Friday, August 4, 2017

Riding On The Sun's Anvil

"Who was that fool?  Probably,
a crazy ass Iron Butt Rider!"
Preface - I woke suddenly, just past 1:00 am Saturday morning, overwhelmed by dread and foreboding.  The start of the Death Valley 1,000 Insanity on Sunday was consuming my semi-conscience mind.  I felt anxiety and trepidation about the real possibility of disaster or even death.  I lay in that twilight zone, at the edge of sleep, for what seemed like hours, mulling over every imaginable problem and what could go wrong.  I ticked through various excuses I should use to abandon the attempt.  I felt trapped by my own public declaration, here and all over social media, to do the ride.  Had ego and effrontery condemned me to catastrophic failure at the Gates of Hell?

Shaking off the sleep monster, I felt rationality and reason take hold.  Yes, there were unique and extreme risks to this SaddleSore 1,000.  But, as a long-distance rider, managing risks and dealing with problems are what we do on every ride.  I had relied on well-honed ridecraft to get me through many challenging rides.  I crafted a good plan for this ride and I have my trusty GS Adventure.  All I had to do was mount up, start up and hold on as I go.  In the words of the popular song, "Home" by Phillip Phillips...

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
'Cause I'm going to make this 'bike' my home

Here now is the ride report of my successful Iron Butt Association, Death Valley 1,000, Insanity, July 30, 2017

DV1K Route
RECON:  Saturday morning I rode into Death Valley to scout the planned route, services at each of the stop points, identify cell phone coverage and shake out any issues with my gear in the crucible of the Devil's heat basin.  As you can see by the route graphic, it forms a three pronged circuit of 213 miles with Furnace Creek being the start/finish point for each of the 5 legs.  Each route segment ended with an opportunity to stop, wet down and take a cool down break.  Taking advantage of these opportunities is a way to manage heat stress.  My path of travel for each leg was Furnace Creek to Panamint Springs to Grapevine Ranger Station to Badwater and back to Furnace Creek.  I would make a log entry at each of these points and all gas stops are at Furnace Creek.  Later in the day I planned to use Stovepipe Wells, between Furnace Creek and Panamint Springs as a wet down/cool down stop.  Furnace Creek General Store is also available as a wet down/cool down stop between Grapevine Ranger Station and Badwater.  Here's a brief description of each stop point.
  • Furnace Creek - Gas (91 octane available), fully stocked A/C convenience store with 5 pound bag ice (7am - 10pm), two eateries, and cell phone service.
  • Stovepipe Wells - Gas (87 octane only), fully stocked A/C convenience store with 5 pound bag ice (7am - 10pm), and cell phone service.
  • Panamint Springs - Gas (91 octane available), fully stocked A/C convenience store with 5 pound bag ice (7am - 9:30pm) No cell phone service
  • Grapevine Ranger Station - Park Service restrooms with potable water and pay phone (50c calls)  911 free of course.  Water spigot next to the street.  Nice shade in the afternoon.  I had cell phone service at this stop
  • Badwater Pullout - Park Service restrooms with potable water.  No cell phone service
There is no cell phone coverage along the route outside of the locations noted above.  SPOT (or some other satellite tracking service capable of summoning emergency services) is an absolute must.  I had my spouse standing by to call the Death Valley Park Rangers (888-233-6518) if she received a SPOT HELP message from me.  The instructions were to inform the local rangers that a motorcyclist needed assistance immediately.  Two successive SPOT HELP messages and she would declare an emergency and call the emergency dispatch center at the Federal Interagency Communications Center, FICC.  They would launch emergency services to my grid coordinates.  If needed, I will press the SPOT SOS button that would kick in a whole different emergency response. (Note: SPOT message contacts do not receive SOS notifications via email or text messages.)
A couple of hot Iron Butt Riders

I had been posting on the Iron Butt Motorcycle Riders Facebook group page about my Death Valley 1,000 "Insanity" attempt. I invited any riders crazy enough to ride down to Furnace Creek on Saturday and I'd buy them lunch.  Only, Mark Fisher, IBA 50039, showed up and he was happy to sign my IBA witness form.  Thanks Mark!

RIDE PACE & RESOURCE MANAGEMENT:  My goal was to maintain a consistent ride pace, manage the risks of riding in this extreme environment and achieve the 1,000+ miles under the 24 hour requirement.  Breaking the ride into 5 legs created a sustainable routine, maximized the opportunity for regular refresh stops and to document the route for IBA certification.  Making log entries at each of the corner stops kept me focused on an administrative task.  Not being able to focus on this routine would serve as an early warning heat stress.  See IBA Log

I finished, riding a total of 1,026.3 miles in 20:54 total time with 18:09 moving and 2:45 stopped time.  The overall average was 49.1 MPH and moving average of 56.5 MPH.  Over the 1,026.3 miles, the motorcycle consumed 22.191 gallons of gas.  At a rate of 46.25 miles per gallon, my 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure had an effective fuel endurance distance of 365 miles per tank, at 56 MPH moving average speeds.  There were no 'close calls' during the ride. (I define a 'close call' as an instance where I was forced to execute an quick, evasive maneuver.) 

Using the Garmin 590 track data, I created a detailed table showing the arrival/departure times for all stops.  See:  Ride Pace Analysis.  In addition to the normal items on the IBA fuel log I posted the indicated external temperature on my motorcycle and took temperature scans of road surface using a Fluke temp gun.  After the ride, I posted the recorded DVNP hourly temp to show the temperature difference between my location and the official Park temperature.

