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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

LOTOJA 2013 . . . day of disappointment

LOTOJA has come and gone for another year. . .

This was a difficult post to write. . . but at last, as promised, here is my LOTOJA 2013 report:
As a family we love LOTOJA and have already begun the planning for 2014. . .


for me this year. . . well, it simply wasn't my year. 

and I turned out  my worst performances since beginning to ride a bicycle!  Still reeling from the events of summer I simply was not prepared for a ride of this magnitude.
. . . and once again, my failure was softened by my family. . .

                                                               also known as . . . 

“my support crew”

I know there are cyclists that do this event completely “un-supported”, meaning they only use neutral support, but I don’t know how . . . my support crew is my life-line . . . this ride is long and gets pretty lonely at times, and knowing that people that love me and will take care of me, regardless of my performance, gets me from feed zone to feed zone.
This year my first disappointment was when I realized that 1/2 of my support crew did NOT wear their special “support crew” t-shirts. . .

I was sad about that Sad smile 


With that declaration this blog post is a little different as I will share a journey of disappointment and discouragement of a very long day on my bicycle interspersed with the happenings of the support crew.

I was dreading this ride, I knew I was not ready, and on Thursday I hit an all out Low. . . it was so bad that Superman thought I hated him. . .

That was a VERY sad thing.


This year we opted to rent a van.  This was a great decision as it gave everyone space and room for the 13 hour trek across Idaho and Wyoming.


The most compelling reason for renting a van was that traffic is VERY congested in Montpelier and keeping two cars together for this feed zone is merely next to impossible.

the second reason, was, well it was less expensive. . .

adding up travel with gas and munchies for two cars,
it simply made economical sense to rent a van

Reason #3 . . . well any trip of this length is more fun with more than two people to come up with things to talk about. . . Even with Superman who has more stories and experiences to tell about than anyone I know. . . AND he loves to talk and talk and talk. . . but even with that more people adding to those conversations makes life more entertaining.


yeah, it’s a bonding experience. . . 

that is the best justification to keep everyone together in one vehicle


There is one reality for the Support Crew, that is even though Jackson Hole, WY is only a 3 hour drive under normal conditions from Logan, UT. . .  as a cyclist it will take a minimum of 9 hours and by function and definition, the support crew will arrive in Teton Village, WY . . . the same time as the cyclist. . . so for us last year that was 11 hours 42 minutes. . . this year it was a dismal 12+ hours and that was only to Hoback Junction. . . . 26 miles from the finish line.


Under the new LOTOJA guidelines the routes were split up, spacing out both riders and support crews.  There are several rumors as to why this was done, but the reality is that this action
  1. helped prevent accidents and mixing of cyclists between the competitive and the “fun ride” or “cyclopostive cyclists 
  2. This approach GREATLY reduced the congestion in Montpelier allowing support crews to get in and out of town much easier.  In dividing of routes out of Logan to Preston for both cyclists and support vehicles,  Support crews said it was MUCH better and more enjoyable.

“Competitive” riders would would not have support in Preston, sending theirsupport crews directly to Montpelier,  which was fine, because I was planning to bypass Preston anyway, so this news didn’t impact my game plan at all.

However, with Montpelier being deemed the most critical stop of support I was grateful that I had decided to register with the “competitive” classification. 

I was concerned that the cyclosportive riders didn’t have support there, but event organizers had a plan in place for them to leave what essentials they needed at check in, to have ready at the neutral support in Montpelier, so it all worked out for them in the end.


Getting to Preston was great and while I hung onto to the back of the pack, 
I was doing well and my sprits were high.  

But, I should not have been so confident.  Just as we got to the turn off in Preston, the grades began to increase. . . this new route added slightly more elevation to the route going into Preston . . . making my life more difficult until I simply could not stay with the group and all of a sudden I found myself riding . . . 


