The Hammer’s Lotoja, Part 1: The Reluctant Badass

09.30.2015 | 3:26 pm

A Note to Those of You Who Wanted to Race the 100 Miles of Nowhere But Needed to Wait ’Til The Beginning of the Month: The official registration week is over now, but I over-ordered a few extras in different sizes. Which means that you can still register for the 100 Miles of Nowhere, at least until my over-order stock is gone. Click here to register. Thanks!

A Note from Fatty About Today’s Post: I recently posted about what it was like to crew for The Hammer. Now it’s her turn to tell her side of the story. 


“Elden, do you think Lindsey would care if I don’t do LoToJa with her this year? I’m just so tired! Plus Lindsey is definitely stronger and faster than me-I’m not going to be of any assistance to her, I only will be a hindrance!”

“You made a commitment to her, Lisa. Plus she is counting on me to be her crew.”

Elden and I had had this conversation multiple times during the summer. I knew I had made a commitment to Lindsey…but the allure of Lotoja was fading for me.

It had been different last year, when Lindsey and I had formulated our awesome winning plan: back then, I was stoked! After all, at the 2014 Lotoja, Lindsey had taken 9th woman overall. With my help, I figured we could finish at least that strong — maybe even better.

This wouldn’t be the first time I had done this race. In fact, I had raced Lotoja back in 2008. It was my first — and until now, only — official road bike race. When I had finished the race, I gladly checked it off my bucket list, and wanted to never to do it again. It had been a long day in the saddle and honestly…not that much fun. Sure, it had been a challenge…a challenge for my “behind” to sit in the saddle for eleven hours.

Besides, I felt like road racing was cheating. See, when I ride my mountain bike, it’s me, the bike, and the race. No one is there pulling me along. I earn every pedal stroke that I turn. With Lotoja, on the other hand, I had been sucked along in someone’s slipstream.

But it had been seven years. Now I know more about food and racing; now I’m stronger and faster. So I figured it would be fun to go out with Lindsey and see what kind of damage we could do.

Of course, like most choices to race, that decision had been made back when I was fed and well-rested. Now that race day was getting close, I wasn’t so sure what “help” I would be to Lindsey. After all, she had kicked my butt at the Cedar City 100K, and sprinted past me at the line at the Crusher.

In short, Lindsey is an incredibly strong cyclist and only getting faster.

And besides, I was so tired. My race season started back in March. Between March and August, I had done all of the following:

  • Raced a 50K trail run
  • Raced a 50 mile trail run (second place, Masters Women)
  • Won the Sport category of the True Grit mountain bike race
  • Run the Boston Marathon
  • Raced in the St George Half Ironman
  • Raced with SBR/WBR at the Rockwell Relay
  • Was crushed in the Cedar City 100k mountain bike race
  • Crushed the Crusher in the Tushar with a PR
  • Put in a fine performance at the Leadville 100

Now I was ready to rest. And eat.

At the fine young age of 47 years, I was ready to put up my competitive shoes and just play the rest of the year!

But… I had made a commitment.

Race Morning

The alarm went off at 5:30. I actually had had a pretty good night’s sleep. Lindsey’s in-laws, the Stevensons, had graciously let Elden, Blake and me sleep at their home the night before Lotoja. I busied myself with my morning preparations and Elden busied himself preparing my bike. It was weird — but nice — having Elden calm before a race.

I was actually feeling pretty relaxed too.

A little too relaxed, in fact.

Before I knew it, it was 0655. That was the time we were supposed to be leaving. The official rollout time for all competitive women was 7:12. We were still at home, and we needed to be racing in seventeen minutes!

I dashed out to the truck and saw Elden was putting air in Lindsey’s tires. He was mumbling about her pressure being 80psi. Hadn’t she just put air in her tires last night? Should this be a cause for concern? I didn’t question it. We were late and we needed to get to the start!

As we proceeded the two miles to the start line, I was a little anxious to see the truck’s clock read 7:05. “I think we need to get out of the truck now and ride our bikes to the start line!” I said. Not yelled, said. 

