Kyle Pedersen's 2005 Fall Death Valley
Century "Race Report"

by Kyle Pederson

Ray Storm had been preparing all of us for our Saturday Century and Double Century rides since we left Larry's crib in Eastbay on Thursday morning. "Hey Kyle, it's NOT a race", he would say over and over and over again. Ray's "mantra" was a the perfect reminder that allowed our anxieties and fears to be relaxed and relinquished into the vast abyss of the Death Valley desert.

Ray was correct, the Century and Double Century were not "official races." However, the rides did include a mass start, separation of groups based on skill level, and all riders were being timed. Riders were given numbers and we readied ourselves and our bikes behind the start line. "Riders Ready...5.....4....3...2..1." This was obviously not a race ;)

The night before the ride, the crew sat around the fire and identified our individual goals for Saturday's ride. Muscling Matt was the only rider who dared to enter the ominous Double Century. "Sucka Free" Schmide, "Real Meat" Larry, "Raucous" Ray & Kyle all entered the Century. Real Meat and Sucka Free were the Century experts and Muscles was clearly the man with the facts when it came to endurance sports. Raucous and Kyle were to embark on their first Century. We listened to the experts and attempted to soak up as much crucial info as possible.

Larry and Schmide were aiming to improve their 2005 times. Matt was looking to keep the 200 miles under 12 hrs. (I could be wrong on this goal. Matt, correct me if I am wrong). Larry pretty much made my goal for me. Matt asked me what time I was aiming for, "6hrs ?", Matt asked. Larry chimed in in his incredibly confident and commanding voice, "6-hrs.?!? He cannot complete the ride in 6 hours!" Well, there you have it. I was aiming for under 6 hours.

Matt's ride began at 7am and the rest of us went off at 7:30am. Larry dragged us out of the tents at 5:30am. Plenty of time for pee, coffee, food, poop, kit, poop, pee off we go! As we rode to the Start/Finish, we all discovered that none of us had slept well during our first night sleeping in the desert. My air mattress completed deflated mid-sleep, Matt tossed all night, Schmide and Larry chased deer all night and Ray and Rob invented a new olympic sport, sleeping bag wrestling!

We made it to the Start/Finish with some time to spare. Do to our large number of riders, we were introduced to the group as the team from Minnesota! Apparently, Larry knows the organizer very well and the Twin Cities/Minnesota joke has been going on for quite some time. Fortunately, we were not the only ones who had traveled far and wide to the race. We had riders from the UK, NYC, Florida and everywhere in between.

The plan was for all of the Mice to stick together for the first 20-miles. We would spin out together and then see how the "ride" transformed. As soon as we took to the street, Raucous pushed the Mouse to the front. Raucous was obviously looking to control the pace of the ride. Larry barked orders, "Tempo! Tempo!!" Next thing we knew, Schmide was up front taking pulls and Raucous was egging everyone to ride faster. "Kyle, let's attack them on this hill. How about we let them get a gap and then we can bridge up to them?", requested Raucous. Little did we know that Ray was looking to complete 8-miles, not the 108-miles that the rest of us were on the verge of enduring. As the sun rose on our right, I reminded Raucous to enjoy the sunrise and that this was "not a race" ;)

The tempo continued to pick up. By the time we hit the first feed station at mile-17, I was in the lead group of 3 and I had no other Mice in site. (Author's Note: From this point forward, I can only write on my experience. Other riders will have to explain their experiences). The two guys that I was riding with rode pretty strong and we were all sharing the pulls. We filled up on liquids at mile-17 and knew that there would be no more stations until mile-54. Each rider had two water bottles to cover the upcoming 34-miles that we would ride across the desert. Damn, I wish Matt had not broke my new HydraPak ;)

The three of us continued to work together, knowing that we needed one another to survive to the end of the ride. After several miles one of the guys fell off the back. We were now down to two riders with over 70-miles still to ride. Personally, I did not like these numbers. We had way too much ground to cover with too few legs. Just as I was wondering how much longer we would last, I train of 6-riders came roaring up behind us. Now THIS was a paceline. The riders looked like riders and they had legs of steel. My train had arrived!!!

I jumped onto the back of the train and we began cruising. After a little chatting I discovered that this train was the lead group in the Double Century. "DAMN", I thought. These guys had +50-miles on us and they were driving me into the ground! Although it was a tough pace, I knew that if I bailed that I would be totally screwed. I stayed with them and took my pulls.

We eventually reached the beginning of our 3000-ft. gradual climb. Judging by the rise in the road, you would never begin to guess that we would be embarking on a climb that would rise beyond Mt. Tam. We were looking at rollers and gradual climbs. Initially, I let the Double Century crew take their share of pulls and I did the same. All of the other Century riders had fallen off and I was all alone. I had to ride with the Doublers in order to reach the peak (Scotty's Castle).

After about 1000 ft. of climbing, and several dropped Double Century riders, I moved to the front and got out of the saddle and upped the pace a bit. Truly, I got off the saddle to simply change my positioning and to stretch the legs. After a little stretching, I was left riding with only one rider. This guy was super-strong. He had just completed the 508-mile endurance race and he had the course record for the Double Century in Death Valley. We were about the same age and it was nice to be able to chat it up with someone of my age group who was so dedicated to endurance events.

