Tour of Park City — Race Report

Distance: 171.82 miles
Time: 9:36:05 Saddle Time
Average Watts: 151 watts
Normative Power: 190 watts
Average Heart Rate: 145 bpm
Total Work: 5,202 kJ
Average Speed: 17.9 mph

Sorry for the absence for a couple of days, but I was preparing for the Gran Fondo of Park City. This was one amazing race. That’s right, I said race. I have to say I need to admit now that I really love the format of a longer race that pushes you and tests you to your limits. It was different from the Double Triple Bypass because it was a race instead of a ride. It really changes your thinking and provides you with a new level of urgency in everything you do.

The race was on Saturday and started at 6:00 a.m. I am going to spare you people all of the details of my preparation for the race. But there are two items that man I absolutely have to share with you.

Smart thing #1: The race started in a hotel parking lot so what did I do? I live about 40 minutes from Park City so to save me a little extra sleep the morning of the race, I booked a room at the Newpark Hotel. What I didn’t do was read the fine print when I was booking it to see that it was a studio room. That is hotel speak for tiny. My buddy Dan and I did this race together and man I will tell you that room was barely big enough for the bed and the pullout couch. If you are going skiing in Park City this winter, only get the studio room if you need a place for your kids to crash. This would not work long-term for a couple of adults. Check this out…

Always read the fine print people. Always. It was nice to roll out of bed and be at the start line a whole 60 seconds later. I am going to shoot for this strategy in my future races.

Smart thing #2: I wore an all white kit. Alright, this may be the opposite of smart. There were 6.0 miles of the course on a dirt road. When my buddy Dan asked the race director why we were traversing a dirt road on super awesome road bikes, his response was, “It adds to the epicness of the ride”. Yes indeed to did. My new friends Casey and Katherine from Team Revolution both made fun of me and my color choice and now I understand why. I think Katherine’s exact words were, “It takes a brave man to wear all white”. Now I understand why. She has done LOTOJA three times and the Gran Fondo of Park City three times, so I should have turned around and changed.

Race Morning

I think I ate a little too much the morning of the race. I put back about 750 calories, which was about double what I usually do on the morning of a race. It didn’t come back to haunt me, but my stomach felt really full for the first hour of the race. The good news is it all stayed in my tummy.

After pumping up tires and double checking the gear we were taking with us, Dan and I discussed our race strategy one more time. We wanted to stick to together as much as possible and definitely cross the finish line together. We had planned out which sections we were going to push and which we were going to take it easy on. We knew 171.0 miles is a long ways, and we wanted to use this race as a test for LOTOJA.

One word of advice — talk to someone who has done the ride to see how the start line will work. By the time Dan and I had gotten to the start line (about 15 minutes early), all of the 170 milers had lined up at the front. There were three distances in this race with the 170 mile race being the longest. The organizers thought it would be cool to let the three distances start together. With 500 people of varying skill levels and goals, that made for some serious chaos for the first 10.0 miles. If I would have done my homework ahead of time, I would have known you need to be at the front if you are a 170.0 miler. Lesson learned. I think that is good advice for any type and length of race that you do.

We had planned on stopping at each of the aid stations to refill and quickly get back on our bikes. The aid stations were well planned and spaced at miles 30, 53, 76, 105, 124, 153, and of course then the finish. The station at mile 124 was at the top of Bald Mountain Pass, which was the climbing portion of this race. Really, there were about 100 straight miles of climbing from Coalville, to Evanston, Wyoming, and then to the top of the Pass, but the real climbing lasted about 19.0 miles from the aid station at 105.0 miles up to Bald Mountain. Those were some tough miles I tell you.

And They Are Off!

Of course there was a generator right next to my ear so I couldn’t hear any of the announcements or the start gun. Note to self: line up on the right side away from the generator next time. I could tell the announcer had started the group because of the surge — you know the one. Add 500 people trying to clip in and some swerving all over the road and you get the idea. Think triathlon swim start up upright on bikes. Really it was almost funny.

But we eventually got off and I decided I wanted to stay with the lead peleton. All three distances stayed together until about the first 8.0 miles or so. For locals — we turned off at the Brown’s Canyon turnoff. The two shorter distances stayed on the main highway to Kamas and we started on our solo journey. I was surprised how many people were turning off. There are a lot of local gearheads it turns out.

Like I mentioned, I decided I wanted to stay with the main lead group through the first aid station at mile 30.0 in Coalville. My speed was good and my legs started warming up finally at about mile 20.0 and it was actually easy to stay with the group when you are riding towards the back. But then I remembered how long the day was going to be and I didn’t see Dan so I decided not to hammer this section out and fry my legs, so I let them go. As I watched the lead group go, I kept waiting for someone to catch me so I could work with them and save my legs for later in the day. Nobody was coming up and then…I got caught in no man’s land.