Lindsey and I jumped out of the truck, grabbed our bikes and pedaled quickly to the start line.! We entered the corral just as they were telling us it was time to leave. Wow — we couldn’t have cut that much closer! I looked for Elden along the side of the road as we rolled down the street. I didn’t see him, but assumed that he knew that we had made it.

A Slow and Steady Start

The beauty of Lotoja is that  if you play your cards right, the first thirty miles are free. They are “free” because if you position yourself in the back of the pack, you will be sucked along. From my many years of watching the Tour, I’ve learned that you need to be close enough to the front that if a breakaway takes place you can jump to it, but not close enough to the front that you are ever pulling.

So in my infinite wisdom, I instructed Lindsey that we needed to sit in the back and let the pack “pull us along.” There has never been a break in the women’s pack before Preston, ID. So I was pretty confident we could hang out at the back incognito!

Last year Lindsey said she was frustrated with the slow progress of the women’s pack and actually went to the front and helped pull the group. No way was I going to burn any extra energy this early in the race. So Lindsey and I sat at the back and chatted. We needed to get caught up on the latest gossip, anyway.

Our So-Called Race Strategy

Let me make it clear that at no time had Lindsey and I ever discussed how we planned on racing this race. There was an underlying assumption that we would be close to each other — hence we were using Elden to crew for both of us. But we never said that we would ever wait for each other.

I assumed that if Lindsey was having a banner day, I would have to somehow dig deep and get myself across the finish line. I was scared that this would very likely happen. After all, Lindsey knows this race. This is her third time riding it. As a mountain biker, I know very little about road racing. (What knowledge I do have comes from watching the big boys play in France.)

I had been informed that this was an actual USAT-sanctioned race. As a cat 4 racer (default category for women that don’t know what they are doing, but want to compete), I would  be allowed to draft off only other women who were also racing. In other words, I could ride only with the ladies that had started in my corral at 7:12. My corral included Cat 1, 2, 3 racers (racers that have won enough races to progress them up the USAT ladder-Cat 1 being pro status), cat 4 racers and I would later find out there were also masters 35+ and masters 45+ women in my start corral.

In other words, if I were dropped by this group of ladies, I would find myself in no man’s land: I wouldn’t be able to draft off another group of riders. There was a high probability that I would be riding this 200 mile race all by myself. I think this is why I was leery about doing this race.

I don’t know exactly who was pulling our group of approximately seventy women, but I am very grateful to them; our plan of a “free ride” worked wonderfully. We kept an average speed of over 20mph for the thirty miles into Preston Idaho.

Two strong cat 5 men’s groups zipped by our pack of lady riders, going way faster than us. One of the cat 5 groups had Ben — Lindsey’s husband — in it. They started about 15 minutes after us and zipped by us before we entered the town of Preston.

The Strawberry Climb

After the town of Preston, we encountered several rolling hills before the climb up to Strawberry summit started. As predicted (Lindsey had warned me, and the same thing had happened 8 years ago) some self appointed leader of the women’s pack yelled for a “pee break.” Yes, you heard right: a pee break.

Is this a normal occurrence in road racing?

I know for a fact that it does not occur in mountain biking, but having a 47 year old woman’s bladder which was full of my morning coffee, I have to say I was extremely grateful! I quickly jumped off my bike and did my thing, all while hearing the mumblings of other riders, saying things like, “We’re stopping to do WHAT?” But like all sheep that follow their masters, all fifty women were squatting in the weeds.

All except Lindsey, that is. Lindsey had warned me that she never has to stop and pee and would continue to “soft pedal” until the others caught her.

I quickly remounted my bike and continued on my way. It wasn’t long before I was caught and passed by the lead group of women. I quickly hooked onto the back of the lead pack and listened in on their conversation.

“I think there is a group of riders ahead of us!” said one rider

Another retorted, “No there isn’t! We called for a neutral pee break! There isn’t anyone ahead!”