The author leads Jeff Landshark Landauer into Scotty's Castle

The two of us climbed to the peak and reached Scotty's Castle together. Apparently, the food had reached Scotty's Castle five minutes before our arrival. Everyone knew Jeff (the other rider) and cheered him on as he filled his bottle, grabbed some food and took off for his 140-mile remaining. At this point I had to make a decision. Do I wait for other Century riders to reach Scotty's or do I ride the next 54-miles all by myself??? Well, I had worked pretty hard to get this gap... I better acknowledge my work by keeping this lead. So, I grabbed some electrolyte pills, filled the bottles and jumped back on the bike! 54-miles down, 54-miles to go!

The first 15-miles were all down hill. Now, let me explain "Down Hill" in Death Valley. I could ride down the steepest descent and still had to pedal in order to keep my speed. I could keep it in my 53x11, but I was pushing, seriously pushing. As I descended I rode by all of the riders pushing to get to Scotty's. I literally told every single rider, "Good Job!, Looking Good!" I could tell that everyone appreciated my encouraging words and I saw lots of fingers representing #1 and lots and lots of smiles. I was feeling good.

I saw Schmide, Matt and Larry all pushing their monstrous legs up the hill. They all looked good and strong. Eventually, I passed all of the riders and was left with nothing to distract me from myself and my pain. Here I was, in the middle of the desert, by myself, no pump (PLEASE, NO FLATS), cramping thighs and the balls of my feet were one gigantic ball of spasm. Throughout my final 54-miles I had to unclip one foot at a time from my pedal to stretch out the cramps in the bottom of my foot. I would pedal 20-rotations per foot with the non-pedaling foot stretching out the spasms. In order to refresh my legs. I would get out of the saddle for 20-pedal strokes, then sit and spin for 30, then back up again. I had to keep changing my positioning in order to prevent additional cramping/spasms and to reduce the already existing pain.

I also had no pump and had seen several riders with flats. I was going to die if I were to get a flat and had to wait for the next rider to give me a pump. I avoided pot-holes and anything else that could lead to a possible flat. "No Flats! No Flats!!", I continued to tell myself.

I had no watch, odometer, speedometer or any such computer. I had no idea how much further to the next feed station (17-miles remaining), my heart rate, or how long I had been on the bike. Maybe in this case ignorance was bliss. However, I REALLY wanted to know how much further I had until my next feed station. I needed water bad and I could feel a bonk coming on. I ate a couple of Clif Bars and conservatively sipped my water bottles. I refused to ever let both of my bottles hit empty without knowing when the next feed station would surface.

I finally hit the final feed station! 17-miles to go! A little pee, filled up the bottles, electrolytes, back on the the bike. 17-miles, that is not a long distance. However, in Death Valley every mile is twice as long as a mile any where else in the country. You see, you can see the entire mile, or two miles, or three miles, or four miles of road. The road just goes on and on and on and on. There is never anything or any end in sight. It is a visual virtual hell. It is so much more refreshing to not see how much further you have to ride in comparison to knowing that you have to ride for what looks like forever and forever without an end.

However, I just reminded myself how much I was looking forward to this trip and the ability to ride in the desert all by myself. I began looking around and taking in the environment. There were so many landmarks that I did not notice on the way out. There was not another rider in sight and I simply sat up and began enjoying the world around me (man, I am such a hippie).

I finally arrived at the Start/Finish. There were about 5 people sitting around. Initially, they did not think that I was part of the ride. However, once they saw my number they began cheering me on. My finishing time was 5:40. I beat my goal that Larry set for me! I filled up my bottles and sat in the shade and began wondering what I would do with myself until the rest of the Mice arrived. I did not want to go back to the campsite b/c it would be sooo hot. But I also did not want to sit in this gross kit. I kicked it in the shade for about 30-minutes and then rode back to the site to clean up and get my camera and food to prepare for the arrival of all the mice.

After a little baby-wipe birdbath, I got back on my bike and rode back to the Start/Finish. I sat around and drank cool water (in comparison to the scorching hot water at our campsite). Just as I began to get comfortable, Schmide came thundering in to the Start/Finish! He had an excellent time and finished with a 9th place time!!! I got his picture, got him some cold water and a little Dr. Pepper, and put him in the shade. We hydrated and waited for the next Mouse. A while later, Matt came cruising to the Finish. Wait a second, this guy was riding the Double, what is he doing back? Apparently, Matt had stomach issues and figured he would cut his ride short and only ride 160-miles, wimp ;)

The three of us sat around and shared war stories and watched the salt flats erupt all over our faces. We were waiting for the L-Train to come roaring into the Finish at any moment. Then, suddenly out of nowhere, Larry came screaming into the Finish. This man must have been made of steel b/c he just kept riding around. "Get off your bike, Larry", we all shouted. Finally, this endurance rider got off his bike and we got him all set up with cool water and cokes.

The four of us took our time and hung around for as long as possible. We waited, and waited, and waited for James to arrive. However, James was literally stopping to smell the flowers, literally, every single flower that had braved the death-like conditions and pushed to bloom in even the harshest of climates ;)

The four of us rolled back to camp to find the warmest welcoming wagon. Rob had set up a homemade massage table and Ray was working hard over the stove. Rob pushed our pain to the back of our minds and Ray cooked up one of the best meals that I have ever eaten. Rob and Ray provided the most outstanding support!

The rest of the evening involved erupting flames and the genius of a mad pyrotechnic scientist and the surfacing of his supporting accomplice!

back to top