I finally had the opportunity to race in the Silver State 508, and I had the honor to represent Owl Be Back. Our dear friend Ellen, who was killed in a bike accident earlier this year, wanted to do the SS 508 (after seeing an all woman team compete last year). So in honor of Ellen Le, I dedicated this race to her, as I know if she were still with us, she would be doing this.
It’s the first time racing on a team, so I went into this not having any expectations, as I didn’t know what to expect with this. It’s funny how this all started too … We were hanging out at Mountain Mike’s in Saratoga, and Owl Be Back had only 3 members, and needed a 4th. Everyone looked at me, and they pretty much asked if I wanted to do it. I paused for about 2 seconds, and I said “Sure, why not … I’ve got nothing better to do in September”. LOL
I took a week off (even though it would only take a couple of days), but I wanted to just clear my mind off of work, and just enjoy the experience of the 508. I know there is a lot of history with this event, and I didn’t want to completely embarrass myself (being the rookie in this type of event).
When we got to Reno, there was this ominous smoky air hovering over us. The race would still go on, but the air quality was a big concern. Hopefully, it wouldn’t follow us, as we go inland east towards Eureka.
We decided to go with two support vans, with 2 riders supported per van. The idea is to keep someone moving on the course, while the crew, and team, can get sleep (when the race goes into the evening and the early morning, in the dark).
Brian would be the first to go, and it would have to be a long leg, as we did not have the chance to transition to another rider until the 30 mile mark. After that, we proceeded with a rotation of taking 30 minute pulls. Memo, then Nancy, then myself, followed by Brian again.
The tricky part was getting the hang of passing the transponder (or baton). Easiest thing was to transfer it to the next rider’s jersey pocket, except when I passed it on to Brian, he doesn’t have a jersey, so no pocket to transfer it to. We had to just have it place it in his bag under his top tube. However, we got the groove of this, so that didn’t become an issue.
We did run into some challenges. First, the blinkers on Paul’s van wouldn’t blink. We think there may be a short somewhere, because if we bounce the blinker, it would blink again, until we hit a bump on the road. Second, and the one that gave us more anxiety, was the van had a problem starting (most likely because the battery on the key fob was low on battery. After a few re-tries, it did start. We were able to find a new battery, but when we replaced it, we couldn’t get the remote to lock/unlock. So we had to make sure, no matter what happened, don’t turn the engine off (at least not until we get back to Reno). Then on Dzung’s van, the blinker wouldn’t blink at all. He had to stop off at an auto parts store, to get a new one, which meant we had to alter our rotation for one turn. Such are the ordeals of crewing a ride .. you can do all you can to prepare, but then you find out some things you gotta take care of for the next time.
We were doing good time, as we seem to be in the middle of the pack. We would always see the same teams at various time checks, like Sloth Armada, Team Blerch (although they were a 2 man team), it was fun just to chat with the crews of the other teams.
After about 4 rotations, the team seemed to get into a groove. Brian is a good strong climber, while Nancy can climb, but she preferred to not go down the fast long descents. While I love the descents, and love the flat straightaways. Memo has great endurance, and can do long sprints, and hill climbs. One good thing is we didn’t have any mechanical issues, which is always a concern when crewing an event like this.
The climb up Carroll Summit was a beast … somehow I ended up missing most of the climb, although we did transition to me to do the last part of the climb, then continue down for a screaming descent. The crew saved the descent for me … only got up to 44 mph … I can only imagine what speeds a tandem would go down this hill.
As night time came, we increased the time for each pull, from 30 min to 45 min, and when I pulled, it was really dark. At one point, I got about 20 ft of a rabbit, and in my mind, I was hoping he would move … it would be bad to run into the little critter, going 25 mph, but luckily he moved. That was the only real obstacle I came across while riding in the night. Eventually we took our turn driving, so that everyone in the crew could get some sleep. It worked out so well, that when we got to Eureka (the turnaround point), there was no stopping … the next rider up just continued on. We were like a well oiled machine!
We eventually came back to Carroll Summit, from the other side. At this point, Memo was climbing, and the original plan was we would break up that climb into multiple parts. To this point, normally, the other van (driven by Dzung) would wait then pass us right when we would make the transition. However, at this point, he passed us first. We did our direct follow behind Memo up the climb, and we thought we would transition half way up the hill. Well we got to the top, and there was no transition. WTF? We descended down, and no one there … by this time, it started to get light, but it was damn cold (probably got into the mid-30s). Finally about 6 miles before the next turn, we got a cell signal, and got a message “we missed you somehow”. Missed us? How did you miss us … there’s only one road! We made them backtrack. It looks like that one time, where the van went ahead of us, make them mix up the order. Poor Memo … he did yeoman’s work, doing that big climb (was at least 5 miles long), so for the next leg, we skipped his rotation, so that he can get some rest.
Despite that mishap, I don’t think we lost too much time. We kept seeing the same teams at the time checks, so we must have been doing pretty good.
As far as the weather was concerned, the air quality definitely improved once we got passed Fallon. On our return back towards Virginia City, the air quality continued to be good, so we lucked out, in that we didn’t suffer from the smokey air. We also lucked out, as we didn’t get triple digit heat, like we did two weeks ago. However, strong head winds greeted us, as we approached Virginia City from Fallon and Silver Springs.
We split the climb up Six Mile Canyon Climb between myself, Brian, then Memo, who would make the climb up Geiger Summit, then the descent into Reno. Brian had the hard part, going over the 12% grade … just the luck of the draw, I guess.
We got back into Reno, and at the finish at 3:16 pm on Saturday, with an elapsed time of 32:16:00, with an average speed of 15.9 mph. Wow, with this finish, we could have made it to the Journey concert that was playing in Reno.