I felt a little silly out there by myself so early in the game, as the neutral support peeps would go by and ask if I was okay.  I would reply yes, and just kept pedaling down the road, hoping I wouldn’t miss a turn as I was unfamiliar with the roads I was on.

The route was well marked and the volunteers were still at the turns making sure I didn’t go astray. . . I was grateful and very appreciative of there volunteer services!


Wishing I would have stayed with the “cyclosportive” category at least I knew the route so it wouldn’t have been so unsure and so I would be riding with friends. . . but my confidence was also taking a hit, a huge hit, and I reasoned that I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with them either, and decided it was best that I was where I was at. . . and besides, to see my support crew in Montpelier was important to me, so I decided to be happy with my current situation and simply just pedal my bike doing my absolute best.

Allow me to lament for a moment:  Being dropped so early in the ride, causing me to ride solo for 85% of the 206 miles

                                                                   . . .  made for a VERY long day,

not only for me . . . 

but for my support crew as well.

eventually the routes merged with the “cyclosportive class”  and I once again had people to ride with and this was great . . .  

With new found encouragement  I began the climb through Strawberry and realized that I had not been up this canyon this training season. . . and I was feeling the lack of training! 
Somehow I actually passed a few cyclists on the climb I bumped into some of the Joyride group and my spirits soared as I out climbed a couple of them and made the decision to forge ahead getting to Montpelier the best and as quickly as I could on my own, and again began to believe that I would be able to make it to the finish line.

Was forging ahead my best move?

. . . Yes                             

 No . . .


Yes because I got over the top of the mountain faster and to my support crew. 
No, because if we had stayed together, worked together on the flats, we may have had the energy we all needed to get to the finish line before dark.

There were three of us who were close, but not close enough to arrive before dark. . . the three of us working together may have made all the difference.


I met this couple on the Tandem going up through Strawberry. . . they added joy to my ride.  As I was passing them they were trying to go up one of the last descents of Strawberry
and . . . to put it lightly, struggling.

they caught my attention first because their conversation was entertaining as they were still figuring out how to best get up the mountain, secondly because Superman and I have talked about trying the tandem thing and in their quest were telling each other how hard this was. . . not only were they fun, but they were having a grand ol time and I fed off of their pleasant attitudes. 

While we didn’t actually ride together  we pretty much stayed within proximity of each other for the remainder of the ride.  they would pass me going down a hill, I would pull ahead of them going up and we seemed to arrive at each feed zone within about 5 minutes of each other.

They most certainly caused me to question whether I wanted
to attempt this ride on a tandem. . .  

. . , I seriously question if I want to ride tandem at all!

Superman and I rented a tandem bike for our engagement pictures, you can trust me when I say, Even though we had a blast . . . It’s harder than it looks, and this couple didn’t change that perspective at all!


I’m sure this picture was for the two motor-heads we had in our group, so I put it in my report just for Superman and the Business man.

. . . guys, know that you are loved AND appreciated Smile


As I arrived in Montpelier I was keenly aware that I was one of the last “competitive cyclist” to arrive.  My support crew was there and were fabulous at getting me on my way again. . .  Oh the joy at seeing them was balm for my waning spirits.

Being so late in my arrival made locating my support crew SUPER easy.  They confirmed my suspicions that I was at about the same place in regards to time that I was in 2009, the first year I attempted to complete this ride. . .

this was not good news

with the knowledge and reality of the task that lay ahead. . .  

onward and forward I pedaled toward Afton.


The distance between Montpelier and Afton is 47 miles, with a long moderate climb through Geneva and at the half-way point there is a short but Steep climb over Salt River Pass.  My overall experience and training served me well as I knew I just needed to pedal up this mountain. . .  it worked I made it up and even managed to pass a few souls . . .

translation: I can still climb up a mountain on my bike. . . 

this made me happy Smile


Once out of Geneva, this is where having someone to ride with, work with, commiserate with would have been beneficial.  The terrain is pretty flat by comparison consisting of small rolling hills, but the winds began to take their toll. . .

