Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I rode once since La Ruta. My legs felt great, but I had no desire to push it. I've been getting into other things. I helped Tim put in the new concrete countertops. It was a labour of love with lots of hiccups but they look fantastic and so original. You can't pick these up at Lowe's. There are actually ball bearings in there that look like a constellation. Plus they go so good with the plybo cabinents. Next project is a tile backsplash behind the sink and maybe a creative tile mosaic behind the 5 burner gas stove.
Matt and Katy put up a climbing wall in the backyard in addition to the slack lines. It sounds like good cross training!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I sat on the starting line on stage one of the La Ruta de los Conquistadors mountainbike stage race. I was nervous as hell. It was dark, about 5:30 in the morning. The fireworks celebrating the 15th year of the race were really spectacular, but they hardly put me at ease. They were loud and they were only ten feet away from all of us. I worried about my fitness, did I train enough? I was worried about the chaotic nature of racing south of the border. Would I collide with a moto or get bit by a dog? I was nervous about hurting myself.Would I break my upper mandible like Jeremiah did here last year?
But one of the biggest worries of the morning was the bike. My sweet carbon 9.9 was MIA. My suitcase showed up at the San Jose Airport, but the bike never made it. The TACA airlines clerk said don't worry...think positive! That actually made me feel better and I was sure it would show up later that night or the next day or at least before the racce.
I called Luis Fonseca, the marketing director, who invited me down to La Ruta after we met at Trans Rockies. The tone of his voice said it all, "oh know, that's not good" He wasn't saying no problem like the clerk. He mobilized and said I'll call the local Trek dealer and get you a bike for the race.
Its good to have a Trek family all over the world! In the morning I was taken over to Pazos bike shop owned by Claudio Brenes. I guess they helped Jeremiah last year when he was hurt. They didn't have a bike right there for me, but they would bring it to Jaco Beach that night. They got my info like size, stem size, tires and pedals. Super, I was set.
So, at least I was going to be able to race. The guys from the bike shop drove all the way to Jaco Beach to deliver me a bike. They arrived at 11. The race started in six hours. The bike was a beauty, but lost in translation was my size. It was a small 9.9. It seemed like a toy bike as I pedaled it around in the hotel lobby. We were both a little disappointed. I said to myself you have to learn spanish so these awkward moments don't happen so often.
So as I sat on the start line with 550 other racers, I felt the nerves of the unknown. What will this day bring? Will my back seize up? Will the front wheel come flying out? Are all the bolts tight? What does 15,000ft of climbing feel like?
The day was amazing and difficult. The bike was great. It was a little small, mostly because of the short stem. It was quite good on the climbs, but on the downhills I was wanting my bike for sure. I stopped once to raise the saddle, but thats it. Whenever I was hurting I wondered if it was the bike , or just my november fitness. But, by the end of the day I was in the leaders jersey of La Ruta! It was a long day on someone else's saddle, but It was success.
I continued to call the airlines with no progress. I won day two on the borrowed bike. I was getting used to it. I always wanted a bike with a shorter top tube so that was pretty cool. What wasn't so cool, was the absurd amount of climbing on day two. Day one was 15,000ft of uphill and day two was 12,000. Someone said that there were grades of up to 38% on pavement that day. The hardest part was never knowing where the summit was. The most soul crushing part was after all that climbing, the downhill singletrack was a slippery clay ditch that was hazardous to even walk. There was a cliff to one side that some racers even slipped off of. I was cussing the promoter, Roman, for sure. But I couldn't be too mad having won the stage and grown my race lead.
TACA was really starting to piss me off as well. They were starting to act like it was my fault that my bike wasn't with me. I implored the help of Hillary Harrison's mom, Karen, and her friend, Pipa. Karen said if anyone can get your bike back its Pipa. Pipa called and explained who I was, how expensive my bike is and how important it is that I get that bike back to continue as the leader of La Ruta. Pipa convinced them and I got my bike later that night. Apparently, it had gone to Panama for several days.
So, day three I got to ride up the Irazu Volcano on my own bike. I was putting a little pressure on myself now. Would I be tons faster on my own bike. Well the funny thing was, I couldn't get too comfortable on my own saddle. Maybe the damage was already done. I struggled up the volcano. It was only 9,000ft of climbing today. But, on the downhill I was so happy. Finally, La Ruta has a downhill. And I felt great on my bike on the downhills. It was a burly downhill and claimed a lot of victims, including JB last year.
Day four was brtually long. It was 120 Km and a lot of pedaling over very rough roads and railroad tracks. I was not very motivated to push it. I was in stage race mode...protect the lead and thats it. Do the minimum to win the overall. Thank god, I had Louise to follow the whole day. I trusted her lines and her experience on this last day. It was over 6 hours of riding for a total of 23 hours in four days!
