Sal’s First Epistle to the Lotojans

“We’ve got to get you out of the road!”

“Are you OK?” “ARE YOU OK!?!”

That’s what I remember hearing. Sitting on the road, right butt cheek on fire, someone grabbing my right arm trying to pull me towards the white line.

“Son-of-a-Bitch, my butt hurts!” I thought. “What the hell’s going on?”

“Why does my butt hurt so bad?

Why is there blood on my hand?

Why am sitting on the road?

Who is pulling on my arm?


Oh. That's why my butt hurts!


Stand up? You have to be kidding me!

Man, my butt is just killing me!

I told him, “On your left!”

What’s broke? Push on your pelvic girdle. No grating – good.

Push on your femur. No grating – ok.

Check everything else. No broken bones – I’m ok.

Carol’s going to be pissed.


Check your bike….”

All of these thoughts rushed through my head as I was standing/walking/limping on the side of the road, approximately 1 mile past the Wyoming state line on Highway 89, 97 miles into LOTOJA.

The 5200 rider in the Sponge Bob jersey is with me trying to get me to sit down and wait for a Support Vehicle. The other two or three riders who stopped have already taken off. A steady stream of cars go by, not one stops. I tell Sponge Bob several times to go on, I’ll be ok. He asks again, if I want to wait for a Support Vehicle and I refuse, telling him, “I’m ok. Go on.” Finally, Sponge Bob rides off.

“Check your front tire – spins. Front Brake – check.

Back tire – spins. Rear brake – check.

Shift through all your gears. Ouch! That hurts my hand. Bike shifts.

Man, my butt hurts!

Sh*t, I just got passed by the Norda’s rider I dropped on the chip seal.

Bike’s in one piece.

Damn it, I told him, “On your left”. Get on your bike and get going.

“I saw you coming across and thought I’d tell you to go in this line.” “Yeah, it looked shorter.” “You ready Kevin? You should do well. Me, I’m just looking to finish with an ok time.” That’s how Kevin Voyles and I met each other at around 7:00 am Saturday. I was getting in line for the porta potty’s. I had to take Imodium AD and Pepto Bismal the night before and in the morning to fight off stomach cramps and diarrhea. Not the best way to start LOTOJA.

Kevin and I started in the 1400’s at 7:16 am. Our group seemed to me to be going slow all the way to Preston. I was right. We were caught by the 1500’s at Preston. Geesh, already lost 3 minutes to these guys. That sucks. At least nothing happened. I ate and drank what I thought I should, although my stomach was already grumbling.

As we were coming into Preston, Kevin and I talked just a bit and agreed to ramp it up on the Preston hill. Got to the front of the group and came into the feed zone to pick up my musette. Carol was there in between numbers 4 and 5, just as we had discussed. I threw my empty water bottles and vest at her feet, grabbed my musette, and kept riding. I was able to go through my musette really quick and get the food I wanted so that I dropped my musette while I was still at the park.

Saw Kevin ahead of me, so I decided to bridge up to him prior to leaving Preston. I took two Tylenol and an Elete tablet, which I had planned to do at every Feed Zone. He had been very quick in Preston. Kevin pulled me and another rider up to the next group, which happened to be 1400 riders who didn’t stop in Preston. Then up came some 1500 riders. Fast boys. I stayed in the back until the first hill and then moved up towards the middle of the pack. Then in the middle of the first hill, Kevin said, “Here we go.” Kevin then went to the front and stayed there while we were on the bench. I stayed a third of the way back. The group then slowed down and I went to the front. Lead a group of about 35 riders over the hill and down the Riverdale Hill. I could sense that some where behind me, but because of the headwind, none where passing.

Looking down the hill, I could see a rider about ½ mile in front of me. However, I stayed in my tuck, 47 mph was the fastest I could go, I recall. I (along with the peleton) was gaining on the rider below, when I finally realized it was Kevin. I then thought, “That was stupid. Way to go Sal. Bring the peleton back to Kevin. DUMB!” (Sorry Kevin! I had no idea you had gone off the front that far.)

