Sunday, October 24, 2010

Long awaited Lotoja post . . . Lotoja Loonies

LOTOJA 2010

WARNING: This is the longest post I have ever written. No joke. So, if you don't feel like reading just look at the pics, the summary at the beginning, and highlights of each leg :) I am mostly doing a detailed post for our memory and for others considering this race.

(To peak your interest here is a photo of Shawn Bradley. Yep, he did the Lotoja. Freak he is tall! I totally finished and he didn't, he he).


(This is all coming from Megann's point of view because we all know Mitch doesn't really write on this blog)

First and foremost, Lotoja was awesome! It was an amazing experience! Here are the main things we learned.

1- Plan on riding 206 miles by yourself. Hopefully, you won't have to but it will prepare your mindset just in case.

2- Use a good light if you plan on riding in the dark. *sigh*

3- Although, you might not be a pro it is wise to wear some of the clothing items that the pros wear. Just trust us.

4- TITS. Not what you usually think of when you hear that phrase. Time In The Saddle.

5- Bring extras.

6- Eat and hydrate. Eat real food.

7- Go to the bathroom before you ride.

On to the story . . .

It all started about 6 years ago. When we were dating we did a lot of mountain biking (which I suck at but that is another story). Mitch had said something about a 206-mile bike ride called the Lotoja and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I told myself I could never do it but I deep down inside always wanted to ride. Then, over the years Mitch talked about getting a road bike. So, we decided to save and get road bikes. We would save and then things would come up and we would have to use the money . . . blah, blah, blah. Then last summer I did a lot of riding on my mountain bike when I didn't have a job and we brought up the subject of riding in the Lotoja again and purchasing the expensive road bikes. Sooo, once I actually had a job we saved more diligently. We especially wanted to do it so that we could raise money for cancer research through the Hometown Heroes program at Huntsman to support family members that have had cancer and to support my mom.

Then, we trained for months and months and months. We went to spin classes and rode on the trails behind our apartment complex. We are lucky to have a greenway trail right behind us. Also, there is this great non-commercial road that goes from Nashville to Natchez, MS. It is 444 miles and is called Natchez Trace. The beginning is very hard. It is gorgeous too!

This summer was brutal. It was the third hottest and most humid summer that has been recorded in Nashville. Great. I DO NOT do well in heat. I would much rather ride in freezing weather than heat. Seriously, I swear I don't sweat correctly. Oh, and then there was this little thing called a flood that messed up the trails for a while.

And then the Lotoja came . . .

We drove to SLC. WAY too expensive to fly our bikes and ourselves.

I spent the next few days really excited and really nervous. Can I really do this????


Day of Lotoja.

We woke up super, duper early in order to get ourselves ready and to start with the first pack at 5:45 because we knew we would need every second in order to complete the race on time.
This is when the tone of our race was set. We are driving to Logan and really have to go to the bathroom. Because you have to get it all out before you ride. Well, Mitch had to stop and go on the side of the road before we got there. We then planned to go at some port-a-potties when we got there.

Crap. None in site. Crap. No really.

Mad rush of people.

Race is about to start.

We hurry to get in line.

We missed the 5:45 time so we started at the 5:48 time.



(Getting ready for the race)


1st leg- Logan to Preston. Dropped water bottles and I fall.

We start at the 5:48 time but really more like 5:50 because we were at the back of the pack. Dang, we have already lost 5 minutes. Already we are wishing we had better lights. Luckily, there are plenty of people around us so it is okay. About 10 miles in it is mainly just us so it gets dark. I go to grab one of my water bottles take a swig and try to put it back into the holder. It falls on the ground! I can't see though so I just say oh well. The tone of race continues. Then about 5-10 miles later Mitch does the same thing!!! We both have never done this before. It just totally messes us up. It was a bit lighter so he stops to actually pick up his water bottle. Yeah, I didn't know he was going to stop so I am drafting behind him and all of the sudden, *crash*! I hit him and fall. The race is already starting out bad, bad, bad. I say a few choice words, we squabble a bit, he picks up the bottle in the midst of the fog and we get back on our bikes.

Did I mention the fog? It was very difficult to see. But, kind of cool. Speaking of cool, it was freezing!!!! Mitch's dad kept asking if we wanted to use foot covers to cover our shoes while riding. I declined thinking that only pros should wear them. I was sooo wrong!!! I could not feel my toes because my shoes are pretty well ventilated. It took about 6 hours for them to finally thaw completely. No joke.