(Click on the Leg # for the SpotWalla track and DBR (dated business receipt) for a odometer/temp picture)
Leg 1:  Start DBR - I left my hotel in Beatty, NV at 2:00 am for the 40 mile ride to the Furnace Creek gas station.  I had the Forward Looking InfraRed camera on to spot critters, but didn't see any.  What was striking was the way the heat in the valley glowed bright white as I descended down into Death Valley.  Got gas, logged the DBR (dated business receipt) and I was on my way by 2:58 am heading to Panamint Springs.  Even though I was the only vehicle on the road I did not use excessive speed along the 55-65 MPH segment to Panamint Springs.  I was prudent about the pace even though there was very little enforcement that time of day.  Passing the "Devil's corn field" I rode through the Stovepipe Wells resort complex.  West of there, the elevation increases from the valley floor to over 4,950 feet at Towne Pass.  The temperatures dropped significantly as I ascended.  At this time of the morning temps were in the low 80s F.  In later legs, I would use this 60 mile stretch to get some relief from the brutal temperatures on the hot basin of the valley.  The store at Panamint Springs was closed when I arrive at 3:51 am, so I pressed the SPOT "OK" button to mark my arrival and did a quick log entry, before departing for the Grapevine Ranger Station at the north end of Death Valley.  This is the longest segment at 71.1 miles and along some of the most isolated stretches of the Park.  Another quick log entry and off to Badwater at the south end of the route.  The terrain of the valley is pristine desert with short vegetation.  If there are any large animals in Death Valley they were not near the route I took.  My FLIR camera display was a added pair of eyes but during the entire ride I only saw two coyotes, five jack rabbits, several tiny rodents and one rattle snake.  I finished leg 1 Furnace Creek at 6:40 am, just as dawn crept into the valley.

Leg 2: DBR - I could already feel the heat increasing as I started leg 2 at 6:48 am.  Once again the temperatures dropped over Towne Pass.  The store was open at Panamint Springs by the time I arrive at 7:39 am, time for a "pee test".  I monitored the color of my urine throughout the day as an indicator of how effective my hydration regimen was working.  As stated in my ride plan, I was using a regular sip rate tagged to the temperature.  This technique proved very effective as subsequent tests show, I was well hydrated.  Heading east over the pass and into the valley, once again the differences in the heat were very noticeable.  Death Valley is like a huge basin where the heat accumulates in the elongated terrain that runs north and south.  You can see it in this temperature map of the valley published by the National Weather Service.  Grapevine RS is at the north end of the valley but in the shallows of the heat basin.  The temperature differences along this segment were 3-7 degrees cooler than at Furnace Creek and Badwater, the lowest point along the route.  The ride from Grapevine RS to Badwater is 68.2 miles.  Just before Badwater I passed the entrance to the "Devil's Golf Course."  Never cared much for golf.  I did not dally at Badwater, just made a quick log entry and wet down before the 18 mile ride back to Furnace Creek for fuel and start of the next leg.

Leg 3: DBR -  Temperatures were well into triple digits by the start of this leg and would remain that way the rest of the ride.  It was hot enough to incorporate wet down/cool down stops at Stovepipe Wells starting with this leg.  The store here is very well stocked compared to Panamint Springs.  It is on par with Furnace Creek.  At each of these stores I would purchase a cold, non carbonated and caffeine free, beverage for my Under Armor 24 oz. thermos drink bottle.  This cold beverage was a pleasurable supplement to my primary hydration routine using the MILSPEC 100 oz. Camelbak system with insulated carrier and hose.   The drink bottle would keep the contents relatively cold for an hour or more in triple digit temperatures.  Well past the time it takes me to consume its contents at my sip rate.  I would alternate between the cold beverage bottle and the tepid plain water in the Camelbak.  With the frequency of my stops, this technique allowed me to use the water from the Camelbak to re-wet my forearms while riding.  See the Hydration & Evaporative Cooling section below for details.  On with the rest of this leg. The temperatures in the basin were now consistently above 110F.  By the time I arrive in Badwater the temperature was 117.5.  A scan of the road temperature showed 159.3F in the parking lot.  No, I was not concerned about my tires melting.  I ride on Michelin Anakee III with the high temperature "V" rating.  But, I would not want to walk barefooted at Badwater!  I stopped at the Furnace Creek store to enjoy a sandwich with a regular V8.  The 1,950mg of sodium in the V8 juice would keep my electrolyte levels well saturated.  At the Furnace Creek gas station a group of seven Harley riders pulled up to the pump behind and next to me.  The group appeared to be French vacationers.  All the bikes were stocked and looked like rentals.  A van pulled next to them and a crew of women rushed out with bottled water in hand.  I was amazed to see these riders, all dressed in street clothes.  I mean T-shirts, jeans, athletic shoes and one guy was wearing a tank top.  He did have a bandana around his face though.  He gave me a nod as I zipped up before mounting.  I would see them again at Stovepipe Wells about 30 minutes later.

Cool heads prevail
Leg 4: DBR - This is the hottest leg and I was entering the heat stress danger zone.  Over the course of many hours in the previous legs my body was coping with the heat.  Regular intake of water was sufficient to keep the heat monster at bay.  Riding from Furnace Creek to my next refresh stop at Stovepipe Wells the temperature was 120.5F.  The road was 151.7 F at one point.  I was dealing with ambient air temperatures, radiation from the motorcycle and from the road surfaces.  The pounding of the intense direct heat from the sun was intense.  The wind burn was intolerable.  By that I mean I could not stick my gloved hand into the full air stream for more than a couple of moments.  I kept the collar of my riding jack closed to protect my neck for the wind burn. "Wind burn" is the opposite of wind chill.  It is like holding a hair dryer, on high heat and full speed, 15 inches way from your bare skin,  Not only is wind burn uncomfortable, it can rapidly overwhelm your body's ability to cope with the heat.  The wind screen configuration and brush guards of the BMW R1200GS Adventure proved quit effective at keeping damaging effects of wind burn off my body.  A quick wet down at Stovepipe Wells and on to Panamint Springs.  Starting here I employed ice in my thermal management strategy.  After the log entries I went into the store and purchased a 5 pound bag of ice to put between me and the tank bag with the bottom next to my crotch.  While riding to Grapevine RS the ice would cool my crotch area right where the femoral arteries and veins cross from my torso into/from my legs.  The ice would cool the blood helping my body to cope with the accumulation of heat.  By the time I got to Grapevine RS, 71.1 miles distant, the bag was melted down to 1/10th is original size.  My pants and legs were nice and wet.  I put the bag on my head to cool my brain.  When I departed for Furnace Creek, for my planned dinner break, I put the bag and what was left of the ice, under my jacket, around my neck with the ice at my jugulars to cool the blood flowing into me brain.  I could feel my neck tingle as the cooling effect of the ice bathed my shoulders.  I spent almost an hour in the A/C at the Furnace Creek buffet, enjoying a sit down meal.  I got another 5 pound bag of ice at the start of the final leg.  I was feeling good!