Anyway, turned the corner at the Riverdale Bridge and sat up. Letting the fast 1400’s and 1500’s go around me. As they went by, they were asking if the rider out in front was a 1400 or not and the came to they conclusion that it wasn’t. I didn’t say anything and settled into my own pace for going up Strawberry. Was riding ok, knowing that there was no way I was going to stay with the more in-shape riders. I just kept telling myself that I’m doing good for just having my ankle reconstructed in April 2008 and my last surgery on 07/01/08 and just getting released to ride hills/sprint/out of the saddle riding on 08/02/08. Ride your pace.

Soon Bill Doucette (the eventual winner of the 1500 class and a friend of mine from Logan) passed me in the rollers. Bill looked strong. Kept on riding my pace, but with the head wind, I knew I’d need some help. Saw a rider stopped on the side of the road peeing and that reminded me to do the same. This was before “Greg’s Dairy”. Got back on and started riding at my own pace again. Got passed by 1600 and 1700 riders. Passed a 1300 rider and told him to hop on. Pulled him for a couple of miles up to the Forest Boundary sign, where he finally dropped off. Again, I rode my pace. What a difference it is to see this many riders on this road, all with the same goal in mind. My friend Thor Dyson (in his 21st LOTOJA) passed me and said “Hi Sal.” He had started 3 minutes behind me and was riding well. I said “Hi Thor. Good Job. You’re riding well.” I watched Thor ride me off his wheel. (By the way, Thor does live up to his name – the Norwegian God of Thunder.)

Passed a 9000 “Fun Class” rider who was already off his bike and cramping just past the Forest Boundary sign. Off the bike already? Man, someone’s in for a long day.

Kept riding my pace, passing some, getting passed by others. Overall, I felt pretty good, my ankle wasn’t bothering me, but my stomach was still upset.

Got to the top of the false summit and ate. Damn headwind. “Keep your pace.” I told myself. “And bridge up!”

Coming up on the Neutral Feed I could see a lot of riders pulling off. I had planned to ride through, not stopping, and accept any hand-ups they offer. Took a Cliff Shot, banana, and water bottle. Poured the water bottle over my head and ate the Cliff Shot and banana.

Continued on to the summit again at a pace I felt comfortable. Got passed by several riders, including two 5200’s in red & black jerseys. At the campground entrance just before the summit, a Bear Lake County Sherriff was parked off the side of the road. “Must be looking for ‘Urinators in Public’”, I thought to myself. Right before I got to the summit, the Sherriff passed me. “Great, he’s not going to go very fast”, I thought.

At the summit, the two red & black 5200’s where just casually going over, when I put things in my 53×11 and took off. Immediately, I caught the Sherriff and had to slow down to 45 or so. Followed him around the big swooping right hand turn and onto the straight, still doing 45, but having to touch my brakes to not run into him. Decided it was now or never and stomped on my crank. Passed him on his right side in time for the sweeping left hand turn. Stayed in my tuck all the way down to the mouth of the canyon, doing 47-50 mph. I made sure not to cross any yellow lines for fear of getting DQ’d.

Amazingly, not one rider hopped on my wheel. I must have passed 30 riders on the downhill. On the rollers, I had a tailwind and was feeling good, so I maintained a 30 mph pace by myself. I just kept chasing down the next group I could see, mashing away. Again, no one hopped on. Then finally, on the second to the last roller after I had passed a group of 5100’s and 5200’s, someone got on my wheel. I pulled for about 4 minutes at 26 mph and then decided to move to the back. The group immediately slowed down to 23. I looked out ahead and could not see any other groups to bridge to in the next ½ mile, so I stayed in this group until Montpelier.

It was agonizingly slow riding across the flat, but there was a headwind, and I knew I couldn’t go off the front. Therefore, I stayed in this group at 19 mph. We caught and passed several 1100’s and 1200’s and some 9000’s. My stomach was still upset, but I ate a PB&J anyway. Tried to eat a roast beef & swiss, but I couldn’t.

