This is the third installment of my LOTOJA 2014 Race Report. I really like to tell a story, especially when it comes to bike races and cycling. I want to thank my buddies who are pushing me to continue writing this report — it is nice to have support from you guys.
Montpilier to Salt River Pass Summit
Distance: 29.7 miles
Ride Time: 1:45
Average Watts: 179 watts
Average Heart Rate: 149 bpm
Average Speed: 16.9 mph
For me this is one of the most difficult sections of the race. I don’t know why – it could just be a mental block that makes it so tough for me. There are two climbs in this section that do start to wear on you mentally, but I had been climbing all summer on hills that were much tougher than these two. Regardless, I really started to lose it on part of this section and am really grateful for my pals because they helped pull me through.
As we pulled out of Montpilier, it was clear that the rest of the small group we had rolled into town with was not as committed to keeping their stop time at a minimum so Matt, Phillip and I rolled on. We took a couple of miles and ate and drank as much as we could. I don’t know about you, but I don’t love to eat and drink when I am pushing my pace on a climb. In fact, I actually don’t like it at all. This is something I need to work on.
The three of us found ourselves alone. This would be the recurring theme for the rest of the day. For whatever reason, this year I did not feel like we found a big group like we typically would. It might be a function of how early we started and how fast we were riding. Every once in a while we would catch people and invite them to jump on only to find them off the back once it was their turn to pull. We were holding a pretty solid pace up this section, and we all started to suffer. The thing I like about riding with friends is the encouragement you get when you start to fall off. The three of us worked really well together and made it to the summit together. I love the deep bonds that are created when you suffer together.
As we came off the summit to the short downhill, we were really cruising. There were some really dark clouds that I thought were going to dump some rain on us. If you have spent any time in the mountains, you know the type of storm I am talking about. Mountain storms move in quickly with lots of wind and really dump a ton of rain in a very short amount of time. They can really wreak havoc with your race because temps drop and make you absolutely miserable. I rode this section of the race with my buddies Rick LaBelle and Dan Hendriksen two weeks before race day when we went up to my pal Curt’s cabin in Afton. On that day we got rained on and it was horrific. Truthfully, sometimes it is difficult to recover mentally from a storm like that. But somehow on this day, we got lucky and stayed dry. I like to think we dodged the rain because I was riding with such good men.
We got caught by a relay rider was we started the gradual climb up to the Salt River Pass Summit. I was extremely grateful for the extra help. I don’t remember the team he was on, but this guy really wanted to pull the entire time and we were glad to let him help out. Somewhere in this 16.2 mile section we lost Phil. I felt really bad, but in bike racing you do live by the pirate code – he who falls behind gets left behind. Phil would muscle on and ended up finishing only a couple of minutes behind me.
The KOM is in this section of the course. In the three previous editions of LOTOJA, I have made it my goal to place in this competition, at least in my category. But as we started this section, I was really starting to have a tough time. There was no reason in particular why I started to suffer, but my heart rate was up and my legs really didn’t want to fire. Looking back I think I needed to eat more, but I was keeping up with my nutrition and hydration schedule.
The KOM segment on Strava is 2.3 miles long and climbs 658 feet. It doesn’t sound like much, but it begins at mile 103 of the race and your legs are pretty shot by this point, even on a great day. Of the seven times I have done this segment, this was my slowest effort. My PR on the section is 12:34 with an average of 11 mph. On this day my time was a 16:38 with an average of 8.3 mph. That is a horrible time that really should have been closer to 13:xx. This was my first mental failure of the day and I think it cost me not only time – I think my brain may have checked out a little at this point which made me less effective. I did not contribute to the group throughout the rest of the day like I wanted to. I think it also contributed to the second mental error that cost me later in the race.
I did run into my friend Brent on this section and he did not look good. But like all endurance events, LOTOJA is a long race that gives you ample opportunity to bounce back and recover. I did drop Matt on the way up to the summit, but I knew he would catch me on the downhill. You can make up a ton of time on people if you learn how to descend fast. Matt has that down to a science. Lucky for me he did catch me right as the downhill began and I was glad he did.
There is another neutral aid station at the summit of Salt River Pass where I took a water bottle from one of the volunteers. I began to soft pedal, drink, look around, and take inventory. The storm clouds were still threatening, but they brought a welcome tailwind out of the south with them. My total time was at 5:35 so far. It was a little slower than I had planned, so I knew if I was going to reach my goal of a 9:30 I would have to pick up my pace across Star Valley to Alpine Wyoming. They key to being fast through Star Valley is finding a group that helped you push your pace. I felt alright, but knew I was going to have to eat and drink a ton to keep my energy up.
I was in for a fight.