Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lotoja 2016 Race Report

Some Background: My 2013 Lotoja training was disrupted by a car hitting me just over three weeks before the race. The resulting clavicle fracture was not displaced and I was able to race, but the three week layoff coming into the race and the bruising associated with the accident left me lacking, yet John pushed and pulled me to a 10:11 finish. Not quite the sub 10 I was hoping for before the accident.

In 2014 I was a man on a mission. We came back and John once again dedicated his day to helping me and we finished at 9:48. Finally, a sub 10. Bonus: I walked away from the awards ceremony as the winner of a Madsen bucket bike!

With the crowd yelling, "ride it, ride it" I did a few laps around the gym with John documenting with video
Memorial Day 2015 didn’t go well for me. I was hit by a car descending Mt Nebo in the rain and to add insult to my injuries (couple of broken ribs and a few other colorful contusions), the kid that hit me ran over my new Specialized S-Works Tarmac bicycle. 

In July 2015, my chronic left Achilles tendonitis flared up after a week with the family at the beach. When we got home, I had the misfortune of walking down the stairs behind the stage at the church, in the dark, (and carrying a vacuum) and thought I had one more step to go. That awkward step sent a painful shot up my Achilles. The MRI showed a mid-grade 60-70% tear. A month later, with an orthopedic boot on my left foot, I strained my right Achilles pushing on a shovel and then a couple of days later, I banged my right heel on our stairs at home and rolled down the stairs in pain. This time it was a high-grade, 80-90% Achilles tear. My right Achilles was hanging by just a few threads. Now I had boots on both feet.

I spent Lotoja 2015 wearing my boots, in the car, helping Kristin support John and Michael. Turns out it was a good year to miss. Hot and Windy. Second only to 2005 in the number of DNFs. I spent fall and winter doing light rehab on my trainer, some PT and skiing a couple of hours a day two or three days a week (Doc said, ski boot or Ortho boot would both keep my Achilles in place). I limped around all winter and finally in May I could walk without a limp.

In June of this year I was cleared to stand up and pedal and I slowly ramped up my training over the next three months. I seldom went hard on training rides, but as Lotoja approached, I could tell I was finally coming into a little bit of form.
John bringing Michael to the finish after Michael started to fade in the heat and wind. Lotoja 2015

John and I both decided that we were going to work for Tait Eyre this year. You will want to read Tait's report. A few months ago, Tait had neck surgery to fuse C5/C6 and had a blood clot complication that required an emergency tracheotomy. The limited training, the scar tissue from the Trach, and some weight gain, left his Lotoja in doubt and altered his goal of a sub 10 to just finish. John is the ultimate Lotoja domestique. Beside his dad, he has shepherded Mark Facer, Michael, Chris Parkin (an Adobe Exec) and others to Lotoja finishes in recent years.

Typical of John, peaking over his shoulder to make sure I'm still there (2014).
Our Lotoja Start group was the Master 35+B first flight at 6:39. The SoCal boys showed up in strength, Along with Tait there was Nate Cazier, Shayne Kennedy, Tyson Manning, Jordan Turner, Corte Haggard, James Paul and new comers, Stan Mortensen and Mike Cunningham. Wade Paulsen and his friends Nick Raichart and Mike Speer (from Oregon). Also in the group, my friend and neighbor, Tyler Smith and his riding buddies, Bob Ure and Wayne Hartzell. In addition, I knew a number of the Zone 5 guys from our Tibble Fork Tuesday ride (read Nate’s report or watch his videos – He finished 5th and landed on the podium along with three of the Zone 5 guys). Also in the group were three ssRcc guys – Greg Low, Steve Thurgood and Garland Brinkerhoff. I feel a connection to these guys because Greg worked with Dave Lange, the godfather of ssRcc, after Dave moved from SoCal to Springville. Dave passed away a few years ago from Testicular cancer. He was one of the best men I’ve ever known. I have been a recipient of Dave’s hand on the small of my back pushing me up a climbs from Malibu to La Jolla.

Chad Turner, Dave Garner and Patrick Coffey, part of the Ridebiker Irvine crew, were 24 minutes ahead of us on the road in the Cat 4 group. Chad had an epic day, crashing after a touch of wheels and breaking his collar bone just before the start of the Salt River climb and then getting back on his bike and finishing the race. A week after the race I talked with my new neighbor, William Keil, from Kentucky. William was part of a relay team with his kids and was right behind Chad when Chad touched wheels with the guy in front of him and ended up going over a 10-20' embankment and breaking his clavicle. William stopped and hiked down to see if Chad was OK. Typical cyclist, Chad seemed more concerned about his bike and if it was OK to continue to ride, more so than he was about his broken collar bone.

From 2003 to 2014, we always stayed at Twin Pine Ranch, our family name for my parents’ home in Logan. We sold the home last year and stayed at Annie’s sister Pam’s home in Hyrum, 20 minutes away. Pam and Gary are back from serving a mission in Philadelphia the last three years and John and I were lucky enough to have Gary drive us to the start line at 0600.

(Note: Annie says it's OK to skip the nutrition paragraph) I always worry what to eat the day of the race. This year worked well. I started a daily Optygen HP series a month before the race and then added Hammer Race Day caps in the week leading up to the race. On race day I was up at 4:45. I started with the Optygen and Race Day caps along with some Endurolites (that I would continue to take throughout the race in hopes of avoiding cramping). For breakfast I started with a ProBar Meal Superfood Slam (350 calories) and an AMP Energy Zero, Blueberry White Grape w/ 10 calories and 157 MG of caffeine. An hour later just before the start I ate a second ProBar Meal (Peanut Butter Chocolate) and downed a Mtn Dew KickStart Pineapple Orange Mango w/ 60 calories and another 92 MG of caffeine. About 770 well caffeinated calories. For the race, I relied on CarboRocket and water to drink, Gu, energy chews and one ProBar Fuel at each stop. Protip: the new ProBar Fuel is much preferred to Clifbars, Powerbars or any other bar.