That’s when I noticed I was riding next to Marci: my sweet little rival from the Rockwell Relay!

“Marci! It’s so good to see you! How are you doing?”

“Lisa! I wondered if you were going to doing this race. Your Strava rides indicated you might be! It’s nice to be riding with you and not against you like last time!”

Then she asked where my “friend” was. “Oh you mean Lindsey,” I said. “I think she is a head of us; she didn’t need to pee.”

Then the group at the front organized themselves and they shot forward to find the rogue riders. It wasn’t long before we reeled Lindsey and a few others in. They were quickly reprimanded by a very outspoken rider. Lindsey simple replied that she didn’t need to pee.

It was at this point that the road started to turn upwards. We were starting the very long climb up to Strawberry Summit. The Strawberry climb is twenty miles long and climbs about 3000 feet.  It’s not a very difficult climb, but the last six miles are the steepest.

I had a feeling that is when Marci would try and break up the group.

I positioned myself toward the front of the group and watched. Lindsey was up at the front as well. Around mile 53, I saw Marci jump to the front of the riders…and all hell broke loose.

This was the moment I had been waiting for. The question is, did I have it in me? I put my head down and pedaled with all my might.

I could see Lindsey and Marci up ahead; they were slowly pulling away. Marci had succeeded in breaking us apart, but she wasn’t finished yet! She kept ramping up the pace, and I simply couldn’t hold on. Lindsey had made it, though. Like I said, she’s a strong rider.

I quickly looked around and took stock of my situation. There were now four of us that had fallen off, but we were still significantly ahead of the rest of the women. A cute redheaded gal introduced herself as “Ellie.” She told us that we needed to work together if we were going to catch the other group. We all in turn introduced ourselves. Two of the riders were in Lindsey’s breakaway group from last year.

So, our chase group was a strong group of women. One of the gals said this was her eleventh time doing the race. She had already had a flat this morning within the first 5 miles and had spent the morning trying to catch us. She was pretty spent. We told her to latch on to our train and we would do the work for now!

As we continued to climb, I felt strong, and so did Ellie. We were the two doing the majority of the pulling. I was okay with this. I wanted —no, needed — to catch Lindsey.

Montpelier Aid Station and Geneva Summit

As we summited Strawberry, I turned around to see that it was just Ellie and I left in our train. We had dropped the other two riders. Ellie suggested we sit up and wait for her friend. I said no — we had been making good time, and I didn’t want to give up what we had earned. Her friend could catch us if we started to fade!

We flew down the backside of the mountain. I felt fantastic. As the road started to flatten out I was surprised to find Ellie right behind me. She said we now had a ten-mile push to the aid station in Montpelier…and maybe we should sit up and wait. I said no, again, and we pedaled on. Ellie and I worked together beautifully. We were super comparable in ability. I was actually having a lot of fun!

We pulled into the Montpelier aid station — mile 76 — to find that our crews were camped out next to each other! Elden and Blake had a nice can of cold Coke and electrolyte tablets waiting for me. I told Elden I had gotten dropped, but Ellie and I were trying hard to catch back up to Lindsey. He told me he loved me and gave me a huge push out of the aid station.

Ellie left the aid station at the same time I did and we quickly caught Chelsea. Chelsea was a friend of Ellie and had been riding with the lead group of women. As she left the aid station, she realized the lead group had left her behind. We told her to stick with us and we would try to reel them in.

It was then that I realized that we had a friend riding with us — the lead group motorcycle. He would ride with the lead group of women and then drop back to us. He would tell us the time gap between us and the lead women. He would also drop back to the third group of women and let them know the distance to us. So now I knew that Ellie and I were approximately 2-2 1/2 minutes behind the lead group of six women and that Ellie and I were two minutes in front of a group of four women behind us.

As we approached the second climb of the day, Geneva summit, I realized that we had dropped Chelsea. Ellie and I were alone again. Two minutes wasn’t that far behind. I knew we needed to catch the lead group before the end of the third climb (Salt River Pass). After Salt River the road descends into Star Valley, where we’d commence 50 fifty miles of flat land, right into a headwind.