Finally, a bathroom. From then until Preston it was smooth sailing. But, then we had to go to the bathroom again when we got there. So, we lost a lot of time with all the mishaps. Not good for us and our already crunched timetable.

(Here is a picture of me and my buddy. Little did I know that we would become forever puking friends. I looked pretty retarded here. Why the face?)




2nd leg- Preston to Montpelier, Mile 34. Mitch's bike breaks, I cry a lot. We are separated.

So, we are on the way to Montpelier knowing that ahead of us is the first tough climb. Things are going well for several miles and just as we can start to feel some climbing . . . Clink, clank, clink, explode. Mitch's rear derailleur is having issues. We are in a big pack and everyone is saying, oh! You know it is bad. I am behind Mitch. We stop and discover his bike can't be fixed. This was at mile 43. Mile freakin' 43! So, we wave the neutral support vehicle down because Mitch's cell isn't getting service (I forgot mine). They try and try to get a hold of Mitch's parents because luckily Mitch's Dad brought his bike just in case. No luck. We wait. Mitch is trying to convince me to just go ahead. I say no. We wait and wait . . . for about 30-40 minutes. Mitch finally convinces me to go.

I am by myself. We didn't plan this! We were going to draft! We had been training like this for months and months!

I cry. I cry more. Good thing I am wearing sunglasses. But, people are so great. Whenever people see my hometown heroes jersey (as they of course pass me) they cheer me on. If it wasn't for other people cheering me on and knowing that people had donated to cancer research for me to do the race I wouldn't have kept going. Then I see a port-a-potty. I had to stop. I throw up. I was that nervous to do it by myself.

I then get it in a good groove and it is all a blur. Somehow I am doing really well with the altitude and the big climbs. (Remember we live in Nashville. Altitude doesn't exist here). Don't get me wrong, it was hard, but somehow I was doing it. I get to feed zone two hoping to have someone radio to check if Mitch had been picked up or kept going. Then, Miranda and Pete! Seriously! It made my day! People I know! I wasn't hearing back about Mitch so they encourage me to keep going and they would let him know I was going to keep going to Montpelier. The other best part about that stop was the peaches. Yummy!

I make it to the top and then fly down the long hill. It was awesome. I then find a guy to draft with and we trade off and on. Then, we catch up to a group. Nice, finally I am not doing it all alone. I was not planning on doing it all alone. Thanks guy with the Alaska jersey.

I see a sign that says only 126 more miles to go. Um, rude!!!

Ahhh, Montpelier. Familiar faces.



3rd leg- Montpelier to Afton, mile 80. Geneva Summit, puking, King/Queen of the mountain, flying at 50 miles/hour.

I make it to Montpelier and both our families are there. Thank you so much to everyone for supporting us. I hurry and pick up my goodies and they tell me that Mitch is about 30 minutes behind me. So, I leave. The first 5-10 miles were very difficult because again, I was all alone. There was one group that I saw and they offered to let me come with them but they were going just a little too fast for my liking and I just didn't want to wear myself out because I decided that out of the two of us I was going to be the one to finish. I couldn't let everyone down, and I told myself from the very beginning that I was going to finish. So, I kept going. It was windy. It was kind of hard. I was getting nervous again. Then, I am climbing and I just know that this is the beginning of Geneva Summit. I see a port-a-potty again and what do I do? I throw up again. My nerves were definitely getting to me.

I kept going and it is really hard. I mean really hard. I am seriously only going 5-6 miles/hour. People are passing me. But, I don't care. I keep my pace. I make it. Now, I am flying down. It feels so good. Then, I am on a fairly flat area and I try to draft off a guy. He speeds up and I can't draft anymore. Then, he slows down and I pass him. This went on for forever it seems. I kept going the same speed and he just couldn't decide! I wanted to yell at him and tell him that if he would just be consistent we could draft and go faster but whatever. His ego was too big. Then, at some point I see our families and they are cheering me on. I was really struggling up to this point. I wasn't tired I just was I guess, nervous again. They cheer me on and I cry a little because I am so grateful that they are being so supportive. I mean, I am not a pro, not even close. I am probably going to finish last and they are still being supportive. They also tell me that Mitch is 20-25 minutes behind me. I am a bit elated because I think just maybe he will catch up to me and we can finish this race together!

