Nov 20, 2006

Day 2 of La Ruta






Day two seemed like an impossible feat to Topher. I had to take him by the hand and have a heart to heart about why he had to start the next day and get through the first hour for the children back home. We cried a little, straightened ourselves up and marched out like the men we are. Besides,, it was just a little volcano with only 8,707 feet of climbing in 40miles. My faith in Topher was solid, and for myself I had high expectations. The previous day I held back a little in preperation for the next two days. Plus if you looked at the profile you would see about the most perfect bell curve a statistics professor could ask for.
35 kilometers up and 35 down seemed to level the playing field,,umm,, I guess thats not a level playing field but I was ready to establish some downhill dominance. We wouldn’t go all the way to the top of the Volcano Irazu but our peak would still be around 9500feet, and the weather was known to be the most unpredictable of the race. We were almost guaranteed to find cold rain, mist, and possibly hail. So I ditched the hydration pack, loaded up the bottles and pockets with provisions and included armwarmers, an undertee, a vest, matches and a bivy sack to my arsenal. I ditched ther cyanide pills since I had a live volcano at my disposal.
Another group start with about 450 riders pawing the earth, licking yesterdays wounds and getting ready to sacrifice themsleves again to bicycle love in the shadow of an activevolcano. My game plan was to hold a solid position to the top then release the trigger on the return to earth. Gravity proved to be a fickle ally.
The climb started almost immediatly on pavement, and the group quickly began to sort it’self out. We took a few gravel roads and at one point we were on what had to be the only piece of single track in all 175 miles of the race. Unfortunatly that only lasted about 300yrds and was a hike-a-bike for most of it. I found myself with similar folks from the first day which was encouraging since they had all finished in my vicinity. At the top of a run up a group of spectators had gathered to shout, cheer and offer as much vocal support as you could imagine. It was the spitting image of some of the notorious cobble sections of the springclassics, where the crowd gathers and is literally in the face of the riders struggling up the impossible. Once again rejuvinated by the crowd I took the right on the pavement with a lightened spirit ready to climb and hold the 15th position that someone told me I was in.
This is where the weather started to turn and suddenly I had to pull up my armwarmers and throw on the wind vest. At 12km to go the heavy mist rolled over the landscape and a light rain mixed with the fog, turning each rider into a rolling island isolated from the landscape, and escaping ahead of me or disappearing in to the fog behind. I chased a couple of local Lightspeed riders who I was certain were getting little pulls from their support vehicle which rolled with them all the way to the top. That was technically against the rules. I crested the lip of our climb and took a right down a washed out gravel road that was the beginning of our decent. I stopped because I was going to fast to look through my dirty glasses and I took a leak. I was shivering but excited and decided to collect my thoughts before getting to far into the downhill. It was going to be dangerous and fast and would require a clear head to the bottom and I knew I wanted to hang on the edge of safety. Jumping back on the bike, I was enjoying the decent and wondering when I would catch the first person. A couple of minutes passed and I was surprised to have not caught anyone, but I figured it was only a matter of time.
Then I came to a “Y” in the road and saw no signs giving any direction. Shit! A rider support car rolled up. He didn’t know which way to go. Panicking I realized I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. It didn’t make any sense. I guessed it might have been one spot a little further back. I went there but saw no arrows or riders tracks. A different support vehicle with a photographer came by. We discussed the situation for a minute even though they spoke less English than I spoke Spanish. Language barriers are like trying to talk through the glass in the prison visiting section with your lips sewn shut.
I gave up and went on. Screaming, to let off steam. My plans were screwed. I rode for a while with this support vehicle next to me and the photographer hanging out, then I got a sinking feeling, and realized that they thought I had cut the course. I stopped them and showed them my tracks from my decent and made sure they understood that I was back-tracking for fear of them disqualifying me for cheating.
All I could do was climb back up to what ever turn I had missed. I screamed to myself a few more times, said hello to the horses that were in the road which I had passed in happier times going down. On the way up I actually passed my turn again and had to turn back around to go the proper way which was a left. I had gone right, the natural flow of the road. Oh there were the arrows, 10ft up and a couple spray painted on rocks.
I spent the rest of the time catching people I never should have been behind. The drop off the back side of the Volcano was everything I had hoped for, too fast, too sketchy, and too long. Some sections were impassable by car. But it was so fun passing cars and other riders on loose inside corners. I got a lot of personal joy out of that, despite my plans on self mutulation later. In short it was fun.
I figured I lost about 30 min in my little mistake.
The finish was a repeat of the day before, but in a small town with beautiful daughters everywhere. I heared about Jeremiah Bishops downhill dash for glory that ended in a crash. Unbelievably he still came across the line in 2nd despite broken teeth, a cracked cheekbone and a seperated upper palate. I guess I was lucky.
Topher showed up later in high spirits. We signed autographs for the kiddies, I passed out a bunch of stickers to them and generally had a good ol time.
I know this is long but I have to mention the Lodge we stayed in that night. It was at 9000ft, shadowed by Volcano Turriable and invloved the best food the the trip. Check the pictures.
Tomarrow...Day 3

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You two rule! Sweet write-up, I look forward to the remainder of this story.

Bixxes

airing out said...

Harlan, this is such a great read. I can't wait until Day 3!!

Did the atltitude bug you?

jeffcote said...

" I was going to fast to look through my dirty glasses and I took a leak. I was shivering but excited and decided to collect my thoughts before getting to far into the downhill."
--> I think I landed in your leak! I took a really really good spill around that area! Dude, you forgot to tell me of that when I bought you a beer on day 3! I would have went for that tropical shot that the ambulance guy said I should get... what the heck is a tropical shot anyhow. Thats what scared me the most. Maybe is a vial full of LSD or something, who knows... I didn't take it.
Anyhow, it was great see'n yah there. And, I'll probably catch yah (yah right) at the ultramtb.com events. Check out the Jay event in Feb! I'll be going to that sucker forsure. I love winter riding. Well, thats what I have etched into my thick cells.
So long for now. Good read btw!

Brenda Sue said...

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