Juneau’s extreme cycler Dr. Janice Sheufelt gave another extraordinary effort last weekend through the sweltering heat of Death Valley in the Furnace Creek 508.
This was Sheufelt’s second Furnace Creek 508 in as many years and she set a personal best time.
“It was a little hotter than last year,” Sheufelt said. “That was a little bit of a challenge. That was the main thing.”
Sheufelt, age 46, bested her last year’s time of 35 hours, 14 minutes and 51 seconds by two hours, finishing in 33:53:57 to place second for women and 11th overall on Sunday.
“I was really happy about that,” Sheufelt said. “My time was faster so, yeah, I am definitely happy with that. I raced as hard as I could and I am happy with how it went.”
The top woman was Seana Hogan, 53, from Valley Springs, Calf., who posted a 33:25:53.
Sheufelt beat Hogan in last years race.
“I couldn’t sneak up on her this year,” Sheufelt said. “She was monitoring me the whole race. She knew I was back there. She had her crew check to make sure and wasn’t taking anything for granted.”
Sheufelt said she rode a steady pace throughout the course in temperatures that approached 100-degrees.
“The course goes through Death Valley at night and it didn’t cool off at all,” Sheufelt said. “It was over 80 degrees at night.”
Her support crew were husband Jim and father Ted and they used 1-gallon garden sprayers to keep her cool.
“They were great,” Sheufelt said. “They sprayed me down a lot because it was so hot.”
Sheufelt’s team also prepared sandwiches for her every few hours. A half sandwich would be eaten at a break stop and the other half on the pedal. Liquids were consumed constantly.
“Usually I could inhale half a sandwich standing right on the road side,” Sheufelt said. “And baggy up the other half and eat it a few minutes later. I didn’t start out as slow as last year. Everything went really smoothly, I didn’t have any real problems. I just couldn’t catch the first place woman. Seana beat me and she is a total legend.”
Over 220 participants started and 17 did not finish. Riders could compete solo, or in two or four person teams.
Sean Cuddihy, 44, from Long Beach, posted the fastest male and overall time with a 29:33:10.
The only other Alaskan, Anchorage’s Leonard Fancer, 48, finished in 43:37:34.
Team Bushmaster won the two-man division in 27:16:02, Team Gibbon won the two-mixed in 31:36:48, Psycho Kitties the two-woman in 34:47:00, Rock Ewe four-woman in 28:23:30, Nervous Tick the four-man in 29:02:29, and Sea Monkeys the four-mixed in 30:37.28. There were also tandem and fixed gear categories.
The 500-plus-mile race starts outside Los Angeles and travels through Death valley and the Mojave Desert and finishes near Joshua Tree National Park.
The race is revered the world over for its epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery and desolate roads. Te Furnace Creek 508 is known as “The toughest 48 hours in sport” and is the world’s premier ultra marathon bicycle race. The course has a total elevation gain of 35,000 feet and crosses 10 mountain passes.
Riders also have totems that they race under. Sheufelt’s is Wooshkeetaan.
She will take that totem in pursuit of Hogan once again in June’s Race Across The West.
“To me the Furnace Creek 508 was actually a really good training ride,” Sheufelt said. “I am planning something longer in June.”
The Race Across The West begins in San Diego and goes to Durango, surpassing 800 miles.
“I am signed up for that,” Sheufelt said. “So I am committed.”