Thursday, December 4, 2008

LOTOJA 2004 - John, Corte and a Red Light in Soda Springs

12 Sept 2004


Early this year there were big plans of a big group going on the ride this year but things happen. Allen broke is neck, Steve’s been laid up with an abscess in his “lower back”, Chris Halloran lost interest when too much travel interrupted his training and Mark Facer had a trial scheduled to start on Sept 13.

In the end, five of us made it too Logan; Dave Preszler, Bill Bussiere, Corte Haggard, John Emmett and me. Dave Preszler just finished moving his family to Utah earlier in the week so it turned out to be a good time for him. John, Bill and Corte committed early on and were ready to go.

I flew into SLC on the Wednesday before the race. That afternoon, John took me for a short but hard training ride from Heber up toward Kamas and almost killed me. On Thursday Tom and Jeff Shephard took Corte and I on a 90-minute ride/tour of the south end of cache valley and on Friday Corte, Bill and I did a shorter tour of the south end of the valley as our final tune up. I was ready.

The race is a little whacked. Too many people and too many rules. They filled all 1000 slots. This year they added additional start times to make each starting group smaller. Last year about 120 of us started together in the 45-54 age group. This year they split us up into 3 groups. Sign up order determined the groups so a lot of people were complaining that they didn’t get to start in the same group as their friends. They warned us that if you start in the wrong group you’d be disqualified. If you work with riders outside your start group you will be disqualified. Bill, Corte and I all signed up early so we were in the first Citizen 45-54 group scheduled to start at 7:18am. Dave was in the group 4 minutes behind us and John’s 17-26 group was 24 minutes behind. It was always the plan that John would start with us. We didn’t expect problems and in fact no one said anything when he started with us. The worst that would happen I thought is that he would get a DQ next to his name for starting early.

Dave didn’t start with us because he wanted to ride to win his group. He had his wife Mary Beth and his two boys at the feed zones with a musette bag filled with water and food so that he wouldn’t have to stop. Our plan was to ride strong but stop at the feed zones for a couple of minutes, stretch, grab water, cytomax, other food, comfort stop, then get back on the bike. I thought John, Corte and I could finish the race in about 10 hours. Bill had a more conservative goal of 12 hours.

Bill and Tom ventured out to see us off at the start. The weather was balmy compared to last year with a start temperature in the mid-50’s. I started with my shorts, Rock N’ Road shop jersey and arm warmers (John, Bill and Corte were also in RNR shop jerseys – making us the ‘dominant’ team in our group). The arm warmers were off before Preston and soon we were riding in 80-degree sun. On the way to Preston we got acquainted with a few members of our group. One guy named Vernon took a liking to John and me. I found out he lived in Twin Falls, married a girl from Logan who was a grade ahead of me in high school. He has two boys on missions right now. One in Oklahoma and one in Texas. Their missions border each other so they are scheming as to how they can see each other before the older boy comes home. He definitely felt a kinship with John and as John can tell you he was looking out for him for much of the race. I know he (like me) is looking forward to riding with his boys in the coming years. We also met a big guy named Paul. I called him Big Bob for the first 50 miles because his jersey said Bob’s bike shop on it. I finally asked him his name some where between Grace and Preston. He was from Alabama and said he made the mistake of signing up after having too much wine while visiting friends in Jackson earlier in the year.

I also heard someone behind me say he had lived in Irvine. I dropped back and asked where he had lived and he said University Park. He asked if I knew the Haglunds and I told him that I had been in the Bishopric with Bruce. I asked him his name just as I recognized who he was – Alan Green. I told him my name and he said, “My daughter has a crush on your son!” We laughed about that and I told him that she had been over to our house last summer. John caught up on his older boy Cort – who’s mention got Corte’s attention. I asked Alan who he was riding with and he said his friends were in a different group and so he’d ride along with us. After Preston we never did see him again.

