Monday, December 19, 2011

The other white meat LOTOJA 2011 Montpelier - Alpine

Okay Okay Okay, I am sorry.

 I absolutely love to ride, but hate to write.  (Point of clarification, love to ride downhill or on flats with the wind and my back, not so much uphill.)

 Where were we? Oh that's right I have just been handed a turd sandwich, let me bring everyone up to speed. We left off with me rolling into to Montpelier.

 As you can see by the map above , I just finished the biggest climb of the race (which in retrospect shouldn't have been that big of a deal considering it started at 4,541 feet outside of Preston and ended at 7,352 feet at the summit,  for a total sustained climb of 2,811 feet) as I just researched those facts and typed them, I am left wondering why I felt like a heavy weight champ in the 10th round after two TKOs??? I mean really come on. A lot of my training rides where 10,000 feet of climb in half the distance, what made this ride different? Forget this blog and my obligation to you the reader, I am experiencing an epiphany and can't move on until I resolve this. To answer this I just had a conversation with myself, here is what we had to say about this matter.

Rodney: Did you go too fast in the beginning? Myself: I don't think so, let me check. Wow, my time into Preston turned out to be 95th out of  1113 riders. With an average of 23.38 mph for over 30 miles. Rodney: Seems as though you might have been in overdrive and burned too much fuel. Myself: I really don't think so, I felt good and strong until mile 33 when I tasted my first hill. Rodney: Well how fast did you go to get to the top of Strawberry Summit? Myself: Not at all fast enough, I was passed by everyone in the whole race. Looks like I averaged about 11.5 mph for that climb, Yuck. Okay to put this in perspective.  This will help explain why I felt like I was passed by everyone. I WAS !!. So I was in the top 10% into Preston, I was in the bottom 10% into Montpelier there were only 17 people in the whole race that went slower. In 50 miles I was passed by 1,000 riders. Rodney: I bet that was frustrating and a little demotivating, Was it your first time performing at that elevation? Myself: No, I have ridden Alpine loop several times at an elevation of about 8,000 feet. Rodney: Well what do you think it was? Myself: After careful consideration I think I have it, I think I know why I blew up. During race preparations I forgot to bring the HR strap, and didn't pace myself well. My Garmin didn't record the stoppage. (Stoppage is defined as time not riding. In this state the Garmin turns off its calculations which would negatively impact my average mph. But the missing time does show up in total Elapsed time.) In this case I had 1:20 minutes of stoppage, which I am betting half of this time was spent bent over my bike trying to catch my breath. The other half was spent correctly at feed zones. As I look back on the race there where probably a dozen times in which I was trying to make up time went too hard, to fast, and lost my controlled breathing. I then pulled off to the side of the road while being passed. Rodney: So is that the answer? Myself: Well not entirely, I didn't train right and wasn't at the weight I wanted to be. Rodney: Ahh so you didn't put enough training time in? Deebers is really going to enjoy that! Myself: This isn't at all what I said. I said, "I didn't train right". I trained enough miles, *Stats below, I just didn't do enough hill climbs. I tried and failed to ride Little Cottonwood Canyon on three separate times. This should have been a warning sign, but I was more concerned with mileage than actual elevation gain. Rodney: Okay okay, and what about weight? Seems like that is the polka dotted elephant in the room, tell us more about that. Myself: You're really going to make me go there? Okay, well You know Michael Straham, or possibly Ray Lewis? Well I weigh more than they do by a good 30 lbs. I am a 60 lbs. over my ideal weight limit. Sure I know I am a bigger guy and will never be a dominate climber, but I should be able to ride to the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon without blowing a gasket. Rodney: Final questions, will you ever ride this ride again? Myself, absolutely I will but on one condition, I will be at my ideal weight, before I sign up not striving to get to my ideal weight, actually be at my goal weight before I even sign up. This might not happen for a few years. In the meantime I will work hard, and mix more climbing and less miles into my routine.With better eating habits (Watch for future blog entries on this topic and the tracker to your right)
Not exact dimensions, but we have the same arms

2010 Report

  • Count:                            130 Activities
  • Distance:                        2,907.08 mi
  • Time:                             182:44:50 h:m:s
  • Elevation Gain:             147,208 ft
  • Avg Speed:                    15.9 mph
  • Avg HR:                        141 bpm
  • Calories:                        164,483 C
  • Avg Elevation Gain:      1,132 ft
  • Max Speed:                    57.8 mph

Okay glad to clear that up.Now back to the story and to answer those questions you all have.

So there I sit in Mon-pelli-eh eating a slice of humble pie, (remember how the French pronunciation of Montpelier annoys red rider? lol) looking at my forecast to finish cheat sheet I made myself. (Pictured below, I know OCD)  I was about where I needed to be. It was about 12:16pm and I was an hour and a half ahead of CUTOFF. NICE !! For those keeping score it took me 5 hours to go 80 miles. I already mentioned that red rider was a super star with the rest stop support, so let's get right into the next stage.