If we hadn’t caught the leaders before that point, I highly doubted we would.

Geneva Summit came and went; the Lisa/Ellie train was unstoppable. We were passing so many riders. The motorcycle went back and forth, reporting that little by little, we were closing the gap. Two minutes, then one minute 40 seconds…then fifty seconds!

Did he really just say fifty seconds??


I could see the lead group of women ahead. And I could see the red of Lindsey’s Fat Cyclist jersey — currently a lone rider, just off the back of the women’s group.

“Woohoo!” I yelled, and I dug a little deeper. The lead group was in sight. Lindsey was in sight. Finally, after chasing for fifty miles, we were going to catch them!

A Note from Fatty: That seems like a good place to pick up in part 2.


  1. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 09.30.2015 | 5:20 pm

    Yes! a road race report worthy of Phil and Paul. I can relate to this better.

    Great racing so far, Lisa. Very tactical.

    I’ll be tuned in for the following segments.

  2. Comment by FellowFattyChris | 09.30.2015 | 6:20 pm


    A couple years ago when I raced Lotoja I was in the 5th wave of the Cat 5 men. We were racing quickly coming up right behind the women’s pack when all of a sudden all the women stopped suddenly at the same spot on the road you described. Many remained in the middle of the road holding bikes for those that were doing their business on the side of the road. I will say that it was quite a show seeing all those women drop their shorts in unison.

    However, that was actually a pretty scary moment for us because there were cars coming down the opposite side of the road and it wasn’t easy to get a whole group of men barreling down the road to stop that quickly. Someone needs to announce that neutral pee break tradition to the cat 5 men before the start of the race.

  3. Comment by Corrine | 09.30.2015 | 8:55 pm

    Great write up so far, Lisa. Can’t wait to hear more.

  4. Comment by Brad | 09.30.2015 | 10:43 pm

    For someon who “knows little about road racing” your tactics sound perfect!

  5. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 10.1.2015 | 5:14 am

    Not exactly thrilled to start this having seen it all from the other side. Now hooked.

  6. Comment by Tom in Albany | 10.1.2015 | 7:42 am

    I just have to ask who titled this installment. I just love the idea of a ‘reluctant badass.’

  7. Comment by Todd | 10.1.2015 | 10:02 am

    Sometimes you have to just follow your heart. If your not in to it at the start, chances are it will become a chore.

  8. Comment by Liz M. | 10.1.2015 | 10:54 am

    Woo hoo, Lisa! I am so amazed that you can stay on a bike for 200 miles, let alone at that pace. What a lot of stress, having no option but to hang with the same group all day. Looking forward to the rest of the story. For some reason, I suddenly crave a cold Coke.

    P.S. to Fatty: I am so sorry, I sometimes fall behind when life happens and binge read your blog (I read everything, but maybe a couple of weeks later). I missed the 100 MON kick off. So happy you reopened it today — I snuck in. To answer your questions from a few days ago, I had not planned to enter it this year, for two reasons: one, I am training for a half marathon in November. Two, I have done it three years in a row, and because it always sells out, I wanted to give someone else a chance. I figured I’d do a bandit 10 MON, with a donation to Camp Kesem. However, I’m pleased and proud to be doing my fourth straight 100 MON, although it will have to wait until after the running business takes a back seat.

    I admit I was a bit disappointed that you didn’t publish any of my race reports, but not disappointed enough to find a tiny corner of the internet to share it with my own family and friends. If I got my 2014 report up, would you want to link to it? That might give me the push to get it done.

  9. Comment by Michele | 10.1.2015 | 11:14 am

    USAC, not USAT. :)

  10. Comment by Raymond Wright | 10.2.2015 | 8:52 am

    Preston, Id = Napoleon Dynamite!!

  11. Comment by Ferde | 10.6.2015 | 4:35 pm

    Great report, well done


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