Well, it’s probably about time I told you how the story ends right??

Short Version: I made it to Alpine–mile 160 of the ride.   I did not make it the full 206 miles.  I felt great most of the day, I simply ran out of time and daylight.  There was a nasty game changing headwind from mile 110 on that slowed us down a lot. The ride was a blast, so beautiful, an awesome experience, and I’m so happy with and proud of how far I made it!  Tanner had mechanical and stomach issues and made it to Afton, mile 125 and I’m so proud of him too!


And now the long version, leg by leg:

Logan to Preston–33 miles

I was so nervous.  During the first 2 miles I thought I was going to die.  We started out much faster than I was expecting and I literally could not catch my dad to save my life.   Did I ever mention we were riding this with my dad?  He does it every year-I think this was #9.  There was a mix-up with our start-times and his riding buddy Dave ended up starting 1/2 an hour earlier than us and we were supposed to catch up and meet up with him at one of the stops.  Anyway– I couldn’t catch up with my dad and my heart rate was completely out of control.  A lot of training and rides like this is watching your heart rate monitor and staying in certain zones to make sure that you’re not working too hard early on and zapping all your energy.  So I was very conscious of where my heart rate was and where it should be and it was already ballparks beyond numbers that they had told me “don’t ever ever hit your red zone or you will not finish”  So that freaked me out and right off the bat I was thinking OH NO this is going to be bad.  But it got better fast.  We slowed down, my heart rate got semi under control, and I got over my nerves and started having fun.

When we got to the first feed zone we found out our support crew (my mom and little brother Ryan)  had run out of gas and weren’t there.   Ha.  There are support crew feed zones and neutral feed zones (meaning no support crew vehicles, only event-run tables/drinks/food) and the next support crew feed zone wasn’t until Afton, another 100 miles, which is stupid, don’t ask me why, but that means I didn’t even see them or all the food and bottles I had carefully and stressfully packed until about mile 120

Preston to Strawberry

Lots of hills.  I was feeling completely awesome because I was with a couple of men who weigh significantly more than me and have a lot more work to do climbing those hills.  So I’m basically taking a break climbing what is supposed to be the hardest part of the course, thinking very positive thoughts like I am totally making it all the way.  Tanner is having the opposite experience.  BYU outdoors unlimited had tuned-up our bikes and is going to get a not very nice visit from me tomorrow because they messed up something on Tanner’s bike and it wouldn’t stay in the very lowest gear, making it ridiculously hard for him to make it up those hills.  He also developed a stomach cramp that he couldn’t get rid of.

Strawberry to Montpelier

Almost all steep downhill.  I’m expecting a break and instead–I was working twice as hard as I had been on the hills to try and keep up with the men.  For parts of it, they were literally coasting or barely working while I was pedaling as hard as I possibly could to keep the same speed.  All the while my dad is yelling for me to stay as close as I can to draft behind him.  Weight gives you a ton of momentum on the downhill and flat and I just didn’t have it!

In Montpelier we expected to find a mechanic to look at Tanner bike, but the guy wasn’t there!  It was so frustrating.  There was a station set up with all the tools and everything, and all the volunteers said he’s been there all day and they didn’t know where he was.  We waited a while but had to keep going without getting his problem fixed.

Montpelier to Salt River (mile 110)

We had to leave Tanner behind at mile 98.  His stomach cramp wouldn’t go away and he couldn’t keep up, and we knew we were cutting it close on time and had to book it in order to make it in time.  It was so hard to leave him!  He threw up a lot, couldn’t keep anything down, but still made it up all of the mountains because he is amazing, but didn’t think it would be safe to go on after Afton.

My dad left me behind shortly after Salt River (also know as King/Queen of the mountain,  mile 110 the highest point on the course) because again, I couldn’t keep up on the downhill and he wanted to make sure he got a finishing time.  At this point I was still super confident I could make it all the way. . . .but then I hit the headwind.  First of all, after King/Queen of the Mountain, there is supposedly 50 miles of downhill–NOT SO.  The map and what my dad had told me was insanely deceptive on that point.  It may trend downhill, but it’s mostly flat, and there are quite a few uphill parts (it’s rolling).  So with the headwind,  instead of the 50 miles of coasting and rest I was expecting, it was work, work, work.

Somewhere along the way, this kind of old guy comes up behind me and says “ya know,  someone once told me the way to finish this ride is to find a fat lady and draft behind her the whole way.  You’re just too damn skinny!!” Ha.

It was so nice to see my mom and Ryan in Afton.  It really gave me a boost and I knew I had to keep the pace up but I was feeling great!  This is me in Afton



Well, ok, great + halfway exhausted + my back hurt.  After that though I really started getting tired and the wind started getting to me.  (that.  freaking. wind.  why, why, why??)  And I really started slowing down.    (long side explanation:  another big downer was our late start time of 7:12.  My dad has always started @ 6:00 a.m. or earlier, so that is what I had been expecting.  This not only gives you more time, but the big advantage of having a lot more riders around to so you can join pace lines and draft.  Drafting makes a huge difference, and in previous years, my dad always has had tons of strong groups passing them that they can join onto the back of and draft with.  This year they changed how they did start times and we were one of the last starting times meaning all the strong riders were way ahead of us and we never had any pace lines to join.  It was also pretty discouraging to hardly ever see many other riders and have them be pretty much taking down the feed stations by the time we got there.  ok done.)