Leg 5: DBR - I started the final leg at 19:45 as the sun was descending over the mountains to the west.  The temperatures were still in the high teens (115.5F) at Furnace Creek.  But the sun was not pounding me against the anvil any more.  This was an noticeable change, particularly on my legs.  The heat radiating off the bike and road was bad enough but when the sun was beating down directly against my body I could tell the difference between the exposed and shaded parts.  By the time I left the heat basin of the valley and ascended the mountains the sun was gone.  I enjoyed the very comfortable high 90s riding over Towne Pass.  It was dark by the time I arrive at Panamint Springs.  I did a quick log entry, wet down and was back on the road.  I was excited at this point as the realization that I had survived the heat stress danger zone of leg 4.  All I had to do was to keep my eyes on the road, maintain a consistent ride pace and keep hydrating!  At this time of night I was back to using the FLIR.  I had the road virtually to myself as I rode the long stretch to Grapevine RS.  It was a relatively cool 99.5F when I arrived there.  I took what was left of the bag of ice and placed it around my neck once again.  At the lower temperatures it was too cold touching my neck.  I had to briefly stop to make an adjustment, moving the bag away from my neck to my shoulders.  When I got to Badwater it was a deserted.  A quick log entry, wet down and I was back on the road to Furnace Creek.  I was just before midnight when I arrived.

I'm gas'n up to get my Finish DBR when I hear the familiar sound of a vintage Harley.  Out of the darkness, a young guy pulls up on a 70s Sportster.  He's wearing just an open front shirt, pants, boots and I think finger-less gloves.  We greet each other and he asks me, "Hey, do you know where I can get some water?"  I asked, Abe, what brings him to Death Valley this time of night?  He says he's riding from Colorado to the west coast and wanted to take a short cut.  I told him what I was doing and asked if he would sign my IBA witness form, which he obliged me, willingly.  Thanks Abe!  Seemed a perfect setting for the end of one of my hardest and I might add, hottest riding adventures...ever!

'73 Sporty
Abe, my finish IBA Witness

Motorcycle and Equipment
My BMW R1200GS Adventure performed flawlessly.  The liquid cooled engine handled the brutal Death Valley temperatures without a whimper.  I checked the "EngTemp" indicator from time to time and it barely rose above the normal 185F degrees.  I highest temperature it showed was 203F when I checked it after the air temperature showed 120.5F.  Of the 22 motorcycles I have owned in my lifetime, the 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure is the finest motorcycle I have ridden, for how I ride.  It is rock solid, versatile and tough as a mule.

I carried extra survival gear on this ride over and above that I normally keep on the bike.  In addition to a spare gallon of water I had an umbrella and GI poncho tucked away in the pannier.  If I broke down along an isolated stretch of road I wanted to quickly establish shade to keep the sun from beating down on me.  I also had food stores, spicy checks mix and fruit traii mix in gallon zip lock bags.  I didn't eat much of this while riding as my appetite was suppressed by the heat.  Instead, I opted for enjoying a sandwich and cool drink in the A/C at one my cool down stops.  On this ride, doing a quick cool down in A/C was an effective use of time and resources which ultimately helped me to maintain a consistent ride pace.  Hey, I finished with 3 hours to spare!

Hyperthermia - I know how my body reacts to activities in extreme heat from my experiences as a long-distance runner and years being a Master Fitness Trainer while in the US Army.  I think of the challenges riding in extreme heat as managing the risks of 'hyperthermia' along this progression; comfort stress - heat stress - heat exhaustion - heat stroke - death.  My objective was to stay out of heat stress, that point where I felt my body was being heated beyond just being uncomfortable.  Hyperthermia can occur the longer one remains in heat stress and the effects on the body are cumulative. I established the inability to recover from brief episodes of heat stress as the danger point.  I had 24 hours to complete the ride.  If I went in to heat stress, started to feel the symptoms of heat exhaustion, even after a lengthy recovering time, I would cancel the cancel the ride.

Hydration & Evaporative Cooling - The technique I used to manage heat stress was a combination of disciplined hydration, LDComfort base layer under my outer protective gear and taking frequent wet down & cool down breaks.  The LDComfort garments work by transferring moisture created by either sweat or artificial wetting away from the skin and into the outer layer of the fabric.  This establishes a dry micro layer next to the skin but allows for the evaporative cooling from wet outer layer.  The heat transferred from one's blood to the skin radiates into the outer layer, cooling the blood.  Combine this potential with controlled airflow through the sleeves, into the body core area and it forms a "swamp cooler" affect.
Click here for the full LDComfort graphic

The technique does require attention and some training to get effective cooling at varying temperatures.  The basic technique is wet the forearms and neck area with a small amount of water.  Close up all vents on the jacket, close the bottom of the jacket and create a small opening at the neck.  As air flows into the sleeve cuffs the arms and body of the jacket inflate with air, like a wind bag or balloon.  This creates an open space between the body and the inner lining of the jacket.  As the moisture in the sleeves starts to evaporate it cools the air.  This cool air is pushed into the core of the jacket by the inflow from the sleeve cuff opening.  As the air circulates around the interior of the jacket it accumulates and evaporates any moisture, either sweat or water added during wet down providing more cooling.

Now the tricky part and the point were most novice users of LDComfort complain, "This stuff really doesn't work."  One has to balance the amount of air flowing into the jacket by allowing a slightly smaller amount of air to escape through the opening at the neck.  Too little opening at the neck and progressively hotter air fills the jacket.  Too much opening and the cooler air that has stalled, allowing evaporation to occur, rapidly escapes.  This is replaced by hotter air which hasn't had a chance to cool through evaporation.

My best balance occurred with the collar closed and the zipper down about 3 to 4 inches from the top.  I could modulate, or fine tune, the airflow by "turtle-ing" my neck and head.  Stretching my head up from my shoulders would increase the size of the neck opening.  Scrunching my neck down would close it back up.  By doing this I could regulate the amount of the inflate of cool air in the core and armpits of my jacket.  It was quite nice to wallow in the cool air at 120F.  I knew I had the optimum balance when I stretched my neck out of the jacket and could feel the cool air coming out.

