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CLIF Blog

Oct. 24, 2007
Paul takes on Furnace Creek
Paul fills us in on the Furnace Creek 508yup...that's 508 miles that he rode all himself. He doesn't like to toot his own horn, so I'll do it for himhe got eighth place.


The race went well. Of course I had the best crew in the world! I can't explain why I was slower than I wanted to be by about 3 hours! But other than that, the ride went well. The highlight for me was riding through Death Valley during the middle of the night with no concept of time, when my crew suddenly started singing happy birthday over the PA system. I then figured out it was midnight and I had totally forgotten it was my birthday. Nice surprise...way better than cake. I finished with the usual sore butt and hot feet, in fact one foot is still numb. The race was an epic experience. I tell people who've never done such a thing that they will go to a place they've never been, and for me, having done the race before, I went to that place again. Hard to describe, you just have to do it for yourself to find out what I mean.

Bill Ellis, my crew chief for the second time, described the race as follows:

I would like to congratulate Paul "Muddy Mudskipper" McKenzie on finishing first place in his age group (50+) and 8th overall! He rode a great race. Although he was obviously suffering in the second half, he never complained, was always cheerful, and ate everything we gave him! He also never stopped racing, up to the finish.

We had one primary competitor during the race. His totem was Gorilla. Up to the time station at Baker (mile 382), Gorilla was with us. There would be times when we'd not see him for awhile and start to think we'd finally lost him, then he'd show up again! Paul was a better climber than Gorilla, but the Gorilla could motor in the flat and lower grade climbs. In the stage from Shoshone to Baker, there's a short, fairly easy grade climb to the Ibex summit. During this climb Paul made a very convincing pass. We dropped the Gorilla...for a while. Then on the very, very long flat section going into Baker, Gorilla attacked back, passing us in a very convincing manner.

All support vehicles need to stop in Baker for gas, as this is the last place to get gas to the finish. As you leave Baker, the route begins a 20-mile climb. The first 10 miles are maybe 3 or 4 percent, then the last 10 miles bump up to around 6 or 7 percent. We figured Paul was going to have his hands full with Gorilla, so we prepared Paul to ride unsupported while we stopped for gas. Gorilla's crew also needed to stop for gas. As we prepared to leave the gas station and catch back up with Paul, we see the Gorilla support vehicle parked at the gas station and non other than the Gorilla himself wandering around, not looking at all like he was in any hurry to catch Paul. Oh well. So much for an exciting duel up the KelBaker climb.

We catch back up with Paul, and for the rest of the race (128 miles) are keeping an eye over our shoulders fully expecting the Gorilla to return. He never did. He apparently abandoned with 50 miles to go. We can only assume that he did himself in trying to spar with the Muddy Mudskipper!

Working with Bob Bradan Redmond and Janet DeHaven supporting Paul was also great. We had very little in the way of technical problems. We had one flat with a wheel swap on his regular bike. Paul was on his TT bike at the time though, so we were able to fix the flat with plenty of time before doing a bike switch. We also had a little incident with the van that had us concerned, but never seemed to become a real problem. Our AC/heater fan stopped working for about 2 hours or so. Then, suddenly it started working again. The van also seemed to emit odors (the van....not us) that didn't exactly instill a good sense of confidence but again, never really gave us a problem.

The number of DNF's this year seems really strange to me. 53% finish rate is the 3rd worst in 10 years. In '04 it was 52%. That year made sense. The winds were unbelievably bad. In '97 it was 51.3%. I don't know what the conditions were that year. But this year there was a fairly strong NE wind that dogged everyone during day one, when the route takes you in a northeast direction, but it wasn't that bad. The temperatures were unusually mild, mostly in the 70's. During the big descents of the second day, Paul needed his jacket and knee warmers, and we gave him hot chocolate...mid-day! Who would ever think HOT chocolate would be appealing mid-day in Mohave during the 508?! So, why there was a 47% DNF rate this year is strange. It would be nice to know what the reasons were, but that info is rarely posted.

In closing, I again congratulate Paul, and my thanks to Bob and Janet for making the van trip enjoyable!

-Bill

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About this Blog

We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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