An almost ridiculously special note from Fatty: Since, last week, I made the last-minute decision to not do the Lotoja ride/race/doohickey, choosing instead to do a big mountain bike ride, it seemed appropriate that today I would post both Dug’s writeup and mine, telling the tales of two distinctly different rides.
The problem is, I don’t have much of a story to tell. Kenny, Brad, and I did 38 miles / 8000 feet of singletrack around the Alpine Loop. All of us were strong the whole day. Nobody bonked. Nobody crashed. The trail was in excellent condition. The weather was perfect and the changing colors of the mountain were beautiful.
The most amazing thing about this ride, actually, was that at two different places during the ride (once on the Ridge trail, and once on the Provo River trail) a couple of riders/Fat Cyclist readers recognized me, thanks to the fact that I was wearing my Reeses Peanut Butter Cup jersey. Which is, to tell the truth, too big for me nowadays, but it is bright orange, which is reassuring during hunting season around these parts.
The End. Of my story, anyway. But Dug’s got himself a nice, long story, which has considerable drama in it. I planned to publish it, unmodified, for your reading pleasure, until I actually read it. Then it occurred to me: Dug likes to include obscure literary and pop-culture references. Dug likes to use subtext. Dug likes to use subtle literary devices.
In short, Dug’s story needs some plain-English commentary, to make his meaning clear. Helpfully, I have done so, embedding my friendly and useful comments throughout his story.
You’re welcome, Dug.
Dug’s Lotoja Story
My story of Lotoja has two heroes, and I’m not one of them. [Note the dramatic tension immediately created in this story. Who are the heroes? Why doesn't Dug consider himself heroic? Did he do something contemptible? I must read more! -FC] Lemme esplain. No, there is too much, lemme sum up. [Surprisingly, Dug doesn't seem to realize that he could have simply backspaced over the "Lemme esplain" sentence, rather than retracting it. -FC]
It went like this:
1. I finished.
2. I finished faster than I expected to.
3. The weather was perfect.
4. If not for my brother in law, Rick S., I almost certainly would have quit half way.
5. Justin Jensen is the toughest cyclist I’ve ever met in my life. [Here, Dug employs a literary device known as "foreshadowing." Right now, we don't know who Justin Jensen is, nor why is the world's toughest cyclist, but we suspect that we will know by the end of the story. For now, we have to guess: will he demonstrate his ability to crush walnuts with his bare hands? Will he bench press 400 pounds at a rest stop? Will he wrestle a bear? Stay tuned and find out! -FC]
Lotoja is a road race, 206 miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, from Logan, UT, to Jackson Hole, WY. The first 50 miles or so are mostly flat, the next 50 or so cover three mountain passes, one after the other, and the last 100 miles are constantly rolling, with no passes or significant climbs. I don’t know if that adds up to 206 miles, and I don’t care. [Here, Dug is demonstrating that he is 1) not concerned with petty things like mileage; 2) world-weary and disaffected; 3) too lazy to go to the website to get his facts straight. -FC]
Of course, when I call Lotoja a race, that really only applies to about 10 guys. Just like at Leadville, or 24 Hours of Moab, the Boston Marathon, or whatever “race” you like to do, 90% of us are just riding to see what we can do. That goes double for Lotoja. As for me, I have a LifeList, a check list of things I want to do. Climbing Mt. Everest is NOT on the list. But Lotoja was. I have now crossed it off. [Am I the only one who wants to know what remains on that list? And why isn't Mt. Everest on it? What have you got against Mt. Everest, Dug? -FC]
I ride a lot with my brother in law Rick S., and with Elden. All of us signed up for Lotoja. Elden bowed out last week in favor of doing an epic mountain bike ride with Brad and Kenny, and, not least, in favor of not hanging out with me and Rick and our wives for 3 days while we got all cuddly. He chose wisely, I’m thinking. [Middle-aged people acting like newlyweds is gross. I wanted no part in this spectacle. And by "this spectacle," I am using a literary device called "foreshadowing." -FC]
Rick rides with a bunch of other guys who live nearby, some of whom have done Lotoja before. In fact, Rick, Adam, and Tony all finished last year when half the field dropped out due to a freak snowstorm. [Yes, it was actually snowing freaks. -FC] Justin drove support for them, and John rode Lotoja the year before. All of us started together at 6:54 am in Logan. All of these guys are younger than me, and faster than me. I fully expected to ride most of the day alone. [Hey, we all ride alone. Except if I'd have come along, you would have had me as company the whole day. "Make your choice," I said. "Me or your wife." Imagine my dismay when you chose her company to mine! -FC]
I don’t want to go on and on [Too late! -FC], so I’ll break this down into 3 easy parts.
