Tuesday, September 27, 2011

LOTOJA 2011!

I had quite a unique experience a few weeks ago! I got to do LOTOJA. I know!! So amazing, right? LOTOJA for those who don't know is a huge bike race that takes you from LOgan TO JAckson in Wyoming. It is a 206 mile trek but Tricia and I did more like 400.
I would like to think that we are just total overachievers but really we were not actually riding bikes. We were driving the support vehicle. So my question is if I was only support crew WHY DO I HAVE A BLISTER?! Apparently I can get blisters just by watching others exercise! We were the support crew for B. Rad and a couple of his friends from work.
Here is our story:  I met Tricia at her house late Friday evening to start our trek up to meet B. Rad in Logan.  So the first thing out of her mouth is... "I am so nervous!".  I started laughing because that is just how I was feeling.  We joked that we were going to need a blessing just to get us through this.  We laughed so hard imagining B. Rad's face if we arrived and asked him to get a friend to help give us both a blessing.  Because, after all, we are going to have to drive a lot of miles tomorrow.  Rough stuff.   
So we get there and B. Rad tries to make us feel better by giving us a rundown of what he needs at which stop and who might be with him and what he may need and how to provide for any emergency.  So he basically scares us enough that I can't sleep very well (or it could have been the spring in my back and the air conditioner that sounded like a jet taking off every time it turned on).
The next morning was hectic as we tried to get cleaned up and ready to go by 5:30.  We packed up and headed to the car where B. Rad attempted to introduce to the group as they were riding away to the starting line.  He was kind of distracted (we assumed it was because Tricia and I had a lot of driving to do) so it wasn't a very thorough introduction.
OFFICIAL RACE STUFF:  It all started Saturday morning bright and early. Actually it was more dark and early. Here is a group at the starting line. We assumed that the boys were in there somewhere.  After they left we had a little over 12 hours to the finish line.  Lucky for you that gives me just oodles of time to tell you all the funny stuff that was happening in the background.
Kelli & Tricia: So we get in the car to go and realize we have NO IDEA what we are doing!  We had these men tossing stuff in the car and telling us what they needed when they got to the first stop.  So we are calling the boys by different names that mainly have to do with what we were handed to carry for them.  Gallon guy, Picky Drinker, Guy Who Didn't Tell Us Anything and B. Rad. 

 ORS: The boys raced from Logan to Preston ID for their first stop.  They had to go 34 miles.
K&T:We run by Walmart for some ice and sandwich bags.  Then head to Preston.  We get there and have to park  4 blocks from the park where the stop will be and then we gather together food, drinks and gear for 5 different men.  We had no idea who needed what so we packed the entire car onto our backs and started tracking it all to the park.  I had to run back later for the camera only to forget to take any pictures at this stop.  The only picture I took was this one of Tricia running in place because we were freezing cold.  
 The riders wear ankle bracelets that track them and keep track of their times and log them in when they reach certain checkpoints.  The cool thing is that as they pass the checkpoint it will send a text to the support crew.  The bad thing is that the support crew has no idea where the actual checkpoint is... So I get a text saying B. Rad is in Preston so we get all geared up to switch water bottles but B. Rad doesn't come.  10 minutes later we are starting to think that he missed a turn and led the entire group off course.  
We saw one guy with an Adobe jersey but since we didn't know actual names we just yelled "ADOBE"!  Um, Yeah, he wasn't part of the group so we just felt like creepy Adobe fans.   
It was interesting to see the different riders and support crews interact.  There was one woman with 4 little kids, 1 strapped on her chest.  Her husband came riding up and she grumpily said "I don't have any water".  He gently replied "That is alright.  Do you have any Gatorade?"  "No. You didn't pack it in the right bag."  Without blinking an eye he said "Ok I guess I will just keep going then."  He kissed his children and rode off.  SO SAD!  
More experienced support crews had signs, balloons, whistles and they also had prearranged to meet at certain zones that were numbered for the convenience of finding your group.  We had no prearranged meeting spot so we hung out at the bathrooms.  It worked.  They came and we laid out all of the contents of the back of the car although some of them were confused by the jack and soccer ball.  (so we may have brought too much stuff)  There were a couple of new guys.  We were never introduced to them but we did end up with some guys shirt and gloves. It was crazy to say the least.  They were in good spirits and excited to be heading out!
ORS: The race would now take them 46 miles to Montpelier, ID.  60% of this leg is uphill with some very steep sections. (7% grade)  Tough leg.  Weeds out many.  Here is the elevation map showing the climb.  
K&T: The boys rode 46 miles we did over 80!  We drove on dirt roads through farms and over dells.  We rode in a very large caravan and were very grateful they had watered down the roads so we weren't choking on each others dust.  

We pulled into Montpelier (feed zone 3)and found a place within 2 blocks of the park.  We brought everything (except the jack and soccer ball) again because we didn't know who we were in charge of supporting at this stop.  This time we had arranged to meet them at zone 4.  We tried to find the other support crews so we could hand off all the extra stuff but we didn't know how to find them  other than walking around yelling HEY ADOBE SUPPORT CREW?!?  That would be silly.
 The boys came soon and they were hot and tired from their big climb but they were anxious to be off on their next leg.  