Mon-pelli-eh to Alpine (Onwards and Upwards literally)

Lucky for you this was a while ago and I have a terrible memory so it won't be a long story. As I peddled out, I think back to the feed zone, and am a little surprised there were so few people. There were thousands when I left this morning, now there were maybe 20 other riders. I rode out of Mon-pelli-eh by myself, and immediately started climbing Geneva Summit. I think I was passed by about 10 more riders, and that was it. Me alone versus Geneva. I was entertaining myself with deebers 2010 recounting of the Norwegian led Geneva Peace Talk with Sri Lanka "The name Geneva Summit conjures up images of Alpine peaks and vacation lake resorts or deténtes between heads of state looking to make peace This hill climb has none of those laudable or aesthetically pleasing characteristics, it's as steep and long as Suncrest hill and as ugly as sin on the Sabbath with a vindictive head wind thrown in to make the malicious package complete" 

Yup that sums it up maybe a little more verbose, but accurate nonetheless. It's strange climbing mountains you have never ridden, you find yourself looking for signs that you're almost there. Looking for tree lines or sky to tell you this thing is just about done and yet it seemed that every turn had nothing to offer but more climbing. I do remember thinking that outside a few riders and a few radio support cars, there wasn't anyone else out there. I remembered later, that  this section was closed to traffic, very eerie. I am now running constant calculation in my head (please tell me I am not the only one who does this?) I am calculating my average mph, what time it is and where in this race I think I may be black flagged. According to my cheat sheet above it looks like I budgeted 2:30 minutes to get to the top of the KOM and the last climb. Seems legit, to go 30 miles. No matter what happens, at this point my only option is to peddle. 

Done! Geneva Summit is in the books and I am getting worked. I now have lost the ability to mentally calculate where I am and where I should be to avoid the Cutoff. I am almost out of water, and nutrition. I am also not sure of the race route; I take a hard left heading north, picking up speed on the flats, and finally I see some other riders. There is just something comforting about seeing other riders, it confirms a few things mentally. A. That they didn’t cancel it, B. I didn’t make a wrong turn, and C.  I might not be dead last after all. I put my head down and pushed with a goal to latch onto another rider’s wheel and work together. Damn, I hammered. I caught them just as we began the uphill undulation towards Salt River pass a.k.a KOM and the last climb of the day. I tried to stick, but as the grade% grew I blew out and stopped. Now I am worried, I have no water and the food I have sucks. I am starting to look for H2O and can’t help but notice hundreds of water bottles all over the ground. I was amazed to see really nice ones, like the ones I had spent top dollar on. Product Placement (LOL) Camelbak Podium Chill, best water bottle I have ever used. If your buying a water bottle opt for these. A little more pricy but well worth it.

Imagery: Crawling through the dessert, on your last leg and you see a mirage off in the distance. This is where I was when Red Rider passes me in the truck and pulls over to stock me up. She has for my enjoyment, two ice cold Mt. Dews YES come to papa! Really product placement again? YES !! Mt. Dew is for athletes and it saved my life. 

Red Rider just brought me back from the dead, I am in this race again and feeling an urgency to get to the top of KOM so I can figure out where and when I am in this race. In the picture below right before the starting line of the KOM I see a group of three riders. I try to keep them in my sights as I ascend the climb. (These riders play a part of my story, so keep tabs on them)

Okay, I am at the top I am #*#&@ done with hills ready for some downhill time. As I am getting water and some nice orange cheese crackers (should be noted that these crackers suck any and all moisture out of your mouth and further will require a full bottle of water to wash down) I noticed that group of three riders discussing strategy with a fourth member. I am guessing here but there were three younger and one older perhaps a father or maybe a boss as they all had matching jersey kits. The older guy was saying he was done, and they should keep going and not to give up. They were trying to figure out how much time until CUTOFF. I didn’t have the energy to show them my cheat sheet, nor could I talk with antimoisture crackers in my mouth. The father figure finally convinced them to leave him and they headed down the hill. I tried a quick bathroom break (nothing, really? Nothing!) Okay back on my bike and heading down the hill. I felt bad that the group sacrificed their weakest rider but it was necessary. The needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few. Okay let’s check the score.

I am at Feed Zone 4, I planned to be there at 2:20pm and it was about 3:30pm, ouch 50 minutes behind my plan. CUTOFF in Afton was at 4:30pm which was in one hour from now but even worse was the Cutoff in Alpine which was at 6:00pm, that meant I had to go 50 miles in 2:30 hours. What does that exactly mean you may ask? Well that means I need to average 20 mph into a brisk head wind through cache valley for half a century distance of 50 miles. And if I don’t make it I am out, black flagged and swept by the sweeper. Dreams crushed, spouse and friends disappointed well you get the drift. At this point I quickly get on the bike and head downhill!

Like a runaway freight train I bomb that decent using up the whole road. I start picking up riders left and right, cutting and carving my way through with reckless abandonment. I catch the group of three and they are in formation with a fourth rider (We will call him red hump look at the picture below) and fly past them topping out at about 52 mph. The hill is done, and we are on a straightaway heading into Afton. I look over my shoulder and see the train of 4 coming up, so I sit up and let them catch me. No discussions, no chatter, I tuck in the 5th position and we rotate taking pulls very effectively and efficiently.

