February 19, 2013

LOTOJA Part IV - Last One, You Guys!

Did I mention how bad my ass hurt all summer? If I haven't, I should have. Because my ass hurt all summer. Installing a new saddle the day before LOTOJA actually saved me some grief compared to using my old saddle, one - last - time. Still, by the time I rolled across the Snake River with 80 to go, I was getting rather uncomfortable in the saddle.

It only took a couple of miles until we reeled in the girl that nearly killed me in Thayne. She proceeded to inflict more pain and injury upon me, as did the relay riders who I began to despise. Not all of the relay riders were deserving of my loathing, we still passed a bunch of them because, after more than 100 miles, we were still flying along. Not without some difficulty on my part. Again with the strength. Lower percentage grades had me hanging on for dear life when our girl-friend hit the front or we got into a group that wanted to impress until they blew spectacularly. I popped off more than once, with Mike or Jared coming back for me and hollering to the group to sit up. We lost our girl-friend before we reached Hoback, but as I write this I can't recall if she finally dropped off the back or rode away. Either way, she is one tough girlie.

Not far after the Hoback feed zone, we rolled across a bridge that stood high above the Snake River. As a flew down a short hill and onto the surface of the bridge, I had to dodge a couple of major potholes and I looked at the edge of the bridge and thought to myself how low the guard rail was. I had no idea that earlier that day a fellow rider had gone over the guard rail and fell some 80 feet to his death in the sumer-shallow river. He was far enough ahead of us that we had no idea it had happened. This was the first death in LOTOJA.

After Hoback the ride got interesting once again. The final 25 miles to Teton Village would be on bike paths, highways and suburban streets, and would test my resolve to resist beating someone to a pulp. Someone like Mr. Eccentric or Mrs. F#@king Aerobar, both of whom I'll get to a little later.

At this point in the day fatigue is a major factor with everyone. I was tired. Lord knows, and you all know as well, that my ass hurt. Because people are tired, they group together. But it's when you get tired that you screw up, and if you screw up when your are in a pack of cyclists the results affect a lot of other people. So people get nervous. It made for a stressful final hour.

The first issue came when we rolled in with a big group that was being led by a "team" sponsored by some bank in American Fork or St. George or somewhere. They were rolling along at 18-20 mph, controlling things like they had some sprinter that was going to put it on the line for 763rd place. Well, I got tired of that and the three of us just rolled around them. Didn't attack, just went around them. Didn't bring anyone along, nothing. Not 10 minutes later the bank team, now with their head on their handlebars caught and blew past us, bringing much of that tired group with them. Then they slowed and the group came together again. Then they took off again. And I let them go. Them we caught some of them again and back to an 18 mph speed I had enough. I took off again and pulled Jared with me, unfortunately I lost Mike and had no idea. He didn't know we had gone. I pulled us into a group that was going pretty good. Then I noticed a woman riding along with aerobars, a no no in pack riding because your hands are not near your brake levers and the position makes bike handling more difficult. We didn't stay there for long either.

Then came the bike path, where the large group O was now with was funneled into a small route with some nasty 90° switchbacks. It was around one of these that nearly took me down as a rider came to a near stop in front of me. Finally off the path the group formed back up for the final 10-ish miles. It was also where I met Mr. Eccentric. Probably in his 60s and about my size. The visor on his helmet tipped me off. This dude had a $9000 bike. $400 Sidi shoes. The grossest Camelback I have ever seen. And shorts that were white because the elastic in the lycra was breaking from rot. They were nearly see through and I was happy the sun was dipping behind the mountains so I couldn't tell just how see through. I had ample time to scrutinize because he was fighting me for Jared's wheel. Pick another wheel! That and he would stand to stretch about every 60 seconds. Which means he would slow and create an accordion effect for those behind him. People are weird.

Now I don't recall what happened to that group. I think it just started dissolving as we got closer to the finish line. People took off and fell back. I think we took off but we came across the line pretty much alone. Man, was I glad to be done. Vaughn found us and handed us a beer. One each, not one to share. But butt hurt and I was tired, but shockingly not worn out. Months of long Sunday rides had me conditioned well for the distance, if not for the intensity. Dave finished 3rd in his class, smoking us by a good margin. Final time for Team Paincake/Bohemian Brewery was 11:16.

So now, months later, I feel like I got my revenge for a shitty time in 04 and dropping out in Preston in 05. I was hoping to go under 11 hours, but I am not gnashing at the bit to get back on the horse and go for it this year. I think I may have had enough LOTOJA. I would ride on a team if I could ride from Preston to Montpelier (over Strawberry), or Montpelier to Afton (over Salt River), or the Snake River Gorge section. Or I would even do a duo ride. But the next hellish event I do like this will, hopefully, be an Iron distance triathlon. Think of how many parts I would have to break that race report into...

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