Temperature Data Collection
What comes next is the data collection to show the relative cooling techniques of using closed protective outer gear with LDComfort base layers in extreme heat environments.  I recorded the air temperature as indicated by my motorcycle external temperature gauge, the ground temperature using a Fluke IR gun and gathered the official Death Valley National Park readings published hour by hour.  In addition to the regular log stops, I took note of the bike and road temp each hour and jotted down that data at the top of each hour.

To collect temperature data from inside the core of my jacket, I used a device that samples the temperature every 2 minutes and automatically records the data in eprom.  I placed this device in one the mesh pock inside my Klim jacket, center chest near my heart.   I set the Monarch Instruments Track-It Data Logger to record the average temperature
every 10 minutes. The unit will record up to a year of data without ever being turned off.  Accessing the data is through proprietary PC software.  The software has a full graphing and analysis capability.   For my purposes, I downloaded the data into an Excel file.  Below is a graph of the interior of my Klim jacket for the entire period of the ride.  The MC temperature data and Death Valley National Park (DVNP) data are graphed for comparison.
The complete list of data can be viewed here:  Death Valley 1,000 Temperature Data

Click to enlarge

Effectiveness of the Cooling Gear & Techniques
I rode over 21 hours in Death Valley heat ranging from a low of 79F to a high of 120.5F in relative comfort using the LDComfort base layer garments and techniques.  The only time I felt heat stress was when I was dismounted.  When dismounted, it was necessary to open or remove my jacket to keep from overheating.  Immediately, I could feel the evaporative cooling from the stored moisture in my shirt.  This was an effective measure while stopped.  On the graph and in the list of temperature data you can see the spikes recorded by the interior Track-It sensor when my jacket was open or sometime removed and open to the air.  Also, notice the dips when the jacket was off and I was in the A/C for cool down breaks.

"Fremen" Tubes
Wetting down at each stop was part of the routine.  I had separate water containers for wetting my sleeves and neck area. Moisture at the forearms would evaporate in about 15 minutes in the dry desert air of Death Valley.   Between stops I would re-wet my forearms and neck using water from the Camelbak sucked into my mouth then blown to the forearms through 3/8 inch clear plastic tubing.  These "Fremen" tubes, as I called them, were cut to length and threaded through the arm cinches on my jacket. The delivery end was inserted into a small unzipped opening at the forearm vent of each sleeve.  The receiving end was long enough so I could put it into my mouth, full of water sipped out of the Camelbak, and blown into the sleeves.  Another mouthful of water was dribbled into my neck front.  Above 110F I did this at every sip rate after drinking.  It was a small amount of water and I never ran out of drinking and wetting stores while riding.  Occasionally, I would take a mouthful of water and dribble it onto the top of my gloved hands and fingers.  This would create a very refreshing cooling sensation...for about 5 minutes.  Hey, if it feels good...

85 - 100 Degrees - Cooling works best along this temperature range.  While ascending out of the heat basin, over Towne Pass to Panamint Wells, I could feel an immediate cooling difference as the temperature dropped below 100F.  Adjusting the flow of jacket inflate was much easier to create the desired cooling.

100 - 110 Degrees - Cooling at this temperature range required more attention to get comfortable.  I would increase the inflate and move my shoulders up, down and forward, backwards, as if dancing inside the jacket.  This would enhance the spaces allow form more expansion of the evaporating moisture and push the cool air around.

110 - 120 Degrees - This temperature range requires the most attention and work to keep the cooling working.  I had to keep my sleeve cuffs in the airflow coming over the top of the brush guards on the handlebars.  At the same time I had to decrease the volume of extremely hot air flowing in by regulating the dip of the cuffs into the air stream. Consequently, I had to slow the amount of cool air escaping through the neck.  I found the perfect balance when I could feel the cool air around the skin of my neck.  Once I recognized this sweet spot, keeping the core cooler was easier at this temperature range.

Heart Rate Monitoring
I was wearing a Samsung Gear 3 Frontier smartwatch with a built in heart rate monitor.   I wanted a data record to compare against the temperature data.  The interesting thing, from looking at the hour by hour heart rate recorded by the watch, was it was never beyond what I consider normal for my body.  My normal heart rate during vigorous exercise in about 135 beats per minute.  My max heart rate is 153 (220 - 67 my age)  So, 135 bpm is a 90% of max training rate.  During the ride my heart rate never climbed above 124 even in the hottest points when I was dismounted, with all my gear on.  My heart rate was a comfortable 90-100 most of the time.  My normal resting heart rate is 60-75.  I decided not to graph this metric.

I was using the best long-distance riding gear available and I was employing the best ridecraft techniques I could gather from others and learned over 48 years of riding.  All of it paid off for me during the Death Valley 1,000 "Insanity."  I was expecting to be constantly battling heat stress.  None of that happened, although the heat monster was always breathing down my neck.  The gear, techniques kept my body core and head well insulated from the heat.  But, I was in almost constant comfort stress riding during legs 3 and 4, especially my extremities.  Dismounted in 115 - 120 degree heat requires immediate opening of the closed riding gear, ideally out of the intense hammering of the sun's raze.

I don't want to minimize the very real risks of a heat injury at the temperatures I was riding.  Do not attempt this IBA challenging ride unless you have carefully evaluated all the risks, prepared for every contingency and are committed to stopping the survive!

The LDComfort garments worked superbly for me.  As the temperature data show from the Track-It sensor, while riding the core temperature inside my jacket and along the arms was a relatively comfortable 80-85 degrees.  The times when it got above 85 to 90 degrees usually happened when I was dismounted and with my jacket off, draped over my top case to hot outside air.  Conversely, sudden dips in the graphed data show where I would reapply water to my forearms while riding.  The 75F stretch around 7-8 pm is when I was chilling out having dinner in the A/C.

Like any successful long-distance certification ride, it's not just one or two things that make the difference.  All things have to work together, in a balanced way.  I think of it as the organizing framework of riding on the clock, embodied in the term:

Ridecraft - the collection of knowledge, skills and abilities used by a long-distance motorcyclist to maintain a consistent ride pace, manage risk and achieve navigational objectives.  

