Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Zen ski

Every year my friend John goes out alone on Christmas day for what he calls a "Zen" ski. This year after all the presents were opened and everyone's belly filled with breakfast, most of my family decided to go back to bed for a nap. I decided this was a great opportunity for me to get away for my own Zen ski.

After I gathered all my gear, I realized I have yet to buy some poles for classic skiing (skate poles way too long). A quick visit to John's place and I had a pair of $200+ carbon fibre poles to ski with!

I wanted to do a quick ski; therefore, I drove to the nearest entrance to the Gatineau Park, which is Gamelin, just 9kms from my place. The plan was to go to top of Pink and back. The parking lot at Gamelin was quite busy. I strapped on the sticks and was on my way.

The conditions were spring-like. The temperatures hovered just above freezing and the snow was hard packed with a couple of centimetres of fresh snow - fairly quick surface. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had just taken up classic skiing again after a 25yr hiatus. This third time out on my skis, I started getting a good feel for it and was merrily putting along. I couldn't have asked for a better day or conditions. I made it to Pink lake in about 40mins and I took a few minutes at the lookout to enjoy the view.

View of Pink lake from the look-out on a sunny Christmas morning.

Looking down Pink Lake hill

The ride back to Gamelin was quick. I opted to ride the downhill in the tracks at Pink Lake and have to admit that I was questioning that decision about half way down, as I felt I was going way too fast, but it was more a question of my head playing games with me. I made it down with no problem at all. You do pick up some good speed down that hill!

The view going down towards Gamelin is my favourite view in the Gats
because it always reminds how lucky we are to have this
amazing playground at our doorstep.

Made back to Gamelin in just under 25 minutes. After all that exercise, I was ready for this. Bring it on!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Devil is Coming North

I am very stoked and excited to report that Vassago Cycles has offered sponsorship to Big Ring Racing for the 2008 race season. I'm hoping that lots of the team will be throwing their legs over some big wheels this year and riding the hell out of them - cause if you're a devil, that's what you do!

Did you know that . . . .
"The third devil is called Vassago and he rules over the legions of the 26"
- Malleus Maleficarum, 1496
Ruled over 26 inches! Damn right!

Spread the word . . . . Big Ring Racing is going to be possessed with the devil!


29er Racing Ralph observations

While at Santa's Village in Bracebridge this summer (Porcupine Ridge trailhead is in their parking lot BTW) Riley asked Santa for MTB racing tires and videos.

Unfortunately there are very few fat & light 24" offerings. Thankfully, Schwalbe does make their awesome Racing Ralph in a 2.4 24" tire. So on behalf of Santa I ordered a set. Somehow I accidentally added a pair of their 2.4 29er offerings as well.

As per the online reviews, these tires are indeed quite light for their size. I recorded 617 and 670 gr which is not bad considering how thick the sidewalls felt. I was a little surprised by the variance in weight though. Still, beggars can't be choosers as there were only like 100 examples of this tire shipped to USA and I got WebCyclery's last pair. Riley's tires were in the 525 gr range which will be a huge improvement to his current 850gr DH tires.

Once I mounted my tires, they stretched to 57mm casing which is a good 2-3 mm wider than the Geax Saguaro. Stan's whole marketing spiel about their shorter rim sidewall (quite visible BTW) which allows for a larger tire volume is in fact true. The Schwalbes mounted on my Velocity Blunts were 56mm, yet on the 1mm narrower Stan's Flow rims the tire casing was 1mm wider. The Stan's rims also get a real loud popping noise as the tire's bead is forced into their unique 'hook'. Even after deflating the tires to 0 psi I still had to explicitly pop the bead off the rim - pretty cool!

So I did a ride Tuesday night with the new tires and wheelset. At 25psi the tires were still quite firm so I deflated to about 22 psi. On the road, these tires quickly proved to me that they really do like to roll. Float and control was excellent on the loose stuff. Grip was exceptional as well, no doubt due to Schwalbe's 'Triple Compound' setup (think Kenda stick-e). There's a reason why these tires MSRP for $65 USD...

Despite the Ralph's volume, there was lots of clearance on the Niner EMD frame. Niner frames are pretty amazing. There's a LOT of flare in those seat and chain stays. I'm even able to comfortably run roadie cranks which makes for a nice narrow Q-factor.

Even Strider was impressed with the EMD's capabilities.

I'll be able to give this setup a good rip end of January when I spend a few days in Austin Texas. I might even do a naked review from Texas... For now I'll stick to snowy roads.

BTW, despite not riding or spinning for over a full month, my legs felt great during the ride, and most importantly, the next day. I credit snowshoeing for keeping the proper muscles in shape.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dirty Girls Do Costa Rica Day 3

Apologies, this one is extra long. I didn't realize I was so verbose...
As in the previous days 1 and 2, my current day comments are in italics. This is day 3 of 3.