It’s always windy here.  

I passed Darcy on the way over Geneva and thought she would catch up to me so I soft pedaled for quite some time hoping she would catch me.  Time was a critical factor at this point, but I also knew that if we worked together life would be much easier.

After quite some time had passed I decided that she wasn’t going to catch me, and quite possibly decided to quit altogether and I determined forge ahead.


I personally did not see this cyclist and we aren’t sure how far he made it, he may have been part of a relay team. . . but Hat’s off to him!  To attempt this ride as a paraplegic is truly amazing!  
(This pic was taken in Montpelier)


Sleeping toddlers. . . this is a good thing.


resting ballerinas also a good thing for a long day. . .

another great reason to justify a big van!


I’m not sure what this picture is about, but I am assuming it is part of the “guy” thing so here it is. . .


One of those “self portrait” moments that we all enjoy from time to time. . .

this time it was the genius

Coming out of Geneva, and on the road toward Afton is and always has been one of my favorite sections of this ride.  . . .

                                                                           this is where cyclists merge with support traffic and I always feel a surge of renewed energy here as I anxiously watch for my support vehicle that will be carrying my favorite people.


A mandatory and necessary component of Support Crews. . . .

Munchies for the trip!
Looks like these guys were well cared for

As I approached Afton, it was becoming obvious , that I was becoming fatigued, and a stabbing pain in my right shoulder was becoming problematic.


I knew I was cutting it close, too close, and the race against the sun was a painful reality.  


My support crew told me I needed to find someone to draft off of that was going faster than I was. . .


I arrived in Afton with my shoulder in extreme pain. . . and Superman tried to rub some of the knots in my shoulders out. . . OUCH

I did NOT like that at all and told him to stop. . . I was in rough shape!


It’s great to see your support crew so happy!

From Afton to Alpine I dug deeper than I ever have before.  Every muscle in my body was screaming, my leg quads and hamstrings were screaming, my core and back were at a constant ache, my left shoulder had a piercing pain that was now shooting down my arm . . .
The head winds seemed relentless. . .

Just as I hooked onto a group and was hanging on for dear life . . . 

my support crew drove past . . .

at least it looked good for . . . 

um, yah, about 90 seconds. . .


I was physically unable to keep with a pace-line for more than just a few minutes before I was dropped . . . I simply couldn't keep the pace. . .

I then hooked onto a second group just as my support crew went past again. . . oh it looked good! 

I held onto this group for about 5 minutes. . .

then yup. . . 

I was again dropped                     

Then my friend Linda (who I passed going up Strawberry) came FLYING by in a long pace-line,  I desperately tried to grab onto the last wheel, but they were cruising by at about 23.5 mph . . . it was too much. . .

I COULD NOT hold on.


While I was miserable and wanting to leave this existence wishing I had never signed up for LOTOJA this year . . . 

my support crew was having a grand ol time as they took a break from cheering me onward.


I did not see them at this stop and it’s probably a good thing, the probability that I would have stopped to enjoy a refreshing break too would have been pretty high, as in 99%. . .

and then I doubt I would have kept going forward and onward. . . 

DSC_3214 DSC_3216 DSC_3218 DSC_3221 DSC_3222
Our little Oreo learned the magic of blowing dandelion puffs off their stems. . .
Super Cute!

DSC_3229 DSC_3227

he had the technique down and was excited to share his new trick

but as it was I didn’t see them and so kept on riding


With 18 miles to Alpine and being dropped for the 3rd time and now it was beginning to rain. . . at this point I was in tears, my body was shutting down and emotionally I was a disaster.

a desperate prayer was answered with a cyclist who also couldn't keep the pace of Linda's pace-line allowed me draft off of him for about 15-20 minutes as I hung on between 18-19 mph . . .

and had found a comfortable rhythm . . . 

he flatted.                   

