Tuesday, November 20, 2007

we survived

La Ruta is a dangerous behemoth of a machine. Once this monster is set into motion the momentum is impossible to slow or change direction, just hold on, stay healthy, and don't stop. La Ruta's Ignition was switched on in Jako on Nov 14th and there was no way to stop it until it snaked it's way over the middle of Costa Rica and buried it's head deep into Caribbean waters near Limon. It seemed to have an insatiable appetite that gathered energy from it's participants, leaving destruction in it's wake for some. Moving swiftly over tall emerald mountains and blazing it's way down red rivers of mud. Not only a challenge to stay healthy and out of harms way, but also a challenge to keep all the possessions you required in a big yellow bag and not lost or forgotten along it's path.
The La Ruta machine's arms were in the form of buses that transported racers to far off villages for a quick nap and a refreshment before delivering it's next challenging stage. Logistically La Ruta was a colossal nightmare that required an army of yellow shirted workers to labor around the clock to keep the muddy wheels lubricated and spinning free. In my opinion they did a great job. But there were many stories of lost or stolen bikes, incorrect course markers, broken buses, broken spirits, broken bones, broken bikes, crashes galore, injuries, sickness, general despair, but also many satisfied ride junkies that wanted a beat down and got just that.
This monster machine did not sleep and never ran out of gas, and only hoped you would give up, run out, get sick, get lost, grow delirious, or fall through a train bridge. Roger and I emerged on the beach four days later, a few pounds lighter with allot of memories to share. Here is how I recall the trip...

Day 1; big fun
Racers converged in Jako, Costa Rica. A small, dirty surf town on a strip of beach on the Pacific side of the Country. I was glad to say goodbye to Jako. Moving inland away from the warm, sunny surf & blue skies the landscape changed dramatically as we moved east. Mud slopes shot up hundreds of meters, an introduction to racers what we were to endure for the next four days.
SS'ers united in the start gate at the Best Western Hotel early that morning. Vicious Doug, Tim D, Dicky, Vassago Kevin, Sean, MTBTom, 2:1 Deven, Pineapple Bob, and my self. ( I think I'm forgetting 1 ss'er?) oh duh, how could I forget Tom Greene!
Roger was making friends fast with his positive attitude and big smile that lasted till the end of the event and all the way home. I was fortunate to be Roger, attitude is everything when it comes to making the best of what could be a really bad time. Harry P possessed that same attitude and it was a pleasure to ride with HP on Day 2.
So day 1 was long, 7 hours and 20 minutes for me. Loads of climbing, extremely hot and humid. no crashing, but saw a guy fall into a ditch at 30 mph early in the first day of riding.
Tim D had a flat tire on top of the second mud hill. He'd pass me back an hour later on a super techy mud downhill single track with his bell ringing, he was the only person I saw ride it. I walked. Later I learned that a fellow Bostonian named Rich Blair with the MTB Mind team fell and tore up his knee so bad it needed 60 stitches. Rest up man, sorry to hear that.
The crux of day 1 was a 20k road climb that soared to a height of 1200 meters. I found my gear selection was right on. 32x20 was working out very nicely. I was able to keep with geared riders on the downs and climb out of the saddle for the ascents. Wish we had monstrous climbs like this one at home.
Work crews were paving the mountain road half way up and had allowed riders to pass on the left. The asphalt had recently been steamrolled and was sticky for 5k after the work site. The pungent smell of petroleum in the air and constant sound of my bike tires tearing away from the hot asphalt sounded like a 5 kilometer piece of Velcro tearing in two. I bet the race organizers arraigned for the road work for day 1 to add to the difficulty. I enjoyed it.
The final 20k of day 1 was tough but I stayed on course somehow. Gravel road climbs. Lots of folks got directed off-course by incorrect markers and people sending them on last years hike-a-bike hell. They were not pleased after day 1 on the bus ride home.
I didn't have a camera for the ride so I've been stealing some pictures from the web, Sean's blog, Jason Sager, and Canadian cyclist
Now I need to go rest and take another antibiotic pill. More to come on day 2, 3, and 4 when I wake up.


Thom P. said...

"like a 5 kilometer piece of Velcro tearing in two".

Nice one, and really good piece of writing overall, I'll be checking back hourly for the balance of the story.

Rest up and eat up...big time.

wraith said...

1piece no bugs ie. hitch hikers. Glad to hear you made it home safe.

doug said...

Nice write-up. It was quite an experience. Hope you're feeling better. It was awesome to ride with you guys. No doubt, Roger has such a positive attitude.

I caught a headcold on the flight home. Trying to recover from that.

Kevin has photos here: