Pedal. Breathe. Eat. Drink. Repeat, over and over.
A couple weeks ago I wasn’t certain I was even going to start LOTOJA. I was so burned out from Leadville that the thought of spending another 11-12 hours in the saddle again sent a cold shiver down my spine. Leadville left me drained, depleted, and burned out. I’ve only been in the saddle a few times since and the shadows of Columbine linger in my soul. But a couple of weeks ago I started to find a little spark of interest in riding. I led the Velo Love team on a tour of Eagle Mountain ride and I actually enjoyed it. By last weekend, I was feeling the emotional well replenish. It was shallow, but I could tell it was sufficient.
Melissa and I left on Friday for Logan to get my race packet. I wish so badly Melissa had registered with me, but back in the spring she wasn’t sure she would be able to log the necessary miles due to her involvement with all the kid activities. Of course, since she completed Leadville only a month earlier, she regrets not registering with me since she was well prepared for the course. Regardless, it’s always fun to spend time together and she was an excellent support.
The night before the ride, the Velo Love team, and a few others got together for some food at a local park in Logan. It was great to meet new people and spend some time socializing with friends.
The morning of the event was filled with anticipation. I didn’t have a fire in my belly to “go get it,” but rather a feeling of, “let’s get this over with.” I was resolved to sit, spin, and suck any available tire. Our team was among the last waves to leave Logan at 7:20. As we rolled out of town, I was happy to sit among the peloton of riders from other teams and relax. Before I knew it, we hit Preston, ID and I was feeling pretty good. Melissa met me at the aid station with food and supplies. More than anything, it was great to see her for an emotional energy boost. As the clock started to tick, I was pressuring the team to get rolling. One of my goals was not to spend too much time at aid stations to avoid cooling down. It always takes me a while to get the motor running again after I sit more than a few minutes. I ended up leaving the aid station with two strong riders, Casy and Mike. I have ridden a lot with Casey, but I had only met Mike the night before at the dinner. Our intention was to soft pedal until the rest of the team joined us, but we soon tucked in behind a group that moved at a similar pace.
LOTOJA has three distinct hill climbs, the last and worst of which is Salt Creek. Up to this point on the course, the weather was awesome. The trees in the canyons provided great shade and the temperatures were quite mild. Midway up Salt Creek, the trees disappear you are left to the full exposure of the sun. I baked. Sweat was pouring off my face. I slowed my pace to better pace myself. I knew that the summit of Salt Creek was almost exactly the half way point. As I crested the last hill I was relieved to grab a Coke at the aid station and recover for a few minutes before we bombed down the fill. Between Mike and Casey, we had a good thing going. They dropped me a little, but I caught back up with them by the next aid station.
After the three big climbs, the rest of the course is flat with some rolling hills from Alpine into Jackson. A few miles out of Afton, Mike and I latched onto a group. I looked back and Casey was not with us. About fifteen minutes down the road and Mike got a flat tire. I stopped at the aid station in Alpine hoping they would only be a few minutes behind so we could finish together. Casey was only little behind, but Mike didnt’ show after 5-10 minutes. Casey and I rolled out together and I was surprisingly feeling pretty strong. I dropped my head and tuned the pedals. I looked back and Casey was done. I was alone with about 45 miles to the finish. I simply cranked the pedals hoping I would find somebody to ride with. About 40 minutes later, I latched onto a group that was moving at a good pace. It was awesome to be with a group so we could share the work. There was a mild headwind and it was noticeable.
At the last aid station I drank half of a Red Bull–huge mistake. Within a few minutes I could feel my heart rate escalate and I started to feel some gut discomfort. Ugh! What was I thinking?! I did this a couple of years ago at The Cache Gran Fondo and had a similar result.
The group I was with splintered and I was riding solo until the last 5 miles of the course where I found two guys who were working together. I latched on and we rode towards the finish line as the sun settled behind the Tetons. I crossed the finish line pretty depleted, but still in good spirits. It was great seeing Melissa. I also ran into my missionary trainer and his parents. We waited for everyone to cross the finish line and took a couple minutes to compare race notes and take some shots. We had planned on having dinner together, but I think we all knew. That wasn’t going to happen since we were all dead.
Melissa and I arrived at our hotel in Jackson around 9:00. Across the street was a funky Italian restaurant where we enjoyed a nice meal together. It was hard for me to eat since my stomach was still adjusting, but had a nice conversation as we reviewed the day’s events.
As we nestled into our hotel, I turned on the BYU-Utah game. Melissa quickly fell asleep, but I stayed up until the game concluded with another Utah win, 7 in a row. I still couldn’t sleep. I don’t get the physiology behind it, but I can never fall asleep after a long hard effort.
Overall, it was a great event. It was challenging, but LOTOJA did not murder me like Leadville. The thought of doing Leadville again makes my knees quiver. I anxious to go for a sub 11 hour LOTOJA next year.
- Melissa made various rice cakes to eat instead of eating gels and gummies. She did a great job and they were fantastic. This could be the biggest development in cycling in years for me since I struggle so much with other products.
- Spend less time at aid stations. In fact, I think I could get away with only stopping at 4 aid stations with good planning.
- Have ice-soaked towels at each aid station.
- I’ve done it twice now. I’m not sure why I tried again, but AVOID ALL ENERGY DRINKS before or while on course.
- Reserve your hotel room in Jackson and Logan early, like January.
- Have a change of clothes at the finish line (with a hat). Bring one of those refreshing body wipes.
- As we left Logan, it was 58 degrees. It was slightly cool, but glad I didn’t bring a vest and arm warmers. The limit would probably be 55.