Came into Montpelier feed zone and was told that there were 15 – 1400’s riders ahead of me by Carol as I grabbed my musette and threw my water bottles down on the ground by her. (Now is as good a time as any – Carol tells those who ask what she does during LOTOJA support duties is get sticky water bottles thrown at her.) I was getting to the end of the feed zone, when someone yells my name from the left. “It was Kevin! I think it was Kevin. No, it was Kevin. What is he doing there?” I thought. (Found out later that Kevin broke a pedal at the Forest Service boundary sign way down on the climb and had ridden 14 miles to Montpelier with it. He ended up getting an another pedal from his spare bike and finishing the race.)

My son Sal was at the start of the drop zone and yelled, “There are only 12 -1400’s riders ahead of you.” That meant that three were in the feed zone somewhere. Took two Tylenol and an Elete tab.

I started up Geneva at my own pace. At least there’s a tailwind I thought to myself. Rode up Geneva with no problem, again passing some, getting passed by others.

Got to the top of Geneva and was amazed that there were riders stopped there, taking water bottles from a Support Vehicle. “They’re not supposed to do that”, I thought.

Back into the 53×11 and ramp it up. Passed another 20-25 riders on the way down. My maximum speed for the entire race was on this section at 57.9 mph. Again, no one got on my wheel. I didn’t sit up until right at the last hill before the Geneva church. Caught two 1200 riders and stayed on their wheel.

We were now on the new chip seal, heading straight east. Lots of cars coming around from Border. The line must have been a 1/2 mile long.

We then caught a group of about 10 riders and went around them. They hopped on our wheel. We then passed the “Really Good Elk Jerky” stand and caught another group of 8-10 riders. Some had fallen off, since we were doing about 23 mph.

As we turned the corner to the right and crossed the Wyoming state line we were a group of about 25 riders, all different numbers and groups, and were riding about 25 mph with a tailwind.

Then, about 1 mile past the Wyoming state line, there was a slow-down up front. I was around the number 7 or 8 rider, and we were riding two abreast. I remember watching in slow motion the rider in front of me, in a red & black jersey, suddenly hit his brakes, touch the rear wheel in front of him, and him starting to veer to his left. He barely stays up, continues to slow down, and continues to veer left. I yell, “On your left!”

I’m back on my bike riding. “Take some drugs”, I tell myself. I find my “Drug Ziploc baggy” and take four Tylenol with some Cytomax. “I have to stay on my bike and keep riding. If I get off, I won’t get back on”, I think to myself.

Many of the riders we had dropped have just passed me and I am now looking up the road to see who’s wheel I can get on to rest a bit. I find a 9000 rider who’s pulling his wife/girlfriend (I assume), another female 9000 rider, and a 5200 rider sucking their wheel. I hop on this group and rest and choke down a couple of Fig Newtons. I’m back up to 19 mph. The guy in front is a really strong rider, and I can tell he’s going to pull his wife the entire 206 miles. We catch Sponge Bob. I say “Thanks for all your help back there”. He asks “Are you Ok?” I tell him “Yes” and continue on.

The 5200 rider, after sitting on for who knows how long, goes to the front and rides us off his wheel at 21 mph. I go to the front and tell the 9000 rider, “I’m not going to do that. I’ll take a pull for a while. You rest.” I pull at 19 for at least 2 miles, starting to feel better. My butt still hurts, especially my right upper hamstring. I look back and realize that I’ve dropped the group. I look up ahead and see the group I was with when I crashed. They are 150 meters ahead and I know I can’t stay in this head wind by myself, so bury myself into my crank, and go for it.

I catch my old group and rest in the back, not taking any pulls. I look for the guy who took me out, but I can’t tell whom it is. All I remember is he had a red and black jersey and there are several of them.

After a couple of minutes, another group of about eight riders catches us and they are riding 1 mph faster than my group. They pull to the front and my group doesn’t respond. I see the faster group already putting a gap on us by about 20 meters, so I come from the back of the 20-25 rider group, go around them, and bury myself in my crank again. I finally catch this faster group, sit up, and look behind to see if anyone came with me. Nobody. Good. Stay away. I’ve had enough of y’all. I stay on this group, pulling through when it’s my turn, all the way to just before the Allred Flat Neutral Feed. They all start to sit up and are headed in. I ride through on the left and continue towards Salt River Pass and the KOM bottom sensor.