A tip of the hat goes out to the first three long-distance riders to certify the Death Valley 1,000 "Insanty" - Michael "Enigma" Mendell, Ray Dodson and Robert "Hoagy" Carmichael.  Thanks guys for leading the way!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Death Valley 1,000 Insanity

Warning - This is not an ordinary SaddleSore 1,000 
The Death Valley 1,000 is a 1,000 mile motorcycle ride in under 24 hours all inside the boundaries of  Death Valley National Park.  The 'Insanity' version is done between July 1 and September 15 where daytime temperatures exceed 100 degrees F .  My start/finish will be from the Furnace Creek Chevron service station.  Planned start time is 3:00 am PDT, Sunday, July 30, 2017.

SpotWalla Track Map (< click here)  
DV1K 213 Mile Circuit 

RECON:  Saturday, 7/29 - I am riding into Death Valley to verify several items before I make a final Go-NoGo decision about tomorrows SaddleSore 1,000 attempt.
  • Cell phone coverage at all corners and in between
  • Dated Business Receipt (DBR) availability
  • Service hours of the convenience stores
  • Effectiveness of my thermal management system and techniques
SaddleSore 1,000 -  I have plotted a 212 mile course in Garmin BaseCamp which I will ride 5 times to complete the 1,000+ mile requirements for IBA certification.  In addition to dated business receipts (DBR) at the start, every refuel and finish, I will make log entries and send Spot OK markers at each of the corner points as well as fuel stops at Furnace Creek.  These markers and the track will be submitted through the IBA Premier Member certification team as supplemental information.
1 Mile east of Panamint Springs
Speed limits in the park range from 65 MPH on most of CA-190 to 55 MPH along Badwater and Scotty's Castle roads.  Speeds decrease to 35 MPH in the populated areas.  Google puts the moving average speed for the 213 mile circuit at about 55 MPH.  See Google Map

I booked a room for 2 nights at a motel in Beatty, NV, some 40 miles northeast of the my official start point at Furnace Creek.   I will obtain signatures for the IBA witness form in Furnace Creek on Saturday afternoon then head back to the hotel in Beatty.  Sunday morning at 2 am PDT (4 am CDT) I will depart Beatty for the Furnace Creek gas station, obtain the start DBR and complete 5 circuits ending the ride sometime close to midnight PDT.  When the ride is completed late Sunday night I will return to Beaty, NV for the finish witness.   (See IBA Witness and Log)

Leg:  Furnace Creek - Panamint Springs - Grapevine Ranger Station - Badwater Pull-out - Furnace Creek 
212 miles, 3:45 X 5 circuits = 1,060 miles in about 20 hours.
  • Leg 1:  0300 - 0645, 1g drinking water, 1qt wetdown 
  • Leg 2:  0700 - 1045, 1g drinking water, 2qts wetdown
  • Leg 3:  1100 - 1445, 1.25g drinking water, 2qts wetdown
  • Leg 4:  1500 - 1915, 1.5g drinking water, 3qts wetdown
  • Leg 5:  1915 - 2300, 1g drinking water, 2qts wetdown
I have built into the ride plan 5 min breaks at the Panamint Springs, Grapevine and Badwater corners and a 15 min break at the Furnace Creek refuel points.  Leg 4 will be during the hottest part of the day and pose the greatest physical challenge.  During leg 4, I will take a dinner 30-45 min dinner break inside the Furnace Creek General Store.

Declaration:  The Death Valley 1,000 'Insanity' is an extreme physical challenge.  I am prepared and committed to stopping the attempt at any point for health or safety reasons.

Preparation - Even though I have lots of hot weather riding experience living here in the Texas Hill Country, I have been training for this event for some time.  I want to demonstrate the effectiveness of a good ride plan, top quality riding gear and application of sound Ridecraft techniques. Putting many hours in the saddle, riding in 100F plus conditions, are good preparations for this 'xTreme!" Iron Butt challenge ride.

Hydration - I use a disciplined hydration technique when riding for extended periods in temperatures above 90f.  Base on the excellent information contained in the Tom Austin's article, (see Knowledge Base below)

Long-Distance Riding in Hot Weather

Sip Rate - I prepared a sip rate pegged to the outside air temperature to ensure I consume adequate amounts of water at regular intervals.  The chart below was developed to meet my water requirements using my hydration system.  After establishing the amount of water drawn by one 'sip' from my Camelbak system I came up with the rate and tested it under field conditions.  So, every 15 minutes, I draw the sips listed for the outside air temperature.  After one hour, I have consumed the Per/Hr ounces of water listed.  By doing this I consume an adequate amount of water at regular intervals.

Unlike many LD riders, I do not 'ice' down my drinking supply.  Nor, do I carry ice in the pockets of my riding gear in extreme heat.  I do not depend on having ice during rides, even one this extreme.  I do drink cold beverages, mostly water at pit stops as a 'refreshment'.  I realize the benefits of adding cold fluids while riding but I want to rely on the gear for cooling and the water for hydration.  My hydration system is insulated from the heat and the water in it stays lower than my body temperature.  It's a personal choice to enhance the effectiveness of hot weather physical conditioning.  I got used to not using ice during my experiences in the army and being a long-distance runner.

Riding 'Cool' - The LDComfort garments are designed to transfer water away from the skin and hold it in the outer layer.  This means wetting down the sleeves and parts of the body can create a cooling effect when air passes over it and avoid the moisture damage to the skin.  I will be carrying extra water for this purpose and re-wet as necessary.  (Moto Mouth Moshe K. Levy YouTube video)

Using the LDComfort cooling technique, above 95f degrees I found it best close up all vents to protect the interior core of my jacket from the hot air.  I restrict the flow of air entering jacket to through the sleeve ends only.  As the hot air flows along the wet sleeves of the LDComfort shirt it cools due to evaporation.  The cooler air is pushed into the sealed interior of the jacket further cooling body of the shirt.  With all vents closed, the cooler air circulates around the body core, before exiting top at the slight opening at the front of the neck.  This circulation of cool air works just like a swamp cooler and can result in a temperature difference of as much as 30 degrees.

