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Sunday, September 25, 2011

My LOTOJA 2011 Race Report ~ ~ ~ including Perspective of my Support Crew . . .


Well, to begin, despite the temperamental/questionable knee, that decided to invite itself to this race even though I wasn’t overly thrilled with the idea, the race has come and is now over, and we both (the knee, and myself) survived!

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Several weeks ago I found an awesome jersey that I thought would meet the daughters request of something that would “stand out in a crowd”  unbeknownst to me, the kids had already purchased a jersey and so eloquently voiced their admiration for my jersey choice.  Their comments say it all.  But I must say I LOVE the jersey they picked out and waited until LOTOJA race day to wear it the first time.  The one the daughter found is hands down on my fav 5 list 

(please don’t even ask how many/much cycling attire I actually have, over the past 6 years I’ve accumulated quite a lot. . . to the point, it’s almost embarrassing!)  

. . .But, back to the point. . . this jersey is super comfy, cool, and super stylin in pink.  The arm warmers were an extra, LOVE them too!

As you are aware with the help of the genius, by tracking me via da blog throughout the ride, I successfully completed my 2nd LOTOJA.  

(I know, it’s actually my third, but because I didn’t finish (DNF)
before dark my first year, it doesn’t count)

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Registration ~ ~ ~ organized nerves . . . can nerves be organized?,

it feels like they are here. . . energy, anticipation, and excitement. . . 

This marks the end of a summer,  and often winter, or several seasons of preparation.  coming together for an event such as this represents hundreds of hours and thousands of miles (per person) on a bike.

I personally logged over 2600 miles this summer that took 162 hours between late May and September.  While this may sound like a lot, it's low, very low compared to the elites!  It was even a little low for me compared to last year.

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After packet pick up they have sponsor and vendor booths for all to visit.  LOTOJA is in partnership with “Team Give” of the Huntsman Cancer Center.  Regrettably I didn’t get a picture of the Lamborghini that they bring for display.  It’s a bright green car that is displayed in a portable museum (i.e. big glass case semi-trailer).  I’ll make sure to get that picture next year. . .  promise.

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The bag all your stuff comes in, this year’s ride date:  9-10-11

that won’t happen again
ever

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The first thing to do after getting your registration packet, is to open it up to check out the water bottle and see what your number looks like. . .

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They went out all fancy this year.  I knew what my number was last week from an e-mail they sent to all participants with final instructions and updates, but what it actually looked like was still a mystery until the day before, at packet pick up/registration.

There is a number to apply to myself. . .

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. . . one for the bike.

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and. . . one for the car!

They want to know who you are and who you belong to


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Next it’s time to begin preparations for the long ride. . . for me that means a LOT of water bottles!   The four shorter bottles are prepped with dry energy nutrition, all my support crew needs to do is add electrolyte, usually a small amount of PowerAde/Gatorade, ice and water, then shake, shake, shake.

This stuff is great. . . but that is my personal opinion only, my support peeps. . . they think it’s disgusting. . . oh well, that means more for me. . . no sharing!

Just like the clothing, I have WAAAAYYYYY too many of these, after collecting them at each event for several years now, they add up, but these are my favorites.

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one of the key things for my nutrition plan is boiled little red potatoes, (or in my case pressure cooked) with a little salt.  These little gems along with watermelon are my FAVORITE food for a long ride!

The important thing to recognize is that your nutrition plan is very individual, it’s imperative to work out the details, even minor ones in training, WEEKS BEFORE the event.  especially YOUR nutrition and hydration.  What works for me, may not work for you. . . even more importantly, what works at 75 miles probably won’t work at 160 miles. . . training involves much more than just riding your bike.

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The next task at hand is to load the support vehicle, in my case it’s a car.  I am always amazed at how much stuff and preparation it takes to do these big events.  It’s not just me and my bike, its water bottles, water, ice, nutrition, more nutrition, lunch for me (part of the on the go nutrition), lunch for my support crew, change of clothes, real shoes, chocolate milk for the finish, and sleeping attire for everyone, emergency repair tool/kit, pump, blanket and pillow for the ride home. . . it ends up being a pretty big list, and as you can see it looks like we are preparing for a week long road adventure, when in reality it is just a one day overnight excursion.

