What does it take to finish? That question has rolled through my mind during the summer of ’10 as my wife Shelly and I trained for LoToJa, a 206 mile bike ride from Logan, Utah To Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It takes training, miles and miles. It takes fuel and hydration. It takes determination and belief in the goal. Life is similar to the bike ride. Life has ups and downs, takes training to achieve goals and isn’t always easy but in the end we hope the finish is worthwhile.
Our day’s life started with a 4am alarm. We registered in the “fun ride” group. The folks who named it fun ride defiantly have a sense of humor. I left with Shelly and her friend Brandi from the house in the dark early hours of the morning with bike lights shining. We met other riding partners, Paul Badger who was riding the 206 miles for the 4th time and new comers Allyson and Chandler Reed. Ryan Reed was burned a week before in a house boat accident so he called to see if Ally and son Chandler could tag along. No problem if they wanted to go slow.
I was hoping to leave with the first group at 5:45 but jumped in the second group of about 50 riders leaving at 5:48. Our starting temperature of 38 degrees was a bit cold on a bike. The first 34 miles follow country roads through Cache Valley to Preston Idaho. Paul and I were in the front all the way. My goal was to not ride hard the first section and make sure we didn’t over do ourselves early in the day. (I think that paid off) Just out of Trenton the temperature dropped to about 29 degrees and we all felt the cold bite through our layers. Our fingers were semi functional as we rolled into our first stop in Preston and I was having trouble squeezing the water bottle. My brother Bill has supported family riders for years at this stop. Thanks to him for all he support. I thought how important family and friends are along life’s journey.
Life has many ups and downs. Our first up is Strawberry Canyon climbing to 7424 feet. Our goal was to climb at our own pace and wait for each other at the neutral feed zone near the top. Shelly dropped a chain before the climb and it took a few minutes to get it back on. Paul continued with Chandler rolling to the top. We would not see Paul again during the day. We traded Paul for Barry Noorda who was at the neutral feed and had left with another group 3 minutes before us at the start. Some of us suffered from the cold and hard climb much like trails in life. Some struggle with school, careers, (some of us more then others) or maybe health. Who said life was easy?
Leaving Montpelier the route climbs up a canyon to the base of another mountain pass. Geneva summit rises 6923 feet and we climb 1,000 feet in nine miles to the top. We all settled into our own pace and regrouped on top. Dropping down the other side is always more fun to work with gravity and not against. The road winds its way up Salt River canyon where I experienced my first leg cramp of the day. I had to pull over stretch off my bike while the others kept riding. Shelly waited for me and we had a fun ride up the road together for several miles. At 106 miles another feed zone rests at the bottom of Salt River Pass. We regrouped there and got ready for the last of 3 climbs. Salt River rises 1,300 feet in 11 miles with a 7 percent grade the last 3 miles and tops out at 7,360 feet. Barry was not in the best of condition and was having a hard time eating and drinking so he told us to go ahead without him. This section I thought about how sometimes life hits us with obstacles. My legs were feeling the effects of a long day but it is how we continue life’s road that determines our finish.
Dropping off Salt River pass is always exhilarating. My fasted recorded speed was off that summit a few years back. Today I only hit 49 mph and Shelly hit her highest clocked speed of 42 mph. Yes I know, somebody has more weight and can descend faster. At the bottom we got on with another husband and wife team and a bonus tail wind. I stayed behind the two until Afton. I was very appreciative as we chatted going into Afton and I thanked the guy who was from Bozeman Montana. The tail wind and his effort gave me a much needed rest.
from the right: me, Chandler, Ally, Shelly, Brandi, ??
My least favorite section of the ride is the 34 miles between Afton and Alpine in Star Valley. It’s a rolling hilly section usually with a head wind. By this time my shoulders ache and I’m not feeling the best. We had a little head wind but I suffered with leg cramps again and twice had to get off to stretch. As mentioned before I've struggled during these miles in years past but today I was with others and almost enjoyed the section for the first time. I was exhausted from the 160 plus miles but thoughts of life's challenges emotionally drained me as I reflected on family and life and somehow was fueled to ride on from those thoughts. My last cramp 5 miles out of Alpine made the last 10 mile section seem longer than any other. We rolled into Alpine ready for our final push to the finish.
The ride up Snake River canyon is always a pleasant ride even after already logging 160 miles. As we started the final section our spirits strengthened and we all had an adrenaline rush, so much so, we rolled past the final feed zone and kept rolling toward the finish. The coolness of the canyon, the beauty of the Snake River and the bordering pine covered mountains fueled my senses.
Shelly and Brandi riding up Snake River Canyon, less then 40 miles to go...
After 180 miles and all day on a bike I start to think of the day. The day was filled with ups and downs and a bit longer then I wanted but the snow capped Tetons were shadowing the finish and I was pleased with our effort. With 10 miles left Shelly rolled to the side of me and said, “Let’s get this party over with.” I was glad she was ready to finish strong, I’m not sure I was. I started to think about how we finish our day and how we finish our life. The two have a strong bond for me this summer. The trials of the day mixed with pain and pleasure but joy and happiness with family and friends reflected in my mind.
I burned about 14,000 calories during the day. A lot of food and water is consumed riding 206 miles. My daughter Sam and friend Lexi drove the course stopping at the feed zones, filling the bottles of ice water, bringing the food labeled for each stop; cold pizza, pb&j, rice crispy treats, hammer gel and perpetuam, string cheese, boiled eggs and more. Shelly over prepares but wants choices because we never know what will sound good. I have a lot of support teams in life. Many family members, friends, coworkers and others have helped me along life’s way. I've never received more text messages, emails and calls congratulating me with an event. I think the messages were more dirrected to Shelly but I'll still take them.
I'm forever grateful for those who have pulled me in my life. Thankful for the examples, sacrifices and hard work done on my behalf so I can enjoy this ride through life. I love you Dad, you finished strong. You finished well.
The finish; yes others were faster, yes there are things we could do different to better our time(like being faster at the feed zones) but we did what we did. Like life we can always improve our decisions but at the end of the day we live our lives and we shouldn't second guess our successes. I wouldn't change anything during the long day. Yes, we found the finish.
Shelly and me after the finish