Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stage 3 - Trona to Furnace Creek (Disaster)

THE ORIGIN OF PEOPLE (Death Valley, California. Shoshoni)
Part 3 - When Coyote got to the other side he found a tree and made himself a bow. He took green stringy stuff from the water, which he put on the back of his bow instead of sinew. He made the bow string of the same thing. Then he found some cane, made arrows, and began to shoot ducks. He took the ducks to the woman's house.

This stage has been the most difficult stage for me to document. It’s difficult because I was incoherent for a large portion of it. It’s further complicated because I have been either unwilling or unable to recall the details of this near race-ending disaster. It seemed like things were going great until I made a huge blunder in the Panamint Valley.

My spirits and my energy level were high as I rolled out of the time station in Trona. The waning glow of the desert sunset held just enough light for me to rail off of the foot of the Slate Range and drop into the Panamint Valley depression. I felt glued to the road on that that descent; I made a high speed pass that I'll never forget. Just before the 6:00 P.M. daylight riding cutoff, the evening sun spread across the valley casting the shadow of the Argus Range on the Panamints to the east. Shortly after my crew hooked me up to the lights, the Panamint Range quickly turned from a soft evening glow to a hard charcoal silhouette against a backdrop of ten billion stars.

Approaching the Trona Wildrose Road, I contemplated the prospect of staying awake for the next thirty hours. My mind was awash with the thought of riding through the night. I considered that caffeine laced Tropical Hammer Gel packs were the logical choice for an all nighter; a mere 100 calories and 25 mg of caffeine each. At that crucial moment in my 508, I neglected to take into account that my stomach already had plenty of calories. I slammed the gel pack and looked ahead to the climb that I had dreamed about for more than three years; Townes Pass is generally considered the crux climb of the Furnace Creek 508.

After I made the turn onto the Panamint Valley Road, my stomach started to feel queasy. The jarring ride through the valley got worse and worse with each passing mile; my queasy stomach got worse with each passing minute. It wasn’t long before I made a panic stop and threw up.

The next choice that I made was probably the most damaging decision that I made during this three year journey. Empting my stomach of the excess calories made me feel good again. My queasy stomach was gone and my reaction was to immediately get back on the bike and ride. That worked for a little while. But as my body burned through my last remaining reserves, my pace slowed and a paralyzing fog filled my head.

Right after the turn onto Highway 190, I think that I fell off my bike. I vaguely remember seeing my bike in the dirt as I shivered myself into the van. I was so cold. I couldn’t put words together to form a sentence.

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