The Lore and Legend of Lotoja

Lotoja, you may be aware, is a European-style road suffer fest involving 200-some odd miles of distance across northern Utah, southeast Idaho and western Wyoming. It starts in Logan, UT, and ends in Jackson, WY (hence the name: LO-to-JA). When I first started out with the road bike, it was my goal to race it, but I’ve since lost the inkling. Nonetheless, I’m still planning on doing it as part of a work relay team this September. Should be a blast.

Okay, so I’ve heard some mixed reviews of this endurance road bike race, and I’d like to lay them all out for you to consider. Please add to or take away from any of the following statements as you see appropriate:

"It’s not so bad." This one came from the wrench who put my road bike together before I picked it up. He said he’d done Lotoja as part of a relay, and it really wasn’t as bad as everyone had said. Hey, come on, of course the relay was easier than the whole thing, that’s a ridiculous comparison.

"I’ve done a marathon, and Lotoja was harder." This came from an experienced rider in my Tuesday-night ride group. I trust his wisdom, but it sounds like he may have gotten separated from the peleton that day and gotten stuck riding the whole thing by himself.

"Yeah, I’ve done Lotoja. It’s a good ride; you should do it." Remember that girl I told you I outsprinted at my first Teton Pass Climb (and who totally beat me the next year)? Yeah, this one came from her right after I’d pulled ahead and gotten my hollow victory. At the time I wondered if that was a revenge statement, like, "Hey, you may have beat me today, but I’ll kick your keyster in September …" or something. It would have been true, too. I found her Lotoja time as 9.5 hours. Ugh …

"You know I did Lotoja one week and I did a marathon a few weeks later. The day after Lotoja, I was fine, but for a week after the marathon I was sore." Could it be that you trained exclusively for Lotoja and your cycling legs weren’t very well-suited to running? Just a thought. This one came from a co-worker who actually pulled out of Lotoja 25 miles from the finish after racing through the slush and sleet and into the darkness of a delayed race. He says he would’ve kept going if he’d brought lights with him (on that note, what do you guys think of this?).

"There was no way I was going to finish that." This came from a guy at the finish of the 2005 edition who had pulled out after the race got snowed/sleeted on at the top of the Strawberry Summit above Montpelier, ID. After hearing about it, I’d have probably pulled out about there too. Either way, that particular ordeal amounted in some hardcore motivational speeches from coworkers about "sticking it out despite the circumstances." You know–when the going gets tough, the tough shiver and turn blue … whatever.

"The first year I did Lotoja was on a mountain bike with four weeks of training on a dare. I came in at 11 hours and had amazing time. … Regardless of how you race it, there’s nothing but smiles that beautiful Autumn Sunday morning." This is a quote from the ‘Course Advice’ section on the Lotoja web page: Lotoja Classic. I showed this to Botched, and his response was "I love it when freaks of nature say ‘ah, just kick back and relax, it’ll be fun!’".

P.S. Here’s a photo, I can only assume to be of Dave Francis, last year’s winner. I’m in the background of this photo, I believe, but I don’t think you can really see me.


17 thoughts on “The Lore and Legend of Lotoja

  1. Zed

    I\’ve got to be completely honest, I\’m more into the shorter distance races. Lotoja\’s great and all, but I don\’t know that it\’s my thing.

  2. Unknown

    Caloi, it will be, eventually.  What happens is you get old and slow.  Trying to go fast for 2 hours is no longer possible, because you can\’t even go fast for 20 minutes.  However, you can go slow for a long time, hence the endurance events.

  3. BIg Mike In Oz

    It\’s only 200 miles.  Just get into it, you can take all day if you want.  I\’ll wait for you at the finish.

  4. Jill

    I\’ve never actually had any interest in riding the Lotoja, but now I kinda do. I can definitely see how, in racing it seriously, you\’d have to train for a long endurance event and forgo some of the speed work you\’re doing. It\’s like comparing running a marathon to a 5K. They may both be runs, but you\’re going to train completely different for one or the other. Anyway, I know a handful of people who have done it. It\’s always the same story. They swear they\’ll never go back, and they always do.

