Thursday, January 22, 2009

LOTOJA 2007 Race report - Sept 8, 2007

25th Annual Race

My 5th LOTOJA.

My brother Tom owes me dinner. He also laid down the law at this year’s race. Having raced LOTOJA just once before as part of a relay team, Tom signed up to ride the full race this year. He didn’t just ride, he rode hard. Twice during the day he rode me off his wheel. First up Strawberry and then again on the Geneva climb – never to been seen again until at the finish line. His last words at the start line were, “first one to Jackson buys dinner”. I’ll take the 22 oz. bone-in rib eye with some crème Brule for dessert.

Next to the 2005 race in the cold and rain, this was the most difficult race for me. The weather looked like it was going to be perfect. No vest, toe warmers or full fingered gloves were required at the start line. Many didn’t even have arm or knee warmers. What we didn’t know was that a brutal head/cross wind would torment us from Salt River to Alpine.

The 5400 start pack at the start. (l-r Todd Udall, Dave Preszler, Peter Harker, Paul Badger, me, John Emmett, Brian Emmett and Corte Haggard).

There were three different start packs in this year CAT 5’s registered as team Norda’s. Tom and four other local Norda’s riders were the first off with the 5200’s at 6:52. Three minutes later 5300 Norda’s 2 departed with a mix of Irvine and SLC including a few first time riders. In this group I believe only Tait, Trent and Eric had done the ride before. The 5400 pack included the last group of Norda’s 3 at 6:58. This group had a little more experience with John, Brian, Corte, Paul, Dave and I with past experience while Casey Robles, Todd Udall and Peter Harker riding for the first time. A photo of the 5400 start is here:

When I looked at the various start groups, I correctly predicted that the 5400’s would catch the 5300’s and the 5200’s before Preston. We had a bunch of riders from Bountiful Mazda who had placed first, third and fifth in their group last year with sub 10 hour times and I remember Bountiful Mazda guys being the guys that killed me when I tried to hang with them the first year when they were riding in the Citizen 25-35 group that caught Allen Barbieri and I outside of Preston (for the record Allen stayed with them all the way to Soda Springs and then waited for me at the feed zone).

As we left Logan, the Norda’s guys were at the front with each of us taking a couple of turns in the rotation while some interloper from the 5300’s sitting about 10th wheel kept telling the guy coming of the front to go in front of him. On my second time coming off the front, I declined and told the Mazda guys to fell free to work with us. They willingly went to the front and kept a good pace along with a couple of guys with Rocky Mountain Spine and Sport jerseys.

We caught the 5300’s about half way to Preston but instead of passing them, we took a group bio-break then chased them down a few miles up the road. We said our hello’s as we rode by. One of the 5300’s jumped into our group pace line about 5 positions in front of me. When a second rider tried it just two riders in front of me I yelled, “Hey!” and he moved back into his own group and muttered, “Sorry”. Ever the enforcer. A few minutes later we passed Tom and the 5200’s. All three groups rolled into Preston together. That confused my brother Bill who had musette bags for 5200’s and 5400’s and was surprised to see the 5400’s right behind the 5100’s. It took only a few seconds to get that straightened out and soon we were off. Corte and Brian missed Bill in Preston and had to turn around. Corte also struggled to get his leg warmers off. Those few seconds cost him and Brian because the rest of the leaders kept cruising. Brian hooked up with a couple of fast riders and chased us down a couple of miles out of Preston, but Corte was off the back for the rest of the day.

As we passed the Diamond R ranch in Mink Creek, we were cheered on by some “ssRcc Rocks!” and “Fat Boy?” banners. I found out later that Robin Fife had made the signs while visiting her parents the week before. A couple of years ago on a training ride we stopped in for some water and Robin’s dad, Garland Rasmussen, not only gave us some water, but offered up some Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches.

The pace up Strawberry was more than I could handle. I had some pretty ugly stomach cramps bothering me so I settled in at a steady pace and kept looking over my shoulder for Corte to appear. Brian, John, Casey Robles and Kurt Anderson were long gone with or just behind the leaders. Tom and Dean were also pulling away but in sight. I’m pretty sure Peter, Dave and Todd were making time up ahead also. Jeff Shepherd and I settled in for the climb – neither feeling that great. Besides my upset stomach, I had my first of many cramps during the climb. Jeff never did feel good and would later abandon at Afton. These cramps were on my inside of my thigh where I tore an abductor muscle three weeks ago while riding along PCH on a training ride. I rode away from Jeff when the incline turned up a notch near the top. I could see what I believe was Tom and Kurt’s group as they rolled over the summit but I needed to stop for another quick nature break. I tried in vain to chase them down on the descent. When I got to the valley I was alone so I slow pedaled for a few minutes until a group of 7 or 8 guys picked me up for the run into Montpelier. Along the way I noticed that someone had thrown up on the side of the road and smiled with relief that it wasn’t me.

