2009 Furnace Creek 508 Race Report
Version One, October 8, 2009

By Chris Kostman

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." - Teddy Roosevelt


Click here for the webcast archive from the 2009 Furnace Creek 508, "The Toughest 48 Hours in Sport"! This year's webcast was the most comprehensive and the most quickly and continuously updated in race history, thanks to Anna White Rabbit Leeg and the time station staff and photographers!

Click here for splits and results.

Click here to watch the Race Wrap-Up Video by Rachel Schmitt, Lauren McMahon, and Angel Rincon (be sure to click the button to watch it full-screen)


Furnace Creek 508 was recognized as one of the world's ten toughest races by National Geographic Adventure Magazine this year. It's sister event, also held in Death Valley and also hosted by AdventureCORPS, the Badwater Ultramarathon, was noted as THE toughest.

The race began on October 3, 2009 with the traditional California Highway Patrol escort, followed by excellent tailwinds as the racers sped north through the Mojave Desert. A full moon would rise that evening. On Saturday, the high was 82 degrees, but that would rise to 90 degrees at night in Death Valley.

Turning east onto Towne Pass, the 10-mile, 5000 foot ascent which is the entryway to Death Valley, the began to blow in a less favorable direction. By the time the racers started to traverse Death Valley proper, near the giant sand dunes at Stove Pipe Wells, the wind was blowing a steady 30mph from the south, with sand blowing across the road like a river.

As the race route turned due south on the way to Furnace Creek (the halfway mark) and beyond to Badwater, the wind was blowing straight in the racers' faces at 30mph or faster, with gusts up to 50 to 60mph. Some racers walked their bikes into the wind. Many averaged no more than about 5mph through the night. Race leaders required over six hours to cover the 73 miles from Furnace Creek to Shoshone. The wind truly terrorized the competitors in this year's race, easily outblowing the "thermonuclear headwinds" of the 2004 race.

Chris Ram Ragsdale, 32, of Seattle, WA led the race to Furnace Creek, just barely, then fell to second during the worst of the wind conditions, with three-time champion Michael Alpine Ibex Emde, 39, of Spokane, WA taking the lead. At Baker, mile 383, Ragsdale decided he would catch Emde by the top of the twenty-mile climb into the Mojave National Preserve. Ragsdale passed through the Kelso time station a mere one minute behind Emde, then was just 15 seconds back at the final time station at Amboy. Shortly thereafter, he made his move and took the lead, putting 15 minutes on Emde on the final climb up Sheephole Summit.

Ragsdale's victory, with a time of 29:10:31, represents a five year effort: 9th in 2005, DNF in 2006, 2nd last year, then the victory in 2009!

Michael Alpine Ibex Emde took 2nd in 29:47:34 and has the strongest 508 career record yet: 3rd in 2005, 1st in 2006 06, 2007, and 2008, and then 2nd in 2009. He earned his Furnace Creek 508 Hall of Fame entry, too, with his 5th finish in 2009.

Rookie of the Year honors went to third-place finisher Brian American Kestrel Ecker, 37, of Bellingham, WA with a time of 33:14:06. Ecker left 100% of himself out on the race course; at the finish line he required over 90 minutes to ready himself to receive his finisher's medal and jersey.

Note that the top three male solo finishers are from Washington State. What's up with that, California???

Charlie Water Dragon Engle, 47, of Greensboro, NC took 4th solo in 33:19:25 and broke the ten year old Death Valley Cup record set in 2000 by Kaname Sakurai by one hour, 20 minutes. Engle was 1 hour, 12 minutes faster at the 2009 508 than his first effort in 2007. He was also 1 hour, 58 minutes faster at the 2009 Badwater Ultramarathon than in 2007.

Women's winner Leah Mighty Mouse Goldstein, 40, a dual citizen of Canada and Israel, is a professional cyclist, racing for Team ValueAct. She is the current Israeli national champion in the road race and time trial. At the finish line she stated "I've competed in the Tour de France, the World Championship, National Championship, and many other races and can honestly say that the Furnace Creek 508 is the toughest, hardest race I've ever done." Her time was 35:01:50, also placing her 6th overall among all the solos.

19-year-old Nick Hollon of San Diego, CA, who also completed the Badwater Ultramarathon this year, crossed the line in 44:06:44, the youngest ever Death Valley Cup finisher and in his first bicycle race!

