I have so many stories I have in my backlog. Stories about people who have won prizes. Stories about races I’ve done really well in, as well as stories about races I’ve done not-so-well in. Stories about riding at Levi’s Gran Fondo last weekend, including silly photos in a photo booth…with Jan Ullrich. For realsies. And even stories about a nasty infection I’ve been living with since August…including some pretty darned disturbing photos.
But I’m not going to talk about any of those today. Because right now, I just want to talk about what it’s like to be a cyclist when you have a cold.
As I noted on Monday, I’ve been pretty sick, with a pretty bad cold. And by “pretty bad cold,” I of course mean, “completely normal and common cold.” Which is to say, there’s nothing special or unusual about the cold I have. It’s just a cold.
And all colds are pretty bad.
I know exactly when I started experiencing symptoms of the cold: Sunday morning, 3:28am. I woke up with a sore throat.
At the moment, I rationalized the sore throat away. I had been at a Gran Fondo after-party ’til late; the music had been loud. I had to nearly shout in order to be heard. A sore throat could easily be the result of straining my voice.
But by Sunday morning, I could tell it was a cold. It wasn’t bad, not yet. But I knew what was coming.
By the time The Hammer and I got home from California, I felt really bad. And by Monday morning, I knew that there was no way any creative writing was going to happen. Maybe by Tuesday, I’d be able.
Then Tuesday came. Writing a fun story? Nope, not going to happen.
By Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling truly cranky. And groggy. And miserable.I was not fun to be with. Even more not-fun to be with than usual, I mean.
I called The Hammer at work, so I could complain to someone besides the dog and cat — neither of which were giving me the sympathy I deserved.
“I feel sick,” I revealed.
“I know you do,” The Hammer replied. “Have you taken some cold medicine?”
“Not in a while,” I replied. Somehow — and this is as strange a fact to me as it will be to you — I am capable of simultaneously being acutely aware of my cold symptoms, yet forgetting to take the medication that will alleviate aforementioned symptoms.
“Well, take your medicine, knucklehead,” The Hammer admonished.
Here’s a shocking fact: calling a nurse while she’s at work in order to get sympathy is not a productive exercise.
“I’m coming home,” she continued. “I’m finished rounding for the day, and I want to get a ride in before it gets dark.”
We got off the phone and I went back to feeling sorry for myself.
Then I had a flash of insight. I’d join The Hammer on her ride. Sure I’m sick, but I’ve ridden with a cold before, and I knew what it would be like: As soon as I started riding, I’d feel better.
All better, in fact.
I knew that the return of wellness would be an illusion; I wouldn’t be truly all better. I wouldn’t have my normal power or endurance on tap; I’d be slower than usual and would tire quickly. And I knew that after the ride, the fuzzy head, achy feeling, sore throat and runny nose would all return. Sometimes with a vengeance and with interest.
But I was willing to pay that cost right now. Just to feel good for an hour or so.
By the time The Hammer got home, there were two Cannondales on the bike rack and ready to ride: the Scalpel for her (she’s fallen in love with that bike and never rides anything else anymore), the F-Si for me (I’ve fallen in love with this bike, though I often ride other bikes too).
“I’m coming along,” I told The Hammer.
I expected an argument, but didn’t get one.
We drove to Potato Hill trailhead at Corner Canyon — my main concession to my cold being that I didn’t want to ride up Hog Hollow; I’d keep the ride easy. Down Red Potato we went, then up Ann’s at an easy pace.
I felt fantastic. Head clear, breathing easy, aches a thing of the past. Bikes are such an amazing way to take a vacation from your cold.
We finished the loop in under an hour; we were back at the car. According to the original plan, we were done now.
But I wasn’t ready to be done. For the first time in three days, I was happy. Feeling good. “Let’s do Ghost,” I suggested.
“You’re up for it?” The Hammer asked.
“I feel wonderful,” I replied.
As we were speaking, another two riders pulled up. One of them had a Scalpel exactly like The Hammer’s, the other had a Scalpel from the previous year.
“Looks like we’re having a Cannondale convention,” I remarked.
We all started riding Ann’s Trail toward Peak View at a leisurely pace, the other two riders ahead of The Hammer and me.
Then we heard a low roar of voices and bike chains behind us.
I looked back: NICA kids. About fifteen of them. Coming up fast.
I do not want those kids to pass me, I thought to myself. I had two reasons for thinking this. The first was that I didn’t want to pull over and wait for fifteen people to pass me, then ride in a cloud of their dust for the rest of the ride.
