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).

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