Part One: This Is Fun! [Just in case anyone missed it, Dug is using that exclamation point ironically. -FC]
Lotoja starts a field of 1,000 racers, and we start in waves of 50 riders. The opening 35 miles run across table top flat farmland, shrouded in fog on back roads. Our group, the 5200s, started fast, and accelerated from there. On the other hand [What other hand? You haven't given me the first hand yet! -FC], when you’ve got 10 or 15 really antsy fast guys at the front of a 50 rider pack, sitting in is pleasant, and you feel invincible [More foreshadowing, this time at multiple levels. Is everyone in this pack truly invincible, or shall one or more fall? What shall be the cause of their presumed fall(s)? I am at the edge of my seat. Very nicely done. -FC]. We caught the wave ahead of us within half an hour, making our pack almost 100 strong, moving at a brisk ["Brisk?" There are around 25 million adjectives in the English language and you chose "brisk?" -FC] 25-30 mph.
So here’s the lesson for Part One: It’s really really (really really) hard to re-catch a large group moving fast when you stop to pee. I mean, REALLY hard [OK, I'll bite: How hard is it? -FC].
But we did. [Hey, I thought you were going to tell me how hard it is to catch a large group. I am disappointed. -FC]
We pulled into the first feed zone at 32 miles feeling fresh, spry, confident. My feelings of dread I had been experiencing all week began to fade. So go ahead and cue the creepy, ominous music already. [This is a variation of foreshadowing -- evidently the only literary device Dug's chosen to use today -- called "explicit foreshadowing," where the author doesn't just hint at what's to come, but actually comes out and says, "here's a hint that something's coming up." And about time, too. -FC]
Part Two: This Really (Really Really) Sucks
Somewhere around mile 40 the route began to roll, and roll up more than it rolled down. And sometime before the road really started pointing up, many of us stopped for another pee break. This time Justin and I got caught with a little too much liquid in us, and our proverbial, um, items in our proverbial hands, and the chase back was fairly intense. For a bit there, I thought I had seen the last of my friends. But Justin is a giant of a man (literally, he goes about 6’3’’ and easily over
200 lbs), and in the giant draft created by his slipstream, I managed to regain contact. Whew. [Say, that Justin guy is tough. I can hardly wait 'til he wrestles the bear! -FC]
Unfortunately, I regained contact just as we started the longest climb of the race.
Now, I’ll be the first to say, I’m half the man I used to be, and I’m old and under-prepared. But all I do is climb. I live at 6,000 feet, every ride I do has by definition at least 1500 feet of climbing, usually more like 4,000. [By "definition," Dug means "necessity," because he lives at the top of a mountain with a 1500-foot descent on one side and a 1700 foot descent on the other side. So every ride ends with one of those two climbs. Just thought I'd clear that up. -FC]
But as soon as the road tilted hard up (I first used my lowest gear, and not just any low gear, but a 27, at mile 53), I felt like I was dragging a loaded dogsled behind me. [This is a simile. Dug didn't really have a loaded dogsled behind him. He's just getting older and hasn't trained properly. Glad I could clear that up. -FC]
You would think during a race with a thousand participants in it, you could never be alone. Well, I climbed alone. [I think I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: we all ride alone. -FC] Long stretches of not seeing anybody. And once I headed down the backside, I descended alone, and even rode about 5-10 miles of valley alone before I got swept up in a very large group [OK, I'll bite, again: How large was it? -FC], where I could finally get some shelter. [Like a yurt? -FC]
As I rolled into the feed station between the first and second climbs, where Kim was waiting for me with chicken-and-stars-ready-to-eat soup and V-8 [Seriously, V8? Forget Justin. You're the toughest cyclist in the world if you could ride with V8 jostling around in your stomach. I'm getting queasy just considering the combination of soup and V8. -FC], I found Rick S. waiting for me. The S is for Saint. And Superman. [It occurs to me that if he was that great of a guy he would never have left you in the first place. -FC] I was grateful, and not for the last time [Hey, more foreshadowing! You've got a lot of foreshadows to live up to now, pal. -FC]. He had summited quite a ways ahead of the rest of the group, and let them roll on without him from the Montpelier feed station and waited for me. I’m getting all weepy just thinking about it.
Rick and I rode together over the second climb (not nearly as bad as the first, but still, kryptonite enough for me), and as we approached the third and final major climb, I realized that when Rick had described these climbs, he only talked about the final steep pitches. The climbs were really closer to 10-20 miles long, when you count the long, but relatively mild approaches. Telling me a 15-mile climb is really only 4 miles long, just because only the last 4 miles are over 8% is like that guy in Poltergeist who moves a cemetery, but only moves the headstones. Very bad things are bound to happen. [I'll bet you weren't thinking those "superman/saint" things about Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) at this point, were you? -FC]
I’m pretty sure I was passed by over 50 people on the climb to Salt Creek Pass. And I’m also pretty sure the only two reasons I reached the summit alive are:
First: When Kim and Rachelle (Rick S’s wife) drove by me on the way to the top, Kim was hanging out of the passenger side window screaming encouragement. Remember that scene from The Sure Thing, when Daphne Zuniga gets a citation for driving with the load not properly tied down? It was like that. Thanks babe. [So, does your wife know you wrote a story for my thousands of readers that includes a mention of her baring her breasts? -FC]
And second, yup, again, Rick S. was waiting for me at the top. Had he not been there, I am certain I would have ridden straight for the car and gotten in, leaving my bike in the road. I wanted out of the Tunnel of Pain. But how could I quit when Rick had let the group go ahead once again in order to shepherd me onward? [OK, I'm not going to poke fun here, because we're starting to get to some pretty darn good storytelling. -FC] (Not to mention Kim risking prosecution for her moving violation).