What is no man’s land? It is when you are in a bike race or a ride and you are out by yourself without anyone to ride with. You miss that 30% savings that comes from drafting. In reality, you work too hard for the little speed that you are getting out of your legs. It is lonely, and I swear you start to see things that aren’t there (not really, but you get the idea).

I finally got caught by a group of about five other riders and I started working with them. We hit the aid station in Coalville at mile 30.0 and man I was still feeling good. My average speed was 23.4 mph through this point and I felt strong. Right after I refilled water bottles Dan drove up and we were off. We had projected somewhere between 1:15 and 1:30 for this section, so it was good to see we were right on pace.

Coalville to Evanston

Evanston was the aid station at 76.0 miles and there was an aid station at mile 53.0 as well. Between Coalville and the aid station at the 53.0 mile mark there was 2,318 feet of climbing. There wasn’t any really steep climbing, but it was constant and it was 23.0 miles long. That meant the average speed dropped a little but we had a expend a little more energy for those 23.0 miles. Looking at my power data, my watts were about 10 watts higher than where I should have been, which means I pounded my quads a little more than I should.

We found a great group to work with on this section. I prefer to be social on group rides/races because I do not like getting caught up in no man’s land. I am one of those weird guys who will talk to anyone and everyone. That means I make a lot of friends. There was Charlie up from Arizona who was doing this race because he loved the idea of a challenge. There was Jason from Bountiful who got ditched by his pals. There were plenty of guys who got dropped by the main peleton that we picked up and used to form a pretty killer 12 man/woman paceline. I already mentioned Casey and Katherine from Revolution Racing who Dan and I ended up leapfrogging with all day long.

Making friends on these rides sure make the miles go by easier. Don’t be shy — I compliment wheels or their bike and it just flows from there. Men, stay away from complimenting a woman’s calves. If you read my race report on the Triple Bypass in Colorado, you know why.

The really epic (thanks for the language race director Ben Towery) portion of this section was the dirt road. Now I am one of those guys who usually does not ride his road bike in the dirt. For that purpose I have a mountain bike. Regardless, there really was no way to get around this section unless you prefer cow pasture. I do not.

The dirt section was about 6.0 miles long. I really ended up not minding it too much until we hit the downhill section. There was a turn at the bottom of the downhill that I thought I was either going to lay down my bike or I was going into the ditch a la Alexandre Vinokourov in the 2011 Tour de France. His race ended when he put his bike down in the ditch and was injured. My ditch was a long ways from anything, which made me even more nervous. But somehow I kept it together after a couple of slideouts and made it past the dirt.

From there it was pretty chill through Evanston. Our group worked well together and most took their turn on the front. Dan is fantastic on the flats and jumped on the front and proceeded to ride everyone off his wheel. More than once I had to yell at him about a quarter mile down the road to slow down to everyone could stay on. In an event of this length you really need lots of bodies.

Evanston to Bald Mountain Pass

This is the section where the climbing gets serious. Really the first 29.0 miles from Evanston to the aid station at the Forest Service Boundary at mile 105 features about 1,530 feet of steady climbing. I would call this section a false flat. I ended up getting on the front of our group and riding a little too quick. When I looked back at the end of my 3:00 pull, nobody was there. I literally rode myself out into no man’s land. I thought for a minute about what I should do. I figured my choices were to wait up for my friends or just keep riding.

Dan and I had discussed a plan if we got separated at any time before the race had started. We were to wait at the next aid station for the other so we could finish together. I made the decision to ride up to the next aid station and regroup with my people there. I waited a total of about five minutes for them and they rolled up. They grabbed their water and then we started the climb up Bald Mountain Pass together. That really didn’t last long.

Having done Loveland Pass three weeks ago as part of the Double Triple Bypass, I have to tell you Bald Mountain Pass is tough but manageable. I measured it out at 19.75 miles and it took me 1:46 for an average of 11.2 mph. When I put my projections together I figured it at 2:00 to 3:00, so I am really pleased with my time. There were 2,580 feet of climbing, which made it pretty challenging. MapMyRide says it tops out at 6.0%, but I looked at my Garmin 500 several times and saw 8.0%.

I got to the top of the pass and most of my group was already there. I waited for a couple of people at the aid station. A lot of the times I am riding at places like this I totally forget to look around and notice how beautiful it is. This is Dan and I up at the top…

The altitude up at the top was 10,418. I did start to get an altitude headache sitting at the aid station, so Dan and I scooted down for one of the best descents in the western United States.

Bald Mountain Pass to Kamas

Think about how awesome a 4,062 feet descent would be over 27.9 miles. I averaged 28.0 mph and 62 watts over this section. It was a nice recovery after the 100 miles of climbing, but man I wish it was a little longer. The distance took me less than an hour, but man did I love it. During my training rides I have been testing getting down in the aero position on my regular road bike without aero bars. I got the idea from the Tour de France a couple of years and finally was stupid enough got the guts to try it. Check out Lemond giving it a try…

Probably not the best way to handle your bike, but I could feel and see a big difference in my speed as I cruised down the mountain. If you have a road bike, give it a try. If you are riding somewhat alone and on a good quality road without a ton of turns, you will find it makes a big difference. The only difference between his style and mine was I felt when I interlocked my fingers that I was more stable. I don’t know if it does make you more stable or not, but it sure felt like it.

