Stage Two: California City to Trona, 70.25 miles. Elevation Gain: 4212’
I was very eager to get out of the van and onto the bike by the time we reached California City. During Mike’s stage 1, I had discovered the bed in the van was not going to be comfortable for me (translation=back and neck pain). The best place for me was going to be on my bike. Hopped on at TS 1, got the radio and baton from Mike and I was off! It was hot with really no wind. No wind, no worries! Got to do all the work myself this year on this stage- no riding a tailwind. The climbs into Randsburg and Johannesburg were more work than in 2009 but I still managed to pass several riders, at least a few of which were solo stragglers. On the long, straight, “wow, I can see forever” descent into Trona, I was still pedaling with a max. speed of only 31mph..no wind assist this year! Last year I looked down on this descent and saw 52mph. I hammered it into Trona and handed off the radio and baton to Mike.
Stage Four: Furnace Creek to Shoshone, 73.6 miles. Elevation Gain: 6744’
I had not slept very much through the Panamint Valley even though I tried. I tossed and turned on the bed in the van, trying to find a comfortable position which mostly proved elusive. Got up, ate again, chatted with our wonderful crew and watched my husband ride through the desert night. By the time we reached Furnace Creek at 0200, it was 94 degrees and I was 100% pumped. I had been waiting for this moment for an entire year. I got out of the van and there was absolutely NO WIND. Super Tabby was super psyched! Turned on my ipod, got onto Candy and launched down Death Valley. I was hammering my pedals-every stroke was enjoyment, payback, and one step closer to settling a score. I started passing riders, a lot of them! (Not as many as Mike had passed on Towne pass!) I felt strong, powerful, and predatory! Butterfly, a solo female racer, paid me a huge compliment. As I was passing her, she asked if I was a Hammer Frog. I should define Hammer Frog= a member of an almost freakishly strong four-woman team (they are doing RAAM in 2011) I said that no, I was SUPER TABBY! MEEEOWWW.
It felt like almost no time had passed when I reached Badwater. The van wanted to stop to pee. A significant number of solos were stopped there, sleeping, along with their crews. I was still euphoric and anxious to get back on the bike. Last year I DNF’d at the sweeping left bend in the road past Badwater. Here I come, byatch. As I passed the spot, I felt such relief, such a sense of closure. I was finishing this finally. Now for the rest of the stage! As I approached the southern end of Death Valley, the wind came. Not bad, only about 15mph but right in my face. That bitch just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Well, there was absolutely no doubt who was going to win this time. I was evening the score! Once the road turned left at Ashford Mill, I was on the climb out of DV and left that demon behind, disemboweled in it’s death throes on the pavement. I am so done with DV.
Jubilee and Salsberry were not easy, but I could see lightening illuminating the clouds to the east and I plodded on through the pre-dawn morning. When I finally reached Salsberry summit, I put on some armwarmers and a vest and summoned my descending mojo. Candy and I went flying down and by now the sun was rising behind some impressively towering thunderheads. Gorgeous oranges and pinks but a few miles later, the rain began. At first it was just spitting and was refreshing. It quickly turned into a deluge of what felt like peeled grapes and progressed to hail. I was soaked to the skin and shivering within 90 seconds. Luckily the van had not leap-frogged all the way to Shoshone yet. I pulled up to it and the crew got me into a dry jersey and into my rain gear, I ate and got back out to complete this wild stage.
Stage Six: Baker to Kelso, 34.90 miles. Elevation Gain: 2920’
After collapsing in the van after stage 4, I finally did sleep briefly until I had to get up and ready myself for stage 6. The van had been leap-frogging every 3 miles for Mike, who was suffering bigtime out in the blast-furnace headwind into Baker. I knew my next stage would be tough. I got out of the van in Baker, a strange crossroads with Hwy. 15 which is a main artery from Las Vegas to LA. It is home to “the world’s largest thermometer” as well as some interesting restaurants. I was too tired and focused to look at the thermometer and I did not need to know what I already felt—it was stinking hot. Took off after getting the baton from a very fatigued Mike and pedaled across Hwy. 15 and onto the infamous Kel-Baker Rd. This stage has a 20 mile climb then 15 mile descent. Seems very manageable on paper but in this heat and especially with this solar exposure, I was hurting very soon. I felt like my brain was melting, even with an ice-filled tube sock around my neck. The so-called road surface was rocks half-way embedded in hard-packed dirt as the road matrix wore away decades ago. I could feel myself really starting to lose focus, so I stopped at the van and rested. After Michele got me to drink some perpetuem/HEED slurry and I had a short, intense sobbing session (thanks, Bernadette, for your shoulder to cry on!), I got back on the bike with surprising clarity and focus. I was pretty happy to reach the summit and to descend as fast as possible into mostly favorable winds, even on the insanely rough road surface. This was my toughest stage. My speed was slow but I kept going thanks to our fantastic crew and I learned that a good cry does wonders for the psyche. I pulled into Kelso and gave the baton back to Mike.
Stage Eight: Almost Amboy to Twenty Nine Palms, 58.2 miles. Elevation Gain: 4170’
The last transition was sloppy as I was not quite ready when Mike reached the Time Station. I got myself together and got riding. Mike had passed our friend David Donkey Jones during his last stage but David passed me at the TS and he ended up finishing about an hour before us. By the time I was beginning the last stage, it was dark and cooling off. I felt stronger and focused. I just wanted to finish this thing! I rode across a valley then up an ~ 10 mile climb to Sheephole Summit. The crew later told me I passed a desert tortoise which was in the road about 6’ from my path, but at night I didn’t notice it. Darn, I guess I’ll have to do this race again so I can see one! I was happy to summit the climb and summoned my descending mojo once again. The road turned right and I knew I had begun the ~ 12 mile slog west into 29 Palms. No worries. I had my ipod on and had been eating and drinking sufficiently so I was calm and riding strong. I was excited that there was once again, NO wind. Nice. The approach to 29 Palms at night is deceptive. You see the city lights long before making the left hand turn which signals less than 10 miles to go. I just kept turning the pedals. Eventually I made the turn and was on the home stretch. For some reason which was probably a combination of toe/butt/neck soreness, I felt myself getting irritable on the last few miles. I tried hard to push through it because that is no way to end something this monumental. Mike got onto his bike and joined me at the KFC which is about a mile from the end. I actually missed the KFC because the sign was dark and the crew had me turn around (!) We rode in together, both swearing we would never do this again… Finally the Best Western was ahead on the left. Good thing there was almost zero traffic in 29 Palms at 1:20am as two very tired cyclists made the left and then the right into the parking lot and up the driveway across the FINISH LINE!!!! Chris Kostman, the race director, was there to welcome us with our new 508 jerseys and medals. Our friends David Donkey Jones and Jason Magical Liopleurodon Pierce as well as Cindi Pit Snake Staiger were there to congratulate us. Lots of pictures were taken with all these exhausted cyclists, then Mike and I headed to our room. That hot shower was one of the best of my life. We slept for about 5 hrs, then got up for breakfast. Mike was already talking about 2011 508 plans by that point. It looks like Super Tabby will crew for her husband, Northern Shoveler, next year. After a week or so of recovery and sleep, I am thinking of 2012.. a 4 woman team! Four tough chicks on bikes :)
It is all good….