Saturday, November 17, 2007

La Ruta Stage Four - It Ain't Over 'til it's Over

I rolled out of bed so sore that I didn't know how I would have the strength to ride 120kms today. Knowing it was the last day - the last 4:15am breakfast, the last test of strength, the last cold shower at the end of the day - helped a lot. My legs were in reasonable condition, but my neck was so sore from yesterday's descent that it was hard to lift my head up to look any reasonable distance in front of me. Imagine how horrified I was when I got on my bike and discovered that my front fork was locked out still. I had locked it out to save energy on the volcano ascent yesterday, and, come to think of it, never turned it back on for the downhill. I thought the descent seemed so difficult because I was fatigued, but maybe it was because I had no suspension in the front. Ugh, no wonder my neck is sore.

It was overcast and rainy for most of the day. While this made it slow, I was glad we weren't dealing with the intense heat the riders faced last year. Over half of the stage was flat and took us on, or adjacent to, the railway tracks. Its hard to describe the challenge of riding over train tracks, but let's just leave it at really, really, really bumpy. I tried supporting my head with one hand (because my neck muscles essentially gave out), while directing my bicycle with the other. Progress was slow.

We crossed several train bridges. Imagine walking across a slippery wood bridge fatigued, with your bike on your shoulder and the cleats your bicycle shoes impairing your ability to acheive steady footing. Now imagine that there are stride-length gaps between the wood railway ties. Through the gaps, you can see a rapidly moving river some distance below (remember, it's been flooding on the east coast). Now imagine some of those ties are rotting, unstable, or missing. Danger is my new middle name.
The actual river crossings were a cake walk by comparison - though the current was easily the strongest of any that I'd walked through before.

We saw yet another face of Costa Rica - an endless sequence of poverty stricken barrios. The little girls passed bright red hibiscous flowers to us as we rode by. Little children lined up to high-five you as you rode past. One time I high-fived a handful of kids all in a line and there was a devilish little boy at the end that wound up and punched my hand. The older boys would hiss until you looked over and then blow you a kiss. It was hard not to laugh. Boys.

The last stretch of the day was mostly on 'ground'. I didn't know wtf that was supposed to be - hadn't we been riding on the ground this whole race? Turns out it was mostly hard packed sand, which would have been nice to ride on if the area hadn't experienced flooding. There were frequent standing pools of mirky water. Some were warm, some were waist deep or more. Who could know what lived in the water. I kept my tears inside because I needed the fluids and to direct my efforts to 'keep on moving'.

I finally crossed the finish line at Playa Bonita on the Caribbean at around the ten hour mark. I was hanging together by an inconceivably thin thread. It was a much longer day than I had bargained for and I couldn't believe it when Erik was standing there at the finish waiting for me. He had to have waited for hours. I was so grateful to see him. I could hardly believe I had survived the last four days and here was my best friend to comfort me and he knew exactly what I had been through (only, it took him about half the time). It made everything seem easier to handle. For the moment.

The party was in full swing on Playa Bonita. It seemed like everything would be easy now, but my La Ruta was not yet over. Never underestimate La Ruta.

Due to the heavy rain, there had been a mudslide on the main road back to San Jose, where we were headed tonight. The ride would now take five hours, in wet clothing, with airconditioning on one side and a backed up toilet on the other. Oh, La Ruta, you are so cruel!


Blogger Emma said...

Hooray for you, Tori! It was hard to read these entries and not think of them as pure fiction. The fact that you actually underwent all that is, frankly, amazing. Wow. And well done.

November 25, 2007 at 7:33:00 AM MST  
Blogger BikingBakke said...

I would've waited forever! would have the rest of the gang we travelled with. Although if it was too many more hours I was eyeing up a local quad that I was going to hijack.

I was so happy that you made it! You're a glutton for punishment, it'd be easier if you weren't working round the clock leading up to the race, you need your batteries charged up going into it.

Next time you'll know to enable your front shock for the biggest descent in the country!

At least we missed the "stage 5" many others had - the second bus broke down really close to Playa Bonita, so everyone piled onto the third bus and stood the rest of the way back. Ouch!

November 25, 2007 at 7:31:00 PM MST  
Blogger jon said...

Awesome, tori! i loved reading the account of your adventure. You truly have accomplished something amazing!

I'll try to put this in context for anyone, who is not a cyclist or has never done any ultra-endurance events, that may read this. In one year, Tori has started off with an "easy" (1 1/2 hr cross-country race in Lethbridge) and finished with the hardest mountainbike race in the world!

This is her progression (to my knowledge): cross-country race (Lethbridge)- one-day enduro (salty dog enduro)- 3 or 4 long stages of a seven day stage race (BC Bike race)- a full 7 day stage race (Transrockies)- 8 hr. Enduro (XC8, Sask.)- and finally, the hardest race in the world, La Ruta.

I am 26 yrs. old with 10 yrs of racing experience under my belt including several ultra endurance mountain bike races. To accomplish what tori has done at any stage in an athlete's development is remarkable but to do it in her first year is an unbelievable feat.

I think it tells volumes about tori's determination and perseverance... On the last day of La Ruta I was sitting having lunch with some of Canada's best mountain bikers (one former olympian, one olympic hopeful for Beijing, and others with loads of notable national and international results) the conversation swung to who Erik and I were waiting for. I gave short run-down on what she had done this year and what she was about to accomplish when she crossed the line in a few short hours. Everyone there was amazed. With all the talent and level of achievement there, everyone admitted that there was no way any of us could have accomplished that in our first few years of mountain biking let alone our very first.

Congrats Tori!

November 26, 2007 at 9:05:00 AM MST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don’t know what to say... Your display of commitment, determination and perseverance is truly inspiring. I am in awe.

November 26, 2007 at 5:30:00 PM MST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Tori. I am astounded at your accomplishments in general, AND THEN, you go and conquer something as like this without even mentioning it to me.

I am so proud of you!!! xo Dana

November 26, 2007 at 10:58:00 PM MST  
Blogger tori said...

awe geez. you guys are so sweet. thank you all for your kind words. i love my friends.

November 27, 2007 at 4:27:00 PM MST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading some of the details about your most recent biking adventure it is impossible for me to imagine the emotion and pride you must have felt when you crossed the finish line at La Ruta... and I cannot even describe the feelings I have, knowing what you have accomplished....(some of the comments made by friends have put the situation into perspective). Tori, you are a wonder - well done.

November 27, 2007 at 4:42:00 PM MST  

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