I could give you the official stats: 206 miles, 3 states, 1 day from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
I could show you the course and elevation maps:
I could give you the rundown of our neighborhood group...who biked the whole thing, who biked it in a relay, which person had which leg, etc.
(Dinner at Hamiltons in Logan on Friday night. Carb loading...it's important!)
But other than giving you context, none of that really describes the heart of LOTOJA. On my team, "NOW Girls 1" (there was also a NOW Girls 2) I biked leg 4. 34 miles from Afton to Alpine, Wyoming. 34 miles...yeah, I can do that any day of the week here at home, and have. Why would I spend a whole weekend and a great deal of coin to do it in LOTOJA? Because it's not just about the biking. It's so much more than that. The feeling of the day, the emotion, the passion, the shared camaraderie, the bonding, the atmosphere of something like this is hard to describe.
*I saw men bouncing back and forth between slightly panicked desperation and giddy exhilaration as they achieved a HUGE goal.
*I saw two bikers, one with his hand on the other's back literally pushing him over the finish line.
*I saw a biker stopped on the side of the road, all alone, his feet out of his clips and flat on the ground, his whole body hunched over his handlebars with his head in hands less than 10 miles away from the finish line trying desperately to find it in himself, mentally and physically to finish the race.
*I got to be support "pit crew" for my teammate Ann as she stopped for 10 seconds between legs 1 and 2 so I could supply her with a new water bottle and stuff some snacks/"fuel" in her back jersey pockets and then watch her zip off again so she could catch back up with the pack she had been drafting with.
*Driving past the bikers on the "King of the Mountain" hill at Salt River Pass on our way to the next exchange we found ourselves passing a few guys from our neighborhood. Cheering them on, one hollered out, "I need water!!!" We were not his support. But we found a place to pull over a little bit ahead, frantically filled a water bottle and then I ran across the street just in time to hand it off to him...without him even slowing down...so he could make it to the top of the toughest hill in the entire course.
*I got to be a part a team, each of us with an equally important leg to ride in getting us to that finish line. Supporting each other, cheering each other on, sympathizing with head winds, gasping at close calls and laughing at funny experiences.
(I rode into a head wind most of the way. Despite that, somehow I averaged a higher mph speed which resulted in a faster finish time than I expected. I jumped into drafting lines occasionally but spent the majority of the leg on my own. And though I was being passed regularly by strong, fast, competitive bikers I was still so incredibly pleased with how well I did.)
(A combination of both NOW Girls relay teams. Emilie, Casey, Jenny, Me, Monica. We're missing Ann and Brooke who had gone back to check on their husbands who were still out riding, and Sue who had already left with her husband for the restaurant.)
That's LOTOJA, my friends. And it was an incredible weekend.
(In Logan at the packet pick-up/starting line Friday night.)
(A big peloton coming into feed zone 3 in Montpelier.)
(Brooke, Jenny, Monica and me.)
(Leg 4 between Montpelier and Afton. See Brooke and Jenny, our tough, strong, happy NOW Girls climbing that canyon??)
(At Feed Zone 6....passing the baton, or the timing chip as the case may be, to Emilie and Casey)
(Brandi, Macie, Me, Brooke
Blessedly, we had booked hotel rooms in Jackson Hole. Last year we drove as far as Bear Lake to stay in a family cabin there, continuing our drive home the next morning. It was exhausting! This year, we were able to drop our weary bodies to bed in a hotel just up the street. A leisurely breakfast the next morning and then a little exploring around Teton Village were both remarkably relaxing after the rush and hurry of the day before. It was the perfect way to end our fun weekend before heading back home.)