I have heard about LOTOJA for years. It is a big deal in cycling for this part of the country and many people in my area try to do it every year. It is a 206 mile bike race from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. You can do the whole thing yourself or in teams of 2-5 people. I was on a team of 5 people that are all from my neighborhood and they have done it before. We were part of the Green Gecko Racing Team and there were 25-30 of us total. I would be doing the third leg known as the King/Queen of the Mountain leg that goes from Montpelier to Afton. It includes the two highest climbs in the whole route and it is a total of 48 miles. I have been preparing for this all summer by doing a good climbing ride every week, either Big Mountain, Snowbasin, or something similar.
Ken and I would ride up early on Saturday morning with Kelly and Melisa in Kelly's Excursion, which would serve as our team vehicle. Ken became the official race support for our vehicle doing the driving and the picture taking, a role he is getting very good at :)
We sent Lisa off, our first rider off at the start line promptly at 6:00 am and then headed to Preston where we would meet her and send Kelly off on her route. We had so much fun in our car and it was neat to get to know these ladies better! The following pictures were taken at the Preston stop. These guys in the Texas jerseys caught my eye, because of the Texas of course. They were all brothers up from Houston and they all had matching jerseys as well as the Texas flag at every stop. They were so fun! It was neat to see that along the route, I still am a bit of a Texas girl at heart :)
We arrived in Montpelier and it was time for me to get ready for my leg. I wasn't really nervous for this until we actually got there and it was time for me to go! Waiting for Kelly to come in seemed to take forever, not that she was slow, just that I was nervous and anxious to just get going! She came in before we knew it and I was off on my bike. The route immediately starts something of a climb up a canyon within the first mile, so there wasn't much warming up! My fault, I should have ridden around a bit before starting, but I didn't want to miss Kelly coming in. I decided that I wanted to do as road cyclists do and get into a pack if I could. Group riding makes me really nervous as I have a personal bubble that I don't like people getting into anyway, but to do that on a bike close enough that you are able to get the benefit of drafting is not something I am comfortable with yet. Plus, I mainly train solo, and drafting isn't legal in triathlon anyway, so I have never really seen a point to it till now!
The first climb was up to Geneva Summit and I have to say I loved this climb! It was gorgeous and challenging, but it was very doable! I felt great, was chatting with others around me and my spirits were still high. I stopped at the top long enough to shoot a quick Gu and have a short drink. I then did the downhill coming down from the summit and it was SAWEEEET! Seriously, the best downhill ever! I didn't hit my brakes one time and tucked in as low as I could to thoroughly enjoy it. There wasn't any bends in this portion of the road either, so you really could just let 'er fly and not worry about braking. I hit a new personal record for speed on Belle on this downhill - 44 mph! That was so much fun!
We then had several miles until we would start the actual King of the Mountain climb and it was then that many people would pass me or I would pass them. Most of the packs would simply pass me by and it made me nervous but they would quickly pass. Well, then this HUGE pack of between 30-40 cyclists just sort of swallowed me up and they didn't leave. At first I was thinking "PLEASE pass, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!" I didn't want to be the cause of 35 cyclists biting the dust if I didn't do something right, and it made me really nervous. Then when they didn't leave and I was in the middle of them, I then resigned myself to, "Hey, this is your chance to learn drafting!" I have to admit once I chilled a little, it was kind of cool! All of a sudden I wasn't noticing any wind and I just kept my head down and tried really hard to hold my line and stay steady so I wouldn't be THAT guy that takes out the bunch. I noticed that this group was some of a team, but others were like me, single riders that just hopped along for the ride! The ones that seemed to know each other were passing things back and forth to each other and at times COMPLETELY taking both hands off their handle bars, and I thought that was just plain crazy. But, they also communicated very well in who was going to pull, whose turn it was to rotate back, when they were slowing, etc. I was able to stick with this group for about 20 minutes and I learned A LOT in that time. I think I may see why people swear by this for group riding! It was actually fun and I wish I could have kept up with them, but most of them split from the pack right before the start of the King of the Mountain climb to use bathrooms and groups like that tend to split up on big climbs anyway. I did also stop before the climb, but further up ahead of where they did.
I crossed the timing mat at the start of the climb and quickly settled into a low gear and grinded my way up. I noticed for the first time all day the sun was out in full force. We had a very overcast day up to that point and it was VERY hot. I was literally sweating what seemed like buckets as I grinded my way up this hill! I did feel pretty good and was passing several other people at points, but was also getting passed as well. Everyone was very kind and supportive and one guy said, "Can you believe we PAID for this FUN?" He was super nice and we joked our way to the top. I had felt really good during the first climb, but on this climb, my quads were burning. This is not unusual for me on difficult climbs, and it usually goes away once the climbing part is over. I was grateful to get to the top because I was hot, sore, and just about out of water. They had a feed zone at the top where I did refill my bottles, use the bathroom, grabbed a banana (it was heavenly at that point) and threw some electrolyte tabs into one of my bottles. I was probably at this feed zone for 10-15 minutes.
I was really looking forward to the downhill after such a brutal climb, but was really disappointed! It wasn't nearly as cool as the one coming off Geneva Summit and we were greeted by a nasty headwind that didn't leave for the remaining 18 miles of my ride. It was the kind of wind that at times felt like it was going to blow my bike over. I was so tempted to get down into aero like I usually do when I hit winds like this, but aero bars are technically illegal in this race. I didn't take them off my bike, but I swore I wasn't going to use them. It sucked not being able to tuck down! I also noticed that the quad burning that started on the up hill at King of the Mountain did NOT go away. It was awful. I felt like my legs were on fire, but I was so ready to get off the dang bike I just kept going, though I am sure I was slow. I didn't look at my watch to see my speed, but I just felt so slow during the final miles of this. The pic below is one that Ken got of me as I turned into the transition area. Many people have commented that I look "serious" in this pic. Yes! Seriously ready to get off the dang bike!
Once I was off, my quads continued to burn for an entire hour after post ride. I still don't know why this happened or what I could have done to prevent it. I don't think it was a hydration issue because I had been drinking all morning long prior to my leg and drained 2.5 bottles during the 3 hours and 18 minutes it took me to do my portion. I also had taken in electrolytes, a few GU gels, and a Bonk Breaker bar. I think it may have been I just went too hard on this since it was a race situation and it was faster than I had trained at. Either way, it was miserable!
However, the rest of the day was just plain fun! The finish line was great and the entire course is amazingly beautiful! At the finish line I was able to see my friends James and Jared who KILLED this course today! They did the whole ride themselves and came in around 10 hours! That is averaging 21-22 mph for the whole thing! They are machines! I also saw other people from my tri group and it was fun!
I had a ton of fun and want to do this in some way next year, either in a relay or if I completely lose it, do the "whole enchilada" myself. We will see. It was amazing and a great experience.
What's next? St. George Marathon is 4 weeks away!