Friday: Day Three
2,654m (8,707ft) of climbing
Another 3:50am wake-up. After I somehow got out of bed I followed the routine I did the day prior. Figured that worked on day two it'll work on day three. Got to the start with ample time. Found a little tent and hung out with TimmyD, Dicky, Travis, Becky, Sean, Kevin and Carey. Decided to run two water bottles today rather than my Hydrapak and a bottle. Some of were trying to negotiate the many people who have made a 3ft square section of pavement their own private pre-race local. Others stopped to chat with fellow singlespeeders.
Found a good place to stage somewhere in the middle. Heard Roger and TimmyD were up front somewhere. I was content with my spot. Figured Dicky and Andy are here so its all good.
6:30am rolls around and we're off!
TimmyD's got the gameface... and looking strong!
With Roger right behind him..
We had a massive roll-out through the streets of San Jose. Helicopters overhead and the streets lined with spectators. Super cool. Not quite 2km into the race I hear some car laying on their horn. Then all of a sudden said car blows a stop sign and stops short 3ft into the intersection narrowly missing many racers, including Dicky's rear wheel. The Costa Rican racers started shouting all kinds of stuff in Spanish. I can only hope they were cursing the driver of the car.
The road very quickly turned from urban to somewhat rural and kicked up pretty good. I did my best to ride it, completely out of the saddle turning over the pedals at what seemed like a non-existent cadence. What ever I was doing seemed to be working since I kept on pulling away from people. Racers I knew were cheering me on. Spectators were cheering me on. It was such a rush. I knew that there were very little, if none at all, flat sections in today's stage so I kept mentally prepping myself to do my best in pedaling at such low cadences.
Up that paved climb with everyone cheering me on and a sweeping right turn brought us into this:
We also occasionally encountered traffic as Thomas so graciously points out:
Around this area I caught up to Roger (both Dicky and Andy were long ahead of me). Pineapple Bob also caught up to me and the three of us did our best to get up this last little incline to check point number one. Probably the only singletrack in this whole trip:
Leaving check point one Pineapple Bob and I bombed the short descent into the next valley. It was a dirt/pave road with a nice layer of water on it. Needless to say, my Ignitor up front kicked up a lot of dirty water. I also happened to lose my big water bottle. Should have tightened that cage at the start. Damn! The next incline (up towards check point two, now 20km into the day) Pineapple Bob dropped me. Oh well. Got a long climb today and this is only the beginning.
I made it to check point two which was the start of the long road climb to the summit (3,000m). Refilled my one, and only, bottle and downed some tuna sandwiches. Dropped a ton of bananas down my wet, gritty jersey. Popped two watermelon slices in my mouth and began climbing up the road. The road kept on going up, and up. Through clouds. Around a turn into a headwind. Around another turn out of the wind and into sunlight. Constantly went back and forth between wearing my windbreaker and going with the BKB-approved short sleeve jersey. Despite how grueling of a climb we had infront of us, it still was quite enjoyable to take in the scenery.
It was getting painful and I was starting to feel hot-spots where my cleats reside due to being out of the saddle pedaling for so long.
By this time I sensed a dehydration headache coming on. That also reminded me I only had one water bottle and it was pretty much empty. Downed some Endurolytes in hopes to ward off the headache. That's fun trying to swallow little capsules with no fluids and a dry mouth. I sensed myself slowing down but not quite moving backwards just yet. A fine rider from Boulder Cycle Sport lent me a bottle even though there was about a third of water left in it. Thank you!
Had a nice chat with someone else on a Cannondale Rush that had a broken Lefty. He was complaining about his back bothering him since the fork was fully compressed (looked like the internals were blown). Then he started complaining about having to descend the mountain without front suspension. I recall making some comments about how I'm in the 'same boat' and just laughed. To make his day brighter I suggested when he returns home to get his hands on a 29inch Lefty front wheel and ride that Rush with a 29er up front. I told him he won't want to go back.
