Monday, September 13, 2010

LOTOJA Classic Race Report

Always looking for another challenge, I signed up for a slot in the LOTOJA race earlier this spring. The event sells out quickly so they have a lottery-type system for entry. Not sure if I got in due to past results or if they felt some sympathy for a guy from Indiana. Either way, after a great race in Calvin's Challenge 12hr in May, LOTOJA was my other big focus of the year.
Race week meant a lot of travel to get to Logan, UT. Leaving family in OKC 2 lugnuts snapped off the car leaving us stuck in Amarillo, TX for a night where the stomach flu from the niece and nephew finally hit me. Good thing I could stretch out and sleep some in the back of the wagon on the drive to Durango. Two days behind schedule and 3 days til the race I'm eating Jello and saltines hoping for some good luck to hit.

We do some easy 3-4 hour hikes to get in some activity and acclimatize before the drive to Logan. A warmup spin in Logan the night before felt good but was the first time on the bike in 6 days. At least my legs were rested but I was just starting back on solid food. The forecast was for sun and a bit of tailwind but a chilly start time of 6:46AM for the Cat 4's. Not sure of the actual temp but it couldn't have been above 40. 
Like a well-oiled chain, we went off in waves every 3 mins to a nice cheer from the crowds in the dark. The race was neutral for the first few miles just like the pros. I was up in the front 15 racers or so knowing the slinky effect would be brutal on such a long day for anyone at the back. 66 in our group got stretched out early as the Spiderbait team went to the front and set a strong tempo. Oh, I almost forgot, my powertap died during the warmup and my Garmin watch would die in another hour or two leaving me to ride without any idea of speed, distance, HR, power, etc.
The first feed zone was at 34 miles and our brisk pace had us catch two of the groups that started before us. Knowing the next rest stop ways at the top of the Strawberry climb, I grabbed a quick bottle from Jenn and tried to cram some solid food in while riding. The lower slopes are easy, 1-3% grades for a long time. I had ridden these climbs on the Computrainer and felt confident I could hang until the steeper grades near the top. On a normal day this might have been the case. Saturday was not a normal day. The legs immediately had nothing to give and I found myself hitting the 34x23 and 34x26 waaay too early. My race just became a ride.
Watching group after group of racers ride by, I just tried to keep a steady effort, eat and drink as much as possible to fuel for the 150+ miles to go and enjoy the stunning views. I was nowhere near my limit physically but the legs could only do so much. FZ2 was neutral support only and they had a great spread. I choked down a Red Bull and 2 Gu's while zipping everything up for the descent, always the best part. I was able to work with a solid group on the flats before the next climb, not letting anyone past without jumping on the faster train. 
Climb #2 was shorter, 3-4 miles of good grades but it made me feel like someone had attached a trailer full of lead to the bike. It was all starting to get a bit blurry at this point since my stomach was fully locked up and resisting attempts to force more calories in. Watered down Gatorade with extra salt and honey/gel packs were all I could manage. I knew dehydration was in effect as well since I had not even had the urge to take a nature break yet. One more climb and then 90 miles of tailwind to the finish. #3 was the KOM climb, about 20 mins of pain for me before the sweet, sweet downhill. I gutted it out and actually passed a few people who were struggling more than me to hit the top and a great mountain view. Not waiting for anyone I did my best no brakes descent and passed some shocked riders at a scary rate of speed on the 7% grade.
FZ5 was time to strip down and spray on the sunscreen. I was working with a good group, letting my stomach empty a bit when I felt the rear go flat after crossing the rumble strips. Jenn happened to be on the side of the road and got some pics of the change. Off again, trying to drive a group to some higher speeds on the flats, my only thought was to finish the day. Another flat at FZ6 saw an even longer stop since Jenn was stuck in traffic and I finally borrowed a tube from a Biker's Edge racer to get underway again. Jenn made it as I was leaving with about 40 miles to the finish. Plenty of time to make the cutoff but my stomach was full of undigested liquid and lots of anger. Thankfully this was one of the most beautiful stretches of road I had ever been on. We rode alongside the snake river in Bridger National forest with a bit of wind at the back, eating up miles, using everything I had left in the tank to keep up the speed and make sure I at least came in under 12 hrs. No more food or fluid going in the stomach, I just needed to get to the line. 
10 miles to go and I flat for the third time! Watching all those people go past as I changed the tube again built up an anger that I've never quite felt on the bike before. I put it in full TT mode and ripped past people I really had no business riding with. Joining with the Biker's Edge team we rode to the line and I decided trying to sprint might be a bad way to finish the day so I coasted across in 11:55. A disappointing 50th place in my race and 779 overall. Still pretty amazed that I was able to keep going on no food and little fluid. I had nothing else to do on the day so stopping was never really an option although I heard the siren call of the comfy Saab wagon seats for many hours. 
No excuses, just not a good day for the legs. I feel really bad for the people who were still coming in behind me since I can't imagine feeling or riding slower than I did. I knew winning was out of the question since I'd only had 10 weeks of training from the quad tear but I figured 10hrs was realistic with the good conditions. The climbs were tough but not impossible and the rest of the race was much easier than the 20mph wind and rain of Calvin's Challenge. Not sure if I'll be back but if I am it will be with good legs and stomach, ready to be competitive, not just a finisher.  
Big thanks to Jenn for the incredible support and to all of the volunteers who made the event one of the smoothest run I've ever done. Sorry I couldn't do more on the day but the finisher medal is pretty sweet! 

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