I found that when I 'shrug' my shoulders slightly, move them forward and backwards, the cooled air circulates freely adding to the cooling effect.  It really works well.  In temperatures over 100 F the wed-down of the forearms is required more frequently.  Especially, in dry desert conditions, like Death Valley.  After about 105 F re-wetting is required every 15 minutes to keep the cooling affect at the max.  Keeping my body core cool this way helps preserve body water due to less sweating.  The bottom line is I feel more 'comfortable' riding in extreme heat using the LDComfort techniques.

Data Capture - I will be tracking and recording several data items to demonstrate the effectiveness of the hot weather riding techniques and equipment.  I will have all the data, as well as a summary graphs, after the ride in a full page posting.

Temperature - I will be carrying a Track-It Data Logger to capture the air temperature from inside my riding gear, (center chest).  It samples the temperature every 2 minutes and logs the average at 10 minute intervals. Outside temperatures will logged at each stop and throughout the ride using the motorcycle external temperature monitor. As we all know, riding over the hot asphalt can be hotter than the ambient air temperature.  So, I will use a Fluke 62 Max IR temperature gun to get regular readings of the road surface. When the ride is completed I will gather the official hourly weather reports by the Park Service for comparison. (Source -  NOAA:Obs Data:Hourly Temperatures)

Heart Rate - I will be monitoring and recording my heart rate during the DV1K by means of the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier smartwatch.  This data will show how my body's internal cooling mechanism reacts to the temperature.  As outside temperatures rise a small increase in heart rate will demonstrate the effectiveness of the channeled airflow and evaporation cooling provided by the LDComfort garments.  Rapid rise in heart rate indicates over-heating.

Riding Gear and Equipment:  All The Gear All The Time!
  • Base layer - LDComfort helmet liner cap, long sleeve shirt and riding shorts.  Compression socks
  • Outer layer - Schuberth C3 Pro helmet with SRC Pro communications collar, Klim Badlands jacket and Dakar gloves,  Aerostich AD1 riding pants, TCX X-Desert Gore-Tex riding boots, ess Mil Spec ballistic day/night eye wear, Gerbing heated jacket, but I doubt I will use it.
  • Hydration system - Mil Spec Camelbak 100 oz hydration pack with updated "Antidote" bladder/hose system.  Carrying extra water in panniers.  Replenish stores at Furnace Creek fuel stops.
  • Satellite Tracking - SPOT Gen3 feed to SpotWalla location and tracking maps (Above)
  • Communications - Samsung Note S5, bluetoothed to SRC Pro communications collar.  
  • FLIR Thermal Imaging - Forward looking infrared camera and display for duck till dawn critter avoidance
  • 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure with fresh 48K service and new F/R Anakee III tires in the high temperature rated "V" compound
See Farkle Data Sheet for complete listing of gear and equipment

Knowledge Base
Death Valley National Park - Current Weather Conditions
911 - Emergency in Park
888-233-6518 - Report someone in park need assistance (They call FICC)
909-383-5654 - Emergency dispatch center (Federal Interagency Communications Center - FICC 

Fuel is available in the park only at Furnace Creek Ranch, Stovepipe Wells Village, and Panamint Springs

General Store - Limited groceries may be purchased in the park at the Furnace Creek Ranch General Store. Panamint Springs Resort and Stovepipe Wells have convenience stores.

Towing services available but check with your service provider.

Long-Distance Riding in Hot Weather 
by Tom Austin, IBA Chief Technical Advisor
Summer 2010, Iron Butt Magazine

When You're Hot, You're Hot!
by David L. Hough, SoundRider!

Long-Distance Riding - "Archive of Wisdom"
Protocols used by the members of the Iron Butt Association to go the extra mile

Fatigue and Motorcycle Touring
by Dr. Don Arthur, MD, 2006

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stoke
American Red Cross First Aid

Heat and Heart Rate
Understanding the risks

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Iron Butt Rally - Volunteer Duty

The World's Toughest Motorcycle Rally is taking place between Monday, June 28 and July 7, 2017.  The Iron Butt Rally, 11,000 miles in 11 days, is a competitive motorcycle rally that affords the top long-distance riders from around the world an opportunity to test their Ridecraft.   The theme of this year's IBR is captured in the rally graphic.  Rider are on a Safari Adventure, seeking the very large replicas of animals, real and fanciful. 

Safari Adventure
Air - Land - Water - Prehistoric - Mythical
"Shoot them creatures and bag that bonus"

Epilog:  After competing three IBRs I found volunteering to help with the 2017 IBR just as rewarding as I imagined it would be.  I logged over 7,000 miles between the start, checkpoints and finish, with a side trip or two.  It was more relaxed kind of riding than those enduring "The World's Toughest Motorcycle Rally" though.  Still, to see huge filed of riders of the 2017 Iron Butt Rally from the volunteer side of things was very enjoyable.  This was a history making IBR on many fronts.

Thank you, Lisa Landry, Jeff Earls and John Harrison for an epic IBR experience!.

Fri, 7/7:  The Rally Staff will be available for early check-in starting at 5 am.  Same procedure as the two
Podium Finishers
Finisher Trophies and Plaques
prior checkpoints.  Except, scoring will take slightly longer owing to riders collecting more bonuses during the 5 day long Leg 3.  Riders also will take more time preparing for scoring.  Many will want to double and triple check their "Claimed Bonuses" form for completeness, accuracy and sequencing of the entries.  "Strings" that make a 'Full House', 3 of one category and 2 of another, will earn 4 times the value of the last bonus in the string.  But, all 5 bonuses in that string must be without error or the quadruple multiplier does not apply.

With the way the checkpoint process has worked at CP1 and CP2, I expect every rider who made it back in time will be complete checked in and scored by noon.  And so it was, all riders are accounted for and completed scoring before 11 am!
The core staff, Lisa, Jeff and John are compiling the finishers scores, auditing the results and preparing the presentation at this evening's finishing banquet. 

