As a rider or team participating in Furnace Creek 508, one of your first tasks; required to complete your application, is choosing a totem. At The 508 animal names, “totems“, are used instead of bib numbers to identify riders and teams. Once a rider officially finishes, the totem is theirs and the same totem will be used if they ride The 508 again in the future.
The first qualification for choosing a totem is that it cannot have been used previously by an official finisher. It’s easy to check if a totem has been used before by checking the totem search page for the AdventureCorps database. When you’re viewing the full list just ctrl-f or apple-f (depending on your OS) and search for the name. You can also use the text or totem search on the page, but it’s quicker to just let your browser search the entire list.
In 2007, the first year I applied for Furnace Creek 508, I chose “fourwhitefeet” on my application in honor of my pups. The race director informed me it was not an acceptable totem because it’s not an animal. Fictional animals are sometimes allowed, but rather than argue about whether or not “fourwhitefeet” represents an animal, I am thankful that the name was not allowed, because it’s TOO LONG!
Now, having a little better understanding of the rules, my personal #1 requirement for a totem is that it be short. The rules (7.G.iv.) state that your totem appear in 6 inch high letters on all four sides of your support vehicle. There are far better ways for you and your crew to spend your time (like sleeping) than figuring out how to fit a long totem on your van in 6 inch letters! A short totem can fit on an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, or can be professionally printed for a reasonable cost, while it can be difficult and cost prohibitive to have a long name printed.
Before applying this year I started by searching a list of three-letter animal names. I didn’t find an unused one I liked so I moved on to a list of four-letter animal names. From that list I chose “Pika”. I was surprised to find it hadn’t been used before. Pika was an animal I could relate to. Like me, they live in the mountains; in fact the talus slopes of the Spanish Peaks within a few miles of my house are home to pika. North American Pika are mostly solitary animals. When you’re hiking in their territory you’ll frequently hear them, but rarely see them. They’re vegetarians and very active; covering a lot of distance every day gathering various plants for food.
WWF pika page (It’s believed that pika populations are being made extinct by global warming.)
Pika – Wikipedia entry
More Pika information and cute photo of a pika with flowers.
In addition to totems, another tradition of The 508 is raising money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. My father died at a young age of heart disease so in conjunction with fundraising for CAF I’m trying to raise awareness of heart disease. Please consider making a donation to CAF in honor of someone close to you that’s been affected by heart disease.