss.

Do you have a crew?
Yes. Three friends are in a support van with the job of keeping me going with food, water and motivation. This year I have a totally rookie crew! They are in for an adventure as well. Dave Vandermaas, Lisa Auerbach and Sabrina Ovan. Thank you so much!
They ‘leapfrog’ me all day Saturday and follow me directly over night passing me water and food.

finish line photo with crew and desserts in 2009

What do you eat?
A combination of fruit like bananas and apples, liquid foods like Sustained Energy, bars, gels and mini-burritos. Peanut butter on tortillas, pretzels, and chocolate covered espresso beans are my secret weapon based on my 7-year, $65,000 education in nutrition.

Do you sleep?

In 2008 I slept 15 minutes at daybreak on Sunday. In 2009 not at all.

Does your butt hurt?
Yes. And then it stops hurting. And then it hurts again. But you know what? Anything worth doing involves some pain and suffering.

Is going down hill really fast awesome?

Why is water wet? Why is the sky blue? I’m drawn to the physical and mental ends of this body I live in, I think. And I happen to be good at riding a bicycle for long periods of time, so this is the best way for me to do this! The answer to this question varies depending on my mood too. I love to travel from A to B, I love California and really, because I can.

Specific motivation this year?
5-time RAAM winner Jure Robic was killed while cycling near his home in Slovenia last week and that weighs heavily on my mind. Death is real, folks. RadioLab has a fitting good-bye. Also friends and specifically my girlfriend who are overcoming their own struggles, will motivate me through the night. Considering what lots of people have to deal with every day, having to pedal my bicycle, something I love, can’t be that bad. Right?

Any other Swarm! vegan racers?
Max and Brian from the 2006 fixed gear team Bonobo are racing as a 2-person team: Emperor Tamarin

Megan (also from Bonobo), Sasha (who made the documentary from the 2006 race), Jacob and Mike Sz are a 4-person team: Wild Burros!

New friends which I met at 508 last year Jeff (pro coach) and Cara (PRO) are a 2-person team: Godwit attempting to beat the 2-person mixed record of 27:34:29!!

What can I do to help?
Ride a bike for trips under 4 miles. Eat vegan when you can. Realize that your actions do matter. And, secondly, you can txt, tweet, email or facebook me with words of support and my crew will pass it on, when they can.

Can you post an awesome Hip Hop video to get me stoked?


When is summer over?

That is the question, my friends. When school starts up again? Labor Day? The Solstice? It’s impossible for me to write anything about ‘this past summer’ just yet, so in my mind it continues, yet I know Fall is upon us. How? Well, teaching started up so I’m now required to be somewhere at least twice a week. Also, like five of the previous six Septembers, I’m preparing for the Furnace Creek 508.

In 2005, I was Crew Chief for Morgan ‘Goat’ Beeby as he shattered the What Is Possible glass ceiling and finished what we thought was an impossible race.

In 2006 I was privileged to be on the 4-person fixed gear team- Bonobo with all of 2005’s crew. We raised money for Bonobo Conservation Initiative and even had a little film made about it by our good friend Sasha (who, btw, is racing this year on a 4-person team!).

In 2007 I flaked and didn’t race, but still wrote about it and even went to the finish. I did a little research project on Brian ‘Emperor Moth’ Davidson since he was completely raw vegan at the time that ended up being a poster at a conference.

In 2008 I raced solo for the first time as Desert Locust and the only posts on my blog for the whole month are about it! It was hard. Very hard. That’s the problem with hanging out with exceptional people: you tend to forget how crazy/hard this stuff can be! I learned though. And apparently didn’t have too hard a time because….

In 2009 I raced solo again as Des[s]ert Locust. It was windy. Like 2.5 hours to ride 17 miles windy. Yeah. But I finished and felt good about it. Good enough that….

In 2010 I’m racing solo again. It’s crazy, I know. Why? Not sure. I’m not in as good of shape as last year, so that’s concerning. I’ll write more about my 508 preparation in the next (gulp) 12 days before the race. I have a 100% rookie crew so I may even post some of my prep stuff as I acclimate them and share the info with a few of the rookies that are on the 4-person Swarm! team Wild Burros.

