Sunday, September 20, 2015

Can You Handle The Truth?

Todd, Eric and Owen at the start of their 206 mile journey 

Last week my husband competed in his second LOTOJA bike classic.  The event, touted as the longest one-day stage race in America, is a scenic 206-mile journey that travels from Logan, Utah, through the tip of Idaho, and finishes in the breathtakingly beautiful Teton Village outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Logistics for the race are not easy.  Riders and their support vehicles take different routes to each aid stations and precise timing and organization is required to assist and cheer on your participant.   My daughter Abby and I shared the responsibility of Todd, and enjoyed our 12-hour day in and out of the car, driving through amazing countryside and laughing and documenting the day via Snapchat to our friends and family.  It was a joyful and happy day.

Since I am new to this "sag" (support) duty, I learned a lot simply by watching other families support their riders.  Some cyclists rode up to their counterpart and exchanged musette bags, hardly slowing down their pedal stroke to grab their nutrition.  Others had a full-on family NASCAR pit crew, that wiped down the bike, oiled the chain, shoved Clif bars down their rider's gullet and replaced water bottles with fresh beverages.

Abby and I both agreed that we could improve our "sag"game -- like the wife who stood at the aid station with a tray in front  like an old fashioned cigarette girl.  The tray was loaded down with everything from 5 Hour Energy, Bel Vita cookies, Clif Shots, bananas, energy gels -- you name it, she had it on the ready.  She won our hearts and our prize for Best Support Staff that day.

Each stop we were there for Todd.  Our timing was impeccable.  We replaced his bottles.  We were prepared with food.  We encouraged him at each aid station.  But at mile 123 we saw him start to look...not so good.  His bottles were still full when we switched them out.  He was not drinking.  He started to look gaunt and his eyes seemed kind of foggy.  We had timed his finish, calculating miles per hour/distance/pace and when he did not cross the finish line at our projected time, we began the waiting game.

Ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed.  His friend and fellow rider, Whitey, had crossed the line smiling and happy.  He wasn't that far behind Eric, was he?  But the dehydration was real.  As the sun started setting behind the mountain, Todd came rolling through the finish - not hitting his ideal goal, but severely dehydrated and exhausted.   With help of EMTs and friendly spectators who lent us warm blankets to get Todd's core temperature up -- LOTOJA ended with a whisper instead of a bang.

Aaaand, he finished. 

But here's the truth that riders can't handle.  It doesn't matter.  Todd completed the race.  He accomplished his goal.  The finish time is irrelevant to any spectator/family member/friend who has an athlete involved in a major endurance event like this one.  As athletes we stress over our race times.  We want to set a PR.  We want to beat our friends.  We want to make ourselves proud.   We want to qualify for Boston.  But to our friends and family members the finishing time is less important than crossing the line safe and uninjured.  Sure we want you to get to Kona or win your race category.  But that is not the most important aspect of the day.

I try and comprehend my friend who stood at the finish line waiting for her husband to cross this same race three years ago and then receiving a call that he had crashed less than 20 miles from the finish line and died.  I remember my father, who set our for the short distance in Tour de Mesa and ended up living only 15 days later, having suffered injuries from a crash in the race.  I have lived this nightmare and seen it happen to others.

So friends, first and foremost --  enjoy the day.  Do your best, for sure.  Set high and lofty goals.  But remember you GET TO do this race.  You have made the choice to compete, because you can.  And don't let that crazy PR goal take the fun out of what you are doing.  Finish with a smile. High five those cheering you on.  Remember to hydrate.  Be safe.

Because the only thing that really matters, is that you get to go out again and do it again tomorrow.  

The reward for the effort, a stay at home in Park City, UT 



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Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.