I knew if I stopped I would not be able to get going again so I just kept peddling my bike, it's all I knew how to do at this point. . . and the sun was setting ever closer signaling the end of the day was nearing.


I finally pulled into Alpine (158 miles into the race) realizing there were still 47 miles to go . . . 47 miles isn’t that far, especially considering the distance already covered. . .

How often have I ridden my bike 47 miles?

. . . it should have been a piece of cake

but it wasn’t, at least not today

IF I COULD maintain an avg. of 15 mph it would take me 3 more hours. . .

which I didn't think I could do. 

My support crew was there and they were amazing. 

I got off my bike and wanted to collapse to the ground. they buoyed me up, fed me, drugged me up with Ibuprofen . . . which helped dramatically . . . dressed me into arm-warmers, gave me some leggins and encouraged me on my way. . .

dig deeper they encouraged. . . 

in all honesty, I didn’t think I could dig any deeper. . .
I had already dug deep just to ride the 35 miles from Afton! 

but somehow it happened and 

7 minutes later was on my way again.


It was 5:45. . . 15 minutes before the cut off.

. . . The problem was I was spent

going up 2.2% grade I was giving it all I had and only going 8.8 mph 
(typically I can maintain 15-17 mph on a 2-3% grade)


Through the agonizing ride between Afton and Hoback Junction, my support crew was great they were very patient and helped me through, passing me drinks, cheering me on and giving encouragement.  Each time I saw them at a pull out my heart rejoiced and somehow I kept going.

We used skills learned from the Rockwell Relay which meant I was given fresh water bottles without having to stop. . . I just kept on pedaling. . . the awesome part of this is we had spectators and they would cheer at our success as we performed this little feat. . . and I am again reminded that there is always a shining star even in the middle of tragedy and pain!


. . . Allow me to digress for just a second. . .

There is no denying that these wheels make my bike look AWESOME!  Superman let me use his wheels and I loved them!  I can’t wait to get my own set!  Hopefully my house will sell soon so I can.

okay, now, back to the ride:

I was 4 miles from Hoback Junction  with only 26 miles left of 204. . . but only 45 minutes to get there, at my current pace I would need at least 1 1/2 hrs. . . nowhere near enough time. . . it was time for a reality check.

I stopped and we re-evaluated


the decision was made. . .   

It was best I call it a day, I was hurting, sore, and in pain, I couldn't eat, drinking fluid of any kind was becoming too much and I was riding alone. . . to my awareness, there was no one behind me AND in the end wouldn't make it for a time anyway.

I determined to finish the remaining 4 miles to Hoback and in that 4 miles concluded that sometimes it's best to be smart and tell yourself it's okay to be done. Which was the decision I made for this year. . .

for me it was the right decision. I only hope I will be allowed to try again next year. Last year was a stellar performance and high, this year was at an all time low. . . the bitter and the sweet.


We went to our cabin/hotel and settled in. 

We decided to try Bubba’a for dinner, and like my performance today, was greatly disappointed . . . In fact I was VERY un-impressed and won’t go back, nor would I recommend Bubba’s . . .

I have yet to find a GREAT place for dinner in Jackson. . . “The Bunnery” is great for breakfast, but we haven’t tried them for dinner yet. . . probably next year.  

So far my favorite place is Billy Burgers. . .

a little greasy spoon sort of hole in the wall that serves hamburgers and fries


A million thanks to my support crew, I would have never made it the 176 miles I did without you. to the Joyride Group of friends. . . thank you for your support, encouragement, and friendship . . .

Superman is going to ride next year and we are looking forward to a GREAT 2014

We are finally feeling settled and feel like we have some sort of routine. . . the best part is that every time we need something, it’s not like going on a major expedition looking through dozens of boxes or trying to remember which closet or drawer the item we are looking for was placed. . . ahhh, life is wonderful!

Thanks for reading . . . Have a great week, and stop in and say hello


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