Just before Preston, I decided to pull over for my first comfort stop rather than wait in line at the porta potties in Preston. John, being his father’s son, was ready to join me. A third rider also pulled over. We had no problem pulling back to our group who seemed to be in no hurry. We stayed near the front for the first 30 miles but didn’t go to the front. Just as we entered Preston, about 30 miles into the race, the group 4 minutes behind us caught us. I didn’t see Dave Preszler but he saw us getting our water and he continued up the road.

We spent a few extra minutes waiting for Corte at the porta potty. I told Bill there was some climbing up ahead so he took off. Corte, John and I caught Bill on the climb up to Riverdale and then left him to his own pace on the start of the long climb out of Riverdale to Treasureton pass. During this stretch we formed an OK group of riders. Vernon, Paul, Corte, John and I could have worked all day together but we had a bunch of other guys and a couple of idiots that wanted to work with us. Two of them were pretty sketchy riders that were constantly half-wheeling, moving side-to-side and most annoying of all slowing the pace down and staying on the front too long. Coming out of Grace at mile 60 I finally ‘scolded’ the guy in the purple and green shark jersey for half-wheeling me. I told him to ride behind me, not beside me. I then went to the front and took the pace up to about 24-mph to put some hurt into him. John told me that Paul was complaining about the pace I was setting. John and Vernon got left behind on my attack so Vernon told John to work with him and go 24 mph and they’d get back on. They had no problem getting on and I didn’t drop either of the idiots – shark boy or ‘bow-legged’ red jersey man. Both of these guys would pull too long, pull too slow and then not fall all the way to the back of the group.

An old lady almost got a few of us on the right hand turn onto highway 30 that leads into Soda Spring. Highway 30 is a divided four-lane highway and they had the right hand land coned off for cyclists. She was coming south on 34 and we were going north on 34. When she turned left onto 30 she came all the way across into our lane. She was confused by the orange cones and scared to death and stopped in the middle of the road as about 20 riders went by on both sides of her car. No yelling, no profanity, just smiles.

As we approached feed zone 2 at mile 80 in Soda Springs, some of the guys, particularly Vernon wanted to know if we were stopping and if so for how long. We planned on just loading up with Motrin, fresh water and cyto and then moving on. I risked a DQ by calling Kristin on the cell phone and reminding her to bring me citrus (not fruit punch) cytomax and to have some Motrin ready. As we came into town Corte was up front as the light turned red so we stopped, turned right and did a u-turn back up to the main street and on to the feed zone. Kristin and Beth had the drinks and more. I ate part of a banana and drank part of a Dr Pepper then we were off. On the way out of town Corte and John rode on the wrong side of the cones and missed the timing sensor. The girl at the sensor was not very aggressive or loud so I had to tell John and Corte to U-turn and go back and ride through the sensor. On the right hand turn out of Soda heading to Montpelier, the wind turned against us for the first time. Our average speed the first 80 miles was almost 22mph!! Now we were going about 10 mph on a climb into a strong headwind. We picked up Paul and a few others on the way out of town but no sign of Vernon. We soon reeled in Vernon and a couple of other guys then set our sight on a group of about 25-30 that had stopped in mass for a pee-break (the lead groups in each division have some honor and etiquette that the rest of the riders don’t have). Corte went to the front and blew by this group, dropping everyone but John in the process. Soon I pulled about 8 other guys up to Corte and John and we were off. Paul and Vernon bridged the gap with me but purple and green shark boy and bow-legged red jersey man were left behind (they soon re-joined).

The dynamics of the group was staring to get on my nerves. A few of us would get to the front and keep the pace at 20-24 mph, then some of the others would get to the front and pull for too long and bring the pace down to 16-17. Finally as I came off the front after my pull I told everyone in the group to pull for no more than 1 minute up front. This was the RNR group and I was the boss – or at least I was the ‘bossiest’. It worked much better. As we came into Montpelier we still had the headwind but we were descending slightly. We blew by dozens of riders with a pace of 26-27mph. About 1 km before the feed zone my first cramp of the day appeared in my right hamstring and I had to pull up.