I heard from Peter that Tom was feeling it on Strawberry. According to Peter, “Tom passed me like I was standing still – and taunted me by saying, ‘Come on, you’re not going to let Bob’s little brother beat you up this hill are you?’” Peter said rolling with the large group at top speed into Montpelier was the best part of the race. He said he felt like a champ. I’m pretty sure that feeling faded soon enough.

The situation on the road now was Brian with the leaders, John and Kurt behind in another group and Casey behind them. Right behind were Tom, Peter, Dave and Todd. I was alone a couple of minutes back. At the top Dean sat up to wait for Shep. Somewhere behind me were Corte and Paul. Behind them the group of 5300’s who would stick together for the day with Corey and Richard Brand taking more than their fair share of pulls with Eric Mortensen, Scott Muir, Tait Eyre, Bill Freedman and Marc Fuller. Trent Eyre was now off the back of the 5300’s and would spend the rest of the day on his own. I’m sure each one of these guys has their own battle story to tell. Tait’s report is here:

John was the first to roll into the feed zone in Montpelier

The misery of Strawberry behind I'm feeling better and looking for Tom - who will not be caught.

Brian is over unloading his musette on the fly

When I rolled into Montpelier, Tom and Kurt had picked up their food and fluid and were just starting to roll out – Tom with a piece of pizza in his hand. Casey had decided that he was riding too hard (see the earlier comment about someone throwing up at mile 71) so he decided to wait for me. I told him to get going just as Dave and Todd started to pull out. As we left Montpelier Tom and Kurt were in front with me, Casey, Dave and Todd right behind.

Ron has a question for Casey

As soon as the road turned up on Geneva, Tom and Kurt pulled away for the second time that day passing Peter who must have rolled out of Montpelier moments before I arrived. As Tom passed Peter he told him we were right behind him so he sat up and said hello.

About the time we found Peter, Dave and Todd stopped for a nature break. Peter, Casey and I stayed together over Geneva and Salt River and rolled into Afton in pretty good shape. Salt River was as bad as I remember it. I could barely hold 6-7 mph on the climb but I did keep Casey and Peter in sight and they waited a minute or so for me at the top.

Up ahead, John and Brian had just rolled out of Afton. For the second time in his LOTOJA career, John was planning in vain to abandon in Afton. Two years ago Mark Facer talked him in to riding on in a driving rain and freezing temperatures. This year, it was not the weather but John’s knee that was doing him in. John injured an already tender knee on a 120 mile training ride three weeks ago when his the top strap of his Sidi cycling shoe broke early in the ride and the result of all that riding with a broken shoe left him with an inflamed patella tendon that was very painful. He had been off the bike resting for three weeks and had a cortisone injection on the previous Tuesday.

The rest and cortisone was not enough and he couldn’t get his knee to work on the steep incline so he was walking his bike up Salt River. Brian had lost the lead group on a pee break so he was now back with John. He decided to walk with John for a ¼ mile or so. Then John sent Brian ahead to tell Beth he was going to abandon in Afton. On the road into Afton, his knee loosened up and with a little prodding from Brian after he arrived in Afton John decided to continue.

When Casey, Peter and I rolled into Afton, we heard that John and Brian were about 30 minutes up the road and Tom and Kurt were about 15 minutes ahead. Dave and Todd arrived so now we were five heading into the meanest head/cross wind I’ve ever experienced at LOTOJA. Most of the time the wind was coming in hard at about 10 o’clock so there was no where to hide. We were mixed in with a big group of Franklin Covey riders from the 5300 and 5600 groups. Because of the cross winds it was very hard to hold your position in the pace line. I saw a split in the group and jumped ahead to the leaders and ended up leaving Dave, Todd, Casey and Peter behind.

I stayed with them as long as I could but eventually I had to sit up. I pulled over to give my arm warmers to Kristin and Jackie on the side of the road and heard Dave yell to jump on. He was coming up fast with a group of 5 or 6 riders so I jumped on and rode into Alpine with Dave. Once we got there, Dave said he was going to wait for Todd so I decided to get it over with and keep going. I saw two guys from Sugarhouse Cycling Club that I had ridden with earlier in the day and said “let’s go”. Their names were Stuart and Joey. Joey was the strongest of the group and did more than his fair share of the work, but Stuart and I did our best when we went to the front. We all wanted to get in under 11 hours.

