By David Ward
I went for a ride last Saturday. I rode out from my driveway and up Emigration Canyon to the top, down the other side to Mountain Dell Reservoir, and back home. 15 miles in 1 hour 12 minutes. I know. That’s slow. But for someone who has not ridden at all over the winter, except for a spin class here and there, that was not too bad.
It was only February 15, a little to early to get too rambunctious about the coming cycling season. But right now, it was unseasonably warm (nearly 60˚ F), and the skiing was not very good. So I hit the road, and that ride turned my mind and my heart to the coming cycling season.
But first, a look back. As I detailed in couple of columns last year (see my Speaking of Spokes columns in the June and September issues of Cycling Utah), my season was interrupted by hip replacement surgery on June 3rd. My annual ritual of riding the LOTOJA (a 206 mile, one day race from Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming in September) was in serious jeopardy. My doctor told me the hip would be no problem. Getting trained after a month off the bike, however, would be another issue.
I detailed in the September issue of Cycling Utah my post-surgery preparation (or more specifically, cramming) for this race. I left my readers hanging, however, by failing to report in the October issue on how the LOTOJA went. Well, it went mostly good. I was slower than usual, particularly on the climbs, but my goal was simply to make it, hopefully before the time cutoff. I was on the margin as I hit the Snake River Canyon. At this point, I was feeling a bit rejuvenated after recovering somewhat from the climbs over Galena Summit and Salt River Pass, and the long slog through Star Valley, and it appeared I could beat the cut-off.
Then, as I was nearing Hoback Junction, suddenly my rear tire blew. Not just the tube, but the tube and tire both. Fortunately for me, a support vehicle came along about 10 minutes later, and even more fortunately for me, they had both a tube and a tire. Working as quickly as they could, they replaced the tube and tire, mounted the wheel to the bike, and sent me off. But that set me back about a half hour, and that half hour was enough to make me miss the time cut-off.
Nevertheless, being so close, I was determined to finish. About 10 miles from the finish, you exit from a bike path onto the main road. My support crew, my wife and daughters, were waiting there. It was dark by then, so my wife pulled behind me and followed me the rest of the way to the finish, both lighting my way and protecting me from traffic from behind..
I didn’t officially finish the LOTOJA, but I made it. I get a lot of positive strokes to my ego for finishing the LOTOJA only three months after having my hip replaced. But in truth, the hip was never an issue. From the day after the surgery, when they first got me up on the hip, it did not hurt. There was a lot of trauma to the bones, muscle and body due to the surgery, but the hip felt good. The real issue was recovering from the surgery and gaining the necessary conditioning. It was getting back on the back only two months before the LOTOJA, and only being able to do the really heavy training the month before, that made the LOTOJA harder than it otherwise might have been (which is hard enough).
Well, that is all past now, and I have a new year before me. I am excited, hoping to have a complete year of good cycling. It is still ski season, and so I will not be doing any serious riding for a couple of months, but then I plan to make a good year of it.
We are lucky to have so much to choose from here in the intermountain region. We have plenty of flats for those who don’t like to climb, plenty of mountains for heavy duty climbing, and a broad variety in between. We also have plenty of events in which to join. There is a healthy road, mountain and cross racing scene. And there is a great variety of recreational rides, many of which support worthy charities.. There are races and recreational rides nearly every weekend. Browse the Calendar of Events in this and subsequent issues of Cycling Utah, and use Cycling Utah’s on-line calendars at http://www.cyclingutah.com/event-calendars/.
Except for the LOTOJA, I never race. Actually, I don’t even race the LOTOJA. I ride to see how well I can do and to finish. So for me, it is recreational events I look to do. I have a few personal favorites. I usually start my century season off with the Cycle Salt Lake Century. Currently scheduled for May 17th, this is an almost completely flat ride from the Utah State Fair Park out to Antelope Island and back. But for those anxious to hit the road immediately, there are numerous excellent events beginning this very weekend and continuing every weekend through the fall.
We are often out of the country in June visiting our daughter who works for the Foreign Service at whatever location she is currently assigned. This year, we will be in Serbia which I understand has excellent cycling, and I am hoping to hook up with a touring company for a 2-3 day bike tour.
In July, I plan to do a relatively new event (certainly new for me), the Gran Fondo Kootenai. This two-day gran fondo, July 5-6, through the Kootenai mountains of northwest Montana features fantastic scenery and a lot of climbing. August will find me doing the Summit Challenge, a century ride through some beautiful scenery in Summit County, Utah which I rode last year for the first time in preparation for the LOTOJA, or the Epic 150, a 150 mile loop starting and ending in Saratoga Springs, Utah and also an excellent preparatory ride for the LOTOJA.
September, of course, brings me to the LOTOJA. There has been talk this year of doing this as a family relay team. If so, it may end my string of 25 individual LOTOJAs stretching from 1986 to last year. But at 63, I might be alright with that. I will know within the next month if there is enough interest and dedication in the family to do this as a relay team.
Often, as with this last year, this has been the end of my event season. After finishing the LOTOJA, I often fall into the “get everything done that I have been putting off as I prepare for the LOTOJA” routine. I am hoping to avoid that by picking up an event or two to do thereafter. In particular, I am thinking again of doing the Tri-States Gran Fondo. Occurring this year on October 11, this 112 mile ride begins and ends in Mesquite while climbing and descending the fantastic and scenic geography between there and St. George, UT.
Just writing about this gets me excited. I think maybe it is time to get back outside for another ride to begin my preparations for these great events. Now is the time for you to also plan your season. Begin with Cycling Utah’s event calendars where you will find the region’s most complete list of cycling events. Then make your plans. And have a great cycling season.