Not much further a mighty fine local was giving out a plateful of boiled potatoes and salt. He sensed I was suffering and offered me some. Without any hesitation I gobbled them up. "You want Coke?" Assuming he meant Coca-Cola I replied, "Yes. Please!" He returned from his car with a fresh can of Coca-Cola. Sweet! With two bottle cages full of empty bottles I held onto the soda in my hand and did my best to climb, out of the saddle, with a soda in my hand. Those Ergon bar-ends made a nice place to hold onto the soda (I recall Jorge's brother making some comment about that when he first saw my grips just a few days earlier. haha). Just around another bend we're at the summit (35km into the day)! Whoa hoo!
At check point three I immediately had both my bottles filled with Gatorade and began gobbling up tuna sandwiches, more potatoes, watermelons etc. I noticed Mike(?) over on the corner tuning up one of his Whistler teammate's bikes. He's friends with TimmyD and was the team mechanic for a group of guys that came down from Whistler. I wandered over and asked him for some chain lube for my chain and pedals. As we were doing that someone from over at the check point food booth was shouting things at me. I was too focused on getting my bike ready, eating and a quick nature break to pay attention to what this guy was saying. I believe his words were positive and in regards to my well-oiled singlespeed machine.
We've climbed so far, its time to go down the Volcano! I recall Dicky saying something about the descent being so rocky I'll have to stop a few times due to my lack of front suspension. The guys at check point three warned me the descent is fairly muddy and sketchy. Tinker didn't seem to mind:
I was a little cautious at first but then opened it up. The rain was coming down at a steady clip and I lost yet another bottle (doh!). This was the replacement I had for my vertical cage. I even tightened up the cage. Oh well, we're going down now anyway. Don't need two bottles.... I was back picking off those carrots and before I knew it we're going back up again? Huh? Wasn't today's stage just a big climb up the Irazu Volcano and then an awesome 30km descent? Turns out I forgot two short little climbs on the backside of the volcano. One around km42.5 and the other just after check point four (km50). Damn. As soon as I started recovering from the climb I get knocked back down again.
La Ruta lesson #2: Do not listen to what anyone has to say in regards to how far you are in and how far you have to go. It will play tricks on your mind and then you're dealing with La Ruta Lesson #1.
I kept my composure and seemed to navigate the very wet downhill with ease.
Came around a bend and saw this rider standing in the middle of the road (we were on a gravel road that apparently turns into a mudslide when its raining). As always, I immediately asked if they were okay. Upon getting closer I realized it was Andy. I stopped. "Andy! What are you doing back here? Are you alright?" He looked delirious but waved me on telling me he's okay. I hate to leave but he said he's cool. Not knowing how bad he really was (later found out he hit rock bottom, biggest bonk he's ever encountered) I started pushing it with the thought that I want to stay in front of him (for once).
Through a few more puddles, like this one,
and I arrived at check point number four. The final check point of the day. Feeling a bit better now I didn't spend much time here. Refilled my only bottle and grabbed a bunch of food (the usual: bananas, watermelon and tuna sandwiches). Kept looking over my shoulder for Andy but didn't see him. "Okay, ride smart. Don't sweat Andy.". The volunteers at check point four said the rest of the descent is very treacherous so be careful.
I thought I just went through treacherous? Anyways, continue mustering on. The trail did get bad. Mud almost a foot deep in places with large rocks (6inches in diameter) hidden beneath. I was playing it smart picking my lines yet on the brakes the whole time. Slowly picked a few people off while trying not to falter like some riders. The rain is heavy and my clothes are soaked through. Shivers would periodically set in which reminded me to keep my mouth open so my teeth don't chatter but not open enough so I'm swallowing God knows what is coming up off the trail.
