Saturday, November 24, 2007

la ruta - day one

Wednesday: Day One

95km (59miles)
4,420m (14,501ft) of climbing

3am wake-up for a 5:15am stage start. Breakfast consisted of rice & beans, eggs, watermelon some bread and orange juice. Race start was right outside the hotel. My nerves were high. I had no idea what I was getting into. Yes, it all kind of felt like the start to a 100miler but those races only last one day. I knew deep down inside there were three more days of what was in store and I was a bit worried. Worried I won't make it to the first check point (25km in) within the cut-off time (8:30am).

Rolled out to the starting line 45mins to the race start. Lined up somewhere in the middle with the other singlespeeders: TimmyD, Sean, Dicky, Kevin, Andy, Thomas, 2:1 Devin, etc.. Word had it the start was flat pave' for a mile or two and then went onto a dirt road where it just turned UP.

(photo: Sean)

Here's a nice, blurry, photo I snapped of the start. Just prior to the fireworks display.

Race start! All us singlespeeders kind of stuck together. Not much of a group but it felt like home.

TimmyD and Dicky look like they're having fun (Ha, less than 1km into the race. Probably the last smile you see from them or any of us 'till the end of Day four):

TimmyD was way off the front somewhere and Andy took off in search for him. I kept pace with Dicky and Sean. My stomach was as mess and it was super humid. Body at max capacity in these conditions didn't make for a fun experience. Just as soon as we were off the pave' and onto the dirt road it sure did kick up. My legs were in a bit of a shock from spinning freely to being under significant load to climb up the first mountain. I did my best to say on the bike but as soon as Dicky hopped off I was off (nice excuse, huh?). Here's where I got into my walk/ride/walk rhythm. Dave from Hartford caught up to me (I met him in the Vermont 50 a few months back). He was aboard a new Cannondale Rush. I used Dave to help keep a decent pace between walking/riding/walking, etc.. Dicky disappeared but I didn't care. My thoughts were on just surviving and trying to get to the end of the day's stage.

The leaders on the first climb:

Snapped this photo of us all walking up the first climb. Probably halfway up. Still a bit dark out. The road was tacky dirt, not mud as the profile suggests.

Here's one Sean snapped in the same spot. You can see how the trail curves to the left and kicks up.

Very shortly after that photo I was back on the bike and felt pretty good. Rode away from Dave with his words of encouragement and kept on going to the top. My 32x22 was feeling good now. Over the ridge and we're advancing on some rolling ridgeline jeep trail. Quickly saw TimmyD changing a rear flat tire and got worried. "Is La Ruta going to be like the rest of this season?" He said he was good so I kept on going. Meanwhile, I wished to myself that he was alright and this would be his only trouble this week. I wanted him to do well. He deserved a good race/experience.

Here's the ridgeline. Heard there are some phenomenal views. I never saw any.

Not long after the ridgeline turned into our first descent. Very rutty jeep trail with ruts deep enough to swallow bicycle tires. Not long after I dropped in I heard a bell ringing. TimmyD was back in action. I let him pass and did my best to hang on his wheel. That lasted all of a few 100 meters and I quickly realized I should ride within my abilities rather than hanging with Tim. Obviously he was riding faster than I was and my ultimate goal was to just complete this race.

As soon as Tim was out of sight I took a digger. Flew over the bars as my weight was too far forward dipping into another rut. "Okay Doug. Gotta relax and hold back a bit. We're only 15km into a 95km day with three more days to go. Slow Down!". Got myself under control and successfully negotiated my way to the first check point. The first thing I did was check the time. 7:30am. I've got a one hour buffer. WOW. I was not expecting that. Sweet. Grabbed a few tuna sandwiches to get more protein, stuffed a bunch of bananas down my jersey and turned around to see Samantha Phillips in hysterics. Roger was there trying to convince her not to continue. I thought I heard of a dislocated shoulder but quickly found out she had a broken clavicle from that first descent. She was still in shock and eager to continue riding. Both Roger and I did our best to convince her to stay and seek medical attention.

Check Point 1

(photo: Kevin)

I believe I took off prior to Roger leaving while he continued his medical assistance. Right after check point one we entered the mud. This is what most people hear of and see in regards to La Ruta. Thick, clay mud that latches onto everything. I was able to negotiate the downhills with some persuasive bike handling. The first creek I hopped off and walked across. A few riders were washing their bikes. I looked down and mine seemed fine. No derailleurs to gunk up :)

There was this one last push up a steep incline before we exited the mud (30km in).

I'm doing my best to walk up this muddy incline (thanks Sean for the photo) when I was surprised by Pineapple Bob. He was one of the other singlespeeders who has come all the way from Hawaii with his trusty Santa Cruz Chameleon. I thought I was walking at a decent pace until Pineapple Bob arrived. Complete with the Chameleon upon his shoulder, he walked past me like I was standing still. I was in shock. Wish I could walk like that. Somehow I managed to get up over this last muddy hump.