I realized in the evening of day 2 that I had a nasty burn. My arms and legs both had precise lines dividing glowing white with a flaming red. It was quite painful. Turns out all four Dirty Girls forgot sun screen on yesterday morning's 3-4 hour climb up the volcano in the blistering hot sun. We all had identical burns that proved quite entertaining for anyone who saw us after the race was over. Especially when we were all together and especially when we wore tank tops. I piled zinc cream over my burn and lathered on thick sun screen for day 3.

The night before I noticed that the math didn't work out for us arriving on time for the race start time. Our hotel was half an hour away from the start line and the bus was picking us up 20 minutes before race start. All 400 racers were spread throughout the town filling every hotel and therefore probably didn't have this same problem. Our bus load of 15 racer worried/joked about this on the ride over. I still had to replace my brake pads and lube my chain. Each morning my chain was bright orange because the race organizers graciously washed our bikes for free but charged $50 US to lube the chain afterwards. huh? I just accepted my rusted amber chain knowing my bike was going to be retired immediately after the race was complete (I was currently riding a Cannondale F1000 [hardtail with a headshock] and knew I was going to get my Rocky in the spring. For the record, I would pay the $50US to have my chain lubed now. I know its worth it in a race like this.)

Anyway we finally arrived and were glad to see many racers milling about. The race had not yet started. We found our bikes and start fixing them immediately. Someone mentions that the race starts in 5 minutes. Great! I put my brake pads on faster than I ever have and managed to only be about 5 minutes late for the race start. That was okay by me as I was used to it after yesterday.

Again we start the day with a climb on a paved road. No one expected this, as this day was supposed to be mostly flat and downhill. I eventually caught up to other riders and my legs started to warm up a bit. They had felt like two stiff foreign objects before the race began. Because I started after most people I had to work my way through a double line of cars, trucks and buses that were cheering on the racers and at the same time seemed oblivious that they were completely in the way of the racers. This included several huge MAC trucks which blew hot exhaust out the right side. Unfortunately I had to play leap frog with several of these MAC trucks so the burning exhaust seared my legs and lungs almost continuously for 45 minutes. Finally we got to a rocky downhill road that did not allow the vehicles to follow. It was similar to yesterday's descent. It was a relief to leave the traffic although my hands weren't happy to curl back up in the brake position.

Soon the rocks turned into thick muck. I caught up to another large group of riders at this point all trying to work their through a muddy descent pushing or carrying their bikes. The muck was so thick it was swallowing our feet up to the ankles. Every step was a challenge. Despite this, it was actually a lot of fun, a highlight of the race for me. After we came out of the muddy section I noticed everyone was getting their bikes cleaned by locals who lived on the road we were passing through. So I stood in line to have mine done as well. A nice Costa Rican man sprayed my bike clean of the heavy mud & lubed my chain in under 2 minutes flat. Amazing.

Next we climbed up a dirt road until I finally reached check point 1. Little did I realize that the next section was supposed to be hell, similar to day 1's crazy climbing conditions. I don't know who said we would be descending all day but they were full of sh*#! We had a hard climb on a dirt road mixed with a small amount of rolling hills for 2+ hours in intense heat. I headed for every piece of shade I could find on the road sometimes zigzagging back & forth to grab a short relief from the heat. I was pushing my bike up climbs that I could normally climb without too much difficulty. I looked around and everyone seemed to be in the same shape as me which gave me some comfort. Whenever we passed the locals, they sprayed us with hoses. Although grateful for the cooling water, I couldn't help think that if I hadn't sweated off my sun screen by now, spraying me down with a hose was certainly finishing it off.

This climbing section was by far the toughest of the day and perhaps the toughest of the race for me. On the scattered downhills I had to be very careful because there were horizontal ditches that stretched across the road, presumably for drainage purposes. I managed them all pretty well except one. It was a little deeper and I was going a little faster so when I hit it, I flew off my bike. My hip took the brunt of the fall getting bruised and cut. This combined with a bloody elbow and a sore left thumb was the extent of the damage. I had to hold my handlebars differently to ease my thumb pain for the rest of the day. This fall shook me up a bit so after that I rode noticeably slower and more conservatively. I tried to ignore my nerves and gain back my confidence. Finally I reached the next check point which meant the end of the climbs, this time for real.

I noticed at one point that my salt pills were ruined from the water being sprayed down my back. They were now empty capsules.(how bout using a baggie, Tanya? Its not rocket science!) This was not a good thing because these little pills had been a godsend to me since the race began. So I asked the people working at the check point for some salt. I poured it into my water mixing with my powerade. For some reason I didn't taste the mixture before I left. Big mistake! Ever drink 2 liters of the ocean? Every mouthful was puckering my mouth and making my eyes water. I was nervous cause I didn't know when the next check point was and if this next section was anything like the last one, I was in big trouble cause I couldn't drink very much of this putrid liquid at one time. Plus too much salt makes you sick to your stomach and actually dehydrates you. Kind of the opposite effect I was going for...