Thu, 7/6:  Head to the Barn!  The IBR Staff is returning to where it all began some 10 days before.  Back at the Minnetonka start hotel the core staff are busy monitoring the riders as they make their way to the finish.  Penalty points begin at 8:00:01 Friday morning.  Riders who do not make it back by 10:00:001 are Time Bared and earn the DNF distinction.  By the looks of the IBR Public SpotWalla group location page, almost all riders still in the game will make it back.

Sun, 7/2:  The 4 am riders meeting starts the clock for Leg 3 of the IBR.  This final leg is 126 hours long.  That's 5 days and change for riders to be on 'safari' hunting bonuses.  This is the big miles big points leg.  The top 10, announced at the riders meeting will be looking to maximize their points and finish standing.  The rally staff is packing up to make Rally Central mobile for the move back to IBR finish checkpoint in Minnetonka, MN.

I am heading to west Texas for hot weather training.  I'm riding to Big Bend National Park to ride at park speeds in the Texas heat.  I'm testing out some new equipment and riding gear in preparation for the Death Valley 1,000 Insanity ride the end of July.or first week in August.

Sat, 7/1:  Leg 2 ends at 8 pm back at the Allen TX checkpoint.  Riders start rolling in before 5 pm, with the bulk arriving after 6pm. The army of IBR volunteer staff stands ready to speed riders trough the arrival process. 
  1. Arrival - Odo check
  2. Check in - Stop the clock with the offical time keeper.  Riders have one hour after stopping the clock to report for scoring
  3. Scoring Prep - Riders organize their "Claimed Bonus" form for scoring.  A large room with a meal is provided for this activity. 
  4. Scoring - The photo media check and official scoring takes about 20-30 minutes total. 
Once scoring is complete the rider is free to tend to their needs; bike and equipment maintenance, planning prep and get some needed rest.

Rally Central
Fri, 6/30:  Monitoring the riders progress is done in Rally Central at the Allen checkpoint.  Rider who experience an issue while on the leg call Rally Master Lisa to get help.  She then posts on social media that a rider need assistance.  It is amazing how quickly and efficiently the Long-Distance riding community mobilizes when a IBR rider needs help.  See IBR Daily Reports Satellite tracking is the a most valuable tool both for the rider and rally control.  Rally Central has access to every rider's traking history, in near real time.  If a rider's track stops moving, this alerts Rally Central about a potential issue.  Phone calls usually ensue.  Sometimes, it's a rider who has decided to withdrawl from the rally.  When they call the Rally Master, she usually knows already.

Thu, 6/29:  The day begins shorly after 3am with staff preparations for the 4am mandatory Rider Meeting.  During his meeting Mike Kneebone conveys words of wisdom, Rally Master Lisa Landry reminds all of getting to the checkpoint, on time and in one piece, on Saturday and Route Master Jeff Earls gifts all riders with an epic Leg 2 selection of bonuses.  Jeff also announced the top 10 standings. 

Routing fun with "Strings"

While the riders are out for Leg 2 the IBR staff is busy monitoring the tracking maps, auditing the scoring for Leg 1 and preparing for the arrival of riders on Saturday, Jul 1.

Wed, 6/28:  Riders have until 8:00:01 pm to arrive within the no-penalty window.  Riders who check in between 8 pm and 10 pm will be charged a point penalty for every minute after 8 pm.  Any rider checking in after 10:00:01 pm will be declared "DNF", did not finish. 
The focus of the IBR Staff is moving all 106 riders through the scoring process as accurately and quickly as possible.  Scoring opens at 5 pm.  Several step are necessary to ensure each rider's score is captured:
  • Arrival - Riders park in the reserved spaces next to the front entrance to the hotel.
  • Odometer - Riders get their MC odometer reading recorded on checkpoint arrival sheet
  • Clock In - Riders present themselves to the IBR time keeper to stop their leg clock.  On time check in triggers the "Arrival Bonus"
  • Tracking Verification - Riders present themselves to the satellite tracking monitor to verify they have a good track to qualify for the tracking bonus.  A good track triggers the "Tracking Bonus"
  • Call-In Verification:  A well formatted and on time Call-In triggers the "Call-In Bonus"
  • Scoring Preparation - Riders prepare their "Claimed Bonuses" sheet to insure bonuses are listed in chronological order and are correct/complete.  Riders are charged an administrative penalty ranging from a 10% deduction for a minor clerical errors to denial of the entire value of the bonus.  A meal is provided for riders in the scoring preparation room for the riders.  Once a rider presents themselves to the Scoring supervisor they must remain within ear-shot to wait until called.
  • Scoring -   IBR veterans, trained in the scoring process, capture the riders bonus photos and transfer them to the scoring thumb drive.  Riders then sit with a the scorer for official recording of all the rider's claimed bonuses.  Once they sit with the IBR scorer they must be ready and are not allowed to stop the scoring process to make correction.
"Is that a C or a L?"

Once their scoring is complete, riders are free to leave the area.  Most will go to their rooms to prepare for the next leg.  Some will return to their motorcycle and fix any mechanical issues developed during Leg 1.

Leg 2 bonus listing is distributed at the 4 am rider's meeting on Thursday, 6/29.  Electronic distribution occurs after this meeting for all those who attend.

Tuesday evening staff meeting?
Tue, 6/27:  With the riders scattered to the four corners of North America, the IBR staff is re-positioning to the Allen Texas checkpoint.  Some arrive today, still others are arriving tomorrow.  The focus of the staff is to get the checkpoint stations prepared for the arrival of the riders starting after noon on Wednesday, 6/28.

Mon, 6/26:  STAND TO!  Riders to their mounts for final inspection.  At 7:30 am riders are to be assembled in the parking lot for final staging.  At last night's dinner each rider was given a unique IBR ID tag.  At 8:00 am IBR Staff will troop the line to do final check before the 10:00 am start.  Riders must be standing next to their motorcycle, ready to turn on the key so Staff can document their official starting odometer reading and punch the rider ID tag.  Riders who are not "Standing To" when the Odo Team arrives at their motorcycle are passed by and penalized for their lack of focus.  They will be held back until after all other riders have left.  Only two riders fit this category on the 2017 IBR. 

"Odo" Check Team

ID Tag Punch
List Consolidation

This speaks, VOLUMES!