I limped into the feed zone at mile 114. I had a quick PBJ, some salt and vinegar potato chips, a Dr Pepper, half of a Snickers energy bar and half of a banana. By now I had consumed 3 bottles of water, 3 bottles of Cytomax, a banana, a couple of Dr Peppers and about 6 Gu packs in 5.5 hours of riding. Grandma and Grandpa Emmett, Tom, Shelley, McKinley and Alex were in Montpelier to cheer us on. Tom was waiting for his relay riders to show up. Annie rode over to Montpelier taking the short cut through Logan Canyon with Grandma and Grandpa Emmett and now joined Kristin and Beth in the support effort. We only took about 10 minutes to eat. Then we were off.

Vernon was up the road so it was just Corte, John and I to start the first big climb over Geneva Summit, about 7000 feet. Corte was hurting a little from the pace of the previous 120 miles and soon was off the back. John and I continued to climb with John hearing only a few words from me – words like, “slow down” “easy” “back it off a little”, anything to get him to stay with me. What a great kid. Like Allen last year, he could have easily taken 30 minutes off his time had he stayed with a couple of small groups that passed us on the first climb. As we went over the top there was no sign of Corte, but I figured he’d rather ride the last 60+ miles at his own pace so we raced down into Wyoming. My top speed was 53.8 mph. John’s was 48. At the bottom of the descent we passed the guy I had yelled at for half-wheeling me. He didn’t even attempt to jump on our wheel. I might have hurt his feelings.

On the valley road approaching the big climb of the day, Salt River Pass, elevation 7700 feet; we caught the lead rider of John’s age group. This kid was alone on the road in first position. He had started 24 minutes behind John and was a little shocked to see John’s bib number. John explained that he had started early to ride with me so he would not be a factor in the overall standing. That was a relief to the kid. He asked if we were father and son and said that was ‘cool’. I liked the kid. He asked to work with us and to allow him to get the king of the mountain points at the top. We agreed to let him go over the top ahead of John. The only thing is the kid didn’t work with us. He sat on our wheels for an 8-mile stretch through the valley without coming to the front once. About half way up the climb John attacked – the deal was off – John went over the top about 4 minutes ahead of the guy. He went on to win but John felt good about showing the kid he could compete. As it was the kid sat on my wheel for the entire climb and thanked me as he accelerated about 100 meters from the summit. John and I picked up fresh water and cytomax at the top from the girls (another rules violation). Then I sent them back to check on Corte because I was concerned he wouldn’t know to get water at the neutral feed zone at the base of the climb (turns out he did).

John and I were off with no plans to stop again. We had almost 50 miles to go with the first 10 being a fast descent into Star Valley. For the first 15 miles of Star Valley we worked mostly alone. We blew through the last feed zone at Afton then outside of Afton we had a very strong girl riding the final relay leg pass us. Fresh legs, strong legs and a slight downhill with the wind in our favor for the most part. I couldn’t react due to my cramping. Soon another, even stronger girl came by with 3 guys on her wheel. This time we jumped on. These girls were racing for a win and couldn’t risk a DQ working with us so they stayed on front. We picked up another 4 or five riders along the way including our old friend Vernon and the kid John dropped on Salt River Pass. We all just hung on while these two girls powered through Thayne and into Etna. Only one idiot in a yellow jersey caused a few problems. He worked his way between the two girls and was horrible to follow. He would lose the wheel then sprint to catch up. John and I could have shot him.

Then I cramped once again. I told John to go on and race the last 10 miles with the group but he stayed with me. I recovered and we crossed the line about 20 seconds behind Vernon who had also been dropped by the two girls.

Bob and John cross the finish line in Alpine Junction

We were finished. 9 hours 51 minutes on the bike, 189 miles, 19.1 Average speed. Even with the additional climbing, this was quite an improvement over last year fighting the headwinds. John’s computer showed a higher average speed and about 5 more miles.

Dave Preszler was still hanging around the finish line. He finished almost an hour ahead of us. Second place in his group and as it tuned out 8th overall in our age group. Corte pulled in 36 minutes behind me. The kid that took first in John’s age group was lying on the asphalt with a couple of family members or friends working on him. Tom, Shelley, Mac and Alex were also waiting. For his portion of the relay, Tom took off from Montpelier about 15-20 minutes behind us and caught Corte on the run into Afton, then he jumped in the Van and drove by John and I halfway between Afton and the finish in Alpine. Now the only question was, ‘where’s Bill?’