And the real reason had to do with…well, frankly, it had to do with pride. Conceit. Whatever.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who had this thought, either, because the two guys ahead of me (The Hammer was riding behind me) had stepped up their pace. In a big way.
I jumped, sprinting to catch the wheel of the rider ahead of me. Cold or no cold, a mental switch had flipped. I was now in race mode.
I hung with him, staying close on his wheel, while his friend pulled away.
“You want by?” he asked.
“I’m fine here,” I replied.
Then, a minute later, I reconsidered. I think I can catch that guy up ahead. “Go ahead and look for a place to let me by,” I said. And a moment later he had yielded. I was free to chase his friend.
I managed it. I buried myself, absolutely ruined myself chasing this guy down, but I caught him.
“You want by?” he asked.
“No way,” I replied. “Catching up to you took everything I have.”
He kept up a race pace, and I held on to his rear wheel by the skin of my teeth. Hurting and happy.
And that’s the way we pulled up to the Peak View parking lot. I rode slowly around the lot a couple of times ’til I could talk again, then stopped by the guy I had been desperately riding behind.
“That hurt,” he said.
“That was awesome,” I agreed.
Later, after the ride, the malaise and stuffiness and soreness and grouchiness would return. But no worse than before.
I had had a vacation from my cold, capped off with an intense impromptu race experience.
I love bikes.
UPDATE (Tuesday, October 6): Still sick. Blugh. Don’t feel like writing. Don’t even feel like sitting. Going back to bed.
I have so many things I want to write about. So many things I want to get caught up on.
But I’ve come down with a pretty rotten cold, and writing just isn’t happening.
I’m hoping to get past the worst of this thing today, and hope to post tomorrow.
A Note from Fatty: If you were one of the people disappointed that you couldn’t sign up for the 100 Miles of Nowhere because finances would be an issue ’til October 1…well, I trusted you were serious and over-ordered swag so you’d be able to sign up when October 1 rolled around.
And now it’s October 1. Please click here to register, and thank you for supporting Camp Kesem by riding the 100 Miles of Nowhere!
A Note About This Multi-Parter: This is part 2 in The Hammer’s two-part Lotoja race report. You can find part one by clicking here.
Salt River Pass and the Queen of the Mountain
Before I knew it, we had caught Lindsey. As we went by, I hoped she’d catch onto the train and we’d regroup at the top of this climb; there was a neutral aid station there. I knew I would have to stop at the top at the aid station: I had only a swallow of Gatorade and a swallow of water left in my bottles.
The day had heated up; I finished off the last of my water and Gatorade. Ellie kindly and offered me some of hers, but I told her I thought I could make it to the top.
We then passed the flags indicating the start of the queen/king of the mountain segment. Lotoja sets aside this one climb and records each rider’s time. I think a prize is given to the queen and king of the segment. As we started up the climb, Ellie said she would see me at the top. “You’re riding really strong and I don’t think I can keep up,” she said.
I reassured her we would ride the backside together once we restocked our water bottles at the top.
I could see that the lead group had now fragmented. Marci was so far ahead, she was just a speck on the horizon, but the rest of the women were now in reach. Three were together in group…and one of them was Mary, the rider that Elden chased at Rockwell Relay!
“Hey Mary, looking strong! And it’s so good to see you again!” I said as I caught her. Mary said hi back to me. It really was fun to be riding with all of these strong riders I admire.
Next I caught a girl in a blue jersey, a woman I didn’t know.
“Hey, how’s it going?” I asked.
“Blue Jersey” (as I thought of her during the race) looked up at me, said, “Fine,”…and then took off. I would spend the next five hours riding with this girl, but that was the only word she said to me.
I guess she was taking this race very seriously.
Blue Jersey pulled ahead about fifty meters…and then stayed that far ahead. I wasn’t able to close the gap, but she wasn’t able to extend her lead, either.
It wasn’t long before I could see the flags indicating the top of the QOM climb; I had made it. I was going over the top, in third place!
Woohoo for me!
…And then Ellie shot around me, gapping me by about twenty yards and beating me to the top. I need to stop being overconfident — there are a lot of sneaky people in this sport!
Six of us women gathered and refueled at the top; Marci had already started the descent. I wasn’t too worried about her, to be honest, though: A seventy-pound little wisp of a woman doesn’t stand a chance when soloing into a headwind. I was pretty confident we would catch her, and meanwhile she would make a great carrot.
I was anxious to get moving; my adrenaline was flowing. Ellie and I had done it: we had caught the lead racers before Star Valley.
