Furnace Creek 508
An Update from the Original RAAM Qualifier
By Chris Kostman
This annual 508 mile single stage bicycle race through Southern California's Mojave Desert and Death Valley got underway at 6:30am, October 2, 1993. Ahead lay 35,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain, challenging desert terrain, and temperatures upwards of 100 degrees. Altogether, the race field consisted of 27 men, 3 women, 2 tandems, and 3 four person relay teams, representing six States, plus Switzerland and Canada. Divisional favorites included John Hughes, the winner of this race in April of 89, and Team PacifiCare/TREK, the champions of the 93 Team Race Across AMerica.
By the California City checkpoint at mile 84, Frank Goulard, an Ironman triathlete from Portland, OR, who had placed fourth here in '92, had taken the lead. Over the next 50 miles, though, he would become the first of a long string of racers to succumb to stomach and dehydration problems. With Goulard out of the race soon thereafter, Mitchell Lesack of Bristol, PA, took the lead near Trona, the 155 mile mark. First over 5,000 foot Towne Pass, the portal into Death Valley, Lesack would hold onto the lead until past Furnace Creek, the halfway mark and namesake of the race at mile 253. Meanwhile, Emmy Klassen of Ojai, CA, had taken a commanding lead in the women's field, while a team of Canadian triathletes was holding off Team PacifiCare / TREK in the team race.
As the racers sped past such landmarks as Badwater, the lowest point in the Lower 48 at -282 feet below sea level, more were forced to abandon due to dehydration, nausea, and heat exhaustion. But the frontrunners kept the hammer down, with John Hughes taking the lead en route to Shoshone and the two front relay teams trading places regularly. By sunrise Hughes had built a commanding lead over Lesack, Klassen continued to lead the women's race, and the Canadian team was preparing an all-out assault on the team RAAM champions. Hampered by only having one support vehicle and with no support crew (they crewed for themselves), the Canadians, Les Glennie, Mike Stirling, Scott Boyle, and Richard Browne, were waiting for daylight to make their move.
Continuing into the second day, Hughes build his lead over Lesack and the other men, and went on to place first with a time of 32 hours, 24 minutes, 55 minutes, becoming the first two time winner ever in the process. Lesack followed two hours, 36 minutes later, earning a spot in the 1994 Race Across AMerica. Klassen took the women's crown in 39 hours, 17 minutes, 37 seconds, with Jody Groesbeck of Sharon, NH, following two hours, 14 minutes later. The Canadian team managed to upset the favorites, posting a course record time of 25 hours, 13 minutes, 8 seconds, while the Texan team crossed the line a mere fifteen minutes later. The tandem team of Ken Bell and Sue Doss, both of California, became the first tandem ever to complete the course, with a time of 37 hours, 34 minutes, 5 seconds. Finishers of the race received the coveted hammer and jersey awarded to those who survive the race commonly known as "The Hell of the West," the Furnace Creek 508.
1)Total participation: 27 men, 3 women, 2 tandems, 3 teams.
2) Ken Bell & Brian Stark became the event's first three time finishers.
3) Team PacifiCare/Trek was comprised of three of its RAAM team members: George Thomas, Steve Horne, and Will Klein, with Rick Ramos, the team's RAAM mechanic, sitting in for an injured Michael Olstad. Olstad was the team's dominant climber in RAAM, so it would have been interesting to see how the RAAM foursome would have fared at the 508 intact.
4) New this year were the animal totems for keeping track of the riders, rather than hard to remember UMCA numbers. Some riders really got into this, and all, by the end, admitted that it was a fun idea. Reed Finfrock had large, pink, plastic flamingos on top of his support van, while Michael Wilson had giant paper cutout killer whales on the sides of his van and custom "Save the Whale" crew shirts, for example. Totems will be back in 94.
5) Also new this year was the addition of Official Hammerhead Hammers, awarded to all solo and tandem entrants.
6) The Race Magazine has grown to 72 pages and features numerous articles by former 508 entrants. Some are still available for $10, payable to Kostman Sport Group. All 508 entrants are encouraged to submit articles, preferably on Mac disc in MS Word, for the 94 magazine, which will be out in May.
7) The dirt road section after Baker, over which riders have always been driven and then given a twenty minute credit, has been paved over. Thus the course is 3.8 miles longer. In order to keep record-breaking opportunities intact, the course records may be broken by betttering the average speed of those records which still exist and were set prior to this year.
1 John Hamster Hughes, 44, Portola Valley, CA 32:24:55 (hrs:min:sec)
2 Mitchell Lemur Lesack, 35, Bristol, PA 35:01:16
3 John Walrus Williams, 45, San Clemente, CA 37:41:41
4 Jeff Brown Bear Bell, 34, San Francisco, CA 40:39:02
5 Brian Sheep Stark, 45, Paso Robles, CA 41:24:52
6 Reed Flamingo Finfrock, 47, Fillmore, CA 42:18:15
7 Michael Whale Wilson, 48, Saratoga, CA 43:16:28
8 Jude Kiwi Katsch, 32, Felton, CA 44:44:40
9 Erik Newt Nordenson, 53, Concord, MA 46:38:17
10 Mhyee Mouse Mergler, 26, Clinton, MA 47:19:10
Did Not Finish:
Willy Zebra Zuber
Robert Bobcat Babbitt
Richard Hyena Heiss
Rick Anteater Adolf
James Cheetah Chudej
Rob Steelhead Satterthwaite
James Duck DeCaro
Premananda Crawfish Childs
Matt Foxhound Ford
Bernie Cockatoo Comeau
Kevin Wolverine Walsh
Bill Antelope Albers
Frank Gazelle Goulard
Jeff Blue Jay Born
Pat Eaglet Enright
John Orangutan Oliver
1 Emmy Kangaroo Klassen, 35, Ojai, CA 39:17:37
2 Jodi Giraffe Groesbeck, 34, Sharon, NH 41:31:28
DNF: Karen Kingfisher Koppenhaver.
1 Tandem Bighorn: Ken Bell, 45, Roseville, CA 37:34:05 COURSE RECORD
Tandem Bighorn: Sue Doss, 32, Foresthill, CA
DNF: Tandem Snapping Turtles: Rick Stark and E.J. Harpham.
Four Rider Relay Teams:
1 Canada/Gaggle of Geese, Ontario, Canada 25:13:08 COURSE RECORD
-Les Glennie, Mike Stirling, Scott Boyle, and Richard Browne
2 PacifiCare/Trek/Armadillos, Texas 25:28:55
-George Thomas, Will Klein, Steve Horne, and Ric Ramos
3 Cyco-Path/Swarm of Bees, California 30:15:14
-Les Campbell, Herb Fitzpatrick, Chris Simmons, and Randal Mayer