This went on for quite a while. I'm just doing my thing trying to stay upright. Farm pasture after farm pasture came and went. Down the Volcano I went. Eventually down into the fog
which told me I'm getting closer to the bottom. The downside was the fog seemed to last forever. By now the shivers were getting worse and my forearms were fatiguing very quickly (ie: they hurt). I was beginning to lose hope. Something that I could not lose for fear I'd never get off this volcano. "Its just around the bend. Another bend." I kept telling myself. Figured these little goals will help me get down the mountain as they've helped me get up the many mountains we have summited over the past two and a half days.
Eventually the mud slowly dissipated and it seemed like we were coming into more civilization. Now a wet gravel road I was able to lay off the brakes some and shift focus to just directing the bike through much less difficult terrain.
The gravel road turned onto a paved road with a short little roller. I hustled up this roller knowing the finish is just 'around the bend'. Police directing traffic. Excellent! We're getting closer. Sharp left turn into a double-track gravel path. Pointed the bike, fingers as far from the brake levers as possible, and zooom! 5km more descending to go.
Came around a sweeping right turn and almost slammed into the back of a team car. Come on! Get off the road. We're almost to the finish. Why do you need to be in the way of the riders now? I was ringing my bell profusely but I doubt they heard it. Not wanting to slow down much I took some sketchy inside turn and passed them. Desperately wanted to tell them who's number one but I refrained and just pointed the bike back down the mountain. Nice swooping turns through a coffee plantation. I seemed to be passing everyone like they were standing still.
Why do most riders slow down when they are nearing the finish of a race/stage/day? Was it fatigue? Was it ignorance? I've always found to be even stronger when I know I'm near a finish. Probably due to the knowledge of in a short while I'm done! Anyways, I continued to pass people and I'm sure all they saw was a bright orange and black blur. My face was all smiles knowing the people I'm passing are in shock seeing some guy on a rigid singlespeed passing them like they are moving backwards. What a rush!
Tight left turn. Hard on the brakes to control speed and who do I see out of the corner of my eye? Pineapple Bob. Looked as if he was pulling himself up off the ground. I was going too fast to slow or stop so I kept on going (sorry Bob). Another turn later we're at the finish, 66.7km completed!
Hooray! As much as this was one of the shorter stages the heavy rains on the backside of the Volcano made for an equally as difficult stage. We went through so many micro climates this day it was both amazing and shocking.
The Day's results:
I beat both Andy and Pineapple Bob! Couldn't quite catch Dicky (he finished 20minutes ahead of me)
Immediately dropped my bike off for a wash and found my bag of clothes so I could go clean up. I was frigid.
(can't miss that bright orange work of art)
A while later I'm all cleaned up. Dry wool socks on and my jacket and those feelings of cold are gone. I found Jorge and made my way over to Alonso's truck so I can prep my bike for the last day: cleaned the brakes and realized I'm still 50% brake pad life. Sweet! Changed gearing over from my 32x22 (42.2 gear inches) to my favorite... 34x20 (49.3 gear inches). Once that was all done I dropped my bike off at bike storage. Said 'Adios' to Dicky and Tim as they were on the next shuttle to our hotel and I grabbed something to eat (quite possibly my downfall for day four). After some food and a chat with Becky and Travis I hopped a shuttle with Roger and Andy to our hotel.
The race organizers put all the racers into quite a few different hotels for the night of day three. The six of us (Andy, Roger, TimmyD, Dicky, Kevin and myself) were at the same hotel (amongst others), which we later found out was the furthest away. The shuttle ride took an hour and a half and we went over two more mountain ranges! Complete with the shuttle stopping a few times so the driver could get directions.
I have to admit, it was worth the drive. We were in a nice, posh, resort nestled in the middle of nowhere. Too bad we arrived in the dark and would leave the next morning in the dark. By the time I arrived both TimmyD and Dicky already ate so Roger, Andy and I found our way to the resort restaurant and had some pasta with black bean soup.
Turns out we had to be up by 3am to catch the shuttle to day four's start (day three's finish)! Probably got, maybe, five hours of sleep that night.....