I was at mile 110 in a 206 mile race, completely cooked, and, coincidentally, already farther in one day than I had ever been on a road bike [Dug is using "coincidentally" ironically here, folks. He realizes there's no coincidence. -FC]. Ever.
But the next 94 miles were flat or rolling. And with Superman pacing me, anything was possible [I know that you were using Superman as a metaphor for Rick Sunderlage (not his real name), but it occurs to me: I wouldn't want to ride with the real Superman. His cape would always be snapping behind him, making it hard to draft. -FC] So, once more into the breach, dear friends, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. [Readers: This is the second movie reference that I'm aware of, and we can assume that there are more to come. It's best to just pretend they aren't happening. Above all, don't encourage him, or he'll just do more. -FC]
Part Three: Gonna Make It
So we did about 50 miles of very fast flat and rolling terrain, until we were finally maybe a mile or so from the final feed zone in Alpine Junction. All I’m thinking is that I have one more chance to suck down some ready to eat soup, another V-8, and load up on another raft of Shot Blocks. And suddenly, everything changed. We came upon the other four guys we started with on the side of the road, Justin bleeding badly from his elbow, someone holding his bike, on which one side of the handlebar was dangling from the bar tape at the bend. [Holy crap. -FC]
Riding in a large fast group has its downside. The speed does not really remain constant, despite everyone’s best intentions, and so if you don’t pay attention, even for a second, and you touch wheels, um, well, that’s bad. [Yeah. Really bad. -FC]
Earlier in the race, before the big climbing, on a slight uphill, someone in the front dropped their chain, and the resulting “chain” reaction was felt all the way to the back. I remember seeing one guy toward the back swerve sharply to the right to avoid the massive slowdown, and careen down the embankment and over the bars into a ditch. Life in the peloton. [You're going to get back to Justin eventually, right? -FC]
Now it was our turn. The slowing in the front came just as Justin reached for a bottle, and he crossed wheels with Adam. Justin went down hard, breaking his collarbone and handlebar. [Again I say: Holy crap. -FC] Tony, riding on Justin’s wheel, ran right into Justin, and fell hard on him and his bike, but was miraculously uninjured. [Perhaps because he just landed on a 200-lb guy, instead of on the road? -FC]
Of course, Justin’s race was over, and he got in the car with his wife to meet us at the finish. [Naturally. -FC]
Oh, wait, nevermind, that’s not what happened. Justin put his bike in the small ring up front, hardest gear in back (since there was no way to shift while riding, what with the handlebar dangling by bar tape), mounted up, and away we went. Seriously. 45 miles to go. [Well, whaddaya know. You weren't kidding about him being the toughest cyclist in the world. -FC]
Justin got two flat tires in Snake River Canyon, and we had to change his flats for him since his arm was hanging uselessly at his side. I tell you we changed his flats for him, not because it was a chore, but to underscore that HIS COLLARBONE WAS BROKEN IN TWO PLACES AND HE HAD NO SKIN ON HIS ELBOW. [I know I've said this before,
but: holy crap. -FC]
The fact that I had lost (that loving feeling) every scrap of feeling in my taint and left hand became less and less important. The fact that every time the road tilted upward I struggled to remain in contact with the guy with the broken collarbone was simply spurious. I had spent the day riding with Superman (Rick S.), and now, apparently, Batman decided to make an appearance. I am a boy among men. [Now how am I supposed to tease you when you're teasing yourself? -FC]
As we passed Jackson Hole and made our way across the 12 flat, easy miles to Teton Village and the finish line, I’m pretty sure Justin started going into shock. But after 11 hours in the saddle, and the finish line so close you could hear the crowds, there was no way in hell he wasn’t crossing with all of us together. He scrapped and clawed, and we all rode across the line together, in just over 11 hours. Kim and Rachelle had arranged to have Dominos Pizza waiting for us. Kim, I love you babe. I now revise my count, FOUR heroes that day, Kim, Rachelle, Rick S, and Justin. [You've got one warped scale for heroism, man. Either crash out hard and finish the race anyway, wait for you at the top of sundry mountains, or bare your breasts and buy a pizza? -FC]
Well, now I can cross Lotoja off my LifeList. Done and done.
You know, I am tired, but I am not beat up in the way a Leadville beats you up (with apologies to Justin and that guy who went down into the ditch). I can walk normally, I actually want to ride my bike this week.
One thing though. I love Shot Blocks and all, they probably saved my life. But I’m pretty sure this morning, I excreted an entire, whole Shot Block, intact [You're supposed to chew them. -FC]. You’ll be happy to know I let sleeping dogs lie. [Um. Ew. -FC]