I get re-energized. Oh, if I remember right there was another port-a-potty that I throw up at. Dang nerves. And I'm off again. I ride for a while and see Miranda and Pete again. They know just when to cheer me on. I am headed up King/Queen of the Mountain. Seriously, at one point I was going 4.5 miles/hour. Kind of pathetic but I had a good cadence going so it was okay. I am going to make it to the top. A girl in pink passes me. I am like what the heck. It motivated me to keep going. I make it to the top, supporters are cheering. Then, I am flying. I am flying down the hill at 50 miles/hr. The fastest I have ever gone is 47 miles/hr. I am feeling giddy and scared at the same time. I am thinking this is awesome but at the same time I could fly off the upcoming overpass and no one would know I was down there. I also think about getting a flat. Luckily, I make it okay. I pass the pink girl. Kind of made me happy. So, I guess I am good at down-hills? Ha! Then, we draft off each other. We had a good tail-wind and we were flying. It was great. Breathtaking actually. The weather on this day was perfect. There wasn't a cloud and it was just beautiful. It did seem like it took a while to get to Afton though. I don't know why. As we are almost there the girl gets off at the relay area. Oops I was drafting with a relay rider. No wonder she passed me on the climb. She had way more energy than me!!

4th leg- Afton to Alpine, mile 125. A blur and hitting the Wall.




This was all a blur. I drank a Coke before setting off. I have never liked Coke so much in my life. I meant to open it up before we put them in the cooler. I should have. Carbonated Coke kind of played a number on my stomach while riding but it sure gave me energy. Like I said, this was all a blur. I just rode my heart out. Thanks for the thumbs up Miranda. I got really tired about 25 miles before Alpine. Seriously, I don't know how I pushed through but I did. There was a group (of guys I might add) that I was riding on and off with. We all were kind of hitting a huge wall but then all of the sudden we were going at a smooth pace. I look at the time and I realize I am getting close and that I am going to make it to Alpine before the cut-off time. Exciting!

I ride into Alpine and cross the line before I get my food.

Mitch is close behind me but I wasn't sure how far out so I just decide to go. Only 47 more miles!

5th leg Alpine to Jackson Hole, Teton Village, mile 159. Ticked, ticked, ticked. I call it the Lotoja plus!


(Part of the support crew at Alpine)

I am feeling pretty good.

It is so gorgeous at this part. There is a river and beautiful mountain scenery. I am doing okay. I am alone but okay. I know at this point that the only way I can make it on time is if I go 20 miles/hr. Not happening. At this point I just want to finish. As I am going down a hill I hear cheering and I see a red truck. Our red truck! Mitch is inside. But, his bike is on the truck. What?? He tells me that his Dad's bike is killing him and he had to stop. I. was. so. mad. What the heck?! He couldn't finish with me!? I was ticked and he knew it. Sorry Mitch! So, he leaves. I cry out of frustration. Then, I just keep going.

There are only a few of us out there. I hear cheers here and there of "keep going!" I keep going. My chain falls off a few times. I just have to keep going. I know I am getting close but it just feels like forever. Everyone told me that once you can see the Tetons you still have about 15 miles to go. I am just hoping to see the Tetons. I forgot to tell you my bike computer wasn't working right so I had no idea what mile I was at. I know that the last feed zone is coming, Hoback Junction. Tricia Buck told me she would be there. I am seriously riding for Hoback. I see Tricia and it gives me some oomph to keep going. Thanks Tricia!! I am doing okay. There are a few stragglers out there besides me. One girl I was riding by gets a flat. Bummer! She was so close! I pass her and just keep going. I see the Tetons! It was gorgeous and so exciting to know I was getting close! I see a sign that says the turn for the Lotoja is coming up. I am gearing up and then all of the sudden a car comes up and says I have to keep going straight because once it gets dark it will be too hard to find the end if I turn. So, I keep going straight. I am pretty upset at this point. Ticked in fact. They can't do this to me! I just keep going. I turn on my light. Crap. It is really bad when there aren't other lights by me. I knew I should have purchased a better light!!!! Because it is so dark, I really can't go my normal speed. A. I have no idea where I am going and B. It is too dangerous to ride too fast. I was only going 12 miles/hr. This was the worst part of the race. I was fuming. I was so mad that Mitch had not checked on me. I was all by myself. I was seriously talking aloud. I was saying that I could be dead by the side of the road and no one would know. I was mad. I wanted to go faster but I couldn't. Too dangerous. Then, I ride, ride, ride. It was an eternity. At one point, I seriously contemplated stopping. I as so angry. My legs just kept going though. I then enter Teton Village area and there is a sign that says Teton Village 1o miles. 10 freakin' miles! I was so mad! But, I think the adrenaline from the anger kept me going. I had no idea where the end was I wasn't sure If I needed to keep going straight or turn left. Oh, earlier some stupid driver yells at me. I yell a not so polite word back. And . . . I might have given the finger. Anywhoo, luckily my Dad drives up to tell me where to go. I pass a biker ahead of me because he was making me go too slow. Then, I make it to the end!!! Wahoo! I actually did the Lotoja + because according to my bike computer I had hit the 206 miles and I know it wasn't working for several miles earlier in the race. The excitement only lasted a second because I soon chewed Mitch out for not coming to check on me or tell me how close I was. Again, sorry Mitch!