I took the lead on the descent, and something amazing came over me. I honestly felt no fear. My Strava of the day shows a top speed of over 53mph. I have the fastest time of any woman on this descent at Lotoja this year. I have to brag about this because normally I am a horrible descender — at least I am at mountain biking: I spend most of my mountain bike races making up for the time I lose on the descents.
Not descending on the road, though, not during Lotoja. I’m beginning to think I picked the wrong sport to be racing in!
I was giddy as I pulled into the Afton aid station. I picked out the green and yellow balloons Blake had bought and pulled to a stop by my crew.
“Elden, I caught them!” I told my husband as he and Blake took care of me. “I caught the lead group of women! I’m not sure where Lindsey is. She was looking pretty hammered on the last climb, but hopefully it won’t be long before you see her!”
Blake and Elden took good care of me. I downed a cold Coke, reloaded my pockets with GU, swallowed four more Roctane Electrolyte Capsules, and I was off.
All seven of us (yes, we had caught Marci) pulled out of the aid station together. For the next 33 miles and 1 ½ hours we formed a magnificent train. We would pull for approximately .5 miles and then drift to the back of the pack.
While we were riding, I thought a little about what an interesting sport road racing is. You can be the strongest person in a group, but if you don’t race smart, you’ll lose. It doesn’t matter how fast you can go, you still only go as fast as the train.
I would pull for a few minutes and then spend almost 10 minutes coasting. In mountain biking this doesn’t happen, in triathlon this doesn’t happen. In running this doesn’t happen!
I’m really reconsidering my choice of sports!
As we rode through Star Valley, I was reminded of when I was a kid. My dad was born and raised in Star Valley and I spent many family reunions right there. Star Valley has not changed much — the towns are small and the farmlands are immense.
And the wind is forever in your face.
Riding in a train, though, the wind was very tolerable. In fact, I hardly noticed it at all. The rumble strips, though, are brutal. They start and stop without warning and shake you enough that you could possibly lose all the fillings in your teeth!
The Beginning of the End
The Bright yellow and green balloons were an excellent idea. I had no problem picking out my crew as I arrived at the Alpine aid station at mile 156.
Blake and Elden took excellent care of me again. My cold Coke was waiting (I’m a simple woman with simple needs). Elden said Lindsey’s day was not turning out the way we had anticipated.She’d had a flat tire, but had changed it and was progressing on.
This was bad-but-good news: I had heard through the motorcycle that Lindsey had dropped out. I was glad to hear that she was pushing on!
I left the aid station behind Mary. I was surprised to see that she didn’t stop and wait. She just rode away from the aid station. I eventually caught her. She seemed mad, saying Marci had left the aid station and was now way ahead. Mary thought she could see Marci’s jersey a quarter of a mile up the road.
I thought that this was odd. Would Marci just leave us at the aid station? Well, they had left Chelsea earlier…. What do I know about road racing and its etiquette anyway? Not much, to be honest, so if Mary thought it was so I figured it could be. So together we pedaled on faster and faster, trying to catch Marci.
And then, a few minutes later, we were caught by a train of very angry ladies…led by Marci. She hadn’t left the aid station early! Mary and I had been chasing a phantom. Ooops.
Podiums For All
All back together again, we rode up Snake river canyon, taking stock of our situation. There were three Cat 1/2/3 riders in our group. There were three Cat 4 riders, and Ellie was in the Masters 35+ category.
The motorcycle was now our constant companion. He informed us that there were no other women groups in the vicinity. We were the lead group of women and we would be crossing the line together.
That did it: there was no doubt. We would each be on the podium tomorrow, in our respective categories. There was no reason to not work together now, at least ’til the very end.
I think we all took a collective sigh of relief and then somebody asked for a neutral pee. Ohhh..how I love neutral pee’s. This was going to make the final fifty miles a lot more pleasant!
Snake River Canyon
Snake River Canyon is beautiful. I was really glad to be leaving the monotony of the rumble strips of Star Valley and climbing back into the mountains. I was happy: I was well-caffeinated, well-fueled, had an empty bladder, and I was riding my bike in a beautiful canyon with the lead women in an epic race.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
I couldn’t contain myself and frequently blurted out comments, like, “This is the most beautiful canyon!”
Or, “Look at that huge bird soaring over our heads!”
And, “Look, the leaves are starting to change colors!”
“Isn’t the water in the river the prettiest blue you have ever seen?”
“Wow, one of you guys smells really good…I keep getting a whiff of something and it smells gooood!”
