Monday, September 26, 2011

29th annual LOTOJA classic: part II

Watching the rest of citizen class 35+ 2100s blow past me and roll out of Preston while I waited for a replacement water bottle was tough, (Is it me or does deebs have an unhealthy obsession with his missing water bottle?) worse was the headwind I encountered once I hit the open road heading northeast. If I wasn't already feeling motivated to catch a group (if not the group) this wind would have convinced me. Nice thing about LOTOJA as opposed to other less well attended events, there is always a wheel somewhere close if you're willing to speed up or slow down to find it. I spied a small group of about 10 cyclists ahead and pushed till I caught them. The group consisted of half a dozen lady cyclists 2 or 3 fun riders, maybe a rider or two from our group and Rodzilla. (Hey Guys, here I am. Flying non stop through Preston, I was able to reconnect with the lead pack of 2100s.** riders was making some good time, until the gentle hills started. Just as quick as I caught them I was dropped again.)   The grade was slightly positive but not bad (though from past experience I knew I had seen the last of the flats for pretty much the next 100 miles) so we pedaled along at 17-18 mph. I moved toward the front and settled in behind one of the girls that had joined our group back before Preston. She was riding a CervĂ©lo soloist and every time she shifted gears her rear derailleur made sounds like someone shaking a metal box half full of marbles*. I thought to myself that she was in for a long-long day if that's the news she's getting from her bike at mile 30. I congratulated myself for replacing shifter cables and making sure everything was copacetic before race day.

*dregger says she was probably rolling SRAM components. SRAM are notchy, noisy and annoying ... I don't care what Levi Leiheimer or Rodzilla think. (Buy SRAM Stock, it is that next BIG Thing!)

** I wanted to briefly explain how LOTOJA organizes its start. 

Listed below are all the groups and where they start chronologically. So as you can see 2/3 of the field have already left before we even get to the starting line. This leaves the last 1/3 of the field starting after us. Each group has designated numbers on their jerseys which correspond to their groups. So in summary if I were about to pass someone with a number of 5200 I would either be flying at a winners pace, or they may have had an issue of some sorts. Conversely if someone with a 2300 number passes me, I better start peddling cause the field is bearing down on me. 

I estimate 1284 people signed up for the longest sanctioned single day race in America
Of that 1284 riders there were 180 people that didn't even start the race (DNS), leaving 1140 riders at the line.
Of those 1140 riders there were 1092 people that rolled through Preston. 
Of those 1092 riders only 8 dropped out through the climbs over Strawberry. Leaving 1084 riders rolling into Mon-pelli-eh!!  

Okay only 131 Miles to GO !!

2 Person Relay   

4 Person Relay   

ALL FUN RIDERS               

01 CAT 1-2-3 100s             

02 MASTERS 35+ 200s    

03 MASTERS 35+ 300s    

04 MASTERS 45+              

05 CAT 3-4          

06 MASTERS 55+              

07 MASTERS 60+              

08 CAT 4 700s    

09 CAT 4 800s    

10 CAT 5 5100s  

11 CAT 5 5200s  

12 CAT 5 5300s  

13 CAT 5 5400s  

14 WOMEN CAT 1-2-3      

15 WOMEN CAT 4             

19 CIT WOMEN 13 - 24     

20 CIT WOMEN 25+          

21 CIT WOMEN 35+          

22 CIT WOMEN 45+          

23 CIT MEN 35+ 2100s      HERE We ARE !!

24 CIT MEN 35+ 2200s     

25 CIT MEN 35+ 2300s     

26 CIT MEN 45+ 2400s     

27 CIT MEN 25+ 2500s     

28 CIT MEN 25+ 2600s     

29 CIT MEN OPEN 2700s

30 CIT MEN OPEN 2800s

31 CIT MEN 13-24             

32 CIT MEN 55+ 
As the road pitched up I passed noisy derailleur girl and pushed to the front. The hill was steep but not as long or as steep as I remembered. I had dropped into the small ring, realized it wasn't a small ring hill and to my chagrin discovered I couldn't shift back into the big ring. After several tries I gave up and figured at some point I would have to manually pull my chain over and maybe ride the rest of the race in the Big Ring (which is exactly what Dr. 'Maharaja' Roger Ivey was hoping for). As I crest the hill the chain shifts easily off the small ring and that's the one and only minor mechanical problem I have all day. (I too only had one minor mechanical issue, however it played with my mind for a long time: More foreshadowing)   I assume it was a case of instant Karma for my unsympathetic thoughts re: noisy derailleur girl. Like last year, when we hit the 6% negative grade nobody fully tucks for the descent. Unlike last year I manage to lead out the group at the top and am able to tuck & run. I haven't checked my 6 o' clock for Rodzilla since before the problem with my front derailleur, I assume the hill slowed him down but now I'm moving too fast to safely assess his progress one way or another. (Unfortunately I can't hang on the hills, even little ones, they eat me up. I was dropped from sight, and not only that, I was now getting past by 2200 riders and we hadn't even got to the climb. See list above)

