It has been a long journey this race report, but LOTOJA is a long race. If this is the first time you are joining us, please for the love of everything that is holy, go back and start at the beginning. Read the LOTOJA Race Report Prologue and then the next two installments. You don’t read the last chapter of a book first, unless you are just odd.
Finish — As I came to the finish line, I had all the emotions that come up to the surface after an effort like this. My butt hurt. My legs hurt. My shoulders hurt. I think even my eyes hurt for some reason. I couldn’t help but get very emotional as I crossed the finish line. For some reason tears welled up in my eyes — I don’t really know why. I think I needed an emotional release after racing LOTOJA without friends or teammates for the most part. The last time that happened was when I finished Ironman St. George in 2010. I was exhausted and I had gone very deep into the well to finish as well as I did. When I went to take off my shoes I had to hold on to someone or I would have ended up on the ground. I did not reach my goal of getting on the podium nor did I go sub 9:30. As an ENTJ, I am very goal oriented and when I don’t accomplish my goals I take it pretty hard. But for some reason, I felt satisfied knowing I had performed up to my training. Getting sick 10 days before the race did not impact me in my opinion. I may have been missing a couple of gears, but I am not sure I would have finished any faster. As tired and hungry as I was, I felt good.
My final time was a 9:46 chip time with a 9:45 moving time. Looking at my Garmin 510 file, I had my foot down for :55 seconds. That’s right, fifty-five seconds. My chip time was good enough for a 12th place finish in the C Flight. My teammate from Infinite Racing, McKay Robinson ended up getting first place with a 9:06. The podium went from 9:06 to 9:10, which was much faster than 2012. If I would have hit my goal of a 9:30, I would have only reached the top 10. I did beat 13th place by a whopping 10 seconds and in my finisher’s photo you can see him coming up. Of course I have already found places where I can cut time off in 2014 and plan on racing Master’s B as a Cat 4 with my friend Brent Williams and a handful of teammates.
How did my friends do? Dan Hendriksen finished with a chip time of 11:06, which was a great improvement for him. One of my teammates from the Infinite Race Team, Troy Huebner, finished in 10:49. My friend from college who got me started on this race, Curt LaBelle, did the relay with his brother Rick and sister Lisa, ended up posting a time of 10:34. They had an incident free ride, which may be the first time ever. Moj Webb finished with a chip time of 10:13 which is an improvement over 2012. He had some GI issues in the last several miles, and I am impressed he finished. My racing mentor, Brent Williams, finished in 10:12 after some huge mechanicals. I think I would have called it a day facing the same adversity. Juston Puchar finished with a chip time of 9:57, which is amazing. He got 2nd place in his division in 2012 and went even faster this year. He and his wife Annie are expecting their first child. Parker Smith finished in 9:57 as well. Todd Handy finished what looks like his 7th LOTOJA in 9:49 and rocked it. He has been doing this race for a long time. Even with his cancer, he didn’t miss a race. What a baller. Brandon Storrs, who may be one of the fastest climbers I know, posted a 9:27, which meant he almost cracked the top 100. Anything under a 9:30 in this race is super fast. Billy Rappleye is on the Infinite Race Team and was able to finish in 9:24 which was good enough for a top 100 finish. He raced as a Cat 4 with our friend Dave Callahan from Austin Texas. Dave finished right along Billy with the same time.
Lessons Learned — This was the third time I did LOTOJA and it is funny how you learning something new every time you do the race. I did learn a lot about nutrition, race strategy, equipment, other racers on the course, and myself. There are lots of strategy guides for LOTOJA, but here are a couple of the lessons I have learned.