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Then everyone begins to arrive.  As you can see, there are bikes everywhere.


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Accommodations are hard to come by as there is such an influx of peeps, cyclists, support crews, cars, bikes. . .  If you know someone that you can stay the night with, it’s not only cheaper, but you have somewhere to stay when EVERYTHING else is booked.  Jackson is the same way.  It is necessary to book your room upon registration in April, or you quite possibly won’t be staying the night in Jackson.  I live in a pretty small house, and have had as many as 21 peeps here on LOTOJA eve.  If there is space it is usually taken with either a body or a bike.  Peeps sleep on the floor, the couch, they bring air-mattresses . . .  I don’t think we’ve utilized the tub yet, but it’s been close.   This year we had 5 cyclists with their support crews here.

I love LOTOJA, it’s a big party that we look forward to every year. . .

. . . kind of  like Thanksgiving or Christmas.


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this is one pack leaving Logan,  obviously this isn’t me, this is a group of guys.  This year was the second warmest LOTJA start in the 29 year history of this event.  Last year was the coldest.

Logan to Preston is a fast ride, the 35 miles is a good warm up for the rest of the day.  The terrain is flat and there are HUGE packs all going forward, fast, taking advantage of drafting off of each other.  The key objective here is to stay alert and keep safe.  with so many cyclists it would be easy to wreck or be the cause of one, which has happened on numerous occasions on this section.  But all went well for me today and I arrived in Preston in good time.  Even though it was the second warmest start for LOTOJA, I still wore my leggings and arm-warmers.  we ride through a lot of farming country, and I know there are cold pockets, and at 20-22 mph on a bike, even at 57° for me, I know I will get cold, then the cold pockets are worse. 

Just like nutrition, it’s important to know how to dress and what your needs with different temperatures and weather conditions are.  It’s all part of preparation and training.

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You and your support crew, determine the previous night which number marker you want to meet at upon approach to the feed zone.   There are nine of them, we choose number 8.

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This is Preston, the crowds here aren’t as big because many cyclists choose not to stop here.  Even my stop is VERY short and fast, being less than 2 minutes.  I only dropped off my leggings, said hi to my support crew, grabbed a baggie of potato gems, and was on my way again.

Feed zones are mainly at the park of the towns we stop at, Preston, Montpelier, and Afton.   Alpine is not at a park, but on the shoulder of the highway.

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Montpelier is the main stop and it is the most important.  we have just finished climbing the longest climb of the ride, but there are two more big climbs into Afton.  If you miss your cyclist here, it is a bad, bad, bad thing.  the second year I supported my brother, we missed him in Montpelier, I still feel bad about it. . . I'm not completely confident that he has ever forgiven me either.

The ride from Preston to Montpelier was okay. . . Okay it was hard, there was wind.


a lot of wind, even a breeze constitutes wind on a bike. . .


all the way up the canyon there was wind,


then. . .


. . . all the way into Montpelier there was even more wind



it was a hard push the entire way.  I’ll let you in on this fact right now, it was a hard windy ride today.  I knew it would be windy, I expected it, anticipated it, there were storms moving in for the following week, and what brings in a storm?


Wind. . .  so it was to be expected


but that doesn’t mean it has to be appreciated.


did I say it was a long hard windy ride?


well, it was, 130 miles of windy hard


But I had some shining moments on this section.  I hooked on to a pace-line of cyclists and we were cranking down the road, as the lead rider gets tired and goes to the back we then move up a spot.  This particular pace line was a mix of men and women, of course some are stronger than others, but I held the pace, and when it was my turn up front I held the pace even against the wind at 21.5 mph for almost five minutes.  Granted this was on a flat section of the course.  I’m not a great climber, but I have greatly improved my pull on the flats and this proved itself on this section. . . this equates to happy satisfaction here!  Next year I will work on the hills more.

I’ll be honest, my training was a little lacking this year and my climbing was down by 6000 feet of training compared to last year, that's a lot, and it added up to a negative impact on today's ride.  Knowing this, it’s not much of a surprise that my climbing performance suffered this year.

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peeps do many various things to help their cyclist find them in the crowds at each feed zone.
these are different flags/methods various support crews used, to “stand out in the crowds” for their cyclist at the feed zones.