  5. Scott

    I\’ve heard the same "I\’ve done it and I\’ll never do it again" about the Ride Across Indiana. 162 miles, one day. I\’m finally going to give it a shot this year. And I\’ll probably say the same thing and show up again next year.

  6. Zed

    Jill, Psycho- Really? My co-workers use it as an ego thing, like, "Hey, so you\’re doing Lotoja this year, aren\’t ya? Oh, come on!" Yeah, I\’m thinking I might attempt the whole thing some time if I can convince my wife to let me purchase some carbon-fiber. In the meantime, most cyclists agree with me that aluminum is just not the right frame material to be spending all day on. Too inflexible.
    Yeah, Jill, you ought to do it. If you do, I\’ll look for the flatbar Ibis and see if I can spot you among the 1,000 riders at the start. I don\’t think I\’ll be riding that first leg on my relay team, but you never know, I might see you out there.


    I did the Lotoja in 1990 and 1991, and after a 15 year hiatus from cycling due to career changes, school and family, and plan on returning this year, and I\’ll be 49 this year. It\’s a race that teaches you about yourself. It\’s as much a mental test as it is physical. You learn where all the weak points are in your cycling training, like nutrition, hills, pacing yourself, and everything else. It\’s the refiners fire, and you come out of the experience a much improved cyclist.
       The first year I rode the race, it was just to be able to complete it. The weather was similar to last years ride, wind, rain, snow, and cold. Only half the riders finished, and I can say I was one of them. It got to the point where i felt there was nothing left physically, which occurred at the Astoria springs feed zone. I stopped and picked up some apple slices from my support crew, my wife, jumped back on the bike and rode it to the finish, with a time of 11:30. I was so tired when we got to the hotel that I couldn\’t even eat. By the next morning though I felt great, so I went and did a run on the ski resort trails.
       The second year was a totally different experience. The weather cooperated and I was feeling pretty strong. I actually ended up leading my class for a large portion of the race up until the base of Tin Cup pass, some of it not by choice when some of the group wouldn\’t share the lead on the paceline. But that was a good learning experience.  We ended up finishing the race with a sprint for the finish, with me ending up in 4th place after getting a cramp in my calf and having to back off the pace, NOTE: electrolytes are very important in preventing cramps. My finishing time was 9:33 and I really felt pretty good. I got to have a great dinner and spend the evening enjoying the activities in Teton Village. AS a side note, I had trained all year on my mountain bike and borrowed my friends rode bike to do the race on.
       I\’m looking forward to the race this year with a little fear because of the time away from the sport, or maybe I should say its a strong respect for this race because of all it can give to you, but it makes you better.

  8. Zed

    Those are already some pretty good times, Farrell. I wouldn\’t be the least bit surprised if you kick my team\’s rear this year. That\’s wild that you did all your training on a mt bike. Was that tough to make the transition from one to the other? Maybe you can try it on a 29\’er with slicks now that they\’re popular in the mtb world, eh?


    The switch from the mt bike to the road bike was a challenge because of the different positioning from what the muscles were use to, but great because it was so much lighter and easy to pedal.  I picked me up a new road bike last year so it\’s playing into the training much more significantly this year. I\’m riding a Felt F45 now.

  10. Zed

    It seems like mtb\’ing is pretty good strength conditioning. It just seems like you can build lung power better on a road bike than you can on the mtb. Or maybe it\’s just me.

  11. Scott

    Man, I\’m riding an aluminum Cannondale, and I haven\’t had any problems with longer distances.  Felt good after my century last year.  Maybe it\’s the fact that I\’m a fat guy and the frame has to flex for me. 

  12. Zed

    Hmmm … yeah, I dunno either, but the aluminum kicks the tar out of me over long distances. I\’m trying to make some fit adjustments, so we\’ll see if that helps. If it does, there will always be more Lotojas, right?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s