Wednesday, November 14, 2007

La Ruta Stage One - Let's Get it Started

I woke up surprisingly fresh for the amount of sleep I had. I don't know whether it was my full stomach, anxiety, or the hot weather that was the cause, but my heart was pounding so fast and loud that it was almost impossible to sleep.

They checked our ID at breakfast to make sure we were racers. I don't know who would line up at 3am to steal breakfast. Then, we lined up at the start a few minutes early and were treated to an impressive fireworks show (noise bylaws must not be a problem here), with the Black Eyed Peas' 'Let's Get it Started' blasting in the background (I hate the Black Eyed Peas). There was a crazy army vet doing a crazy dance beside the starting chute. It was hysterical and definitely took the edge off.

I don't even know where to begin for the stage. It was only 95km, but we covered 14,500ft of vertical, crossing through jungle mud, subsistence farmland, fresh ashphalt and remote gravel roads.

The craziest part of the stage was riding through the mud in the jungle. Bright green lines of leafcutter ants crossed trail. I saw lizards, birds and all sorts of cool vegetation. The trail was littered with the remnants of shattered egos - including my own. The mud is beyond description. At times the mud is slick and feels like peanut butter. Going down, it's sort of like skiing. Going up, its like being on a stationary bike. There was no 'flat'. At times the mud is like clay and accumulates on your bike so that the wheels refuse to rotate and the drive train is caked in pounds of mud and the bike is to heavy to lift. For HOURS, I went so slow that it didn't even register on my bike computer.

I focused on my bike computer to measure progress, constantly recalculating whether I was on pace to finish the day. I guessed that my odometer would be shy by at least a bit due to the stretches of painfully slow movement. Imagine my surprise (and utter disappointment) when, at the second aid station, my odometer read 44km and they told me I had gone less than 37km. Was my odometer off by 20%?! Son of a...

I kept pedaling, determined to continue until the threat of darkness was upon me. I still had six hours before that was a concern. After the mud, things got mildly faster, but we still faced challenges. Bumpy roads. Steep climbs. Brand new ashphalt in blazing heat, with the tar seeping to the surface and sticking to your tires and making that tacking noise and slowing you down. It was so hot. I tried not to get bogged down by the challenges. On one shoulder I had the Black Eyed Peas telling me to get it started. On the other shoulder, I had Gerry telling me to just keep moving. So, I did.

I rode for miles without seeing anyone and wondered if I had taken a wrong turn. The occassional cliff bar wrapper or gel offered comfort that I was on track - I'm pretty sure subsistence farmers don't eat these things.

As I approached what I thought was the end, my spirits lifted. I was out of food, but realized that should be able to finish in daylight! I recalled Jon telling me that there would be a sign indicating 5kms to go. For almost 5kms I looked for the sign. My energy plummeted as I realized I might have wrongly estimated the finish. How much longer could this friggin stage be?

Gerry's voice returned, telling me to keep on moving. And I did.

Eventually, I turned a corner and there was a man in shorts that looked like Erik. He was smiling and clapping. It was Erik. I hammered a few hundred yards to the finish and was met by my deadgoat (and Ridley's) friends. 11 hours and 40 minutes.

Holy crap that was the hardest thing I've ever done.


Blogger BikingBakke said...

I was so glad to see you coming around the corner, Jack was forever optimistic that you'd be coming in "any time now".

And to think, this year the jungle was "dry"!

November 21, 2007 at 11:18:00 AM MST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like an incredible day, congrats Tori. Your persistence is an inspiration to us all!

November 22, 2007 at 8:56:00 AM MST  

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