Wednesday, November 28, 2007

La Ruta Day 4

Last day. Cold and rainy again today. I have my rain jacket today. I know it will get warm as we get to the coast but I'm so cold that I'll deal with the hassle of carrying it.

The day starts off as usual with a climb. Only 5000 feet today but it's all at the start . As usual I stuck in traffic and I get pushed into a ditch. I'm a little grumpy and tell the guy to watch where the hell he is going. He flips me off and I start walking up the hill.

We finally get to the top and start a massive paved downhill, 6 miles or so. This goes on for awhile and we reach the 2nd and last major climb. My legs are dead so I have to walk most of this one but I'm doing good on time and I know it's flat all the way to the coast. My eyes are a little better this morning but I still can't wear my glasses due to the rain and they are starting to act up again. My right eye is only working about 50%. I every time I blink it clouds up. I'm a little worried about it.

We finally get to the top and start another long downhill. It's starting to get humid and hot as we drop down to the coast. The scenery is changing too. Lots of banana trees and cattle farms.

We finally reach the flat stuff and I'm spinning my ass off as these long pace lines go by me. I'll get my revenge however. The flat stuff seems to go on forever but finally we make a turn one of the many sections of railroad track. We ride down the center for the most part. The ties are covered in gravel but they are still exposed. The 29er wheels help but sometimes it feels like I'm riding a jack hammer. The trestles are really scary too. We have to step from tie to tie over they flooded rivers. One mis step and you go down. Really scary stuff.

More of this and it is really starting to take it's toll on my. Finally I start to smell the ocean and we make a turn and I can hear the waves crashing on the shore. I got a tip that there is 10k of salt water swamp coming up. I'm not really sure what a salt water swamp is but I find out quick. It's basically a flood plain where fresh and salt water meet and form these deep pools. Waist deep in spots. For some reason I get a burst of energy and I pin it. I'm actually riding through these deep pools. I can't believe it. I'm parting the water like Moses passing guys left and right. I don't know where all this power is coming from. I'm cranking along and we have one more train tracks section but I have to wait because there is a train coming the other way. Holy shit

The train passes and I'm hammering again on the tracks. I'm hoping the rails to pass guys. Fully rigid going by guys on full boingers. Feels good. I eventually catch and pass all the guys that blew by me in the pace line. We hit a section of paved and I actually have to climb a hill. I'm dying, my legs are on fire and I can't see anything out of my right eye. I hear the cheers from the finish line and all of a sudden two guys I passed a while back are catching up to me. No way I'm going to let them pass so I do a sprint to the finish. I round the corner and I see the finish line. I'm cranking at 200 rpm it feels like and cross the finish line and collapse. Done, 75 miles in 7.5 hours. Another brutal stage. I jump in the ocean and wash all the crap off me. I rinse my eyes out and my vision comes back so I'm good there but my eyes will be hurting for a few days.

I drink a few beers, eat everything in site and take the bus back to San Jose which is another story I'll tell later.

Today I'm just laying around the hotel packing my gear. Everything I have is wet and all my riding gear is covered in mud. My shoes were destroyed, I just left them on the beach.

Overall one of the best times I've ever had. I never knew I could push myself that hard. To get up every morning at 3 am in the cold and dark and put on my riding gear took such will. It actually got to be routine on the 3 and 4th day. The fatigue became so common that it felt normal. I don't know if this is the hardest race in the world like they say but it has to be up there. 4 days 220 miles and I don't know how many feet of climbing. Brutal weather conditions and dealing with logistical nightmares of finding bikes and bags every morning.

Huge thanks to Vassago Cycles for the great bike. Big thanks to The Bicycle Escape. Also thanks to all my friends and family for whishing me well.