I pass the bottom sensor and then get to the first small climb. Shift up, 21, 23, 26. “Ok, this isn’t too bad” I tell myself. I’m still in my 53 chain ring and I pass an 1100 rider and drop him. I then go to shift into my 39 chain ring and…. “What the Hell?”

“What the hell is going on? I’m spinning my crank, going nowhere and there is a gawd awful sound of grating/smashing/grinding coming from my back wheel!” I tell the rider that I just passed “Sorry” as he rides by. I get off my bike, spin my crank, and still get the same sound. I can’t figure out where it’s coming from other than from my back wheel. I shift into my 23 and the sound goes away. I shift back into my 26 and here it comes again. I shift back into the 23, get on my bike and go. I try spinning my Jag Wire adjustment screws, but I can’t, due to how much my hand hurts when I turn the knob.

I settle down and start thinking about how much fun this is going to be in my 23. I have trained all summer on an 11-26 SRAM RED cassette (well, kind of all summer and kind of trained) and after the crash, my 26 was now unusable. Thoughts came to mind of how nice the new Shimano 11-28 would be. It became a very slow and painful climb at 5 – 6 mph.

I think I only got passed by three or four riders, and I passed about eight. I caught a tandem about ½ mile from the top. Just as I caught and passed them, I was looking down and saw a big puddle of stuff. “Is that what I think it was?” I asked the tandem. The tandem said, “Oh man, somebody is not having a good day.” Then I said, “Watch out, here’s 3 more piles”, and continued on towards the top. Thankfully, I got to the summit and then got in my 53×11 and took off, passing several riders who had stopped and the summit. I then ramped up my speed to around 47 mph and again, no one jumped on my wheel. I passed another 10 riders or so going down Salt River Pass.

I got down to the bridge and had no one to chase so I sat up, waiting for a couple of riders behind me to catch up. They did and the three of us worked together for a while at around 32 mph. My stomach was starting to bother me and I was beginning to take shorter and shorter pulls. I ended up falling off the back because I was bonking. In the mean time, the two riders that dropped me caught a group that was ½ mile in front of them. I stayed in no-man’s-land, by myself the rest of the way to Afton. Ate a couple more Fig Newtons

Amazingly at Afton, the majority of those riders stopped at the Feed Zone. I threw down my water bottles at Carol, grabbed the musette, and began riding. “No more Cytomax and hello Power aide and Diet Coke” I told myself. My daughter Gabi grabbed the water bottles and said “Good job dad.” I was getting my stuff out of my musette and talking to my son Sal as he ran along side of me. “We won our game!” he said, referring to his 8th Grid Kid football game he had missed because he was part of my support crew. (Carol, Sal, and Gabi are my support crew. Carol hands me my musette, Sal is stationed in the drop zone to get my musette, and Gabi is in the feed zone to get the water bottles.) I told him “Great!” grabbed some food, dropped the musette, guzzled the Diet Coke, and took two more Tylenol and an Elete.

As I was riding through Afton, Stan, a 5200 rider, came up beside me and said, “Hey, let’s work together through Star Valley.” I said “Sure thing. I’m Sal.” We then caught a 5300 rider and a small woman rider in a yellow jersey on a relay team. Stan said, “Let’s all work together through Star Valley” and the other two riders agreed. Ms. Yellow Jersey took the first pull with Mr. 5300 in behind her. Mr. 5300 then proceeded to let Ms. Yellow Jersey stay out front for at least 3 minutes, and finally Stan came around him and said, “Let’s work together” and took the pull. I followed Stan to the front and heard Mr. 5300 say “OK”.

I took my pull and then Mr. 5300 took his pull. But he ramped up the pace and rode away. Stan and I talked, wondering what the heck Mr. 5300 was doing. We agreed to let him stay out there by himself. We were then caught by a group of five relay riders. They started to work through the peleton and were behind Ms. Yellow Jersey in the rotation. After what seemed like 5 minutes, with the relay riders not pulling through, I moved up from the back and said, “Ok, 2 minute pulls – Max”. When Stan pulled through he said, “Thanks for getting us organized. Someone needed to do it.”