US Navy SEAL and two-time Badwater Ultramarathon finisher David Goggins, 34, of San Diego, CA, had heart surgery in May. He finished the 508 in 41:45:58, in 17th place, in his first 508 appearance.

The 2x teams were led by 50+ Team Ratel, comprised of four-time finisher Doug Patterson, 49, of Orange, CA along with his rookie teammate David Elsberry, 58, of Laguna Niguel, CA, with a time of 33:06:50. Not only did they win the 2x division, but Patterson (AKA Polar Bear) notched his fifth finish and thus his Hall of Fame membership. Close on their heels in 33:13:53 was the first place 2x mixed team, Team Godwit, Cara Gillis and Jeff Lawler.

4x men's team Bloodhound, with three veterans on board, placed first among the 4-rider team with a time of 28:59:29.

4x female team Hammer Frogs, fueled with Hammer Nutrition, finish in 32:39:33! Lee "Maggot" Mitchell was their lucky, hard-working crewchief.

For those with the courage and commitment to rise to the challenge, Furnace Creek 508 has a category for everyone. This year's race included 2x and 4x tandem teams, 2x classic bike teams, 2x fixed gear teams, 2x recumbent teams, and more. More details to follow in the full, official Race Report! Meanwhile, here are some stats:

179 racers began the race.

There were 59 solo, 52 on 2x teams, 68 on 4x teams.

15 US states and 4 Canadian provinces were represented, along with seven countries or nationalities.

There were 148 males and 31 females.

There were 92 rookies and 87 veterans.

98 of 120 team racers finished = 81.67%, the worst since 2000. The historical team finishing average is 94% (908 of 966 team entrants).

29 of 59 solos finished = 49.1%. That is the lowest finishing rate in a decade (finishing averages went up when the race organizers implemented a selection process, rather than first come, first serve, to determine the race field). The historical solo finishing average is 58.6% (638 of 1088 entrants) after 25 races on this race route.


I want to extend a huge THANK YOU to all the volunteers from the recent 26th Anniversary Furnace Creek 508. Thanks to all the wonderful folks who worked so hard on behalf of this historic and exciting event!


Chief Warren Stanley, Lt. Ralph Elvira, and Officers Scott Wall, Joe Dominguez, Toby Williams, Rick Miller, Peter Bishop, Michael Gubolli, and Brian Kazal of the California Highway Patrol for their superb traffic safety efforts on Saturday morning.

Time Station Staff
TS1, California City: Terry and Sherry Hutt; Ian and Simone Kelly
TS2, Trona: Chris Flying Fish Frost and Cindi PitSnake Staiger
TS3, Furnace Creek: Jack Blackbird Boschler and his daughter Hannah
TS4, Shoshone: Doug Goodwin, Bruce Carl, and Chris Flying Fish Frost
TS5, Baker: Tom Parkes, Alex Trejo, and Gloria Castro
TS6, Kelso: Glen and Linda Tebo
TS7, almst Amboy: Bruce Gungle

John Hawk Marino
Rick Amoeba Anderson
Cindi PitSnake Staiger
Tom Parkes
Graham Python Pollock
Jeff Jaguar Martin and Jo Carmichael
Chris Flying Fish Frost
Jim Kern and David Bradley
Doug Dog Sloan and Jeff bell with Chris Kostman

Video: Rachel Schmitt, Lauren McMachon and Angel Rincon

Photography: Dave and Margaret Nelson, Ron Jones, Anna Leeg

Start Line Support in Santa Clarita: Charlie Chimpanzee Marko, Candis Marko, Bicycle John's, Kerin Huber, Renee Smith, Wayne and Shelby Kostman.

Finish Line: Doug Dog Sloan, Jeff Brown Bear Bell, Jeff Jaguar Martin, Jo Carmichael, Rick Amoeba Anderson, Cindi PitSnake Staiger, and staff

Director of Peace and Prosperity: Elizabeth Jefferson

Race HQ and Webcast: Anna White Rabbit Leeg


Special thanks to Hammer Nutrition, Bicycle John's, Moeben Sleeves, Hilton Garden Inn of Santa Clarita, Furnace Creek Ranch, and the Best Western Gardens Inn of Twenty Nine Palms for their support!