Riding Railroad Tracks

More Tracks

Riding In Luxury

At the Finish

La Ruta Day 3

The volcano day. Tons of climbing. 8000 plus feet all in one shot for the most part. It's really warm at the bottom but everyone says it is cold and rainy at the top so I have arm and leg warmers with me. All these days start out with a climb and this day is the same. These are really hard for me because I get stuck behind guys spinning in their grannies and it really kills me. I usually get pushed off in to a ditch and I'm riding the hardest line. I'm still riding with Sean, one of the other singlespeeder and we are walking and pushing. We all have to stop at one point as there is a cattle train coming down the mountain. Pretty bizarre but I'm so used to it at this point.

We get to the top of this first climb and ride through a small town. It's getting colder and raining. I get on my cold weather stuff and head out again. Some little punk throws a handful of gravel at me and it lands right in my right eye. Just the start the beating my eyes are going to take.

We get to the base of the volcano and start the 18 mile climb up. I can't see the top because it is covered in clouds. I'm riding a lot but pushing a lot too. I do this for a few hours and finally reach the top. It is very cold and raining hard. I get ready to the downhill that is the most technical of the day. Wathershed style rocks covered in wet mud and cow shit.

I'm doing really well but I'm starting to get tired and my front brakes are acting up. I have to stop now and again to let them cool off. I'm flying down this hill. Way too fast but I just want to get off and get warm. At one point I loose my front brakes totally and only have me rear. My eyes are full of mud and cow shit since I can't wear my glasses due to the rain.

I finally make it down and start climbing again for a bit. I welcome it because it warms me up and lets my brakes recover. My front brake is working about 10 percent and my right eye is all cloudy. I finally roll into the finish 7 hours later and take a cold shower and put on some semi dry clothes. I need to work on my bike to see why the brakes are acting up. I see it right away. I wore the front pads down to nothing. I change them out and pump them a few times and they come back. I drop the bike off at the bike wash and head out to the hotel for some dinner and sleep. 3 AM wake up call tomorrow.

Cattle Have Right of Way

Top of the Volcano

Coming Down

La Ruta Day 2

Day 2 was a new stage this year. So it was hard to get any inside information. I could tell there was going to be a lot of climbing as usual but it appeared that it was mostly paved. My legs felt a little stiff from yesterday and my shoulders were a little sore from the long downhill but otherwise I was feeling good.

As usual there is a long line to get your bike. The bike's are all in a jumble and you just have to hunt around until you find yours. This is one thing I feel they need to improve for future events. I finally find my bike and check it out. The bike wash guys did a great job and my chain is nice and lubed.

Where's my bike?

I take my time making it over to the start line. I don't want to get up front because I'll just get run over since I'm planning on running a casual pace today. The start goes off with a slight delay and we start off immediately on a huge, rocky climb. I'm breathing hard and sweating really bad. Not a good sign. We slowly gain some elevation and I start to warm up. This stage is only 46 miles and 8,000 feet or so of climbing. I reach check point 1 and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm riding more or less with Sean and Pineapple Bob is just in front of us.

I'm actually feeling really good as we hit the all the pavement. More steep climbs and I'm walking alot but I'm treating this stage like a recovery ride in force. More great views, more little towns and more people cheering for us. The rest of the check points go by with out much incident. I'm still feeling good and the bike is working great. I get to what I think is the last pavement climb and I'm pretty sure it's all downhill from here but then we take a left onto some rocky singletrack. It's nice being on the dirt again but I'm a little worried because I don't really remember seeing this on the map. We continue on the singletrack for a little while and it's starting to get really muddy again. Uh oh, this doesn't look good. We eventually pop out into a small clearing and I can see "The Wall of Mud" in front of me. This thing is a monster. It takes me nearly 20 minutes to get up it. My bike is starting to pack up with mud and I'm dragging it behind me up this thing. Every time I take a step forward I slide back 2 steps. Finally I get to the top and I had my bike to a kid that is helping us. I don't think he is part of the race, he just wanted to help. He says, only 1k to the finish, all downhill. Yeah, I've been hearing that shit all week. Everything is downhill and 1 k in Costa Rica :). We'll he wasn't too far off. It was all downhill but it was all mud. I can't even ride down it, it's more like surfing. At one point I slip and tweak my ribs on my barends and I have to stop a moment to catch my breath. Eventually we get off this mud hill and into the outskirts of San Jose. The finish is close I know it.

