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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