I was then out in front and we were at the gap approximately 8 miles north of Afton when I saw Carol, Sal, and Gabi on the side of the road. They were asking if everything was ok. Gabi was running in the turnout trying to keep up with me, asking, “Do you need any…” SMACK! Gabi ran right into a highway T-post. “Are you Ok?” I yelled as we rode off. Luckily, I watched Gabi immediately get up and run back to Carol and Sal who were at the car. Everyone in the peleton asked if she was ok and I said I saw her get up and run back, so I thought so. About a mile afterwards, they passed me in Carol’s truck and I asked if Gabi was ok and Sal said yes. (Turns out she ended up with a couple of bruises to her “blocking” forearm and leg, but she’s ok. She obviously “took one for the team”.) We picked up and dropped Mr. 5300. Stan and I talked and came to the conclusion that Mr. 5300 got what he deserved.

We were working well together when two 1100 riders came up behind us. One was obviously stronger than the other and pulled the whole time. They went to the front of our group. Our pace had been 21 mph, but the two 1100’s were riding at 22-23. Half of our group stayed on, the other half got dropped. More and more got dropped until it was Stan, I, and the two 1100 riders. The one 1100 rider pulled us the entire way into Alpine.

Just after the Elk Feeding Grounds south of Alpine, traffic started to back up. At the Alpine Feed Zone, everyone stopped but me. I threw my water bottles down and grabbed my musette and kept on riding. I got 2 Diet Cokes, a banana, and some Fig Newtons and kept on going. Again, I downed 2 Tylenol and an Elete. My stomach was really starting to cramp now, but, much to my surprise, no leg cramps. I drank my first Diet Coke and ate my banana before getting into the canyon. Not much of a tailwind, but at least no more head wind. I bridged up to a couple of relay riders, who immediately dropped me. Nice guys. I bet they did that on purpose. Then another bigger group of about 10 relay riders came up and told me to hop on, so I did.

It wasn’t long after that when Stan and the two 1100 riders came up into our group. The stronger 1100 rider was pulling again and our entire group hopped on their wheel. We caught the other relay riders that had dropped me. Slowly, the two 1100 riders and Stan rode off the front. I was caught about half way back in the peleton when I realized what was going on, so I immediately went to the front and ramped up the pace to catch the three riders out in front. I’m sure the group wasn’t happy with me, but I bridged up to Stan and the two 1100 riders. The rest of the group was off the back.

Stan and I stayed on the two 1100 riders all the way to Astoria Hot Springs, where they pulled off to pee. The one 1100 rider pulled the other 1100 rider the entire way. Stan and I rode past the King’s Wave Neutral Feed without stopping and into Hoback.

Just after the Hoback Junction stop sign, we were caught by 12-15 Larry H. Millar Lexus relay team riders. Stan and I stayed on their wheel all the way to Recycling Center Hill, where I went to the front. I knew that if I had any chance of staying with these guys, I would have to go out front, climb my pace in my 23, fade to the back, and just try to hang on. So that’s what I did, and proceeded to get passed by everyone in the group, which was now about 35 riders large. I was dropped and group gapped me by about 100 meters up on the bench. So I gave it all I had, made the left turn onto South Park Loop Road and caught them and the bottom of that hill. But, I was spent. Finished. Done. I forced myself to eat a GU and drink some water.

I stayed with this group, in the back and realized that I had caught another 1400 rider. “Maybe I can stay with these guys, recover, and outsprint this guy at the finish” I thought. Well, the GU didn’t help much and I struggled to stay on.

I knew I’d be slow at the tunnel under Highway 22 with my 23 so I faded to the back and gave the group about 30 meters. Turns out 30 meters was just enough, as the entire group bunched up at the tunnel, and Stan (who had also faded to the back) and I just barely made it through the tunnel without having to come out of our pedals.

After the tunnel, I was completely dropped. The LHM Lexus boys had ramped up the pace and I was now at least 200 meters behind. I consoled myself to the fact that I had 9 miles to go and would ride in solo.

I was really starting to stiffen up on my right side and my stomach was starting to bother me more and more. But, as luck would have it, ½ mile after the turn to Teton Village I saw the other 1400 rider off on the side of the road. He was having some type of mechanical problem. I thought to myself, “Things will happen as they happen. Maybe I will finish in front of him.”

