Coming to Grips with Lotoja

You know how they say, “Go big or go home."  I’m not a fan of going big.  I just like going. 

I say, "Go or Don’t Go."

Lotoja is a grueling 206 mile bike race from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  It’s pronounced low-ta-jaw.  Maybe.  My friends and I registered our relay team, named “Go or Don’t Go” with one objective, to meet single male cyclists. I pinned my hopes on Mark Wahlberg.

Beth, a six-foot, covert-agent-like machine, took the first leg (34 miles), which can get you killed if you go out too fast. And the hardest leg (45 miles), two serious climbs, which can also get you killed by way of heart attack, rather, two heart attacks.  Stacey, a small Japanese-American-Ninja with reflexes of awesomeness took legs two (46 miles) and four (34 miles) – a slow punishing climb and a long flat with a seriously dusty, unrelenting 107mph headwind.   I took leg five (47 miles) – delightful rollers through a picturesque canyon, near a lazy river.

Truth be told, I actually had one other goal: draft.  After helping my friends at the feed zones, watching them come in wasted, I became worried.  Well, I had worried for months.  This made things worse.  All my flirting (in bike shorts even!) tanked.  Probably because of the bike shorts.  What would happen if I rode, and then nothing – not even a phone number?

Ah, but if I drafted, perhaps I could flirt en route.  I picked up on two men right after the transition, but didn’t have the guts to say anything.   Mostly because I couldn’t see their faces.  I could not tell if they looked like Mark Wahlberg.  So I kept my mouth shut.

My race number, started flapping, pounding my thigh with agonizing force.  That alone would have debilitated me for months.  As it was, the last 13 miles slated me for weeks of limping. Knowing my electronic ankle bracelet tracked the team time, I ripped off the number.  Relief!!  But it had an unexpected consequence, my number clearly marked my “Relay” status and without the number, other cyclists assumed I biked the entire four previous legs. 

After the noisy number ripping-off action, I figured they sensed my parasitic presence.

“U-hum,” I cleared my throat.  Nothing happened.

I cleared my throat again.  Still nothing.

“Dudes!” I said.  They looked back over their shoulders.  They were sweaty.  I was sweaty.  None of us even remotely resembled Mark Wahlberg.

“Let me take a turn!” I said.

They dropped back. I went out like a firecracker.  Minutes later, they said, “Hey, lady, just ride in back.  You’re too small.”

More and more men joined us, and soon, we were a varietal peloton.  Several men mentioned how impressed they were with me.  “You’re looking strong this late in the game!”

“I work out,” I said.

The endless last flat tested my mental toughness.  I broke away with two guys and we took turns leading out.  The darkness crept in.  My mental toughness gave out.  I rode the last few miles solo.  The peloton came in five minutes later. “That girl can ride,” they said. 

“Go or don’t go!” I said.

How did I pull through the backbreaking impersonation of a five-leg hard-a?

Mark Wahlberg. 

I imagined that he waited at the finish line, with a giant, plush, bathrobe (just out of the dryer) to wrap around me.  Instead of a sense of accomplishment, the finish line produced acute hypothermia.  9:00PM in the wiles of Western high altitudes is no place to be caught in a damp biking jersey and shorts. 

As I rode across the finish line, the announcer announced, “Polly from Team Go or Don’t Go!  I guess they went!”  

Thanks to Beth and Stacey who enabled me to have the ride of my life.  Without them, I never would have survived the first four legs.  Thanks to the peloton who basically lugged me the entire 47 miles.  No one got my number.  Turns out they were all married.  Besides it’s bad luck to start a relationship under false pretenses.  Anyway, I’m sure Mark Wahlberg witnessed my amazing finish.  If I wouldn’t have married soon after, I’d be waiting for him to text me about the merits of going.  Go or don't go, my friends!  Go or don't go.