Tom and Shelley were already on their way to Jackson to meet us at Mountain High Pizza. Corte had problem because his duffle with his clothes was in Bill’s car, driven by Bill’s brother Ed. I didn’t have Ed’s cell phone number programmed into my new phone so I thought I’d call Bill. It had already been an hour and a half since Corte rolled in. Bill called me back and said he was past Thayne – about 12 miles still to go. Ed was behind him so we couldn’t get Corte clothes. I loaned Corte a shirt and we headed into Jackson to get some pizza. Bill and Ed finally got clothes to Corte later that night in Teton Village. BTW, Alan Green finished after Bill at 13 hours +,

Sunday morning I got up to go look at the final standing to see how I had done. I saw Dave Preszler in 8th place and found Corte’s official time of 10 hours 48 minutes. Bill’s time was 12 hours 45 minutes. Finally down below on the list I found my name with DQ as my time. “DisQualified?” Is this because I was riding with John who wasn’t part of my start group? Getting water on the side of the road outside a feed zone? Cell phone use? Busted. I checked John’s time. Same thing, DQ. This was not unexpected since he had started early. I stood around and waited while the race official explained to the girl who thought she had won find out she had a 15 minute penalty for using a radio which would knock her to 5th place. She was in tears. I asked to find out what my time was from the guy with the computer. He told me my time was 10 hours 12 minutes. I checked the sheet and there was Vernon at 10 hours 12 minutes in 28th place (out of about 140). That lined up with my ride time of 9:51 plus about 20 minutes off the bike. That means my time was good enough for 29th place but I still wanted to know why I was DQ’d. I finally found a guy who explained that John and I were DQ’d for running the red light in Soda. Actually we followed Corte and stopped (California style), turned right, u-turned and continued on but the official wasn’t in the mood to negotiate after dealing with the crying girl. I don’t know how Corte escaped the sharp eyes monitoring the red light. All I know is that Mark Facer will be proud to know that my disregard for a red light got me in trouble.

Other people were DQ’d for support vehicles driving dangerously, parking in non-approved zones (Annie, Beth and Kristin received a warning), working with groups other than their start group (usually this rule was only applied to violations in the lead groups), shorting the course (usually a result of not riding through the timing stations like what almost happened to John and Corte). The bummer about John getting DQ’d for the red light is that we don’t know what they would have done, if anything, about him starting with the wrong group.

Corte at the finish

I checked that time against John’s age group and that would have been good enough for John to place 6th. If he had not waited for me John would have had a top 3 finish time and I believe he could have competed for the win if he had musette bag support set up and had started with the guys his age.

The Jacuzzi at the Teton Club (Thanks Pam and Gary!) was excellent. A good night’s sleep and I felt pretty good except for some tenderness from the saddle. I’m a little annoyed with how anal these guys are about start time and riding rules but I will not rule out riding again next year. One change they may make next year will be to add a club or team category that is not defined by age or sex. That could be fun (I use the term loosely). There is a reason that more then half the riders each year are doing it for the first time. Many riders do it once and cross off that double century goal and move on.

Following the ride Steve Turner, Allen Barbieri, Mark Facer and Todd Brown all called to check in and get a race report.

All in all it was a great weekend. My parents enjoyed meeting my riding buddies and watching the race. Delicious fresh peaches and peach ice cream may keep me coming back.

John, Corte and Bob

Dave. 9:20.18 AWESOME. Second in group 2 and 102nd overall.
Corte. 10:48.31 10th in our group and 405th overall
Bill. 12:43.05 28th in our group and 705 overall
Bob. 10:12.42 Without DQ my 10:12 was good for 6th place in our group and 305 overall.
John. 10:12.41 Without DQ would have been 6th in his group and 304 overall

1 comment:

  1. Even though I was there I still couldn't wait to read what happened next.