Finally I start to flags and the mall that we are finishing it. I sprint up the last little hill and roll in around 7 hours. I'm covered in mud again and my bike weighs 30 pounds I bet. I check to see how much brake pad I have left, about 50% and I figure that's good enough and I throw it in the pile of other dirty bikes. I feel sorry for the bike wash kids tonight. I take a cold shower and head back to the hotel to rest up and get ready for day 3. The Volcano.

My fans :)

Wall of Mud

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

La Ruta Day 1

Day one is the hardest day. It has the most elevation gain and is the 2nd longest day. It also has the most mud. More on the mud later.

3 AM comes early and I try and swallow some breakfast but it isn't working too well. At least the coffee is nice and strong and so good. It's already hot and humid even this early and I know I'm in for a rough day. I fill a baggie up with endurolytes and top off my camelbak and get in line to get my bike.

Getting your bike every morning is an adventure. Basically they just toss them all into a tent in random order and it's up to you to find it. You may get lucky and it's on top of the pile or not. I eventually find mine and see that the front brake hose has come off the sticky thing that was holding it on and i don't have a zip time. Shit! It's only 10 minutes to the start. I see the Cannondale mechanic getting Tinker Juarez's bike ready and I go over to beg for a zip tie and he hooks me up. How cool is that?

I get my brake fix and get in another long line to get checked into the start chute. I can see one of the theme's of this race is hurry up and wait. I finally get into the chute and I'm crammed in with 600 other racers. There are fireworks and and music but I'm too nervous to watch any of it.

We roll out of the chute at 5:10 AM and I start off at a casual pace because we are about to do some serious climbing.

Well we hit the first hill and it doesn't disappoint. I'm getting off and walking a lot and for the first time I'm a little worried that I might be in over my head. I push those thoughs aside and continue to grind up the hill. Eventually we reach the top and we are riding in the clouds. We also go through our first little town. All the people come out and cheer for you. Especially the school kids. It's a cool feeling.

More rolling stuff and then we hit the mud. This mud is unbelievable. It's basically clay and trudge through it forever. At each stream crossing guys are washing off their bikes to get them working again. I'm secretly happy I had my singlespeed but I'm not totally immune. I have to stop and scrape the mud that build s up between my wheels and stays because they stop rolling after awhile. The mud seems to go on forever but eventually we start climbing out of it. However, the hill we are going up is long and steep and I'm starting to feel it. The sun is out and it's hot. I really crack on this thing and I start thinking I'm not going to make it again. Once again I push aside the negative thoughts and continue up the hill. Finally reach the top and I recover on the nice downhill.

The major climb of the day is about 10 miles. It's not a bad grade but it takes forever to get up, almost 2 hours. To make matters worse they are doing road construction about half way up. So not only are we struggling up this hill we have to ride on this sticky tar for about a mile. It smells and it is hot. It was so miserable :) It was so bizarre I found myself laughing.

Getting close to the end I catch up to Sean. He ran into some problems with cramping and running out of food so I load him up with whatever I have left and we take it casual into the finish. I roll in at just under 10 hours, 14,000 feet of climbing in 60 some miles. Pretty stuff stage. I take a cold shower and we head back to the hotel in time for happy hour. I hope my legs still work for tomorrow.

Typical Costa Rican Road. Never mind the water :)

This is the mud :(

Bike Wash station

Check Point in a small town

One of many amazing views

La Ruta Day 0

La Ruta de los Conquistadors is 4 day stage race held every year down in Costa Rica. This race was the 15th anniversary and also the first time they've had 4 stages.