The rolling and gradually climbing farmlands between Preston and the Strawberry Summit proved my undoing in LOTOJA 2010. It's where I was eventually dropped from the group and had to ride on my own. In 2011 I find myself alone again. There are stragglers from groups released before ours but they are mainly fun riders and are moving too slowly to join and stay together. Eventually a group of men's Licensed 35+ 2200s catch me and it's at this point that I confirm what I've suspected for the last two weeks prior to the race; I'm not 100%. Rodzilla says his legs are about 80%, it's what he senses, a feeling he has.(Hey 80% is like a B in school, that is pretty good. Hard to quantify, but the snap, or the bite just wasn't there. Partially I was holding back, because it takes a LOT of effort to get over the top, and thinking about 156 miles to go may have caused me to ease off the throttle.)  In the week leading up to LOTOJA my constant coughing inspired me to do lung function testing (we offer in-house spirometry for any patients with pulmonary issues) and the machine told me that my lungs were at 80%. Not a feeling, but a quantifiable decrease in lung function vs predicted levels. I had used that information and countered the bad news with inhaled bronchodilators and steroids. Mostly they just made me cough more (and more productively). When Rodzilla (who suffers from asthma as well as knee problems) tried to describe to me what it's like to climb hills with poorly controlled asthma he compared it to trying to breathe through a straw. Sounds bad. I can't say my chest feels tight so much as full. If Rodzilla is breathing through a straw, I'm breathing through two saturated sponges. I try to catch the 2200 group of cyclists and use their slipstream. Technically it's cheating to draft/ride with riders from other groups, but a) that only applies if you're riding for the podium and b) how in the world can you enforce that? I have no ethical hang-ups re: leaching off another group of riders, my lungs just won't let me make the leap. (Okay by now I am getting past by the 2300 riders, like deebs mentions, it is hard to catch a wheel while going up hill. It was a very demoralizing feeling, I check my 6 and I see them coming, I give it a little burn and speed up, but they just overtake me and keep on going. Not only do I get past by about 20 riders, I am struggling to control the breathing without stopping and continue at my pace. Demoralized)

At the tail of the group I spy an extra tall rider dressed in orange and white and riding an orange and white GURU bike. The bib kit (which makes him look like a fan of the Netherlands world cup soccer team) and the bike and the fact that he looks like he's about 6'4" at least catch my eye and I figure, he's big and therefore will be easier to trail up the hills. I give it a game effort and ... no dice. I'm on my own again, climbing into a headwind. Making good time but clearly slower than most of the riders I started with. As we enter Emigration canyon and head toward the summit I begin passing riders on a regular basis (I literally pass no one on this or any other climb, I am now getting passed by 2400 riders. Demoralized!. I consciously think to myself don't let the 2500s pass you before the top of the climb, which gets me going a little faster and stronger.)

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We're still fighting a headwind (it will be a theme of LOTOJA 2011) which makes an already challenging hill climb even more daunting. I remembered this hill being steeper in 2010, but I look at my Garmin and realize I still have at least 10 more miles of climb which serves to temper my optimism. (sheeze we try not to talk about wind, but what the crap was this? I remember people talking about how bad the wind is in cache valley being the worse of the race, so if that was going to be worse then this.....demoralizing! This is when I realized I wasn't prepared for this race. I have done several canyons in the valley but nothing offered the same grueling 30 miles of continues climb. Sure I can suffer for 5 miles, even 8 miles, heck I think Alpine is even 10, but 30 miles of climbing wasn't sitting well with the Rodzilla. And right about now here comes the 2600s. For the first time I question whether or not I am going to finish this race. Heavy doubt enters my thoughts, although I didn't stop in Preston and at that point in the race didn't need a pick me up, I sure could use a dose of Red Rider about now)

The neutral support feed station is located about a mile from the summit. I had planned on swapping out the water bottle I picked up in Preston. (Considering changing this blog to Cycling with other people's water bottles...Considered and to long to type. We will keep it the same.) It smells (and therefore makes its contents taste) like perfume. Each time I get desperate enough to drink from it I'm left wondering who would wear perfume to a bike race. But as I pull into the feed station I begin the spasmodic coughing that will plague me all day, every time I slow down long enough to inhale fully. By the time I stop coughing a volunteer is standing in front of me with a portable jug of water and look of concern on his face. I joke that it's just my tuberculosis (doctor says it's only mildly contagious) and in my distracted state I hold out the perfume bottle for him to fill. (Almost done with the water bottle story?) He fills it and takes a few wary steps back from me and I go the table to see if there's some comestibles that look appealing. I learned my lesson in 2010 and I've been eating regularly and am currently calorie depleted ... or at least my pockets are empty of snacks, I feel OK energy-wise. While I'm sifting through the crackers and bananas looking for something appealing I see the orange guy on the GURU (for blog purposes we'll call him the Dutchman) and I overhear him say he got a flat and dropped out of his race group. I tell him I feel deflated because I figured if I caught him it meant I had picked up the pace. No such luck.