Our journey consisted of many hours of driving followed by a few frantic minutes of refilling bottles, handing out snacks and sending riders on their way again.  Montpelier was where we gained a new rider to "take care of".  The guy who handed us his clothes told his support gal to get his box of stuff and give it to us because he was staying with us.  I would like to think it was because of our superior support crew ways but it was really because he planned on staying with B. Rad and Verl. New Guy we called him (I think we figured out his name was Conrad when his old support crew handed us a big box of supplies that said "Conrad".  We were cursing his name as we hauled an extra box of supplies back to the car. 

ORS: The next leg for our racers was 46 miles of uphill horror.  There are two huge steep climbs and the last climb is call King of the Mountain.  The hard part of this climb is that most boys train by going on century rides (100 miles).  They hit 100 miles in this ride right before the King of the Mountain Climb. 

K&T:Tricia and I started out on our way to meet the boys in Afton.  We knew that the next leg would be killer but we were excited because for the first time the blue line (cars) got to ride on the same road as the red line (bikers).  We met up with Team Adobe after their first summit and on the lower part of the second summit before Feed Zone 4.  We tried to take pictures.  
This first one shows the Adobe's Team favorite group.  Team Give.  Let me explain. When groups of riders travel together the leader can actually "pull" the people directly behind them. The racers talk about how they can be pushing as hard as they can and only going about 17 mph but if they tuck in behind someone else they can speed up to 25 with less effort.  Team members take turns "pulling" their group so that is why in races like this they travel in packs.  So for the Adobe team they tucked in behind Team Give.  They really like the name and thought next year they would rename themselves "Team Take" because they really appreciated being pulled by Team Give.  Glad we got a picture.  
Here is a familiar behind!  That is B. Rad!  We drove by and cheered and then stopped and took more pictures and then drove by again.  We loved riding near them.  

 So after driving past them several times we realized we were climbing some steep hills and we started to worry because these were REALLY STEEP HILLS.  We started to see bikers who were obviously struggling and many pained expressions.  
Tricia took this photo of the Adobe group and said "Look B. Rad is smiling."  Then we zoomed in on his face and realized it was more of a grimace than a smile. (fourth guy back)
  Shoot.  Our sisterly concern kicked in and we were worried because we wanted him to succeed but man it did not look fun.  We decided that he may get to a point where having us following him and taking pictures may not be what he needs at this point so we decided to head to Afton.  But we wanted to do something so we sent a text to Mom and told her to pray for B. Rad.  
We kept driving and it kept getting steeper and steeper and around every corner we kept saying certainly this will be the summit but no it wasn't and then we reached the bottom of King of the Mountain.  Holy craparoli!  We hadn't even started on the steepest part.  We quietly climbed the mountain and headed down to Afton. 
We found a sweet parking place and headed to zone 4.  We met another zone 4 family.  This time the Dad came in and the family was so excited for him.  He came riding up and proceeded to tell them that he "totally rocked that!".  Another guy came in and his support crew was more like a pit crew.  He pulled up and boom, bang, bing.  2 new water bottles on the bike, new food in his pouches and off he rode.  Under 30 seconds.  Incredible.  Then the good news.  We got a text from B. Rad that they had reached the summit!   Woo hoo!  Good news indeed.  We were so thrilled for them.  A while later they rode into town.  

They were very excited that they had made it.  They were pretty high!  Well deserved I must say!  

ORS: 34 miles to Alpine.  No big climbs but a huge headwind and rumble strips are the big obstacles on this leg. 
They headed off to Alpine and we got a drink and headed off after them.  We chased them for a while and took more photos.  Here is B. Rad pulling his group.
 We kept telling him to look at us but he said he would run into the guard rail. Sounds like he needs to work on his steering.  Just saying. 

 We pulled into Alpine and I have to tell you the Dad who totally rocked the last leg looked like he was on his last leg.  He was off his bike and sitting on an ice pack, had ice around his neck and ice on both his knees.  It was so sad but it was a good reminder that though the big climbs may be over there is still a lot of riding to do. 
Here is B. Rad pulling into Alpine. Here the request from the boys was for some Coke.  They were really tired of Gatorade and Electrolyte water.  Both Verl and B. Rad said their feet hurt and took their shoes off for a minute.  I totally understood because this is when I realized I had a blister on my foot.  I didn't tell them because I am not one to complain.  That's just how I roll. 
ORS: Final leg from Alpine to Jackson Hole.  This is the beautiful leg.  Slightly uphill all the way in but the views of the Teton's are magnificent.  

So you see the blue car line that is NOT with the red bike line.  Well we followed the blue line.  Apparently we were the ONLY car that followed the map because we were all alone in the beautiful canyon we drove through but after being in a huge caravan all day it seemed a bit strange and made us doubt we were even on the right road!  We did finally made it to the finish line!   Woo hoo!  We rock. Kind of. 
We waited there for a while and at long last we saw our little group coming in. Here is the video of it but you should probably turn down your volume because we were excited for the big finish! 

Here is the Adobe group Justin, Shawn, B. Rad, Conrad, Verl and Jonathan. I think.   I am pretty sure about B. Rad and Verl. They finished at about 12 hours 23 minutes I do believe and I am pretty sure that it was because they had an awesome support crew!  

Seriously though.  B. Rad.  You done good.  You rocked it.  You finished strong.  You were awesome and we couldn't have been more excited and proud of you!  Well done.