(The awesome Lotoja tat. I forgot to take a picture of mine)


So, after a novel of a post, there you have it. I finished! I didn't finish on time but oh well. I finished!!! It was amazing. I told myself that If I could do the Lotoja I could do anything. It is a month later and I have a couple of goals set and I am doubting myself. Have I already forgotten what I achieved?

Are we going to do it next year? Yes! Our goal is sub-12. It is a lofty goal but we are going to do it! We also have a few goals to do other races and a triathlon. Though, for the last month we have been doing not as intense biking. We needed a break. We have been mountain biking, camping, playing racquetball, and taking dance classes. It has been a nice break but I can tell I am getting pudgy! Time to hit the bike hard again.

Other lessons learned? TITS. We did a lot of time in the saddle and we were actually prepared. I was pretty pleased actually. But, we could have done even more. Put a new battery in your bike computer and heart-rate monitor strap. Drink flat coke. More sunscreen. Don't cry so much you baby!

One last and most important note. Thank you all for supporting us. Do you know that with your donations you are allowing cancer patients to be able to participate in clinical trials? They are often in the clinical trials as a last resort. You are allowing terminal cancer patients as well as future cancer patients to live longer. You never know, you could be a beneficiary of the treatments in clinical trials today.

(At the Hometown Heroes breakfast the day after the race)

Thank you Mitch for training with me. I am not as fast as you and you pushed me to do my best. Thank you!

Thank you Val for your awesome advice. Thank you to all our family members(Our Moms, Dads, siblings +Pete, and Grandma!), that came and supported us. Thank you Ash for the socks. Thank you family members and friends for your supportive words and donations.

(Thanks Mom and Grandma for the yummy food for our drive home!)


Until next year! LOTOJA 2011!!

(Us in Jackson. Love the antler arch! I had never been until Lotoja. What a cute place. I also think the Tetons are so pretty! I have a new love for Wyoming. Who knew!)

11 comments:

Clare said...

Wow, I'm seriously impressed. I'm glad other people have the ambition and dedication to do things like this because I surely don't!

Donna said...

Wow! Miranda I am sooo proud of you and your accomplishment of not giving up and pusing on with the Lotoja. You are one brave girl and can accomplish anything you put your mind too. Wonderful post....:)

Julia M. said...

I am inspired! I've always wanted to do it, too. Maybe I will someday. I guess it's better to do it sooner than later! You're a superstar!

McKenzie said...

Megann, I read every word of your longest post ever! I loved hearing your story. And...Congratulations!! What an awesome accomplishment.

Ashley said...

4 words for you Meg... you are the shiz!

Seriously though you are awesome! What a huge accomplishment.

Ben and KoriAnn said...

You know, for a minute there I was thinking oh man, that would be so awesome to do, I want to do that... and then you kept talking about throwing up several times and I decided against it. Haha! You totally rock! That is so cool that you finished the race, you are awesome!! Love ya!

Bethany and Thomas said...

You are AMAZING. I loved this post and I am very impressed. What an awesome cause for cancer support!

Ross Quigley said...

Um...WOW! That was an awesome story! Good job out there. I really dig the LOTOJA + idea since you ride all the way to Jackson Hole only to ride ten more miles to Teton Village. Seriously Megann, way to go, you rocked it. Oh an one more thing, Shawn Bradley on a bike? I have to see that!

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Jenn and Chris Rasmussen said...

hey can you send me your address?

Congrats on the race. I think that is awesome and a hugh accomplishment.

Thad said...

Found this searching for LOTOJA stuff. I rode with Mitch up until Alpine. He really did give it everything he had.