- Nutrition — You have to eat and drink a ton. The weather this year was very mild, so for the most part I was able to stay ahead of hydration issues. My strategy for taking a water hand-up at all the neutral stations and an extra bottle of water at the supported stations worked well for me. I would drink the bottles regardless of my thirst levels. I think this saved my hydration. I also pounded Enduralytes throughout the day and never felt even an twinge of cramping. My strategy for calories focuses on liquid nutrition with Infinit. It works well for me and doesn’t ever make me feel bloated or nauseated. Taking on potatoes, Honey Stinger waffles and lunchmeat was also a good decision because I ate what sounded good at the moment. While it was tough to eat the potatoes, they are a lifesaver. Once I started the Red Bull, I never quit sipping it. Some people will have sugar crash if they quit drinking Coke or Red Bull after they have started.
- Race Strategy — You can’t let the lead group go like I did if you want to podium. I let the lead group of 20 racers go as we were almost done with Strawberry Pass. I should have hardened up and continued to go with them. But, I was able to pass about 8 of them before the finish because I spent very little time with my feet on the ground. I was lucky not to have any mechanicals, but I also double and triple check all of my bike systems before the race. You have to not waste time in feedzones if you want to hit your goals. Finding a group that is a little faster than you are to ride through Star Valley is imperative. You have to put in a slid effort all the way to the finish line — 13th place finished ten seconds after I did. I would have been really upset with myself if I would have sat up and gotten nicked at the line. Finally, you have to be willing to suffer and go very deep at some points. When you do start to hurt or get tired, eat and drink a little, wait a couple of minutes, and your legs will come back around.
- Equipment — Your choice of equipment is really, really important. I am not a fan of buying the most expensive gear, but I do think you should buy the best equipment your budget can afford. It is a cliche, but you take care of your equipment and it will take care of you. Before a big race, take your bike to a mechanic you trust and have them look over all your cables. Ask them to reindex your front and rear derailers using your race wheels. Have them double check all your nuts, bolts, and pedals to make sure they are tightened to the correct tension. Ask them to grease your pedals and to identify and fix any squeaks you have in your drivetrain. You should check your tires for any wear and tear and think about replacing your tubes. You should clean your chain and scrub your cassette and lube both up so they run in stealth mode. Like I mentioned, I ride a Cervelo R5 and use ENVE 45’s as my race wheels. I am also lucky enough to have a PowerTap that allows me to monitor my pacing and keep it where it should be. Unless you have some freak mechanicals like Brent Williams did, you should be confident in your bike and its ability to stay together on the climbs and the descents.
- Other Racers — After the race I started asking around about Todd Handy. That guy is a stud. He has overcome non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and is a super fast racer. I love his attitude and he lives somewhat close to me, so I see he and I racing together a lot in the future. The more I got to know about him the more impressed I am. On the other end of the spectrum, I was not impressed with the racers and riders who seemed to have a chip on their shoulder. To be honest, I really hope they don’t come back to the race next year. I feel competition can bring out the best in us and in some cases, the worst. I made a decision during this race not to ever be “that guy” and to continue to stand up to people who want to assume that role. I have seen racers verbally abuse volunteers in some cases and this is never, ever appropriate.
- Myself — This year I learned I can really dig deep during a race. Sometimes you have to ignore your heart rate monitor and power meter and just go with a group. The Velominati call this using the V-meter (read about it here). While I failed to do that over Strawberry Pass, this attitude served me well as Todd and I left Alpine. When my mind would start to focus on the negative — which was often from Alpine on — I had to make myself use positive self-talk to improve my attitude. In a race of any distance, you really have to keep your attitude positive. LOTOJA just reinforced the fact that your mind is very powerful and can make our body do things that you think are difficult or even impossible. You will pass out on a bike before you die. Passing out may be a problem…
Overall LOTOJA 2013 was a success and a great way to finish up the road racing season. In the three years I have done this race it was by far my best result and in line with what I think my capabilities are. I think I can go faster in 2014 and pull my time down under 9:30. A race that takes this amount of time reveals things to you — things that you might not like. I have always said that if you don’t like spending time alone, endurance sports may not be the place for you. The good news is it also highlights the positive traits that exist deep inside of you that may not come out otherwise. Finding both the positive and negative in myself and becoming acquainted with my true self is why I love endurance sports.