Friday, November 23, 2007

La Ruta -- Suffering Redefined, Part 3

Day 3 was a pretty straight forward day: 35k up Volcano Irazu, 35k down Volcano Irazu. Once again the start was at 6:30 am. I was praying for my legs to come back to life. It was a little cool and misty and since conditions at the top could vary drastically, I had packed a lightweight jacket, arm warmers, and one 13 gallon white trashbag with pre-cut holes for my arms and head.

The climb was a combination of pavement, mud, and gravel. There was much less hike-a-bike today, for which I was grateful. Still, it took about 2 hours for my legs to feel good. Just as I was feeling better, Mr. Altitude raised his ugly head. This was my first time ever at altitude so I did not know what quite to expect. The best way I can describe it is like trying to breathe through a straw. As long as I was seated, I was o.k. It is when I tried to stand and hammer a little that I got light-headed. Oh well, at this point in the race my aspirations of a top 5 were replaced by a desire to just finish the race.

I was looking forward to the downhill as, ironically, this is where I had the advantage over a lot of the women ... and many men. I am usually a strong climber and poor descender, but in this race, it was reversed. Unfortunately, with all the rain the past 5 weeks, I was told that the descent was going to be very muddy. Forget the gravel road descent; think mud and cow manure covering baby-head to cow-head size rocks.

At the top, I put on all my clothing, including the trash bag, ate an oatmeal creme pie and Payday candy bar and prepared myself for a grueling 20 mile descent. The heavens decided to open up with a downpour. I am so thankful I decided to use an SKS mud fender as it kept the cow manure out of my eyes and mouth. I put my glasses away as they were pretty much useless in the downpour.

As far as trying to describe how technical the downhill was, think of West Virginia mud overlaying Mt Snow/Pinhoti rocks ... for 20 miles! Just plain crazy! And these are roads for the locals! I saw two Toyota Landcruisers stuck and abandoned in the muddy mess. I had to stop one time for a herd of cattle moving up the mountain path.

As we came into the coffee plantation, the road improved and I was able to pick up a little more speed. But I was cautious, as this was where Jeremiah Bishop broke his face last year. After I finished I rode over to the bike wash and let the CicloGuilly guys clean my bike with their pressure washers and kerosene/water mixture. Yes, I was rather disturbed at this method of cleaning, especially on Day 1. By now, though, I was too tired to care!

I got to shower with the guys, today. At least there were stall doors! After ensuring that Manfred (my mechanic) was taking good care of my bike, I left on the shuttle for the Geliwa Hotel. Another advantage to having a pink bike. Manfred, one of the senior mechanics, picked me out on Day 1 and took care of my bike all week. Sweet!

Even though this was the earliest I had gotten back to the hotel, it was a miserable night of sleep. Zeke and I had to share a very small rock hard bed. Not much room to stretch out for fear of touching your bed partner in a rather private area. Then the dogs barked most of the night. And when it started raining again, it was like Chinese water torture. Drip ... drip ... drip ... drip. Not to mention my whole body ached after 3 strenuous days.

Just one more day!


Lisa said...

Just a mention of West Virginia brings back all kinds of memories - mostly the cold, wet, slippery, bust your arse kind. Way to hang in there. Sounds like this race was quite a battle of attrition. Looking forward to the Day 4 writeup.

Danielle Musto said...

Honestly, there isn't one part of the race that sounds fun to me.

Day 4 please!!!

Unknown said...

I agree with Danielle, it sounds grueling. You're a trooper, if not a glutton for punishment. Anxiously awaiting the final installment.