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the black shirts work great for me. . . these are the shirts we made last year, they are perfect, and when there are 4 of these all together, they stand out in a crowd too.


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just in case the support crew forgets their important duties, it’s attached to them!

The Support Crew. . .

If you ever have the opportunity to be support crew for a rider. . . Take It!  Support crew is fun, rewarding, and yes inspiring!  A big part of me misses being support crew, but I must admit I LOVE riding too, and I could not complete this ride with out a support crew.

I am a slower rider by comparison.  With this in mind I have often wondered what my support crew does with their time.  The reality is that it takes me 12+ hours to complete what would otherwise be a 3 hour drive in a motorized vehicle.  During my support crew days, I helped my brother who is a FAST rider, he gets done in approx. 9 1/2 hours, that is 3 hours faster than me! which also means there isn’t much down time. . . in fact there isn’t any down time.  I still don’t know how he does that. . .

. . . oh, yeah,  

first he’s a guy. . .  and. . . he's younger than I am. . . a lot younger

but even bigger than that he works and trains MUCH harder than I do.  But still I would like to get faster at this, in my day dreams ultimately 10 1/2 hours would be AMAZING. . . .  then on second thought, that’s a lot of work. . . do I want to do that?. . . time will tell,. . .  today
um. . . well I’ll decide tomorrow. . .

how to say this effectively?

. . . That's why he's amazingly FAST and . . . well I'm . . . s  l  o   w. .   .   .

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This is the first turn off.  The support crew goes over and around the cyclists, and that takes them on this dirt road out of Preston into Montpelier.


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through empty fields, eventually back on to the main road.  I admit, that for support crews, these “detours” around the cyclists can get long.  I didn’t realize how long until after getting my camera back after the ride. . .

These pics were obviously taken by the businessman. . . he entertained himself by taking pictures. . .


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The genius. . . doing what he normally does during daylight hours. . . .

. . .  snboring!

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The daughter looks happy to be here. . . she ended up being the “designated driver”

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The musician is just amused, safely sitting there being amused with the scenery from inside a car. . .
he HATES being in a car. . .

he loves his family though, so on occasion subjects himself
to being trapped in a moving vehicle for hours at a time.

H's such a good sport!


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As a cyclist this is one of my favorite spots.  This is where support crews meet up with cyclists coming out of Geneva, and all of a sudden you feel this surge of energy with it’s motivating force of people who care about you.  This is where you begin watching for your support car, even though they don’t stop to see you, just seeing them is an amazing boost. . . it helps you feel loved and cared about as they cheer, and ring cow bells as they fly past you as cars do compared to bikes.


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There are a lot of cars here. . . think about it, approximately 2000 cyclists, and each one has their own support crew, all traveling the same path.  it’s an awesome sight.


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for the slower riders, there is time to chill.  This isn’t my support crew's lounging area, remember we are in a car and there is barely room for the essentials, let alone the “luxury” extras.


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Hands down the most difficult section of the ride for me this year was coming out of Geneva into Salt River Pass, (for you  Star Valley, Wyoming, Folks, I understand that it is simply referred to as "the south end") My support crew hadn't put ice in my water or nutrition bottle so they were warm, so I began to develop "an attitude" just outside of Montpelier, and I wasn't as motivated to drink, so my nutrition and hydration was rapidly getting very messed up.

I don't necessarily need ice, I just like ice, okay I REALLY like ice in my drinks, even though I know it will melt anyway. . . I still want and expect it to be there when I start out. . .

As a result of this attitude, and unhealthy behavior I was getting nauseous, and crampy, and crabby. . . my legs were telling me we were done for a while. . . I was fatigued. . . I am 100 miles in to the ride and still had the BIG 4 mile climb ahead.

It was just a couple of miles before Salt River Pass that I began to fall behind the main group of riders from my initial starting pack.  I still hadn't seen my trusty support crew in my favorite little white car carrying the people who loved me, carrying my precious ice, which was concerning me greatly.  It was at this point going up the mountain that I seriously considered throwing in the towel, as I crawled (literally) to the top, contemplating and wondering if anyone had ever walked their bike to the top of this dreadful little mountain, realizing that it probably would have been faster to. . . . well. . . . just walk up the hill!  But mentally I couldn't justify that.  How embarrassing, how demoralizing. . . I was on a bike ride, which meant I was supposed to be riding a bike not walking next to it. . . so onward and upward the 4 mile "gargantuan" hill I went.  As I arrived at the wonderful top of the mountain, there were porta-potties, fresh water, and. . . . 