I decided to do this race almost a year ago after reading about it. I was really getting into endurance racing and kept looking for bigger and bigger challenges. I read that this was the supposedly the hardest race in the world and that sounded interesting. I made a rash decision and signed up for it. Now all I had to do was get ready for it. Do to that I packed my schedule with as many 12, 24 and 100 mile events as I could. To make things even harder for myself I decide to do it on my fully rigid singlespeed. At the time I didn't know it but I was eventually going to get picked up by Vassago Cycles and I would eventually take my 29er Jabberwocky down with me.

So anyway enough background info. I actually got down there a few days early. I was meeting up with Sean and and bunch of other nuts doing this thing on singlespeeds (Dicky, Doug, Andy, Tim and few others). We killed a few days in San Jose doing the tourist thing, visiting muesumes and just looking around in general. San Jose is an interesting town. You can walk a block and enter a very poor area, walk another block and you are surrounded by American restaurants like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

The night before we got word that there was going to be some kind of party at the Best Western that we were staying at. Sean spoke Spanish farily well and we learned that there were was going to be some kind of beauty contest. This sounded interesting so we went out to eat and came back in time to see the show. Sean wanted to get a better look and walked into the party. Reported that there were a bunch of hot chicks walking around. I had to see for myself so I walked in. Immediately I'm surround by security and asked to leave. "Private Party" is all I understood. Ok, no big deal don't want to land in jail before the big race. I'd had enough exciment for one night so I decided to pack it in and get ready for the shuttle ride out to the coast where the race was starting.

The next day we get picked up by several buses and begin out 2 hour trip out to the coast. We pass through some beautiful countryside and eventually arrive at the Best Western - Jaco. Registration goes fairly smoothly and eventually I even find my bike among the hundreds laying on the ground. There were some really nice bikes laying around and I wondered what would stop someone from just grabbing a 7,000 dollar Scott. I figured my bike was ok since no one in there right mind would try to ride a singlespeed at La Ruta, well except the 8 of us trying it. In fact I was told several times that night that I was loco for even trying it. We'll see. I tried to put on a brave face but deep down I was scared as hell. Especially after seeing the mountains we were supposed to go over. I hoped my 20 tooth would work but brought a 21 and 22 just in case.

I head to my room and get ready for the 3 AM breakfast. I don't really sleep all that well knowing or better yet not knowing what is to come.

Hotel Filling up with racers


Sunset over the Pacific

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shake The Trees

So my latest adventure found me in the Charlotte area to participate in the 12 Hour Tree Shaker Challenge. I was pretty excited about this race because two of my fellow Vassago Team mates were going to be there, Brian Archer and Chris Davis. Plus the competition was going to be good with Team Dicky and Ross Dowswell showing up.

The Run

So we do the usual Le Mans style run at the start. The goal of these are to try and spread guys out before you hit the singeltrack. You drop your bike off at the start line and do a small loop. It never works :). My goad for the start was to try and get up front as best I could because the trail doesn't offer many places to pass and there are several bridges that I knew were going to be bottle necks. One in particular would give me trouble for at least 3 laps. There was a suspension bridge that was so narrow that my bars wouldn't fit. I tried flicking the bars around and being all fancy to try and stay on the bike but after eating it on 3 consecutive laps I figured the best plan was to just walk this thing.

Settling In

I basically ride these lap races in big chunks of time with out stopping. I usually do one 5 hour chunk and then stop for a little bit. My plan was working pretty good. I'm riding at a steady brisk pace and really enjoying myself. The trail has nice flow and it has a nice combination of fast swoopy stuff for the first half and harder climbs for the 2nd half. I'm starting to pick out all my landmarks too. I like to make note of weird rocks and trees so that I know where I'm at on the trail.

First Stop

I had great support for this race as a good friend came in to watch me so I was really taken care of well when I did make my first stop. I did a quick check of the results and I surprisingly saw that I was in 2nd behind Dicky. I always have reservations about checking results. When I see that I'm doing well it makes me freak a little bit but it also inspires me to ride more.