On our way down we exited the mud and entered check point number two. More tuna sandwiches, bananas down the jersey for later and a slice of watermelon or two for the road. Oh, and a quick refill of my one bottle (my Hydrapak still had plenty left). Some gravel descents into a valley. Here I caught up to John, a builder from New Jersey, and rode with him a bit. John and I crossed a fairly deep creek and saw all the support vehicles lined up along the road. This was the first place (45km in) the support vehicles could reach their respective riders.

I saw Adrianna and Alonso and they they gave me a bottle of water to dunk over my head. I needed it. The heat was getting to me, or rather I wasn't drinking enough. Bottom line, it was hot and humid. Its all about determination in times like this.

Not too far past the creek crossing the gravel road kicked up again. I've quickly come to realize there are no stretches of 'flat' in Costa Rica. At least not on the Pacific side.. John and I did our best to stick together but he was clearly a bit stronger than I at this point in time so I fell back. I duck deep down to get the strength to get out of this valley but the climbs were steep. Lots of walking on the gravel road. Eventually, I made it out and into check point three (57km in).

The third check point was in a small town. This was my first encounter with salted, boiled potatoes. I love these things. First introduced to them in the 2004 Vermont 50 (my first 'official' endurance race longer than 25miles). These things help you so much. I downed a handful and left the aid station with Roger. Got a newfound burst of energy and took off. The next 20km was all road. I felt good at the bottom and pulled away from Roger. Most of the climb was spent solo with no one around. I didn't see anyone above me and no one seemed to catch up to me. The climb went on for what seemed like forever. I wasn't carrying a watch (something new) so I had no concept of time. Guess that was a good thing for a race of this stature. Found my rhythm and slowly grinded up the mountain.

Adrianna and Alonso would periodically come by with some bottles of water. I did my best rendition of Floyd Landis in stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France.. ie: dunking the water bottles over my head to keep me cool. Complete with soaking my core.. It helped so much.

Near the summit the knife twisted some to make the pain even greater... They were repaving the road for the final 5km. Fresh, hot, asphalt and tar to ride over. As if the incline wasn't enough resistance; we now had the tar sticking to our wheels. It immediately irritated me but I quickly resolve any issues by telling myself everyone had to ride this just like everyone has to ride this long climb. Not too long thereafter came check point number four. By now I'm not paying attention to where I am relative to check point closing.

Adrianna snapped this shot as I'm near the summit of the day's biggest climb:

A couple people caught up to me near the top but I wasn't concerned. Up over the summit (near 1,200m) and down a nice long descent to about 500m in elevation. Sharp right turn into what turned out to be the last climb of the day. Quite a few people missed this right turn and went almost two hours out of the way. Pineapple Bob and John are two that I personally know missed the turn. That explained how I finished infront of Pineapple Bob when he was clearly riding better than I.

The tank was running empty and this was a long struggle. Still on and off the bike but quite a bit more walking than riding. Adrianna and Alonso helped a bit providing me moral support and more water for my head.

Struggling, not sure if I'll ever finish the day:

Kevin and Sean on the last climb:

(photo: Sean)

Around every bend I was hoping I'd see the summit. Every bend was a let-down but it convinced me to ride through each one. Eventually I came around a curve and saw a bunch of people and what appeared to be a white banner. Hmmm. What is this? I got closer and asked someone (in my best hacked Spanish) "Finito?". Then looked up to see the finish within 100ft of where I was. You've got to be kidding me! I could have sworn there was another climb after this gravel road. Guess my memory of the profile was wrong. Either that or the heat got to me. I sprinted through some mud bog and to the finish line.

The day's results:

What a relief! I finished day one of La Ruta and finished it very far within my goal (10hrs). Despite how tired my body felt I was extactic! I can't believe I did it. Found my bag and got cleaned up. Dropped my bike off to get cleaned with a warning from Dicky along the lines of they were using Kerosene to wash the bikes. Oh well, I wasn't concerned. Dehydration headache set in fairly rapidly and I quickly noticed all the climbing in the saddle has disrupted the sciatic nerve in my back. Not good!

Seeing as I was too busy suffering, I bought some photos from If I never specified they came from either my camera or someone else's blog then they're from Like these:


day one sunset:


Blogger sean said...

great write up. you put an hour on me between checkpoint one and the finish. i was at #1 at 7:45-ish...

pssst- mud hill climb photo is actually mine. ;)

11/25/2007 9:58 AM  
Blogger doug said...


Photo credit updated.

11/25/2007 10:16 AM  

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