So I’m out there all alone on my way to Alpine, haven’t seen a single other rider in a while, and along comes this complete angel to save my day.  Her name was Maddy, she’s only 18 years old, and she passes me and asks if I want to hop on and draft behind her.  UMM, YES.  yes, yes, yes.  She was so happy and so nice and maybe the only reason I completed that leg of the race.  She was on a relay team, so she was well rested, had tons of energy and was keeping a pretty fast pace.  Not only did drafting behind her help with the wind situation, but she gave me someone that I needed to keep up with instead of slowing down, and she kept my morale up and my mind busy.  Her relay partner had ended up in the ER and Maddy was trying to finish for them.   She carried me for 25 miles, almost all the way to Alpine, and I am so grateful!

When I was a couple miles short of Alpine, I saw my dad riding towards me–not a good sign.  He had hung back with us for too long, not counting on the wind, and hadn’t given himself enough time to finish.  When we rolled into Alpine it was almost 7:00 and we had 47 miles to go–not possible in the hour & 15 (maybe 30) minutes left before sunset.  Tanner (who had gotten picked up by this point), my mom, Ryan, my dad’s buddy Dave (he didn’t finish either) & his wife and son were all there cheering to meet me.  I was seriously so happy and so proud that I had made it so far.  160 miles!  I still had some strength left (not a ton, but some)  and wanted to keep going, but my options weren’t good.  I could try and pound out 10 or 20 more miles before it got dark, or I could try and finish the entire 47, but that would mean several hours of riding in the dark and even then, everything would already be taken down and I wouldn’t get an official finish.  I wasn’t sure I could even make it that far, but in the dark it wasn’t safe.  Busy unfamiliar road with narrow shoulders–yikes.  I’m still not entirely sure what it was that made me quit, and part of me wishes I had kept going, but I was pretty dang exhausted and a few more hours alone in the dark wasn’t happening.  And if I wasn’t going to make it the whole way, was there a difference between 160 and 175?

What’s done is done!  No regrets.  I really thought I would be a lot more disappointed if I didn’t finish, and I won’t lie and say I wish this post ended with I’m awesome I did it! I did it, I did it!!!!  But there’s no way I could do myself the disservice of being disappointed in myself after participating in Lotoja and getting so far.

IMG_4524 IMG_4525 prepping our bikes


IMG_4528 Tanner posing for pictures while I way-to-nervously-to-be-funny-right-now stuff pretzels into my food pouch


IMG_4534Lame photo gallery, I know.  My camera was almost dead and I had 18,000 things to worry about more than pictures.  Hopefully I can get some from my parents, I don’t even have one of the whole group at the end!

And as if this post isn’t already long enough, I feel like I have so many people to thank.  (like, you know, the academy) So so so many people have babysat for us over the past few months so we could train–more than I’d like to admit–my family, tanners family, awesome friends and neighbors THANK YOU.  People who lent or gave me equipment, everyone who encouraged me either in person or through texts, calls or online, wished me luck and told me I could do it–thank you!  And thanks to my dad who pulled me most of the way, I definitely couldn’t have gotten as far as I did without him.  Not to mention his countless calls, training advice, equipment, buying me the bike, and inspiring me to do this crazy thing in the first place.   And the love of my life (who I will be married to for 3 years this week!) he is the best and this is just one more thing we got to experience together, for better or worse!


10 thoughts on “LoToJa

  1. Sadie says:

    Dana, you are so awesome! I wish I had the same gumption to do something physically strenuous. Maybe next summer I’ll follow your lead and train for something.:) Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Dana, you are an inspiration, you and Tanner both…everything from your love story that is so clear in these words to the actual words that have come out for me to read. Your body is a machine lady and i am so proud of you for this extreme accomplishment. you are so strong and so true to yourself. today I will strive to be more like YOU. much love and congratulations to the STAPLES!!

  3. You are amazing! I’m pretty sure that I would have killed over after the first, oh I dunno, 2 miles haha.

    Two questions, though: Are you going to take a hiatus from bike riding for a while?? I just think that after riding and training for so long that you’d start to dread rides. And second, are you planning on doing lotja again in the future?

    I loved reading your ‘long version’. 160 miles is a crazy long way, you should be so proud of yourself!

    • Thanks Kristen! question 1: YES. i already haven’t touched my bike in 2 weeks. I think I’ll go on a few rides this fall mostly because the canyons around here are so beautiful that I can’t miss out on the chance! but ya, except for the occasional bike ride or hike, I need a big long break from exercising! 2) yes. tanner and I, we have unfinished business. if nothing else, I would love to participate as part of a family relay team (which we should’ve done this year, but whatever) But I think that someday I would really love to complete the entire course myself. That said, the reason we did it this year is because I know I won’t have that opportunity again for a really long time. With us moving, going to medical school, and hopefully more babies and breastfeeding in my future, the time commitment that it take to train won’t be realistic for me for at least another 10 years, maybe 20 or more? at least until all of my kids are in school all day i think!

      uh, want to do it with me someday??

  4. I read this entire post the first day you had it up and loved it, even though some of it read like a series of unfortunate events. I had no idea it was so helpful being able to coast in someones draft … it made me think of you like a bird, which is appropriate maybe since LoToJa kind of sounds like it could be a member of the aviary family.

    Anyway, I concur with all other comments on the level of your complete pro-ness at life and all things bike riding. I also think your comment is possibly the kindest thing that has happened to me all week and I will work on getting a post up soon. Thank you!

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