Gummy Bears!!!  

What a pleasant surprise, and Oh how I loved the gummy bears. . . 
they were just what I needed

After stopping for too long, I was back onto the bike with a fresh outlook to the ride and off I went toward Afton.  I think the LOTOJA folks were inspired to have gummy bears there.  This is a neutral support station meaning they have limited supplies for cyclists, but support crews are not allowed to stop.  The gummy bears saved me. . . did I mention that I took a whole hand full of cute, colorful, yummyful, delicious gummy bears with me. . . they helped me along the way all the rest of the way to Afton.  When they were all gone, I sort of missed my little companions.

Even though I spent a little too much time at the top of Salt River Pass, it was needed, and I'm glad I took the opportunity to refresh my mental batteries. . . it was a great re-charge moment.  I also discovered that there were a couple of peeps who DID walk their bikes up the hill, in the end even though I was sorely tempted, I'm glad I wasn't one of them.


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Time out for lunch.
no chocolate milk for the musician? . . .

. . . my chocolate milk is still waiting for me. . . . aaahhhh
I will always look forward to my choco moo juice at the end of a long ride, especially LOTOJA!

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On my way once again.  This is in Alpine, meaning there are 47 miles to go.  This was my next most difficult point.  It feels so close, but it is still half a century away.  With the wind, I had pushed hard and my time is the same as last year, and the mental fatigue had caught up with me.  I honestly didn’t want to get going again, but my faithful support crew sent me pedaling anyway. . . yup, they kicked me out and made me get back on my bike.  The good news is that the knee was holding up well, and at this turn going into Hoback Junction we finally had a small tail wind. . . which was a welcome relief!  I could tell that it was tired and a little stiff, but it hadn't locked up on me, which was the huge concern. This was the outcome I was hoping for by wearing that obnoxious brace for the past two weeks.


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Upon reclaiming my camera from the daughter after the ride, this was the most distressing of all.  I can’t tell you how many times I looked at this river as I was pedaling past and thought how delightful it would be to go for a refreshing swim. . .


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only to discover that my support crew ACTUALLY stopped to play in this wonderful, refreshing river that graced the landscape between Alpine and Jackson.


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These guys look like they are having the vacation of the day!  The kids said they were delightfully playing and running in and out of the water. . . sometimes I’m jealous of the life of a dog. . . no cares in the world, food, play, and scratch my ears. . . . that covers the concerns of a dog. . . . 

and for today. . .

my support crew. . .

They had no sympathy for my suffering. . . . at all!


. . . okay, time to get my mind back to pedaling, but my mind goes on vacation sometimes between the reality of a sweaty, dirty/salt covered face, tired legs, and the never ending ups of the road.


This would be a good place to re-live another of my highlights.  As Kirk and I were approaching Alpine, I saw the feed zone and like a puppy waiting for his favorite pets to get inside after being gone all day, I told Kirk. . . . There it is. . . it's Alpine! and off I went.  As I pulled into the feed zone, I looked behind me and Kirk was nowhere to be found. . . Apparently he wasn't as excited as I was, but the bigger problem was that I didn't even notice I had out pulled him to this little heaven.  He came in a minute or two behind me. . . after that we were more careful not to get split up again.


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This is Kirk!  He is Angela’s cousin and we basically rode from Afton to Jackson together.  He was a HUGE blessing and helped me to keep going even though I wasn't sure I wanted to.

At moments along the way a few thoughts that kept me going at this point is that first when you are on a bike. . . 

if you don’t keep pedaling you will tip over. . . bad idea. . . not fun. . . .
somewhat embarrassing. . . in other words. . . not recommended

and. . . .

The knowledge that if I didn’t finish, I wouldn’t be that much closer to my 1000 miles of LOTOJA.  I want to earn my sprocket, and my first year already doesn’t count, (remember the DNF I talked about earlier?)  No repeats. . . no, no, no, I don’t want to add to that.  That thought more than anything kept me going.