No one ever replied. Maybe they weren’t as happy as me. Maybe they think I’m a little coo-coo!
All good things come to an end, and eventually Snake River Canyon ended. We were now faced with about twenty-five miles to the finish line.
And that’s when things fell apart for me.
Out of nowhere and all at once, a stiff headwind started, the caffeine left my system, I became hungry, and everything on my body hurt. When I started expressing my complaints out loud, this time I was answered…with similar complaints!
Everywhere my body was in contact with my bike, that contact point was screaming in pain: my butt, my feet, my hands! Someone said they couldn’t think of a body part that didn’t hurt!.I would agree: even my eyeballs had salt in them.
At about mile 190, we passed a makeshift aid station with volunteers handing out water and Coke. I gratefully snagged a bottle of Coke only to find it wasn’t opened. I fiddled with it for a minute and popped the lid off. I was greeted with a not-so-small geyser of Coke!
I was drenched.
Coke was all over my face, my hands, my legs, and my bike. Because it was hot outside, the fluid evaporated quickly and I was now a sticky mess. My hands were essentially glued to my handlebars for the remainder of the race.
But it was worth it.
The benefit of the Coke was almost instantaneous; I forgot about my body aches and pains, and I was ready to fly to the finish. It’s amazing what caffeine can do to the body and mind.
We were on the home stretch; we could smell the barn. I looked around at the other six riders in the group. I knew it was going to come down to a sprint finish (I’ve seen the Tour de France). I also knew that I would never win a sprint. In fact, I expected I would be the seventh one across the line — and I was okay with that. I felt great and I had made six new friends; I had had a fantastic day.
We passed the “5K to go” marker. Then the 4K marker. Ellie made a move. She shot from the back of the pack and rode by everyone. There was a slight acceleration by the group…and then it faded. Ellie was riding away. There was now a significant gap between our pack and Ellie.
Why were they letting her go? Why was I letting her go?
Racer and I had had a conversation just a few days ago about this exact scenario (though when we discussed it, I was the one who’d have been attacking the field at this point). Racer had suggested I go for it a ways from the finish line — put a gap between myself and the group. For a non-sprinter like me, that would be the only way to win.
Now it looked as if Ellie was heeding Racer’s advice…and it might just give her a win!
Before I knew what I was doing, I was accelerating past the rest of the group, chasing Ellie down. But I wasn’t as fortunate as Ellie; the train started chasing me! They weren’t going to let two of us get away.
My heartbeat must have been well over 200, and I was sure I was going to vomit! I had just about caught Ellie…but doing that had cost me everything. I was dead!
The train swung around me and I was spat out the back end. I had tried, and I had failed.
But I didn’t care. Yes, I was seventh woman across the line, just as I had expected. But I had at least tried, and I was proud of that. I was proud of my performance for the day and I had felt great as one of the riders in the lead women’s group at Lotoja.
A Note About the Photo from Fatty: The woman standing on the second-place podium didn’t place second. She took fourth and should actually be standing on the floor (second place isn’t in the photo). The woman standing by the Hammer on the third-place podium took fifth and should also be standing on the floor.
When I crossed the finish line, Blake was there to give me a hug, although he had to help me unstick myself from my bike before I could return that hug.
I was a little confused as to where Elden was, but Blake explained Elden was helping Lindsey out! Her ride had seemed to go from bad to worse, with a second flat and a bad stomach, not to mention having to do a lot of the second half of the race by herself. Even with all that, she still ended up finishing faster than I did my first time doing Lotoja.
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.
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.
I didn’t plan to post today (I feel like I’ve said everything I have to say about the 100 Miles of Nowhere), but I just had to show you this email I got today:
I signed up for 100 MoN yesterday and just this morning read a number of the comments based on today’s post.
What got me was the number of people who want to help but do not have the funds for varying reasons.
My wife and I have had a good year and we always try to do our part.
So, with that said, I would propose to you (no, not that type of proposal) the following: Pick 4 people at random who mentioned finances and I will foot their registration fee. That will make 5 total registrations.
Not sure how you would do this or even if you are interested but I just can’t stomach the thought of someone wanting to participate but money being the issue.
Two caveats. They have to actually participate and anonymity for me.
If interested, let me know.
Long time reader and a true Clydesdale
I just…well, I don’t even know what to say.This is a sort of generosity and kindness that makes me glad I’ve stuck with this blog for ten years. It really does.
PS: Yes, I’ve sent email to four people who had commented they would be signing up if they had the money for it. Two have already replied, saying they’re in.
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