Friday, January 7, 2011

LOTOJA Blog 2010: Epilogue

Epilogue -- The Long Road Home

We arrive at a frous frous restaurant that claims to be a BBQ rib joint but coyly serves wedge lettuce salads with pumpkin nut dressing and cheeseburgers with a side of grilled dill asparagus instead of french fries. This is Jackson Hole, not Wyoming. If that wasn't clear before, this pub removes any doubt. I don't really care at this point as long as the food is hot, which it is. None of it has much flavor and I wonder again if maybe I haven't returned completely to the world of senses and sensation. Dr. Ivey comes over to congratulate Greg and me. We arrived too late and there are too many of us to eat with his group, so he has finished long before us (kind of like the race, which he finished in under 11 hours, though he anticipated a sub 10 hour finish). I ask his professional anesthesiologist opinion about my still noticeably present saddle block. He tells me "It will come back ... it should come back." He tells me I can avoid doing permanent damage with the purchase of a new seat for my bike, one with a trench cut out to relieve pressure on the perineum, and leaves me to contemplate the implications of the difference between will and should as it pertains to sensation in my nether regions. We finish dinner. All I can remember is clam chowder that felt like it stoked the heat generator in my core; I began feeling human again. And water, it's hard to believe that glass after glass of water could be so satisfying.

We drove back to Hillary's family condo. I tell everybody that Briski married a Huntsman so as to make it clear that Hillary comes from money. Hillary points out that she's only a Huntsman by marriage, but she's definitely from money and the condo is actually a vacation resort lodge with full maid service, health spa, pool etc. Very, very posh but I honestly would have slept happily in the trunk of a car if that's all that was available. I shower up and we all have some of the victory cake that Briski and Hillary hand decorated for the occasion. They even make a realistic road with brown icing and chocolate sprinkles that realistically mimic the chip asphalt finish over every road we encountered that was under construction.

Sometime between the clam chowder and victory cake I begin to forget how thoroughly this race beat me down. For 6 months we (Jennifer and me) had been referring to LOTOJA as my mid-life crisis. A one-time event that I did in Nigel's words "to prove to myself that I still can." Though, honestly, I can't say before Sept 2010 I have ever achieved a level of physical conditioning to finish a race like that. Regardless, we agreed it was a one-shot deal. Do it and do it right because we're not doing it again. Sometime toward the end of the summer I began enjoying the training so much and the excitement and build up to the race that I already (in my mind) was prepping for 2011, maybe to ride it with Jennifer, maybe as a relay team? One way or another I didn't want to fall from the conditioning plateau I had reached and continuing to race seemed to be the best way to assure it didn't happen. I think I let my plans slip over Sunday dinner with Brathie sometime in late August. I expected a West Wing moment with Jenn in the role of Abigail Bartlett,staring me down and saying through clenched teeth: "We agreed, one term ... we had an agreement!" The reality was much milder, I think Jenn may have sensed as much. Or perhaps she knew the actual race would be so traumatic I would never be tempted to repeat it. She was right about that. From 5pm to 7pm on Saturday, Sept 11th I swore off cycling and bike races over and over again in my mind and said as much out loud to Jennifer at the finish line. Now, reviewing the race with dregger in the warmth of Hillary's resort condo I wanted to replay the day. To change how I prepped the night before. To change how and what I ate so as to have strength in my legs that reflected all the training I had done. To hydrate better, to listen to Jennifer when she implored me to do all those things and more. I could have been better, It could be better in the future.

Here's how I explained it to Jennifer in an email Monday after the race:

Here's the thing. Had I performed as well as I had hoped/expected I would be more inclined to let it go. But it's more than just looking for redemption, it was grand in scope and scale. I loved it while I hated it. I loved that you did it with me. I want all of that again plus complete satisfaction with my performance.

dregger didn't need convincing, he had always planned a return trip. His knee failing him galvanized what was already a firm resolve to return in Sept. 2011.

Some time before 9pm I passed out on the couch and woke up the next morning in a bed without a clear recollection of moving from point a to point B.

The next morning as Nigel and I drove back to Logan, all my self recrimination and disappointment seemed ridiculous in the face of the terrain we were covering and the hills we were descending. Somewhere in Snake River Canyon Nigel pointed out "We've been driving 70 mph for 35 minutes, downhill the entire time and we're still in this canyon ... that should tell you something." Star Valley was the same. A continuous downgrade (that we rode up the day before) for as far south as I could see. When we climbed Salt River Pass in the car I couldn't believe how steep and long it was. A few days after the race I found this in a newspaper article about LOTOJA training from 2008:

1. It's now three months from race day. If you haven't already logged a couple thousand miles on your bike to build the leg muscles up, you better get busy. Take advantage of any organized ride in the area to build endurance.
2. Ride a lot. Weekly 100-mile rides are important, but so are the almost-daily 50-mile base builders. As race day approaches, cyclists should be logging 200-250 miles per week at a minimum.
3. Hit the mountains. LOTOJA has three long climbs over summits of more than 7,000 feet. Individually, they should be no problem for an experienced cyclist. Together, the three climbs will test even the best. Find a Saturday to climb Big Cottonwood Canyon, Little Cottonwood Canyon or even one of the stretches of road you'll be traveling during the race. There's no substitute for experience on long climbs.
I wanted to believe I under trained but I honestly don't know how you can adequately train for what we did if bike riding isn't your full time job. Nigel finally declared "You rode a long, long way and you finished. You should be happy with that".
And at times I have been, but the more Jennifer and I talk the more we think about the things we know now that had we known then would have made things so much better, so much smoother if not easier.

If we fall back to the Hollywood movie analogy I think we're in pre-production for the sequel, projected release: fall 2011. It's not clear if there is funding available, a director willing to sacrifice the time and energy for an indie film made on a shoestring budget or even a capable cast member for the starring role. But there's plenty of time to settle all those questions. After all, last year at this time I had never even heard the word LOTOJA.


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