Lessons from the 2005 LOTOJA Classic

Every year in early September, 1000 lucky cyclists ride from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This one day race of 206 miles, was once, and may still be, the longest USCF sanctioned single day race in the US.

Each April cyclist from around the country wait with bated breath to sign up for this race. In the last 10 years I have seen the ease of getting into this race go from signing up the month before, to having to register the day registration opens. Now entrance is based on a lottery.

It seems that every year when you tell people you are going to ride this race the first question that most non-cyclists and even some cyclists ask is “Why?” There is something about endurance sports that shows you what you are made of. When you have pushed yourself to the limits and the demons begin to enter your thoughts, you have to ask yourself “How am I going to finish?”

The 2005 LOTOJA was one of the hardest in recent history. The race started just before dawn with temperatures in the upper 30’s. The rain started just after sun rise and did not let up all day. We saw rain and snow and temperatures that never got higher than the low 40’s. I still have my t-shirt from that day, and wear it proudly. It doesn’t mean much to most people but to me and the 300+ other riders who finished that day it is a mark of courage, strength and determination.

Although we started the race at 6 a.m. that morning with a team of 10 riders we did not cross the finish line until after 10 p.m.. Only 3 members of our team dropped out.  We lost one due to a bum knee, and 2 more due to mild hypothermia.

Nearing the end of the race, we left Alpine, WY and headed up Alpine Canyon. Our team was in tact and feeling strong. It was late in the day, but we still had some sunlight and we knew we could make it to Hoback Junction before we needed to put on the headlamps and tail lights. Although tired and cold we climbed the canyon well. As we were descending something unexpected happened.

One of our riders brushed the guard rail. As we yelled to him to try to hold his line he notified us that he could not see. A sticky film had clouded his vision. His sight had failed and he did not know where the road was. Slowing our pace we assessed the situation. He was able to see the white line of the road and the yellow jacket of one of our team mates. He was also able to discern the voice of his best friend and riding companion.

As we assessed the variables we had to work with, we created a plan to get him to Jackson where our support vehicle was waiting. As we positioned ourselves for success and safety, we literally talked this rider into Jackson where he was rushed to the hospital. After flushing all the road grime out of his tear ducts the doctors were able to help him see again.

The last 3 years have been difficult for businesses. Some of us feel like we are 150 miles into a 200 mile race and we still have a canyon to climb. Others feel like our vision has been clouded and we can’t see where to go on the road that is ahead of us. There are a few things that I would hope you take away from this story for your business.

  1. Be aware of the reality of your situation and communicate concerns early.
  2. Develop a strategy to overcome the challenges you are facing.
  3. Execute that strategy well.
  4. Celebrate the victories.

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  1. I was living in Pocatello, ID at the time and had a number of friends in that race and I believe a couple actually finished. It has been describe as one of the hardest things they have ever done. It shows th importance of the right team at the right place at the right time.

  2. I think it is also important to realize that the person in trouble let his teammates know he needed help. I’ve noticed that sometimes in the corporate world, people are so concerned about being fired over mistakes or being blamed for things that they don’t ask for help and that can make the situation worse. Taking responsibility for actions, no matter what the result, insures integrity which is key in how you run your corporate race.

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