Kristin was once again in command of support. There is no way I could do this race without her support. John and I make sure we have a musette prepared for each stop with our food and drink. We have our energy drink powder already in each bottle so all Kristin has to do is wait until the last minute to add ice and water. An icy cold energy drink is way better than a warm one. This year, my brother Tom offered to do support in Montpelier, which would save Kristin and Nick a couple of hours and ton of driving, but Kristin waved off the offer, preferring to keep busy all day racing to the three feed zones. 
Flashback: Lotoja 2011. John's third podium, 3rd place CAT 5
The Race: With start temps in the high 30s, I wore a vest and knee warmers for the first time in a few years. Our 600 group lollygagged our way out of town with the Bicycle Attorneys from AZ at the front. About 20 miles in, the 700 group passed us. Shortly after that as we approached Franklin, Greg Low and the ssRcc guys went to the front and whipped up the pace. I had already worked my way to the front so that I wouldn’t be subject to the yo-yoing that goes on at the back when the pace picks up. I stayed with the front of the group until the short climb out of Preston. 

John and Tait later told me that when the pace ramped up going into Franklin, Tait had eased up, smartly not wanting to go to his limit so early in the day. John noticed him fall off the back so John sat up and stayed with him. His day at Tait’s domestique had begun.
John and Tait descending Strawberry
At the Riverdale turn-off I hooked up with Wade and Nick and followed them into Mink Creek where we caught the 500 group of Master 60+, the guys I would be racing with if I signed up for my age group. As we passed the Diamond R in Mink Creek, I yelled “Garland” as we passed. Our Irvine friend, Robin Rasmussen Fife, grew up in Mink Creek. Her father is Garland Rasmussen. As I looked over it appeared to be Grandma Dixie Rasmussen waving back from her chair on the front porch.

Wade and Nick rode ahead and I sat in with the 500s and my Highland, UT, Rusty Crank riding buddy, Bill Biggerstaff. They had a solid group of about 15 and a somewhat ornery moto marshal. The leaders were still in sight as we approached the false summit, and I still had them in my sight as I reached the Neutral feed zone near the summit. 

At the feed zone, I stopped for a nature break and to wait for John and Tait. It was 9:45. At 10:05 I started to get nervous that I’d missed them go by, and finally at 10:15, I decided I better run into Montpelier. I hooked on behind the leaders of the Cat5 1200s, the group Michael should have been racing in. I looked for Danny Van Wagoneer, one of the mechanics at my local bike shop, Bike Peddler in American Fork. Danny was racing for Team Mission Belt and I thought he had a real shot at the podium. I didn't see Danny with the leaders and I suspect that it may be because of the two flat tires he referenced in his Strava report. I didn’t have to do any work on the run into Montpelier. I sat right behind the leaders and talked with their moto marshal. We chatted about what he eats on the bike (pbj) and about some of the clueless racers that latched on and thought they could mix in and work with the 1200 leaders (they can’t).

Waiting for John and Tait in Montpelier with Jack, Lily and Isabel 
I breathed a sigh of relief that John and Tait were still behind me when I arrived in Montpelier. I chatted with my fantastic support team of Kristin, Nick and John’s three oldest, Jack, Lily and Isabel. Angela, Cheri and Anjanette were also there waiting on Tait, Corte and James. I also talked with Rick Findlayson (also from Highland) who was supporting his wife, Alicia. Alicia has been on a very regimented training program this year and I expected her to crush it. Later I saw her in Rick’s truck at the top of Salt River. The next day I heard from Katie Harward that Alicia was suffering from a severe migraine and had to abandon.

Tait and I rolling out of Montpelier
Once Tait and John arrived. we were off.  Corte and James were up ahead. The Geneva climb was not Tait’s friend. As I rode alongside him, I tried to encourage him the best I could and also to dial it back a notch on a couple of occasions since his breathing sounded like he was on the edge. I believe we passed James on this climb. We also passed my friend, John Armstrong, who had a flat tire. We wouldn't see John again until Snake River Canyon. We made it over the top and had a nice descent. On the descent, we passed my gynecologist, Barry Noorda. He was riding with a bunch of Logan Race club guys, at least half of whom were MDs, including a couple who worked on my brother Tom after he went over the handle bars in 2014 breaking his neck and collar bone. Tom Higganbotham repaired the clavicle and Eric Hooley fixed Tom’s neck. We hooked up with them for a few miles after the descent, but their pace was just a little too much.

Salt River is a longer, steeper, repeat of Geneva. I stayed by Tait's side all the way up the climb. Big sigh of relief when we rolled into the neutral feed at the top. John had been just ahead of us on the climb and had passed Corte near the summit but Corte had already left when Tait and I arrived.

John and I set the pace into Afton. It was a steady, but not hard pace for us, but I’m afraid it was still a little too close to the limit for Tait, but he hung on. Must have been the thought of the hotdog Ang had waiting for him. John and I are usually less than a minute at feed zones, but in Afton, Tait needed a couple of extra minutes to get fueled up (yes, I called a hotdog fuel).