Just before Kristin and Jackie stopped to get my arm warmers on the road into Alpine, Beth drove by in the truck. I wondered why she was still so far back and was pretty sure she was going to miss John and Brian in Alpine. Turns out she did. The girls tried to get a Subway sandwich in Afton but the lack of competent help made the wait way too long and she ended up missing the boys in Alpine. No worries though, the neutral support is so good that once they couldn’t find Beth, Brian and John just picked up water and Gatorade from the neutral support and kept on going.

Fortunately, the cross winds turned to a nice but short lived tail wind as we turned into Alpine and headed up Snake River Canyon. While Joey and Stuart kept an eye on the old fat grandpa from California, Peter was chasing about 15 minutes behind and Dave and Todd just behind him. Casey’s suffering in the head wind was almost over as he was on his own another 15 minutes behind Dave and Todd.

Corte and Paul were still battling the winds. Once they made the turn into Alpine, Paul told Corte to go ahead so Corte left Paul behind and finished strong putting a half hour on Paul during those last 40 miles.

Even further on down the road the big crew of 5300’s was making pretty good time. Scott and Tait said they got over the climbs and felt pretty good considering. Eric’s cramping was not getting any better and even though they tried to keep a pace that would work he was falling off the back. Tait told me that Corey did what he could to keep him out of the wind, but in the end the cramping won and Eric decided to abandon the race in Alpine.

Even with Joey and Stuart doing all they could to help me, I couldn’t catch the young, strong, skinny and fast Tom. By catching Tom in Preston and again in Montpelier, I had a six minute lead on him when we were together because of our different start times. After Montpelier he gained over 11 minutes on me and finished with a time just over five minutes faster. Nicely done, especially considering that Tom suffered with calf and hamstring cramping for much of the day.

'Beat Bob' - with my slow start, Tom ran away with bragging rights for 2007. Here Sam and Mac show their team spirit in support of their dad.

Later Tom said his secret to climbing so much faster than me was me telling him earlier in the year that a he could easily ride a 13 hour time with the slower riders his first year. Turns out I was sort of right – he ‘easily’ rode a sub 11 hour time and that is no easy task. Nothing like an obnoxious older brother giving you some of the motivation you need accomplish an amazing feat (a lot of time on the bike also helped). Out of all of my friends and family riding in this race only a very few were able to come in under 11 hours. I not sure Tom would have made it without his two girls holding the sign ‘BB’ out the window of the family van when they drove by him. Rumor has it that ‘BB’ stands for ‘Beat Bob’.

The Emmett boys at the finish - John, Brian, Bob and Tom

Brian was the other superstar of the day. Before the race I stated publicly (see OC Register article and article in the Herald Journal on Sept 7) that I thought John would try for a podium spot and that Brian would probably hang with his dad because he hadn’t trained as hard as I thought he should. Brian didn’t say anything, but he sure proved me wrong being the last team Norda’s guy still riding in the leaders 90+ miles into the race only to loose contact because he needed a longer pee break than the others and the leaders showed some bad etiquette and didn’t wait for him. He could make a real statement in this race as early as next year. I think he has the bug and is going to start looking at other opportunities to race – preferably shorter distances where bladder size will not determine the winner. At the end of the race, John finished in 9th and Brian 10th out of our start group of 55 riders.

Props to Scott Muir, who worried more than all of the rest of us combined - and trust me, we all worried plenty. He took his large frame and bad back over some grueling climbs and into some ferocious winds and came in with a very respectable sub 13 hours time. I was also impressed that Peter Harker came on with a strong finish. I know he was concerned with an illness and loss of weight the week before, but like Casey, he only seemed to suffer in the wind.

I found that I can not ride the climbs in this race at my current weight, which was about 8-10 pounds heavier than in previous years. I need to shed some of the excess fat before next year and then hope that I can avoid the hamstring and abductor muscle tears that have hampered my training the past four weeks (no more touch football on the beach with the Young Men). I’m also going to be more selective on my pre-race breakfast.

Thanks to my mom and dad for letting many of us use their garage for pre-race prep and for the killer peach ice cream.

Even bigger thanks to Bill, Kristin, Beth and Jackie (close friend of Brian) and all the others who provided support. It really makes the race fun to have so many family members participate. No one was more excited than Annie about Beth doing support. That meant that Annie got to stay in Logan and baby sit 11 month old Jack all weekend. He is pretty attached to grandma. She really loves that.

Till next year.

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