The 2011 Furnace Creek 508 Winner’s Story
Adam “Rock Rabbit” Bickett’s heart was racing at the start of the 2011 Furnace Creek 508. It’s a known problem for Adam. He attributes it to race day nerves. The 28 year-old from California had prepared well though and had a plan. No huge efforts, just a conservative race pace. Sometimes easier said than done.
He was tested early but he stuck to the
plan. At the base of San Francisquito Canyon, Brian “American Kestrel” Ecker sprinted ahead. Drew “Turkey Vulture” Peterson gave chase. Adam let them go. He stayed on pace spinning up the first of many climbs. This was his third FC 508 and he knew what was in store.
Bickett had done the hard work preparing for this race. He started the year with lots of base miles. Numerous brevets including three 400k and two 600k rides. Adam completed six double centuries including a first-place finish in the Terrible Two and two second-place finishes. There was heat training in July in the Sierras and climbing Towne Pass in both directions on a 110 degree day. To finish off the distance training he completed the HooDoo 500 in August. Other than HooDoo, he didn’t concentrate on big miles after July. Mostly working on speed and intensity with intervals. Recovery was a priority before FC508.
Adam kept his race pace going and eventually passed the two leaders while they were stopped on the rollers before Trona about 130 miles into the race. There was lots of car traffic in Trona due to the “Gem-O-Rama” festival. Adam was stopped by a cop directing traffic which allowed Ecker to catch up to Adam. In a class move, Ecker let Adam regain his gap when they were allowed to proceed.
Ecker took the lead at mile 210 when Adam stopped at the base of Towne Pass to switch bikes. Adam was not feeling well at this point. He possibly got behind in calorie intake and started to suffer the consequences. He was hurting on the climb over Towne Pass and plodded through Furnace Creek. Ecker put some serious miles on Adam in Death Valley.
Things weren’t improving for Adam. He felt bloated and weak with lots of fluid churning in his stomach. He decided to stop at Badwater and see if he could recuperate. Perhaps it was a subliminal suggestion from being in an aptly named town that caused Adam to throw up in Badwater. In hindsight, Adam believes it was the turning point in the race.
Adam has had nutrition problems before. In his first 508 in 2009, he spent seven hours on top of Towne Pass throwing up and trying to recover. In 2010, in both the 508 and HooDoo he spent many hours off the bike with the same issues. This year at HooDoo, he again spent four hours off the bike trying to recover but he learned that spending time off the bike wasn’t really necessary. He decided moving slowly was much better than stopped so he kept moving at whatever speed he could.
After 15 minutes of clearing his stomach at Badwater, Adam slowly pedaled away into a slight headwind. He suffered over the rollers that lead to the climb out of Death Valley but he began to take in some calories. There are two climbs out of the valley. The first, Jubilee, was slow and painful. Finally, on the second climb, Salsberry Pass, Adam began to feel his strength return.
The downhill from Salsberry Pass rolls into Shoshone around mile 325. Adam was back in the game. He switched to his TT bike and stayed on it for the remainder of the ride. He dropped the hammer. At least as much as one can expect to hammer after riding 325 miles.
It’s basically downhill to Baker from Shoshone and Adam was flying. At Baker he asked how far Ecker was ahead at this point and was astonished to hear it was only 20 minutes. He figured Ecker was gone for good. The afterburners were lit.
It’s a gradual 20 mile climb out of Baker to the top of Kelso. Adam saw Ecker in the distance about five miles in. With the sun starting to rise, he passed him a few miles from the top. Near the top of the climb Adam went even deeper into the red as he attacked the remaining climb. He flatted his disc on the prehistoric pavement on top but with a quick change he was back into TT mode.
Adam kept looking back over his shoulder to see if his gap would stick. He wasn’t sure how the competition was doing but he was able to keep his focus and continue the max effort. In the end he finished with a total time of 30:20 which was about an hour ahead of second-place Brian Ecker. Adam’s biggest win yet.
As ultra cyclists go, Adam Bickett is pretty young. He has lots of goals and the time to pursue them. He’d like to continue with these races and explore some other venues like RAO and RAAM. He ran his first marathon this year and enjoyed the change of pace. Ultra running may be next. But his biggest goal isn’t competitive. He wants to thruhike the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a safe bet that will happen.