La Ruta was crazy hard, but such a thrilling and challenging experience that I would recommend that everyone give it a try. It is exactly the hurt so good experience that mountainbike racers love!
It did take its toll on my body, though. I got a quick stomach bug for about three days after I came home and then I got a bad cold after that. Plus, my bike is trashed. The hubs won't spin at all. The white lithium grease is still packed in every part of the drive train and the kerosene is eating away at every surface it can.
But, La Ruta was an experience of a lifetime! Plus, Costa Rica is a stunning country with cool, friendly people.
I'm happy to answer any questions that you have about the race, too.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I survived La Ruta. My brain is not working good enough to tell the story yet. But this morning Tim was a little perplexed that I was so worried how crazy the world is and how many accidents can happen. I think that I'm just so thankful that everything went well and I didn't get hurt or have any bad experiences. I just feel like a dodged a bullet and caught some podium flowers instead.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
I'm off to La Ruta in Costa Rica! I'm really nervous for this stage race. Its four days of riding with something like 10,000ft of climbing per day. The first day is supposedly the burliest. Last year's first place woman did it in 8hours 20. That is a long day. Also, there are a lot of hike a bikes and no singletrack. But the good news is that it warm and beautiful and plenty of other people to slum with. There is no denying that its going to hurt real bad racing for four long days in November without too much training under my chamois. But its one of those races that I have heard about for years and finally am getting to go to so I feel really lucky to get to ride my bike in another new country. You can check out the race at www.adventurerace.com
We got our third taste of North Fork Mountain this month. What a life! It was a ride for Joel's birthday. Anne Brie organized the ride and she had never done North Fork before so that was special. The rest of us were all psyched to get another go at the ridge ride. Our warm and dry experiences earlier in the month were a soggy memory. It started sprinking on the way out, but we were all optimistic that we would stay warm. We all have great gear that is for sure. We had a nice loop planned. We climbed up Redman trail, which is a nice and relatively easy way to the ridge. Then we turn south on the ridge and proceeded to get soaked as the wet laurels slapped us on the way by. We rode on to sleet and some very light snow. By the time we got to the intersection of the ultimate downhill of North Fork Mountain Trail and Landis Trail we had to bail and take Landis down. We were all freezing and starting to get spacy and shivering. Landis is a killer downhill as well, but just not as extreme as NFMT. I rode the 69er which was cool, but have to ride it some more and make a couple of changes to tires and fork pressure before I really get a good idea of how the bike rides. I suggested we take the scenic route on the way home. Without a Gazatteer it ended up being a 20 mile extreme tourist circle. Joel's eurovan did awesome on the steep downs and ups of South Branch Mountain. Sometimes that is how you get to know the area, though, by getting a little lost. I'm amazed at how difficult it is for me to dress right for mountainbiking in the cold. I'm definately a summer lover when it comes to mtbing. Wish I was tough like the girls from Vermont!
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I did my token cross race for the year. There might be one more on the horizon, but not in the next couple of weeks. I like cross, but jeez no way is it as cool as mountainbiking. The Leesburg course was a roadie course. There was nothing techy. I'm still waiting for the sand pit or the off camber mud slide. I guess I don't have a good perception of cross since the 3 races that I have done were very small and very dry. It was fun , though and a great workout. Virginia and West Virginia are not exactly the epicenter of cross.
Congrats to JB for looking a lot like a still fit bike racer. His white shoes stayed nice and clean as well.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Grooms Ridge was the site of the 13 th annual sixpack downhill. Its a straight up downhill, not a super D. The Quinn Family finally took home the coveted men's win. Christian had been second and third many times and finally won by 1 second over winchesterton, Matt Mchale. I won for I think the 7th time. Come on Marla Streb when are you going to come and beat all the boys, too? Tim was the first Burger in 5th place. What's up H-Burg? Tim had a very, very tight team issue Mexican skinsuit that I got at Pan Am Champs back in 2002. It has never been washed, of course. The party was off the hook, sweet jesus.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Life is sweet when you can ride North Fork Mountain Trail twice in one month. The boys from Bike Magazine got treated to a sunny warm day in West Virginia. A crew from the burg went up and did just the sweet bits on the trail. We had our usual share of problems like a busted d-hanger and numerous flats. It was classic off camber leaf surfing and still the best downhill off the mountain.
Then we took the back way up to Canaan and stopped by the very eerily beautiful Bear Rocks. JB and conspired routes for the off road version of H-burg to Canaan. The next day the crew rode a classic Davis route...Forbidden Forest, Son of Plantation, Plantation, Davis Trail finishing on yellow birch. The day started out 48 degrees and raining, but somehow the sun came out later and we enjoyed trails and the view of Blackwater Falls. And of course, we then spent and long, long lunch at the best pizza place in the world...SIRIANNI'S!