Thursday, November 22, 2007

La Ruta -- Suffering Redefined, Part 2

Day 2 began at 4am. I woke up with cobwebs in my head and stumbled on down to breakfast. I knew that the trick was to get there early enough to beat the other 499 people, so that I could eat quickly and get back to the room to grab my gear and get the first shuttle. At this point the food was only fuel: not to enjoy but to shovel down so that the body could convert to precious glucose.

The shuttle ride was 20 minutes to El Rodeo. Upon arrival, I was amongst the first in line to get my bike. One advantage to having a pink bike was the ability to easily find it among the endless sea of black bikes. We rolled out at 6:30am, but then quickly ground to a halt as we hit that same darn mudhole that we finished in yesterday! After tip-toeing through (I was not enthused about gettting muddy this early in the stage), I was back on track, passing people who were coasting the descents and rolling up the ascents until they just about came to a stop. It was like everyone was on a singlespeed! Having to weave between the hoardes was frustrating.

But the easy hills came to an abrupt halt as we passed through a small community and then hit the first WALL! This first major climb was 300 meters in 1.5k, on loose rock. Once again, off the bike. I immediately began to lose positions as people passed me, who were also walking. I suck at hike-a-bike. It may have had something to do with the painful popping in my right Achilles tendon as well as the super-tight calves.

On the first fast descent, I caught a lot of women who had passed me on the previous climb. I was rockin' and rollin' until I cooked a corner and found a sharp, pointy rock. Pssssssssss! Ripped a knob partially off. Stan's would not fix this. So I stopped and put a tube in. My momentum was gone. And now I was playing the cautious game. I had another tube but still had 50k to go.

I was looking forward to the pavement climb, thinking I would get back into a rhythmn. Wrong! 25k of stairway to heaven climbing. I got a crick in my neck just looking up the climbs. I thought once or twice I saw angels while climbing, climbing, climbing. Just when you thought it could not go up anymore, it did. This is where I ran out of gas. Seeing 2.1 mph on my computer was demoralizing. Seeing only a HR of 136 was also. I was beginning to die. On fumes, I reached the top. I washed 2 oatmeal creme pies down with Gatorade, hoping for a small miracle in the form of ATP's as I had a nice 8k descent to recover.

At kilometer 65 I was feeling good again on the flats. I was able to stand and hammer a little. Once againg I began passing people. I began to smell the finish. I knew it was just a short climb, followed by a quick descent into Terramall. And then I saw the volunteers ahead pointing us to a right turn. This is where I had one of those "You have got to be kidding me!" moments. As far as I could see was a wall of mud! And a line of people carrying/pushing their bikes. They looked like ants. After about a 100 yards of walking I had to push, I was so tired. This is where strength training would have helped me. Carrying a 24 pound bike is easier than pushing a 40 pound bike. See, as you pushed, the mud would accumulate on the tires and bike just like you start with a snowball to create a 5 foot tall snowman!

At the very top was a volunteer who would grab your bike to lift it up the 5 foot cliff. I was so tired by this point that I could not lift my bike. Luckily, a tall male racer was there to help. He lifted the bike and then myself up the cliff. The descent was even crazier. Straight down the friggin' mountain. Imagine Bear Grylls (Man vs Wild) sliding down the Costa Rican slopes ... but with bike in tow! At least now the 15 pounds of mud on the tires and linkage kind of acted like an emergency brake. All I was thinking at this point was, "Don't tear an ACL or rip off the derailleur."

Oh, almost forgot. In between Mud Wall Climb and the Mud Luge Descent was the hip deep walk through shoe-sucking mud. I thought that if this gets any deeper, they might find my fossilized remains several hundred thousand years from now.

I rolled across the finish line ... completely spent. How the hell was I going to get my body recovered for Day 3?


Urs said...

Well written and well done. Can't wait to read part three.

Mark D. said...

Plus one to what "urs" said.

awesome write up :-)