John's family in Afton
The ride to Alpine was not bad. The nasty headwind wasn’t there and there are fewer rumble strips then there used to be. Somewhere between Afton and Alpine, Annie and Beth pulled over and got the wundertwinds out of the car to cheer us on. I could see them over on some grass as we rolled by. Tait yelled to me to make sure I could see Timmy signing ‘grandpa’ as we rolled by. It pretty much made my day to see Timmy signing and Emmy yelling encouragement ("Hi. Grandpa"). About that time, we found Corte. And a short time later we lost Corte. He was suffering with some knee pain and needed to slow down a bit in hopes he could finish (he did).
Thayne, on the Road to Alpine

Flashback: In 2014 John and I stopped for our first bio break at the base of the Geneva climb. That year as I emerged from the porta potty I found John in tears. When I asked if he was OK, he told me he was thinking about Timmy (then 8 months old) and how he wouldn’t ever be able to ride this with him (Timmy was born with Spina Bifida). We were both crying as we climbed back on our bikes. 

wundertwinds. Timothy and Emmaline
Flash forward: Two years later. Timmy is waiting for us at the Alpine feed zone. John tears up telling Timmy that someday they are going to do this together. Beth sees the tears starting to form and tells John to think about that later and just go….

We jumped on to a couple of small groups in Snake River Canyon but we couldn’t stay with them. There is one little climb where I pulled up alongside Tait and gave him a short push. Just ahead, John sat up and moved to the left about halfway up and I shoved Tait up to John and he finished with a short push. I’m pretty sure those few seconds saved were the difference between a sub12 and a 12+ time. John Armstrong passed us while we cruised through Snake River Canyon and soon, Greg Robinson caught and passed us. John and Greg, both from Highland, have tried, with limited success to ride Lotoja together the past three years. The first couple of years, Greg suffered and couldn’t hang with John and this year John flatted early and then they finally got back together in Alpine and leap frogged each other and us through Snake River Canyon. We left them behind at Feedzone 7. 
Snake River Canyon
The peaches at Feedzone 7 just before Hoback were tasty. Normally all I’m looking for at Feedzone 7 is a handup of one water bottle and I don’t stop, but this year we did and peaches were our reward. Our pace into Jackson was steady, but our hopes of finishing sub12 were looking less and less likely. As we approached the last little climb coming into Jackson, dubbed ‘Back One Hill" by Brian Emmett several years ago, I asked Tait if he wanted a little help on the last little climb. He declined and gutted it out.
John taking one last look over his should to check on Tait at the finish
As we approached the finish, we could all see on our Garmins that we were going to be right on 12 hours. At about 100M, I sprinted away with John in hopes of locking in a sub12. Tait did not sprint. John and I finished with about 15 seconds to spare and Tait finished with 7 seconds to spare. Sub12 in the books is better than sub13. Small victory.
It takes a village

We took time at the finish for a hug. Tait and I wiped away a few tears for a photo along with John. This race will go into the books as Legendary. A phenomenal performance by Tait.

Monday, September 15, 2014

LOTOJA 2014. Number 10, Sub 10


For the 2nd year in a row, my son John dedicated his race supporting me.  Last year in his role as guardian angel, he worked for me to insure I finished – 3.5 weeks after breaking my left collar bone.  This year his goal was to help me achieve my first sub 10.  We accomplished the goal finishing in 9 hours 48 minutes. 

The rest of the story ( 17 minutes > 17 seconds)

When Allen Barbieri and I signed up at the last minute to ‘ride’ Lotoja in 2003, finishing time was not part of our discussion or planning.  In 2004, Corte Haggard and my son, John, signed up for their first Lotoja and the goal, once again, was to finish.  In 2005, it rained and snowed and I was over it by the time I got to Montpelier.  A quick towel change in the parking lot at the feed zone and my day was done. That was the year Corte coined the term ‘LoToMo’, Logan to Montpelier.  That year, Steve Turner pushed on to Afton before giving in to the horrible conditions. From Afton, John led Mark Facer the final 80 miles in a cold steady rain to the finish.  Mark got more than his money’s worth that year. No talk of PRs that year.  In 2006, Brian ‘raced’ for the first time.  John was on his way to his first podium that year and Brian and I wasted an hour in Afton waiting on others and blew what would have been a sure podium for him in the 18-25 category.  That was the last year of  ‘waiting’. From 2007 on, Lotoja has been about doing your very best that day.  Sure it involves team work,but, working with others doesn’t have to be the same friends you’ve been training with all year. This is the one day each year where you don’t wait at the top of the climb and regroup (OK, Some people, like John for instance, wait at the top, but that because he's a highly compensated domestique and that's his job).  This is a race.

John and I were back together this year in the same start group, Masters 35+ B2 group (500s), joining The SoCal Rokform boys - Tait Eyre,Shayne Kennedy, Tyson Manning and Nate Cazier along with Chris Parkin from Adobe, who would end up staying with John and me for most of the race.  Chris and John met each other for the first time the week of the race.  This would be Chris' 4th Lotoja. His previous times had been 14, 12 and 10 hours. Since his first Lotoja he had put in significant miles and dropped a lot of weight. He saw John’s name and expected ride time of 9:30 on the Team Adobe spreadsheet.  He sought John out because John was in his start group and had a similar goal.  John explained that his lack of training time had forced him to change his goal.  No longer was 9:30 his goal, rather it was to help his dad finish with his first sub 10. That matched up with Chris’ goal so a plan to ride together was put in place.

Last year John and I started with the 35+ A group, 12 minutes ahead of the boys from the OC.  Even though I had broken my collar bone 3+ weeks earlier, John and I held them off, finishing 11 minutes and 43 seconds before Tait (yeah, yeah, yeah….. 17 seconds).  This year we found our way to start in the same group so we had the vision of all of us finishing together in a sub 10.  As with years before, things happen and the group ends up finishing in a handful of smaller groups.

Michael was also racing his first Lotoja.  He’s tried a couple of times before, but a torn ACL kept him out one year and the UVU – USU soccer game forced him to abandon in Montpelier two years ago so he could go back to Logan for the game.  Michael was on his own starting in the 1400s cat 5 group starting at 7:27, 42 minutes after our start time. As it turns out, Michael’s amazing race would turn out to be the story of the day. I felt a little guilty not being with Michael for his first full Lotoja as I had been with John and Brian.  Michael seemed fine with it.  He had only 600 year to date training miles, had never before ridden 100 miles in one day and in fact, his longest ride ever was his 80 mile LoToMo two years ago. The expectation for him to crush it was low, in fact the expectation was it for him to get crushed trying to complete his first century and first double century on the same day. As you will see, on this day, Michael was the baseball bat, not the windshield.

A faster than normal start got the group into Preston about5 or 6 minutes faster than previous years. I started to think sub 10 might be possible.  Thirty miles in and I had already picked up half of the 11 minutes based on last years’ time.  We were in the back half of our 65 man group for the first 30 miles, but near the Idaho border, John and I started to move up and the others followed.  On the descent into Riverdale, I was off the front of the group and was the first to make the turn onto Highway 36 and begin the climb to Mink Creek and Strawberry (aka Emigration Canyon).  For the first time ever, I didn’t need to stop for the first group bio-break and slow pedaled through Mink Creek with others who didn’t stop. From there the group splintered. I helped a second group chase back on to the leaders as we left Mink Creek, but was soon spit out the back while John and Nate rode off with the leaders.  I rolled over the false summit with Jordan and soon had Tyler Smith and the M45+ leaders setting the pace to the feed zone.  John had been dropped by the leaders and was waiting there for me. The race for sub 10 was on.  We had our second fastest descent into Ovid. The group we hooked up with didn’t work together like I would have liked, but we did reel in the M45 leaders group which included Chris and some others from our group and made good time to Montpelier. Heading into Montpelier we made all three lights and found my brother Tom and his daughter Sam ready and waiting.  I tossed my bottles and arm warmers at Tom’s feet, grabbed some food, fresh bottles and we were off. Leaving town I could see the boys in pink (Porcupine Racing) just up the road. I’ve ridden with those guys over the past few years. They treat Lotoja as a ride and unlike us, regroup at the top of the climbs. We caught and passed them at the summit of Geneva. We found just the right amount of guys to ride with up Salt River valley heading toward the last of the major climbs.

John descending Salt River
At the base of Salt River, I finally gave in and stopped at the porta potty for my first pee break. When I walked out of the porta potty, I could see tears in John’s eyes. He was clearly emotional. I thought maybe he’d gone too hard and his limited training was catching up with him, but no. He replied that he was thinking about Timmy and that he would most likely never be able to do this. Dang it, now I was crying. The story of John and Beth’s twins born in January is a long one. The short story is that Timmy was born with Spina Bifida and had a rough start, having his heart stop during surgery less than 12 hours after he was born and twice again a few weeks later as he battled a virus.  He has since recovered and is a healthy and happy boy. His future is still unknown, but it will be beyond expectations if he is able to walk without some kind of assistance. His little sister Emmaline is a healthy and super active little girl. Of all the excuses we cyclists come up with as to why we haven’t trained, newborn twins is the excuse that trumps almost all others.

Bob descending Salt River
With tears in our eyes, we set off to climb Salt River. Last year, John rode alongside me and pushed me up much of Salt River.  I’m pretty sure I had tears in my eyes then.This year, I was able to keep him nearby. Along the way we spotted a number of thumb tacks that some brainless idiot had thrown on the road. Some People. We grabbed a couple of water bottles at the top and raced down the other side. We were soon caught by the five leaders of the M55 group. These guys were on a mission to stay away from another group of five they had dropped on the climb. They put the hammer down and we hung on as those five did all the work up front.  I’m sure we averaged over 30mph on the run into Afton with long stretches of 35+ mph. For these five leaders though, their effort was in vain as the other five from their group caught them as we pulled into Afton.

Michael on Salt River descent

Kristin and Annie were waiting for us in Afton. Having Tom and Sam cover Montpelier was a life saver. After we grabbed our stuff, Kristin and John’s three older kids headed to Alpine for the last feed zone while Annie stayed behind to wait for Michael. I can’t overstate how important good support is for this race.
John, Bob and Chris tucked in behind the M55 leaders rolling into Alpine
We continued to ride with these guys to Alpine. Now that they were together, the urgency was off and the pace was a little easier for me. I could see that we were on pace to break the 10 hour barrier so all was good.
Michael standing on the Strawberry climb because his saddle was loose
Meanwhile, back behind us, Michael was having a memorable ride. His group left Logan and set a very fast pace to Preston with a number in the group complaining about how hard they were going. Just after Preston, Michael’s saddle started to rock forward and back. I had adjusted the angle of his saddle earlier that week and must not have tightened it properly. He did his best to stay with the leaders even though he was standing a lot and constantly trying to adjust his saddle angle while sitting down. On the Strawberry climb he caught Paul and Bryan Badger. Bryan thought he had a multi-tool and could fix Michael’s saddle so Michael let the leaders go and pulled over to have Bryan help with this saddle. It didn’t work out, Bryan didn’t have his multi-tool and Michael had just let the leaders go. He took off and continued to pass dozens and dozens of riders.

Uncle Tom to the rescue. In Montpelier, Tom chased down the right Allen wrench and fixed the saddle.  Michael suffered up Geneva and the run from Idaho to Wyoming through Salt River valley.  At the start of the Salt River climb, he was ready to give up.  Completely bonked and depressed that he was on his own.  He has the ability to eat more than John or me on the bike and had run out of food.  The people he had passed on the previous climbs were now passing him.  At the top he took a break and ate four bananas and drank some extra water.  FOUR bananas!!  By the time he rolled into Afton he was feeling great.
Michael getting some much needed help coming into Alpine
Michael worked with three guys, including one unknown to me A Bloc guy, into Alpine.  Leaving Alpine he had an “old guy” drag him through the first half of the canyon and then jumped on a small group that caught them. Michael felt a little bad that the old guy who had done most of the work couldn’t get on with the new group.

Story of my day.  Sitting on John's wheel in Snake River Canyon while Johns peeks over his shoulder to make sure I'm still there. 
As John, Chris and I left Alpine all I could think of was the horrible head wind we had, but then after less than a mile it was gone and we were back to the normal Snake River Canyon tailwind.  We continued to work with handful of other guys. Halfway through the canyon, we had a relay guy catch us and sit on the group.  When he pulled through, he upped the pace and rode away from us only to be reeled in a minute or two later. Repeat. Coming into the bridge at Hoback our relay buddy did it again and tried to ride away from us after sitting on for a few miles.  When I caught him just past the Hoback roundabout, I told him not to even think about getting on the back if he wasn’t going to work with us.  He didn’t get on. In a rare Lotoja for me, this was the only guy I bossed around all day.

As we came into Jackson, I got popped by our group of six at ‘Back One Hill’ (I don’t think Brian Emmett has trademarked that name yet).  John, Chris and I regrouped after the left hand turn off the highway. In this section we had our second relay guy sit on, then try to ride away from us a couple of times.  This time we just sat on his wheel.  John was right behind him and at the bridge just before the right hand turn toward Teton Village he tried to get John to pull through but John refused – not saying a word in the process. Finally he slowed enough to force John to pull through.  John pulled through and made the turn.  The Tetons were in full view and you can smell the finish line.  The hammer was down and our relay buddy could not get back on. Thanks for the help buddy!

Finish Line.  Getting pipped by a relay rider while John rolls in behind me

We caught another relay guy in the final 10K and he was happy to work with us.  At the 200M sign, John was confused about which side of the cones he should go so I got the jump on him and took off for the finish line. My relay friend jumped onto my wheel and came around to pip me at the line.  He tried to apologize as we turned in our timing chips but I complemented him on his finish and told him that I love giving the finish line fans a full gas sprint at the end. John and I finished 15thand 16th in our group. Pretty respectable for an old man and someone who had only a few hundred training miles this year.
Michael's strong finish
Now the wait was on for the OC boys and Michael.  17 minutes later Tait and Jordan followed Shayne across the finish line, all three setting PRs but just missing their goal of sub 10.  Tyson did not have his best day and finished about an hour later. John and I found time to soak our legs in the creek while we waited for Michael to finish.  That kid crushed it.  10:18 ride time and a 10:31 finish.  I suspect his actual ride time was closer to 10:05 because I doubt his Garmin actually paused while he and Tom walked his bike around the Montpelier feed zone trying to fix his saddle.  It also is unlikely it paused while he walked his bike around the Salt River feed zone while he ate his FOUR bananas. FOUR bananas! He cannot wait for next year.  I can’t either.  I’m going to go to Vegas and bet the farm that Michael is on the Cat 5 podium, especially if he decides to do a couple of 100+ mile training rides and does 1500+ training miles.  I’m not sure what John and I will do. I’d like to race as a Cat 5 and help Michael, but I know I won’t be able to help him because I will not be able to get over the climbs with him.  John may be over it.  I don’t think it’s going to be any easier to train next year. Maybe I start with the M60+ guys 30-40 minutes ahead of Michael, hold on until I get dropped and then wait for Michael and help him in the second half of the race.  Or, if Kristin is racing, I’ll happily be doing support.  We have a few months to decide….

Cool Down while we wait for Michael
This year the Lotoja adventure spilled over to the Awards Ceremony the next day.  I showed up to support Nate who finished fifth in our group and was on the podium and also to get my 2000 mile award.  After the podium awards, the ceremony moved onto the raffle of several bikes all to the benefit of Huntsman Cancer Institute.  You had to be there to win so it took pulling several names out of the hat to find winners for the first two bikes.  For the first drawing, grandson Jack was selected to hold the hat with the names.  His prize was to get to keep the hat, which has been on his head every day since. We were 5, 6, or more names into the drawing for the Madsen Cargo bike when the named pulled from the hat was ‘Robert Emmett’.  Winner! I had no idea that I’d purchased the $10 raffle ticket for the Madsen when I signed up for Lotoja.  I ran down to the floor to claim my prize while Tait, Angela, Nate and Brooke got the entire Jackson Hole gym crowd chanting “ride it, ride it, ride it”, so I obliged and took a couple of spins around the gym.  Fellow A Bloc rider,Jeremy Ward, offered to transport the bike to Highland in the back of his brothers Sprinter Van.

Jack, Lily and Isabel helping break in the Madsen
The grand-kids have really enjoyed the Madsen.  Beth has taken a ride with Emmy and Annie took Timmy out for his maiden voyage.  I’ve decided to name the bike ‘Evelyn’ after Annie’s mom.  I won it on what would have been her 84th birthday.  I’m thinking she may have had a hand in pulling my name out of the hat.

Final times for our group:
Bob Emmett (9:48 PR), John Emmett (9:48), Michael Emmett (10:31 PR), Shayne Kennedy (10:06 PR), Tait Eyre (10:06 PR), Tyson Manning (11:08), Nate Cazier (9:05PR and podium), Jordan Turner (10:06 PR).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


September 7, 2013
Who would have thought that I would get hit by a car and break my left clavicle (same one I broke in 2003) on August 14 and still be able to line up for Lotoja 24 days later and not only complete the race, but set a PR of 10:11 in the process?  

This Lotoja was a long time coming.  In 2011, I was at my lowest weight in years – 158 pounds compared to 168 pounds this year.  I struggled that day with a number of issues, the biggest one being the position of my cleats.  Still I finished in 10:38.  I decided then to go after a sub 10 in 2012.  The first thing I did was get a professional fit on my shoes.  It was a great decision.  Since that fitting I’ve felt much better on the bike.  In November of 2011, I was in the garage and sprayed lubricant on my garage door springs.  When I stepped off the ladder I stepped on the overspray on the painted garage floor, slipped and tore my hamstring.  It took months for that to heal.  In December I had a double hernia fixed – also an injury from my fall in the garage.

In May of 2012, I tried to wheel a garbage can full of construction cement debris down the ramp of my trailer.  As I stepped on to the ramp, I tore my other hamstring.  That injury kept me off the bike for the month of June.  Lotoja 2012 was not looking good. 

 Broken right clavicle, July 2012

When I finally got back on the bike in July it was only a few weeks before I found myself flying over the handlebars at 30+ mph and breaking my right clavicle and beating up the rest of my body.  Lotoja 2012 was not going to happen. 

Before I was able to start my 2013 training, I had a melanoma scare and had a stage 1A mole removed from my shoulder in February. It kept me off the slopes for a week and out of the pool for the rest of the winter.

My 2013 training got off to a slow start when I broke my thumb and tore the ligament on the last day of the ski season.  I didn’t get the cast off my thumb until the end of May.  That gave me 90 days of training for Lotoja.  I started riding with the ‘Rusty Cranks’, the local 55+ guys plus others in the neighborhood.  They do a ride to Tibble Fork every Tuesday.  The first few rides in June I was dropped within the first mile of AF Canyon guard shack.  In July I started to hold my own, but still had 2 or 3 of them ride away from me.  By August I was able to hang with the fast guys and was starting to get some of my old form back.  Then on August 14, a FedEx guy on his way to work didn’t see me until my head was banging off his passenger door window.  As I lay on the asphalt, I thought maybe my shoulder is just separated and I’ll be OK, but after a trip to InstaCare I was told the bad news.  The family doc covering instacare that day told me my break was a bad one and would require surgery.  Turns out he couldn’t read an X-Ray and was looking at the break from 2003.  My new break was not displaced (the break was about a 2mm gap) and was out near the end of the bone.  The complete opposite end of the spectrum from my break last year. 
 Broken left clavicle 2013 (big lump close to ribs is the 2003 break. The 2013 break is near the end of the clavicle almost under the L/JH tab).
Another view of the left clavicle.  X-Ray taken 10/2/13.  Still not healed.  The break in this view is near the center of the photo.

After about 10 days the bruising on my hip had healed enough that I decided to climb on the trainer.  I felt pretty good.  That week I caught up on about 4 episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’.  The next step was to climb back on the bike and see how I felt.  Not good, but not bad.  30 miles didn’t really bother the shoulder.  After a couple of training rides, I decided to give Lotoja a go. Worst case I could quit in Preston or Montpelier.  I already have a LoToMo on my palmar├Ęs . Best case I would finish.

The day of reckoning arrived.  Lotoja has a new start schedule this year.  Licensed Race groups started every 6 minutes and would travel a new route for the first 30 miles to Preston.  The non-licensed racers (‘Ride group’) went off between the other groups and traveled the old route through the west side of Cache Valley.  It was a big improvement having the groups 6 minutes apart on the road.

This year John turns 35 so he was able to sign up in the Masters 35+ group (200 group).  I have raced with the Master 55+ groups the last few years but this year I signed up in the M35 group to race with John.  We ended up in the 35A group with the fast guys including John’s Adobe teammates.  My friends Tait Eyre, Shayne Kennedy, Jim Lundberg, Paul Badger and Tyson Manning were in the 35B group starting 12 minutes behind us.  Corte Haggard was in a 45+ group another 12 minutes back.  

This was perfect for me.  I could ride the first 35-40 miles with John and then when I got dropped on the first climb, I could take it easy and wait for the 35B guys to catch me. In previous years when I started with the M55 group, I would chase them.  In past years I’ve caught Tait somewhere between mile 40 and 100 and then we’ve finished together. Today the tables were turned.  While I expected to get caught at some point, I had every intention of playing to role of the rabbit and staying off the front as long as I could and make Tait catch me.  Plan A would be not to get caught. Plan B would be to hold on when I got caught and the worst case Plan C was that if I couldn’t hang with my friends I’d find a way to finish.

John left Twin Pine at about 5:45 to go down to the start line early for a ‘Team Adobe’ photo.  I followed about 15 minutes later and arrived in plenty of time for our 6:15 start time. 

 0615 Start - My future's so bright I have to wear shades

On our way to Preston, I chatted briefly with Kent Carlsen, who would eventually finish 2nd in our group.  He is a Logan Race Club guy and was wearing ‘Norda’s’ socks.  I told him I liked his socks.  John and I stayed near the front, but never actually got to the front of our group.  We weren’t in a big hurry.  In fact, the 35B group was a minute faster on the first section than we were.  The big surprise was that we caught the Cat 1’s (100 group) on the turn at Riverdale. John observed, “Cat 1’s are notoriously lazy racers.”  The marshal waived us through making the M35 group the first group on the road with the exception of the Tandem group. It was a new experience not having the road littered with individuals and small groups of racers and fun group riders.

I had been popped on the short climb out of Preston and had just barely chased back on and had the Cat 1’s tell me that my group was up ahead.  I worked through the Cat 1s and got back with the M35s near the Mink Creek sign.  John was in good shape but my time with these guys was about to end on the uphill rollers through Mink Creek.  I popped off the back and watched John and the rest of the boys ride off.  After the Cat 1’s caught me I quietly slid back through the group and was about to come of the back when their marshal pointed at a couple of us and told us to let a gap open.  He didn’t want us using the 100s to chase back on to the 200s.
On my own at the start of the Strawberry climb

Yes, I was kicked out of the Cat 1 Group.  Money.

My good leg

Now I was on my own. John was up the road with the leaders.  On the steepest part of Strawberry, the leaders of the 300’s a Cat 3 group and 400’s, the other M35 group went by.  No sign of my friends in that group.  I chased on to the splintered groups of 300/400 riders at the false summit and followed them to the neutral feed zone about ¼ mile from the summit.  I grabbed a couple of bottles of water and felt a hand on my back.  It was John.  He had been dropped by the leaders and had some knee pain so he had decided to wait for me.  This was the scenario I had dreamed about.  Plan A was back on the table.

John crushing it on the Strawberry Descent
I didn’t have enough in the tank to catch back onto the large group of 300/400 chasers before the summit, but by the time John and I finished our descent, we had about 5 other guys who worked with us.   By the time we got to Montpelier, we had reeled in the larger group. I did more work in this section than any other.  My first panic of the day was the over pass going into Montpelier.  I couldn’t hold on to the small group so I was chasing down Main Street praying I wouldn’t hit a red light - there are only two lights in Montpelier.  Luck was on my side and I made both lights and caught John at the first feed zone. 

 Kristin hooking me up with a bite size Snickers

 High Five from Lily

Kristin, Annie, Jack and Lily were waiting at the feed zone.  Cold drink – one Perpetuem and one Carbo-Rocket Raspberry Lemonade.  On the way to Geneva, John and I split a banana. 

Three Amigos: Bob, Nate and John

As we started the 2nd of the 3 major climbs, John told me that he needed a nature break and would wait on top.  I ended up riding alongside a guy by the name of Nate Carter from Lehi.  Nate is younger and stronger than me, but he is also bigger than me so we  were both climbing at about the same pace.  We talked about a few of the local Dialogue, Trek and other cyclist that we knew in North Utah County.  Later on Nate and John figured out that they had worked at Novell at the same time and had a number of common friends.

On the descent into Salt River Valley we worked a little, but mostly sat on for the 10 miles leading to Salt River climb.  Just sitting on with fast groups of 300/400 riders was tough for me.  If I ever got to the front, I was off in a flash.  After we crossed the KOM start line, I popped of the back and was on my own.  John sat up and waited for me and helped pace me on the lower portion of the climb.  As we approached less than a mile to the summit, the road turns up.  John pulled along my left side and quietly put his right hand on the small of my back and pushed me along.  I’m pretty sure I teared up more than once.  It’s impossible to express what it is like to have your son not only sacrificing all of his personal goals, but sacrificing his legs and lungs to help me get over the top. At about 600M from the summit, we passed by Robb Lifferth, a friend from work who was parked on the side of the road waiting to cheer on family members doing the relay race.  With John’s help, we went over the top ahead of Nate.  We descended into Star Valley and found ourselves alone. We looked up the road to see if there was a group we should chase but couldn’t see anyone, We looked behind and could see only one rider – Nate.

 Ivy, Annie, Jack, Lily and Kristin. Best Support Team Ever. 

We sat up and slow pedaled and waited for Nate.  He was glad we waited and we were glad to have him.  A win/win.  For the 12 miles into Afton, John and Nate would do long pulls of a minute or two and I would do less than 10 seconds on the front.  These guys were way more powerful than me and it was all I could do to hold on.  We made a quick stop in Afton and were on our way.  Nate didn’t want to lose us so he made an even quicker stop and was waiting for us just past the Taco Time on the main highway.  For the next 33 miles into Alpine we kept the same rotation going. John would pull for 90 seconds, then Nate for 90 seconds then me for 9 seconds.  

Somewhere between Thayne and Etna we picked up a relay racer who jumped on the back of our small train as we went by.  When he came to the front, he accelerated with his fresh legs and the three of us in unison yelled “whoa”. It was obvious he didn’t have any real experience riding in a pace line.  He took a good pull and then managed to hold on and work his way back to the front again.  The second time he came to the front he rode away off the front and John just let him go.  John slowly pulled him back without changing our pace and then that was it for the guy.  He couldn’t catch back on when we went by.  We had no idea who he was until we saw him at the finish line with his wife – Brooke Clayton Boyer from Irvine!  This was Nate Boyers first time riding Lotoja and he really enjoyed his experience doing the relay.  