Hold off the  2700s, your almost there, you gotta be.
By now I am feeling a bit like a kid at fat camp, I am searching everywhere for something that has calories. Does DZ Nuts, have any nutritional value?  I am out of all three water bottles, out of stinger bars, out of gu shots, even ate my cliff bar. What was is that, is that a aid station...? Oh yeah !

The Volunteers, the Volunteers, the Volunteers!!!
I pull in, they approach me like I was a driver in NASCAR and they were my pro'ed out pit crew. Change out my bottles, air up the tires, top me off with fuel (everything was gone except Orange Peanut Butter Crackers) and push me out of the gates. Well okay not all that, but I will say the best support I have gotten at any race, paid or poached. (Read the Ulcer accidental party crash, or the Goldilocks 100 one man trying to ride with hundreds of women)  Thank you Strawberry Summit Volunteers, you kept me in the race ! Literally )

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After the feed station the hill gets serious (9-10% grade for a mile) and if you weren't suffering before you are now. Whatever, stop being a wimp

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Rodzilla and I haven't ridden together since just outside Preston, but if it's any consolation to him, everybody feels it on this hill, no matter your age, gender, experience or expertise. The physical difficulty of the climb is compounded by the fact that mentally you know you still have 130 post-summit miles ahead of you. (Holy Crap Batman!, 130 more miles, and don't forget about the 2 more summits)

We (the me and the cyclist I call the Dutchman) leave the feed station together and attack the final mile of 10% grade to the summit. The road is steep but not so much that we can't talk. Turns out he's from Illinois (aka the Prairie state). I can't help but wonder how a guy from the heartland (read flat, flat, flat) can prepare himself for LOTOJA's mountain passes. We've already confirmed that they were enough to finish off Rodzilla's Minnesota-Motel friend. (Is that why the Bears are currently 2-2 and the Vikings are 0-4? are they tougher in Illinois? Go Pack GO! 4-0)

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The Dutchman appears unfazed by the hill or the altitude and we crest together and drop down the back side. The headwind we've been battling does nothing for our downhill speed and by the time we near the bottom of the pass and leave the Cache national forest we are pedaling to maintain speed despite the fact that we're still on a 5% negative grade.

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Rodzilla may never win a KOM competition, but he's learned that gravity is a double edged sword and on the back side he's the one wielding said weapon (and looking like a cycling magazine posterboy in the process). 
Such a cool shot, I don't advise resting your chin on the bars

Well stated, now I get to pass riders and make some very important deposits back into the motivation bank account which was well into the over draft.  For the next 15 miles I am literally trying to ride my way back into this race, I manage to pick off about 20 riders, as I am charging into town. I see a giant "M" for Miller painted on the mountain, it is calling to me, Red Rider will be there and I am feeling good again.   He may not have won the race buy he may have made the podium in the beauty contest. "It's all about looking good." -Rodzilla (to me during the Rockwell Relay when I pulled out unauthorized headgear ... my yardwork hat). Ya, here we are surrounded by cyclist, all deck out in the latest caps, visors, all of us are sponsored by something to do with cycling, and I have to stand next to this ya-hoo? We camping, we part of the sanitary department, or are we riders on the storm? (I wish I had a better picture, but I deleted all of them cause they irritated me)
OH wait from the Rockwell Site. Featuring Farmer Deebcycle

The Dutchman and I hit the farmland between the Cache forest and Montpelier and begin to really feel the effects of riding into a headwind without the luxury of a peleton to cut it for us. We see a group of riders about a mile distant and the Dutchman asks me if I think we can catch it. I kinda doubt it actually but what I say out loud is "I don't know, we can sure try." and we do, taking two minute turns on point, pedaling as hard as we can to stay around 22 mph and making slow but steady progress. About 3 miles outside Montpelier (and yes, on race day you must pronounce it Mon- pelli- eh, the rest of the year it can go back to being mont-pel-yur but not on LOTOJA day) Deebs had me saying it too, and it was irritating Red Rider, so of course I started saying it a lot more :) Mon-pelli-eh!!

MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - JULY 7: Team Columbia Highroad manage a sharp turn at Stage 4 of the 2009 Tour de France on July 7, 2009 in Montpellier, France. Stock Photo - 6886127
MONTPELLIER, FRANCE - JULY 7: Team Columbia Highroad manage a sharp turn at Stage 4 of the 2009 Tour de France on July 7, 2009 in Montpellier, France.

we catch the peleton and rest our legs a bit as we roll into town. The rest is minimal for the effort/energy expended and I'm left wondering if in the end it was worth it. I do note that as I pedal into the Montpelier feed zone that I've covered the first 80 miles in just over 4 hrs. 4 hrs 3 minutes to be exact.

La Canadienne waves me in and I dismount and only then realize how fatigued my legs are. Not being on a bike feels great. I have specific expectations Re: stop time for this race. In 2010 I spent more than an hour not on my bike. Unfortunately, unlike my Garmin, the LOTOJA race clock does not auto pause for stops. I've budgeted 5-7 minutes in Montpelier and holding to that plan I stuff a cookie and half the PB&J that I'm handed and La Canadienne gives me a pat on the bum and a good job for emptying my pockets of food. She restocks my stores and I head over to the Honey bucket mostly so I can cough for a while in peace. I realized early on that a coughing fit and bike riding were incongruous activities, especially in a peleton of riders, and particularly so when the coughing nearly shakes you off your bike. I clear my airways as best I can, dose up on my albuterol inhaler and go back to the support crew(s).

I two fist a bottle of water and a bottle of Coke classic. Red Rider asks about her rider (Rodzilla) and I tell her I haven't seen him since Preston. She looks a bit concerned and a little surprised. It's actually exactly what I thought would happen but I held out hope that Rodzilla's prodigious leg strength would be enough to offset his equally prodigious mass but a mountain is after all a mountain. Anybody who has driven cross country has seen what a steep grade does to even a partially loaded semi-truck. You'll hope they checked their brakes at the summit and regardless, you'll want to stay out of their path on the backside, but on the climb? Yeah, you're going to pass them.
Red Rider is too sexy for this feed station, too sexy for this town (even if you use the one-day only chic pronunciation, Mont-pelli-eh), she might be too sexy for this race but to her credit she toughing it out.

I get a four minute warning from Red Rider and that's my cue to saddle up.

I mount up next to the 'Please Read' White board. This is where information re: cyclists in trouble or in need of assistance is posted. There is no cell service in emigration canyon or on Geneva summit, so the only way to communicate is by ham radio and white board postings (welcome to cycling in the 1970's .... errr). Far as I know Rodzilla's name isn't on the board but the Maharaja's may be. He gets taken down 90 miles into this race by a stomach virus and the Geneva summit climb.

The break has been far too short for my legs and my lungs are none too happy either. That said, the first 80 miles have gone much more smoothly than they did in 2010, despite the fact that I feel like the air I breathe is being filtered through a wet blanket. 80 miles and one mountain in the books, 125 miles and two more mountains to go. 

As the horn of Gondor sounded, I come in fast and hot. Unfortunately only Relay, or Fun Riders are  around me. I was surrounded by the slower riders after getting punished in the mountains. So out on the flats, they were no help, I am leap frogging peletons and doing all the work. Hard left, hard right and I am at the rest stop. First and only "FULL Dismount" I am off the bike and laying on the grass. One of the hardest 80 miles I have ever ridden. I try to act more alive, alert and coherent than I actually am cause I can see it in Red Riders face, she is concerned.  She is Johnny on the spot, she is supplying me with everything I needed, so well that I am not even thinking about it. As I nurse a couple sammys she is re-applying sound screen. It felt like I was there 20 minutes, but in reality she got me back on that bike in 5 minutes flat. (NICE Red Rider !) All I can think about is, I what point do I drop out, cause I am pretty sure the next 25 miles and two mountain passes are going to kill me.

Next up: Geneva to Jackson (AKA The Gauntlet of Helms Deep)


  1. For the record, I still have the foreign water bottle and it still smells of strange aftershave. Also, at the risk of belaboring a point you've already made, I'm looking at your glorious arrival in (M)iller/(M)on-pelli-eh and the only person behind you looks like he had to go buy a wheel at the local Bike shop to re-join the race. But (at the risk of belaboring another point) you look good, so you got that going for you :) PS, love that my yard hat moment forced you back into the Rockwell archives (and your personal photo stash) for one more vexing look. You better believe 'the hat' is making an appearance in Rockwell Relay 2012 (I'm bringing sexy farmer cyclist back!)

  2. PPS I was so cowed by Rodzilla's ire re: the yard-hat that I left it home for every subsequent race day the rest of that summer. 16 hours of Rockwell Relay Ladies' Ride support? No hat. 8 1/2 hours of Desperado Dual road crewing? No hat. Now there's a suspicious looking skin lesion on my left cheek, I don't remember seeing it there before the summer. Is it melanoma? Possibly. Is it Rodzilla's fault? Definitely.