Friday, October 1, 2010

LOTOJA 2010: Training Log

As I start training for what I hope will be my second LOTOJA race, I thought it would be interesting to review what I did to prepare for for my first LOTOJA experience. The following is a blog entry I wrote as an inventory of sorts. How do you prepare for something like LOTOJA? Here's what I did. I suppose once you read (if you have the patience to read) my Post LOTOJA wrap-up you can decide for yourself if what I did was enough. I know I've already passed judgment on myself on that count, but I will allow you to form your own opinion. Either way, I give you:

LOTOJA 2010 Training LOG: a retrospective

Yesterday (September 6, 2010) I completed my last bike ride of any significance prior to race day this Saturday, bringing to an end the road bike training that started back in February of this year with the purchase of a Fezzari Catania, a road bike sold by a company in Lindon, Utah with a faux Italian name but quality bikes at a good price with good reviews. I had been riding my mountain bike with road slicks on it for two summers, providing me with lots of exercise but until I bought an actual road bike I had no idea how much extra work I was doing.

Fezzari Catania

Fezzari Catania

Now at the end of six months of the most intense training I've done since the St George marathon back in the fall of 1995, the question that people keep posing to me is: "Are you ready?" It's a logical question and by rights should illicit a simple response, positive or negative, that's all the person asking wants, and perhaps they don't even want that, it's just the polite thing to ask when I show up at work in spandex, out of breath and sweating, again. Certainly I don't think they intend the question to force a contemplative pall and for me to measure my response as though the answer held some grave import to me, to them ... to the world, but it always does have that effect on me. Maybe because I've asked the question of myself so many times and in order to answer honestly I feel I have to take personal inventory, as if I'm on trial and a case needs to be made and a final judgment rendered.

The prosecution's evidence can be summed up here:

Even after countless visits, I still find the experience sobering. Click on the course map and scroll from Logan to Teton Village The first time I did that my mouse finger got tired just rolling through the route on my computer screen and I believed I may have begun to hyperventilate a bit. After taking in the map, read the course description, which goes something like this:
LOTOJA, short for LOgan TO JAckson, is a USA Cycling sanctioned, road cycling race held annually on the Saturday after Labor Day in September. The race is believed to be one of the longest single-day road cycling races in North America, if not the world and is the longest one-day race sanctioned by USA Cycling or the United States Cycling Federation.
Lotoja is pronounced "loe-tuh-juh" and starts in Logan, Utah in the United States , travels into southeastern Idaho and finishes in Teton Village, Wyoming a few miles northwest of Jackson, Wyoming . The current course covers 206 miles or 332 kilometers and includes three mountain passes. The total climbing during the race is nearly 10,000 feet 3,000 m with the race finishing about 1,800 feet 550 m higher than it began in Logan 4,550 ft .
Make special note of this disclaimer (in red, bold print): LOTOJA is NOT a weather dependent event, prepare to ride in all weather conditions. then talk to veteran riders who were around in 2005, the race referred to deferentially as SnoTOJA:

Three mountain passes and 8500 feet of climb in the first 110 miles is the part that tends to get my pulse racing but it's what's left after that point that I find the most daunting. The 'what's left' would be 100 miles of Wyoming.

Wyoming, a state whose lowest point is still more than a mile (1500 meters) above sea level, whose harsh weather conditions probably claimed the lives of more than one of my pioneer ancestors, a state I am willing to drive hundreds of miles out of my way to avoid crossing (and that in the comfort and security of an automobile) and a state where the wind always, always blows.

Wind ... I've written about it, complained about it, cursed it far too much already but it's the one thing about cycling that still vexes me. I can handle the hill climbs, have begun to even enjoy them in a perverse way, I don't mind the left hand numbness that shows up during any ride longer than 30 miles/50km, the 'hot foot' phenomena that I attributed to summer weather but that dregger informed me is nerve irritation to the sole of my foot from the cleat on my shoe and that sometimes lasts for hours or even days after a particularly long ride or even the chafing that inevitably accompanies several hours in the saddle. They are all minor inconveniences when compared to a contrary wind.

Windy Wyoming

The wind, the wind ... Right now predicts a 10 MPH wind directly out of the west from Afton to Alpine Wyoming. I multiply the predicted wind by the requisite Wyoming co-factor (2.5) and get 80miles/120km of 25 mph/40kph crosswind as I head north to the final 25 miles through Snake River canyon

and finally Jackson Hole.

(I'm going to go out on a limb and say these guys had an easier time getting to Jackson than I will)

So that's the prosecution's case in a nutshell. Damning arguments to be sure. In my defense I have only the data collected by my bike mounted Garmin GPS device between March 11, 2010 and September 7, 2010:

Total distance covered: 4,130 miles/6,647km @ 16.5mph/26.5kmh average.

Some highlights:

The Pony Express Century Ride and podium finish:

"I won the pony Express Century, I shouldn't have to do this ..." -me

Interstate/Interprovincial river crossings including Nauvoo, Illinois to Keokuk, Iowa over the Mississippi with Jennifer

and Ottawa, Ontario to Hull, Quebec over the Ottawa River with my oldest daughter Raechel on our all day cycling expedition:

Gatineau Park (Parc de la Gatineau), Quebec

Cyclists roll through Gatineau Park near Meech Lake during the 13th annual; Ottawa Bicycle CLub Grand Priz on Saturday, July 17, 2010. There were nine events, including two in the elite class, ranging in distance from 21 kilometres to 126 kilometres.