Half Way

We've reached the halfway point and I've slipped to 3rd. Ross caught up to me about halfway through one of my laps. We rode together for awhile and he went by me. I hung with him but screwed up a log crossing and had to dab. That was enough for him to get a gap on me. I tried to close but then thought better of it. I knew that if broke from my pace I'd burn myself out and risk not finishing. I backed it off and let him go. There was still lots of time left and anything can happen.

Bring The Pain

Eight hours in and I'm starting to feel it. The hills are getting steeper and my body is starting to hurt. The low points are coming faster and more frequent but I'm still able to ride out of them. My pace is still good and my legs feel great. Each time I start a lap I get a new burst of energy. I'm riding less consecutive laps but after checking the results I have a one lap advantage on 4th place. Dicky and Ross are pretty well ahead of me but I'm not worried about that. I just need to ride for another few hours and I'll be done.

Just Let It Be Over

You get to point in these races where you don't care how you finish you just want it to be over. I'm there now. I'm riding at night. It's very cold and it seems like I'm the only one on the trail. The laps are coming real hard now and I know I have to do one more to make sure I have 3rd locked up. Dickey catches
up to me on my 2nd to last lap. He is still riding strong and says he is going out for one more. I ride with him for a bit just to chat and then I let him go. My light is also acting up a little bit. The connection into the battery is loose and it cut out on my. It's so dark in the woods but I don't panic and get it fixed.

Last Lap

I go out for my last lap and my support crew is really cheering for me and it helps. I know for this last lap that I just need to finish. Doesn't matter what time I finish. I'm riding just fast enough to not fall over. I'm starting to walk one of the bigger climbs. I get on the back half of the trail and I don't think I'm ever going to finish. It feels like I'm the only person that exists in the world right now. The trail is so empty. The only thing that keeps me going is the distant cheering I here. It's my support crew and it drives me forward.


I roll into the finish line and find that I've managed to hang on for
3rd place. A final check of the results show that I had 2 laps up on 4th place which means I didn't have to do that last lap oh well. Overall this was one of my best races. It was a tough bumpy course but the Jabberwocky held up and begged for more. This one is going on the schedule for next year.

As usual thanks to Vassago Cycles and The Bicycle Escape.

Congrats to all my Teammates and Pete for great finishes.

Now I need to focus on La Ruta

Few Pictures

One of these things is not like the other ;)

Brian on the trail tearing it up

Chis hammering

Me trying not hit trees

Pete in his purple flames

Thursday, November 1, 2007

DCCX Cross Race

DCCX was a cool cross race I did this past weeked. this was the first annual race held on the grounds of a veterans retirement home in downtown DC.

The adventure started early in the morning when I got lost heading to the race. I mapped out a route to get me around the heart of DC to avoid the Marine Corps. Marathon. I made a wrong turn and did a big loop around DC :). Anyway we made it.

It was a cool morning and it finally felt like cross weather. I get changed and do a few warm up laps. my legs are stiff from the Rowdy Dawg still, but eventually I work the kinks out. This is also the first traditional cross race on my fixed gear and I want to make sure I've got the dismounts nailed. the course is a long and challenging one. some good climbs which suit me and my one gear.

Finally time to start ad i set off on a quick pace and settle into the race. We get two laps down and I'm getting into some great battles with a few guys. I've only forgotten to keep pedaling once and nearly get launched off the bike.

Two more laps to go and guys are starting to fade on the challenging course. This is where I can pass a bunch of people as I sem to finish strong. One lap to go and IZm dying. My legs are on fire but I feel like I need to keep pushing myself.

Finally we start the last lap and I push my self to the end. I end up coming 32nd out of 68. Not too bad on a fix gear. the other thing that made this race fun was my Mom and Dad being there to watch me race. My Mom cheers so loud foe me :)

Next up is a 12 hour race called the Tree Shaker. 10 days to La Ruta. Holy shit! :)