Furnace Creek 508 Recon

I unfurl my yoga mat onto the cool concrete of the patio. I assume Thunderbolt position, sitting on the tops of my feet, and I take a deep breath.

To my left, my road bike, a gear bag, tool bag, backpack filled with electronic devices, cooler bag filled with bottles of Skratch and rice cakes, and miscellany stacked in wait for my crew and team to arrive. Balasana (Child’s pose). Adho Mukha Svasana (Down dog). Trikonasana (Triangle pose). Breathe.

The crew and team are heading to Death Valley to recon the Furnace Creek 508 race course. The 508 race is one month away. The big race, and it still doesn’t feel real. I wonder if my reticence shows, I’ve been here before. Ready to race, but no team with whom to race. Perhaps this time will be different. Perhaps I will actually race the 508. I’m almost ready to race. I need the extra month of intensity and preparation, but I feel ready. My team mate is Noah Kanter, and we’re doing the 2 person relay. The race is comprised of 8 stages, we will ride 4 stages each. The race begins in Santa Clarita and winds through the Mojave Desert, through Death Valley and ends in Twentynine Palms. It’s not an easy course, race, or style. This is suffering.


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My team and crew arrive, finally, and the adventure begins. I’m trying to be easy going, but we’re starting our day awfully late, and all I really would like at this point in time is to be on my bike. I can think of nothing I’d rather be doing than riding my bike. Ron captains the desert-going vessel as we begin our day long adventure.

Crew: Ron Matty. Ron is a father, an amazing athlete, a trainer, and a Greystone trained chef. This is oversimplifying Ron Matty, but suffice it so say that he is a man of giving, a man of heart, courage, great strength and knowledge of ultra endurance events. He is a pacer for some of the best runners in the Angeles Crest 100 mile running race. He is the perfect support for the race such as the 508.

Crew: Laura Smart. Laura Smart was graced with being Milly’s spouse and partner in crime for eleven and a half years. Through that time she supported Milly through various distance events with an emphasis on attitude and optimal food. Laura is currently training at Living Light Institute and hopes to make a career out providing chef services and nutritional to support to athletes and those health challenges. Laura, with her good energy and nutritional know-how, is an essential crew member and will be making up a great deal of the Skratch recipes for the racers for the 508.

Now, we’re on our way to Santa Clarita. Coffee in hand and sunscreen applied.

The group’s enthusiasm drives us forward in spite of not knowing where we’re heading. A quick detour to buy baked potatoes at Wendy’s for Noah gives us time to locate ourselves in relation to the race course. San Fransisquito Canyon is my first leg, and the descent makes my mouth water. I want out. I kit up and ride a portion of the route. It’s well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and I’m pacing myself. I wonder. Am I strong enough? Fast enough? Fit enough? I pedal on with the support crew leapfrogging me– driving up a mile and waiting for me to pass. I’m trying to imagine what it will be like with so many racers and support vans on the course with oncoming traffic and heat and nerves. My imagination can’t keep up, and it’s time for me to crawl back in to the van, rehydrate, eat and plan for the next leg.

Read more at Tonya’s blog, MTBchick.com

Tonya Bray

Sport Chalet expert Tonya (@modmtbchick) is a hardcore outdoors enthusiast. She began mountain biking over 15 years ago riding radical mountain trails in Montana. Today, she races mountain bikes professionally and also enjoys running, motocross, surfing, rock climbing and yoga. However, her true passion is empowering women through cycling.

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