"A Cyclist on a Scenic Drive in Gatineau Park" Photographic Print
Where one Canadian cyclist after another dropped me like I was a sports program at a liberal arts college, one of the Canadian cyclists in question being a woman wearing candy striped arm warmers. That was a tipping point for me. In the words of the Dude "This aggression will not stand, man." I dug deep and found ... an empty tank. As the peloton of cyclists disappeared into the distance I consoled myself with the fact that I was at mile 260 (km 400) for the week and my legs weren't fresh. But still, candy striped arm warmers? I vowed to return in the summer of 2012 to defend my honor.
Total climb: 150,871 feet/46,000 meters

Including some spectacular and memorable hills, canyons and mountains highlighted by:

The Alpine Loop

A ride so beautiful I got Jenn to do it with me (twice).

Little Cottonwood canyon:


a climb I survived rather than enjoyed. Not a highlight in any other way than it's the most difficult climb I've done (nothing else comes close) and marks the highest elevation I've experienced on a bike: 8,700 feet/2800 meters.

The 10 mile Elberta to Eureka Hill climb:

Where for the first and only time in my life I beat dregger to the top of a mountain climb and vaulted myself to the front of the pack and went on to a first place finish in the inaugural Pony Express Century (Ride, not race as I was informed post hoc by the organizer when I later emailed him semi-jokingly and asked him for the traditional yellow victory jersey to commemorate the event).

and of course Suncrest:


a climb I've done at least once a week, pretty much since the snow melted off the shoulder of Traverse Ridge Road. If I truly am ready for Lotoja's mountain passes much of the credit will have to go to my weekly debacle with the Suncrest Hill. The first time I did the circuit (45miles/65km miles over the hill and into work) it took me just over three hours at a 15mph average. My last (and best) time was 2:26:53

at an average speed of 18.5mph.

Total time in the saddle: 251 hours (or 6 full-time work weeks)
I don't know what to say here other than I wish I was getting paid for all this training, I could just about afford a new carbon fiber bike and a cycling jersey kit ...

Total calories burned: 322,171
At 3600 calories a pound that's 89.5 lbs of fat. The Garmin 305 isn't the most accurate at calculating calories burned while cycling, the actual number is probably closer to 200,000 which would still be about 60lbs of fat. Good thing I replaced some of it.

Total pre-ride Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches consumed ... I lost count. Lots.

Brushes with death/serious injury: 4

Surprisingly none of them involved automobiles which I was told would be my nemesis. Not that I didn't get my share of obscene gestures, honks and excessive diesel exhaust from trucks sporting gun racks and crass bumper stickers, but motorists' bark proved far worse than their bite.

One of my brushes with serious injury came on the Provo Canyon side of the Alpine loop when I carried far too much speed into a turn that I didn't realize was a hairpin. I briefly locked up the back wheel before I was able to shave enough speed off to barely make the turn. I learned my lesson though, know your terrain and don't be a hero.

Far more dangerous than automobiles was the local fauna. Namely, mule deer:
Mule Deer on Approach to Doe Mountain - Sedona, Arizona

which nearly ran me down on three separate early morning rides in various parts of Salt Lake and Utah counties.


Tour de France crash: Blame the dog

A picture is worth a thousand words, and I've already written my lament re: dogs off their leash around cyclists. We'll leave it at that.


Laugh all you want, I would have too until a gang of three or four XXL tumbleweeds uprooted by 25 mph winds attacked me out on Bacchus highway. I thought I'd seen everything when I had to stop for a porcupine crossing while I was cycling in Canada but there's nothing quite as terrifying as meeting a tumbleweed at speed (trust me).

Total weight lost: @ 25lbs/11kg

I hadn't considered weight loss a prerequisite for race day. I figured getting to the point where I could ride for hours and hours on end would be enough but in the syllogistic reasoning of poet-philosopher dregger: "The less weight you carry up the mountain, the less weight you carry up the mountain." Being as there are no less than three [mountains] on the LOTOJA course I figured any extra ballast I could shed would have to pay dividends in energy expended. The accepted calculations among cyclist with regards to weight is that shedding five pounds from your person is equivalent to one pound of bicycle weight. As I've gauged it pricing road bikes, every pound off your bike below about 20 lbs costs you about $1200. So in cycling economics my drop in weight saved us $6000 US. And yes, shocking as it may seem to the uninitiated, you can spend $6000 on a road bike. More actually, lots more. Not that I ever would, but you can. As it is, the $6000 saved should more than offset the cost of having my suit tailored to fit again and other sundry items of apparel that I've replaced. I'm not sure how much weight is coming back after I stop training but the wardrobe in my closet now runs a 60lb gamut, so I should be covered, one way or another.

So that's it. I wouldn't say that I'm ready, any more than a condemned man would say he was ready to meet the executioner. But looking back at the last six months I can say I've prepared myself, as much as you could reasonably ask. Final Judgment will have to wait until Saturday, September 11th.


PS special thanks to dregger for inviting me on this adventure. As long as it doesn't kill me it's been worth all the work. The work, in fact, has been fun. Again that sounds odd, even to my ears but true. And a thank you to Jennifer who has not only been patient and tolerant but 100% supportive of what I guess we're calling my mid life crisis, though crisis seems too serious. Mid-life diversion more like it. Whatever the term you use, I know she's picked up the slack in many ways not the least of which has been accompanying me to spin cycling classes all winter and then on rides around the valley and over mountains and then indulgently referring to those rides and classes as 'dates' instead what they actually were which was training for this upcoming event (reference the six weeks I've spent on a bike this year, things that were usually done by me were often neglected, postponed or abandoned all together; to her credit, Jenn has kept mum on that and many other points). So thank you both.

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