I continued on the Teton Village Road at 16-17 mph, battling my right glute pain and stomach cramps. As I passed The Aspens, the 1400 rider said “Hop On!” I replied back, “I’m done”. He rode on at 19-20 mph.

“5 Km” read the sign. Less than ten minutes I told myself as I started timing the intervals in between the signs. I looked at my computer for an elapsed time and it read 10:45. I started timing myself in between the kilometer markers.

“4 Km”. Well, at least I’ll finish under 11 hours. 1:43 per Km.

“3 Km”. I can see what I think is the Finish Line. 1:38 per Km.

“2 Km”. I think that’s what it said. What was that? Is that someone sitting on the side of the road? Can’t he finish the last 2 Km? 1:36 per Km.

“1 Km”. Less than 2 minutes to go. Hey, there are not as many cars as last year. Geesh, just got passed. Hope no one poaches me at the finish.

Finally, I’m in the finish chute. I get passed by one more rider. I look back and see one more coming so I bury myself one last time into my 53×11.


I look down and my computer is just passing 11:54:05

My race time was: 10:54:06

I had 3 stops: 1-pee stop in Mink Creek; 1-crash at mile 97; 1-bike/rear wheel check right after passing the KOM bottom sensor. No stops at any feed zones. Don’t know how long each of the stops were as my HAC4 computer bit the dust.

Average speed: 18.9

Max Speed: 57.9

Was secretly hoping for 10:30-ish and a 6th-10th place finish, but I’m happy with my time and 13th place. The crash definitely took a lot out of me, as shown by my slowing split times. This was my sixth LOTOJA, so I received a “1000 Mile Crank” for doing five LOTOJA’s. Only four more to go for a “2000 Mile Crank”.

Ecchymosis on the right cheek in now the best shade of purple you could ever imagine, similar to Welch’s Grape juice. It’s approximately 10″x12″ in size. Amazing that I didn’t break my Ilium or my Greater Trochanter. Very little road rash – fingers, forearm, knee, shin & ankle. All on the right (opposite of my surgery) side. No road rash on the right glute/hamstring and my shorts weren’t even torn. That tells me that I didn’t slide/smear, I hit. Which is consistent with my front wheel being taken out very quickly.

Been on tons of Tylenol and Aleve for the last couple of days. Watching out for loss of CMS and pain (blood clots) in my right leg.

I will need a new helmet and new lenses for my glasses. Neck is sore, no bruising.

I ended up with a bent derailleur hanger (according to Troy Scott down at Alpine), but didn’t bend my rear derailleur. They sustained a severe blow and have lots of road rash. Right pedal (and shoe) hit the pave also, so my bottom bracket and crank were looked at. Frame has checked out ok and my spokes are ok, too. Just rubbed off the paint.

There’s probably 200 ml of blood in my right cheek right now. The bruise will probably take months to go away. Might have to go the Dr. to get it drained. I’m sure if I had x-rays, they’d show numerous micro-fractures.

Without Carol, Sal, Gabi, and all of the Alpine Cycle & Fitness crew, I would not have ever been able to ride LOTOJA this year, let alone finish.

Thanks to all of you.

I’m already planning for next year’s LOTOJA.


3 responses to “Sal’s First Epistle to the Lotojans

  1. Thanks for sharing Sal! At the very least a bit of lessons learned. Heal up quick so we can tear it up on the hill.

  2. Oh my god Sal, I CAN NOT BELIEVE I found this entry online today. Do you remember our Utah State days? I can’t believe you even mention Thor here. I loved reading your post. It sounds just like the old Sal I knew, and to think you now have a son called Sal (it’s the 4th, right). God If you get this, please contact me. I would love to catch up with you and family, and all of our old friends.

    By the way, I hope you are feeling better!!!

  3. Kandee, I got your email address from the site administrator and will email you. Thanks for reading.

    Also, just a correction, my computer read “10:54:06” not “11:54:06”.

    And it’s 6 weeks post-LOTOJA and I’m still nursing my bruise. Color is back to normal, but I still have a lump about 1/2″ wide x 3″ long in my right glute.

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