Then. . .

In addition to that thought, I knew I had come this far, and I could finish, and was perfectly able, even if I wasn’t going to be faster than last year. . . as I had hoped I would be.

But. . .

Kirk was instrumental in keeping me going.  He is a better climber than me, but I was stronger on the flats, so it was a great combination. . . I'm not quite sure how that works, but it's how it was. . . we helped each other for this last little bit of the ride . . . kind of pathetic that 47 miles seems like a "little bit" but that's honestly how it is when you decide to ride your bike 206 miles across the country in a single day.


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Even though this picture is  a little out of focus, the scenery is gorgeous, this too helped me to keep going!


Hoback Junction is probably the favorite section for both cyclists and support crews, it's beautiful, there are multiple scenic pullouts and by this point in the race/ride the cyclists are so spread out that traffic congestion isn't much of a problem either.  This section allows for lots of moral support on both sides. . .  It's a great place to be. . . it's fun . . .  it's almost over!

Our support crews kept us going as well, encouragement along the way, the perfect antidote to fading drive and motivation.  Kirk's parents actually had agreed to put me and my bike in their truck, but I graciously declined their offer as a result of my whining request (I told them my support crew was being mean, and I WANTED to STOP!  This exchange happened as I was pedaling past them. . .)

I knew in the end I would have been disappointed in myself and my faithful support crew would not have been happy either!


. . . two negatives, don't ALWAYS equal a positive. . . that's a fact!

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I remember seeing this raft, I was jealous of them too. 

I wonder if they were inspired by us on our bikes. . . .

. . . aw, they probably didn’t even notice. . .
would you notice us if you were basking in this scenery?

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The finish line!

There is a 1/2 mile walk to the car from the end of the finish line.  Cyclists come in a steady stream for 5-6 hours, first the elites, this group would include my brother and my cousin, they are followed by us average peeps that just want to do something amazing . . .

. . . that would be me

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This was taken just prior to me getting to the finish line.

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We made it!
 
I have to admit my arrival in Jackson at the finish line wasn’t as pivotal as last years success,
but it’s a great thing nonetheless.

As Kirk and I came to the last 15 miles of our adventure we determined that we would cross the finish line together. . . it was a perfect end of a long day on a bicycle.

This last section of the ride was triumphant for both Kirk and myself.  Somewhere I was able to kick it in to gear and finish strong!  We passed a woman from my starting pack and I knew I needed to maintain that lead.  I pulled Kirk along and he was doing all he could to keep up, kind of the Alpine repeat. . . but we had determined to stick together, I’m glad we did, I needed his moral support when I was low.   We were both pretty spent, but I had a goal in mind to finish ahead of my only remaining competition from my pack.  As it turned out the woman I passed, finished less than 1 minute behind me and we were the last two to come across the finish line for our group.

That was success!


My time:  12 hours 42 minutes. . . 


. . . 3 minutes longer than last year


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meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .

this is an exhausting weekend for EVERYONE

In the end I was somewhat, well . . . if I tell you how I honestly feel. . . I was VERY  disappointed in this year’s performance even though I completed the ride.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that I finished, just not thrilled with the time it took me to do it.  3 minutes longer than last year!  A far cry from shaving off 45-60 minutes that I had hoped to accomplish.

Now to justify for the poor time:  The wind was absolutely a factor.  Even the elites were 15 minutes slower than average,  we average peeps were about 30 minutes slower.  Added on to the wind, my training was not as focused this year (too many distractions), AND I did go into this with a compromised  knee.  I could tell it was weak.   I mean honestly I had my leg strapped in a brace for two weeks, stabilizing it so I could not only ride, but FINISH THIS RIDE. . . not to mention the reduced level of training at the end of the season due to the knee. while training was somewhat “disjointed” somehow, it was enough.  I did indeed finish, and I’m happy about that.  So while I will try not to whine and complain about the outcome, as I reflect back, I truly feel like I was blessed with the ability to finish.

Thanks for joining me . . . Life is truly an adventure, remember to "find joy in the journey. . .  it makes for great stories to tell and memories of amazing accomplishments!

and just in case you haven't realized it. . .
I LOVE RIDING MY BIKE!



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