My goal, which is lofty, but do-able, is to write about the forgotten adventures of summer 2010 before the race. I’ve got the other AdventureCORPS event the Rough Riders Rally, my San Francisco to Los Angeles 3-day bike tour, the Shenandoah 100 mountain bike race and probably some others that at the moment I really did forget! I’ve a queue of a half a dozen drafts in blogger as I write this! Also have a potential guest post on a blog that is much more popular than my own and an announcement about how this blog will be changing in the future. Wow! I may be busier now than in summer. I can’t complain though, can I? Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more adventures with you.

Commitment is scary, but exciting

Hello and congratulations!

You have been selected to compete in the 27th Anniversary Furnace Creek 508 on October 2-4, 2010, “The Toughest 48 hours in Sport.” You are part of a select group who will participate in this world-famous spiritual odyssey through Death Valley and the Mojave Desert. We look forward to sharing the experience with you!

Furnace Creek 508 wrap-up

background on this year’s race here.

It’s never easy to write about these kind of events. Yes, I rode for a long time, it was difficult and I’m stoked on the accomplishment. But the adventure, camaraderie and even spiritual (yeah, I wrote it, what?) parts can barely be articulated. My crew: Morgan, Max and Chris, were so exceptional and supportive and best of all super fun! Around 1am, as we traversed Death Valley into 40 MPH winds, the van rolled up next to me at 5 MPH, my average speed for most of the night, just in time for me to see Chris puke out the window. Quite a sight with the winds! Did it slow him down as a valuable crew member? Nope. We laughed about it. Spent a lot of time laughing, even more so when conditions were worse. And that’s what I love about ‘being out there’. The bike is merely a medium, as I’ve said before.

Pre-wind, average speed of almost 20 mph through 254 miles

I did have some important goals for this race. One was getting up Townes Pass (the 11-mile climb into Death Valley) in the light in order to 1) have less time for car-sick prone Chris to have to follow behind 2) do the 50 MPH descent a little more safely. The extra benefit was the stunning beauty of the sunset. This is my favorite time to ride. Another goal was to swim at the Furnace Creek Inn at mile 254, which we did successfully. Though eight fewer minutes swimming and I would gotten 9th. Haha. It was worth it. I tried to make up the time by bunny-hopping the cattle guards (did 4 of 5).

I recommend reading the AdventureCORPS post-race write-up and this story on Charlie Engle who owns the the record for fastest combined Badwater ultra-marathon and Furnace Creek 508 in the same year. He’s articulated the course and race very well.

Thank you guys!

Nutrition/food post coming soon. Thanks for reading. Have a fantastic weekend and be thankful for your health and ability to do all we do.

Dessert Locust, the alter-ego of Desert Locust, which is the alter-ego of….

What are the chances? Chris makes the amazing dessert locust signs for the support van and uses photos from my friend Danielle’s bakery Vegan Treats for my second year racing the Furnace Creek 508 solo. The day before the race a mutual friend of ours returns from a trip to Pennsylvania and brings me a peanut butter cup brownie, one of the desserts on our signs! I’d say unbelievable, but really, when you set out to do fun/silly things, the world responds positively and next thing you know you have a great photo op:

Every Furnace Creek 508 racer gets a pre-race mugshot.

Photographer: You know there is only one ‘s’ in ‘desert’ right?
Me: Uh, yeah. I’m writing dessert.
Photographer: (cocked head, stares puzzlingly)
Me: I’m going to be eating this dessert in the photo as well, if that’s cool.
Photographer: Uhm, okay.

vegan chocolate raspberry blondie bar finish to complete the circle of desserts.

And has anyone mentioned that it was windy? Like 40+ mph and 8 hours to ride 45 miles? Just thought I’d mention that part. I’m going to do a more thorough write-up this year and discuss non-dessert related nutrition, etc. My crew was so so supportive, I can’t thank them enough. Same with the encouragement I received from friends, family, other races through this blog, facebook, etc. This is only a bike race, but having so many people ‘with me’ is incredible and I’m extremely fortunate. Thank you!