Afton Feed Zone 5

There she is, my Rock Star Pit Crew Chief and my inspiration at the moment. Red was positive, uplifting and Jonny on the spot with my much needed vital nutrition. I tore through a couple of chicken salad sandwiches, a few more Mt. Dew’s (Really Nectar of the Gods)  keeping an eye on the four riders, I decided to ask them if they wanted to work together for the remainder of the race. Not the most talkative group, they agreed and we headed out. Tick tock….Cutoff. 

We bust butt and get back out to the main highway 89 heading north. I take first pull and I hammer, with the Zeus Juice, (I like this name) coursing through my veins I am on fire, averaging speeds greater than 22 mph. I look back a few times and noticed I dropped my group. I have learned the hard way from other races that even though it may not always feel like it, you benefit from riding in a group even if they are going a little slower, so I eased off the gas pedal and slid in back to rest. Next pull I go again hard and again broke the front off again, so I take the queue and return to the back. This time the rider in front of me, which I noticed hasn’t been taking pulls is sitting up and coasting and we are dropping off the back. I yell ahead and they stop and we stop behind them. One of the riders says he is done, and another said we aren’t going to make the cut off. That isn’t what Rodzilla wanted to hear, but at the same time I knew it was unlikely we would make it to Alpine before the final cut. I sighed, took a deep breath and blurted out, “You can’t hold me down, oh no, I gots to keep on movin” Puff Daddy style. I don’t know, blame it on a long day, but I was out !!! (For your audio enjoyment I have included this song at the bottom of the post, scroll down and play while reading the rest)
Okay riding again solo again (Most people's discussion of LOTOJA talks of lots of group riding. I would agree with that unless your at the last, then it feels like you signed up for a local bike race that only had featured 30 riders total) I was sad, but wasn’t ready to give up. Let’s check the score. 15 miles to go until Feed Zone 6 and Alpine, and it was about 5:15, I had 45 minutes to ride 17 miles. My brain trying to break it down, somewhere between 22 mph and 23 mph, no time to think about it I need to hammer. 
Then it happens, by body breaks down, I get a hot spot in the gooch and my right foot goes numb and it hurts to pedal. This is the moment I feared. Where your body just stops, no matter how much training you did you get dealt something that wasn’t planned and can’t be fixed. A severe case of “Hot Foot & Crotch Rot” I try peddling standing up, but that makes the hot foot hotter. I try sitting on the nose of the seat…No…no good. I stop in pain, quickly take my shoe off and rub my foot. Feels good, just needed that few seconds, put the shoes back on, and rocket towards Alpine. I’ve got 5 miles to go and 10 minutes before 6:00, I am not going to make it….

It is at this point I start thinking about my day, and honestly I am okay with it. I have ridden 160 miles, 10 more than I have ever ridden in one day, traveled through 3 states. It was fun, I am proud and I know what I need to work on for future races. I coast into Alpine at 6:05 pm. As I pull up, I see Red. There are maybe 5 other riders in the whole place. I am expecting a LOTOJA official to approach and take my chip and deliver the bad news. “I am okay, I am okay” I repeat a few times to Red, who isn’t sure what I am talking about. She is telling me to eat and go, and I am telling her I am done. Red asked why I am done, and I said I didn’t make it, I missed the cutoff. She asked what is stopping me? I looked around and didn’t see any officials, and started to get a unexplained determination.  I was thinking out loud, "screw it I may not make the finish line before Cutoff but I am not going to give up. They will have to tear me off this bike, and even if I need to detour the route to avoid getting swept I am going to cross that finish line in Teton Village, I don’t care if it is midnight, Rodzilla is going to finish this Race!" Red tells me it is only 46 miles
Let’s check the scoreboard. 6:10pm 46 miles to go, finish line dismantles at 8:30pm, that is 2:20 hours to finish. That is just under 20 MPH, hey I just did that, can I do it again?

·         Logan to Preston 95th out of 1113
·         Preston to Salt River Pass 1067th out of 1084
·         Salt River Pass to KOM 1008th out of 1014
·         KOM to Alpine 730th out of 942 (so yeah made up some time, largely on my own)
Oh you know this song, "cue it up to 1:45 and let it play".....stay tuned for final chapter !!


  1. Small point of clarification. . . by my clock you made it into Alpine prior to cut-off at exactly 6:00 p.m. and left by 6:05. Just getting your facts straight! :) And while I might have been happy and cheering you on every time you saw me, I was really worried about you every time you arrived and left. I'm glad you stuck with it!

  2. Wow, with that lone blog post you have surrendered any right to chase me down for being long-winded. Excellent write up and I've said it before and I will say it again. You have the heart of a lion in the body of a clydesdale horse. Hold on to the first and work on the second and you'll be unstoppable. On the LOTOJA front, I've come away from the experience with nothing but respect for the race and awe at the cyclists who ride it (and keep coming back for more). Anybody willing to go the distance at any pace, and maybe especially those that stay in the saddle all day (and then keep at it after the sun has set and the SAG vehicles have called it quits) deserve nothing but props. Can't wait to see how this thing ends.

  3. That sounds like my experiance the first year. The second year I did it in 11:30.