Sun, 6/25:  All Checked In - Over 115 riders and pillions have successfully completed the IBR check in process.  All, between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm.  Not in the history of the IBR check in process has over 100 riders been processed in such a short time. 

This essential activity was executed with precision by a cadre of dedicated volunteers, led by Lisa Landry, Rally Master.   
  • Registration:   Donna Fousek, Karen Van Santen, and Bill Thweat. 
  • Tech Inspection Station: Dale Wilson, Ande Bergmann, Brian Roberts, Derek Dickson, Jeremy Lovall, Adam Wolkoff, Brant Moteelall, and Rich Reid.
  • Odometer Check Station: Marty Leir, Carol Patzer, and Paula Behm.
  • Camera Card Formatting Station: Dave McQueeney, Ira Agins, David E.B. Smith, Eric Vallencourt
  • Video/Media Station: Dennis Bitner, John Ferber, Roger Van Santen, Greg Blewett, Pat Blewett, Verne Hauck, Bonnie Hauck, Dan Stephans
  • Insurance/Waivers/Medjet Station: Ed Otto, Kathy Engholm
  • Spotwalla Tracking Station: Tim Masterson
  • Emergency Contact Info Station: Jim Fousek 
  • Final Check In: Jeff Earls, Route Master
On the schedule today is the mandatory meetings for the "Rookies" and veteran riders. The day is capped off with the traditional "Start Banquette" where the Rally Books and Leg 1 bonus listing are handed out to each rider.
Rally "Safari" Master

Pre Safari banquet for the largest concentration of "The World's Toughest Motorcycle Rally Riders!"

IBR Rider Meeting - "Are there any questions?"

All Checked In - "Ready to Ride?"

Sat, 6/24:  Game On!  The posting of the IBR Rally poster is a time honored tradition to graphically announce the theme of the rally.  Veteran IBR riders gleam lots of intel about the Route Master's strategy for the rally.  Rookies marval at the artwork and wonder..."what could it mean" ...just kidding.  But alas, the real strategy and complexity of the rally will not be apparent until the distribution of the Rally Book at the Sunday evening start banquette.

Today, riders will be moving through the check in process designed to make sure each participant meets the strict requirements of the IBR.
  • Technical Inspection - Each motorcycle must pass the inspection for overall motorcycle safety, auxiliary fuel tank, and even muffler decibel level. 
  • Odometer Check -  Each rider follows a know distance course to determine their motorcycle's mechanical odometer variance 
  • Camera & SD Card -  Rider must submit three SD memory cards used by their digital camera.  Their picture is imprinted on each SD card for later validation.
  • Document Verification and Video - Risk acceptance documentation and video taping of each rider acknowledgment of the risk.
  • Final Check In - SpotWalla satellite tracking check, emergency contact info, MedJet verification and the all important entry into the official scoring computer.
I am working the SpotWalla satellite tracking check station.  Each rider in the IBR is required to have an active satellite tracking device that feeds the IBR SpotWalla portfolio. IBR SpotWalla Public Map

All Que'd Up
Camera SD card check
Risk Video Taping


Final Check In

Fri, 6/23:  And the fun begins!  First up this morning, stuffing the IBR Swag bags.  Each rally rider receives a bag stuffed with all manner of goodies..."Swag" in the promotional vernacular.  Mike Hutsal is a double Swag bagger! 

Swag Production Line
Swag Control
10 Shirts!?
Capt Ande'...Tech Inspector
  • Rally Name tag
  • Rally T-Shirts
  • Rally Hat
  • Rally stickers
  • Rally pens
  • Rally compact toothbrush
  • Wyman Waypoint sticker 
  • Instruction flyer
Later in the morning Dale Wilson lead the cadre of volunteer Technical Inspectors through the IBR rider parking lot.  Many riders took advantage of this orientation seminar for the Tech Inspectors to have their aux tanks given a quick look before formal technical inspections on Saturday and Sunday.  The tool bags were flying out of every nook and cranny.

Thur, 6/22:  Had a good ride to the IBR Start/Finish hotel.  Weather was hot in Texas and Oklahoma, got cooler in Kansas but not by much.  After spending the night in Topeka I stopped off in Boone Iowa to drop off a Wyman Memorial plaque place holder for the Boone/Scenic Valley Railroad Museum.  The Museum is the hosting authority for the Wyman wapoint sign and memorial plaque.

Started to rain off and on as I entered Minnesota.  By the time I got to Minneapolis it was the beginning of rush hour.  Traffic was snarled all over.  The highway selected by my GPS was closed so I had a detour that took me west, north then back south.  It took me an hour to go the last 10 miles to get to the La Quinta, where I am staying for the start festivities.  All the IBR riders are at the Marriott next door.  Had dinner with a couple of comrades and we talked about all manner of things motorcycle.

About the Iron Butt Rally

The Iron Butt Rally (IBR) is the world's premier long-distance motorcycle event.  The IBR is divided into three 'legs' of varying duration (see the schedule below) and riders must arrive at the Checkpoints before the arrival window closes.  Riders from around the world participate in the 11 day event to score points by visiting 'bonus' locations, take a picture to prove they were there, make a log entry and ride to the next bonus location.  So, it's a timed event where route planning, ridecraft, and resources management are keys to success. After three legs the riders are ranked by their claimed and awarded bonus points.  The top 10 'Podium' finishers are recognized at the awards banquette.  Just finishing the IBR is recognized the world over as evidence of one's superior long-distance motorcycling skills.

The IBR Overall Schedule

  • Thu-Fri, Jun 21-23:  Gathering of the riders, IBR staff and volunteers in Minnetanka, MN
  • Sat-Sun, Jun 24-25:  Rider check-in, technical inspections, registration
  • Sun Evening, Jun 25:  Start Banquette - Rally Books and Leg 1 bonus listing distributed
  • LEG 1:  10 am 6/26 to 8 pm 6/28 (58 hours)
  • LEG 2:  4 am 6/29 to 8 pm 7/1 (64 hours)
  • LEG 3:  4 am 7/2 to 10 am 7/7 (126 hours)
  • Fri Evening, Jul 7:  Awards Banquette and celebration!