I love to descend and like to think I am alright at it. We did have a rabbit out in front of us that I tried to catch, but as you can tell from my average watts, we didn’t try very hard. If we were in contention for a podium spot I would have hammered this and made up some time. But like I preach, the downhills are not the place to get time in a race. You really should plan on using the uphills to put time on your competitors. But man it sure is fun to go really fast.

Kamas to the Finish Line

This section was about 19.0 miles long, and it was great. There are two little tests thrown in at the end in the form of a two and one mile climb, but overall this section feels like a victory lap. I was really proud of Dan on this section as his right calf started to cramp up, but he pushed right through the pain to keep moving. We slowed down a little in this section, but he really persevered to cross the finish line. A mortal man may have quit, but he just kept on keeping on. For some reason I got in a real good mood in this section. I think it was because I was so ready to get off my bike. I had a great time on the ride, but so much time in the saddle will make anyone decide they need to breakup take a small break from their bike. Mine will be two days.

Final Thoughts

A couple of really cool things happened on this ride that I wanted to share. Is it funny that I thought about the blog a couple of times and thought, “Man I need to write that down”?

  1. I really miss my pal Scott Davis and he hasn’t even been gone a year yet. This was his type of challenge. I signed up for this because I wanted to test myself and see what was deep down. He would have done it for the same reason. More than once I would look at the vista and wish he was there riding with me. I still talk to my pal and thank goodness he hasn’t answered me yet — that might just make me crazy. There are a couple of rides coming up that he should be doing with us but won’t be there. What a loss. The organizers of CASVAR will be donating the proceeds of the ride to the Scott B. Davis Memorial Fund that we set up, which is awesome. That was the last organized ride any of us got to do with him.
  2. Nutrition is the only reason you will make it through a long ride. It doesn’t matter if your long ride is 50 or 200 miles. Your fitness can be out of this world, but once your body runs out of glycogen stores and you are not refueling, it is only a matter of time before you won’t be able to continue. My nutrition was solid the entire ride. Except for eating a little too much before the start, I was alright. I pounded about 250 calories of Infinit per hour and ate a couple of ProBars (one of the sponsors for this race — thank you thank you) at aid stations. At the top of the Bald Mountain Climb I did drink two extra bottles of water because I got that feeling that my stomach was not processing nutrition. While I probably would have been fine, you have to listen to your body and audible from time to time.
  3. Make lots of friends on the course. It was a race, but in the middle of the pack we were not racing for podium spots. Those friends sure were able to take turns on the front and let me rest my legs. Of course, you have to return the favor. Dan was a good friend to our new buddy Charlie who was going to withdraw and catch a ride with a SAG wagon at the aid station at mile 105.0. With that 19.0 mile climb up Bald Mountain Pass staring us in the face, you would understand why. But Dan told him to go get something to eat and then decide. Charlie’s blood sugar was low and he got back on the bike and finished the race. Good times.
  4. When you feel like crap, wait. When you have low spots during a race or training session, eat something and then wait for a couple of minutes. Low spots come and go as do the good ones. What you need to do is mentally train yourself that when they come, you know what your reaction will be. It isn’t easy to push through a low spot, but you can train yourself to do it. When you can, it will serve you well during your long sessions.
  5. Remember, you paid to do this and it is fun. You have to keep a good attitude throughout your race. It is tough and you may be suffering, but so is everyone else. Look for someone who is suffering more and lift them up. At the second to last aid station I started going through my jersey pockets and found I had a couple of items that other riders needed. I love the camaraderie that can happen in a race even when we are all competitive.
  6. Ben Towery, RD, leave your celebration up. This race was taken over by Ben last spring and I have to say it was well put on. The course was well marked (how hard would that be over 170+ miles?) and the aid stations were simple but awesome. I think the Finish Line was set up for the 50 and 100 milers because as we the later riders in the 170 mile race pulled in, there was little fanfaire left. The meal that was being served was gone, I don’t think they noted our finish times, and any sponsors who may have been displaying/hocking their wares were gone. I was pumped to see what was going on after I finished the race and truthfully, there was nothing. I did catch Ben in the parking lot and it looked like he was cleaning up. I understand that it was a very, very long week and day. Just a suggestion pal. That and think about starting the different distances a couple of minutes apart.

So that was it. Great race, great results, and I will definitely do it again. This is a great race if you are looking for something epic to do in the western U.S. You can bring the family and stay somewhere other than the Newpark Hotel and they can play while you are out racing. The scenery is second to none, and you will definitely get a huge challenge laid out in front of you. You better think about bringing your climbing legs…

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...