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.

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