Kristin, Annie, Jack and Lily at the Alpine feed zone 

When we pulled into the third and final feed zone in Alpine, I knew we had a good time and a shot at breaking 10 hours.  My cramping had been minimal and my food and hydration seemed to be about right.  The only problem I had was weak legs.  The late start to season, the 3.5 weeks off the bike with the broken clavicle and the weak legs did not bode well for a sub 10.  John and I left Nate behind in Alpine because he needed a nature break, but so did I.  We stopped at a pull out at the mouth of Snake River Canyon and Nate caught us there.  For the first time since the road between Geneva and Salt River, we latched on to some good guys to ride with.  We were flying up the canyon and I was on the rivet just holding on.  Never before have I ridden so many miles at my limit.  Not close to my limit, but AT my limit. It was a blessing in disguise that I had forgot my heart rate monitor strap.  I didn’t have to look at me red lining all day.  

We were sitting near the back of a train of about 12 guys when we came around a bend and I could see the most difficult climb of the canyon just ahead.  I looked at John and said simply, "crap". I worked my way to the front of the group as we rolled into the base of the hill.  John was right behind me.  As I started to fall back and the group passed on my left, John did his best to push me along in the hope that we could hang on.  Alas, I was cooked.  We crested the small climb and John led me as we chased back on but as soon as the road turned up again I popped of the back and had no chance of chasing back on.  Nate was smart enough to stay with these guys while John was compassionate enough to stay back with me.  

Getting dropped in Snake River was the end of my sub 10 hopes, but I still had a PR in sight.  We grabbed some water at Hoback and were surprised (not) that construction on the new bridge across the river appears to have made no progress since 2010. We made it through the new roundabout and across the bridge where Rob Verhaaren tragically lost his life last year. It was sad to see the flowers on the bridge and river bank as we pedaled by.  We lost some time here as we were on our own and John was doing ALL the work.

We hooked up with a group just before the turn off of 89 onto Southpark Loop road.  Just before the turn off is a short climb Brian tagged as “Back One”.  Strava calls it U.S 89 climb.  Whatever you call it, it’s a short .4 mile climb that is guaranteed to get me spit out the back of any group I’m trying to hold on to.  John once again tried to help me stay in contact with some riders, but it was in vain.

Once we turned on to Southpark Loop, we found ourselves mixed in with a bunch of 700 (45+) and 800s.  The 800s were the leaders of the 55+ group.  The 800s went to the front followed by the 700s.  We fell in behind the 700 group.  

After we came out of the tunnel of the bike path onto route 22, the 700s moved to the front and the 800s let them open a gap.  John asked me if I wanted to chase on to the 700s or just sit behind the 800s.  I elected to stay behind the 800s.  I don’t think I had another short chase left in me plus I didn’t want to get caught up in the middle of two groups still racing for top 10 (700s) and the top of the podium (800s).  Had we chased on to the 700s we would have knocked about a minute off our time.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have said lets go get on with the 700s. 

With 10 miles to the finish, John and I had a front row seat sitting behind 5 guys.  We knew the rules of the race and stayed out of the mix.  All five had a podium spot secured, but no doubt, each wanted the top spot.  There were two Bountiful Mazda guys, one Logan Race Club guy, previous winner Elton Reid of FFKR Architects and another guy from GAS/Intrinsik out of Boseman MT.  In the end, no one was able to make a move to drop the others and the Bountiful Mazda guys ended up leading out the guy from Bozeman who won with Elton taking 4th. 
 10 hours and 11 minutes later. The guy in black is a stud.

I stopped my Garmin at 10:04:21.  The Lotoja clock had me at 10:11:00.731.  Just 11 minutes and less than one second from my goal of sub 10.  Only 6.5 minutes off the bike is pretty good, but I will have to knock a minute or two off that in the future.

It was an emotional day.  It really is impossible to describe how awesome it was to race with John by my side in front of me. I teared up a couple of times during the day.  The final run in to the finish line was the most emotional. While following John into the finish I thought about being a father, a son and my dad, who passed away almost 3 years earlier.  Dad always said, “families that ski together, stay together”.  I think the same can be said of cycling. 

 John cooling down in the creek while John and Lily watch.

I love the time at the finish where you get to see your awesome support crew.  One constant is that Kristin is always there.  I love that girl.  John and I really count on her and she always delivers.  This year she had her friend Ivy along to help and Annie was there to keep an eye on John’s kids, Jack and Lily.  

Unlike previous years when we’ve had to wait for a long time for all our friends to arrive, this year the wait was short.  About 11-12 minutes after I finished Tait rolled across the finish line.  Was it 11 or 12?  Did he beat me by a minute or did we have the same time?  We would have to wait over night to see the official results.  Turns out Tait got me by 17 seconds with a final time of 10:10.44.  He’s promised me a t-shirt with 17 seconds on it to remind me that for the next year he is the king.  All I can say is “Well Done”. 

We didn’t have to wait long for Corte Haggard and Shayne Kennedy as both set PR’s of less than 11 hours.  Jim Lundburg, and Tyson Manning were another hour behind and Paul Badger missed breaking the 12 hour mark by 3 minutes while setting a PR.  Jim is my brother-in-law and was complaining the weeks ahead of the race that I'd talked him into doing something stupid (that part was true), but his performance was awesome.  He had a ton of natural talent and I'm sure he'll be back again.

 John and Kristin with John's 2000 mile award. Kristin was there for every mile.

I’m already planning to be 10 pounds lighter next year and to get 5000 training miles in vs. 1800 this year.  I just need to find a way to stay out of the hospital, ER, and Physical Therapy 

Bob EMMETT   2013 LoToJa  7Sept 2013
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Final Time: 10:11:00.731
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