Luckily we started off on a smooth paved downhill road. It was perfect - exactly what I needed. This went for quite some time until we turned onto the dreaded railway tracks that I had read and heard so much about. These tracks had cement ties rather than the typical wooden ties we are used to. The space between the ties was filled with rock most of the time.

That meant when the rocks were there you could ride, when they weren't it was very tricky. Especially with a hardtail having a back wheel that had a tendency to fall off (keep coming out of the dropouts for some reason). I was riding along on the tracks when I heard "Hey, you don't have to be up there!" There was a small dirt path parallel to the tracks that I hadn't even noticed. I guess I was too tired. I felt pretty stupid...

In this section there were lots of people watching and cheering and kids would put their hands out to give me five. They all looked very poor and kept yelling "Chocolat! Chocolat!" wanting me to give them chocolate which I didn't have. It was sad cause some of them really looked like they needed it.

Anyway I reached the next checkpoint quickly and exchanged my salt water for some fresh stuff. That was a relief.

Back on the tracks for a bit, then down a nice paved highway for a while. Despite this, I was starting to get tired and really needed a boost. I reached another checkpoint where I saw Jason, another racer who I'd met several times throughout the race. As he was leaving with 3-4 other riders he said to me "the train is leaving". I didn't clue in to what he meant until a few minutes later after they were gone. They were drafting!! So I booted after them and tried to catch up. When I was almost caught up, Jason looked back and saw me. He slowed his pace, came back and got me and brought me into the pack. That was really nice of him. I really needed it. We switched lead rider very quickly so this made it barely any effort.

We continued for a while until we hit a dirt road, with lots of spectators milling about. Damn! I guess the drafting couldn't last forever...

All of a sudden I heard this gunshot noise and felt my bike lower an inch or two in the back. The noise scared the crap out of me. I thought someone had fired a shot.

Obviously I got a flat. A van immediately pulled up to me and a man got out carrying a floor pump. Hallelujah!! He started helping me fix my flat. He did not speak English but I understood when after a few minutes of fiddling with it, he held my wheel up and the rim was completely sheared off half way around. I started laughing cause there was nothing else I to do. There was 40km left in this 400 km race and I was done. Seemed cruel somehow.

There was a woman with him who spoke some English and she said we will take you to the next checkpoint and then someone will drive you to the finish line. I was so disappointed, however I had no choice so I got in the van. We drove a few minutes until we passed another van who had two bikes on the top. My tire fixing buddy started talking to them in Spanish and all of a sudden everyone was getting out of the vehicles and they were putting another wheel on my bike. I couldn't believe my eyes! They told me to find Enrico at the finish line to give back the wheel. I thought it was pretty unlikely that I was going to find Enrico again but I just agreed. I wasn't going to turn this offer down.

The woman who spoke English said to me that the next section of the race was very dangerous with snakes and reptiles and she was not going to let me go in alone. A guy named Jeff who I had met briefly a couple times during the race pulled up. He agreed to go with me through this section.

It was more tracks, dirt roads and more poor kids yelling for chocolate. Three little girls insisted I take their photo during a stop. This is also where the crazy high railway bridges were that this race is so famous for. We were about 80-100 ft above rushing rivers. We were pushing our bikes across these bridges walking from tie to tie (this time they were wooden ties and there was nothing in between them!). Often ties were missing and the space was big enough to fall through! I was pretty scared.

On the last bridge there were two or three ties missing at one time and I couldn't see how I was going to get myself and my bike across this bridge without falling off. I had lost my shit at that point too...I think because I was so mentally exhausted. Suddenly a non-racing Costa Rican who also happened to be crossing the bridge at the same time grabbed my bike and started walking it across the bridge. Another guy took my hand and spotted me across the bridge.

Next section is the longest track section which happens to go through a jungle. This is the part with the crazy snakes etc that I was supposed to be worried about. I saw monkeys jump from tree to tree right in front of me and heard scary howler monkeys in the distance. It was crazy and I was pretty glad that Jeff was with me. These tracks went on forever in a straight line. Very hard on the head.

We met a guy who was sitting on the tracks who said "I can't keep going, I keep falling off my bike". We told him that it was going to be dark in an hour and he had better get the heck out of this section or the crazy snakes were going to get him. We didn't really put it that way but I think he got the point.

Finally the tracks ended and we came to a checkpoint. We sent someone back for the guy sitting on the tracks. 15 km left to Limon (the finish line) on a dirt road. The ocean was right there!! We had made it to the other side of Costa Rica!!

Suddenly Jeff had this burst of energy and started cranking down the road. It was getting very dim now; I couldn't see well at all. I didn't want to do the rest of the race in the dark all alone so I tried desperately to keep up with Jeff. I thought I was going to puke, bonk and die all at the same time. We passed a number of riders. I thought how funny if I bonked in the last kilometers of the race since it didn't happen at all in the past 3 days.

I kept up with Jeff as we reached a paved road which meant we were now in Limon, not far to the finish line now. There were no street lights. I could barely make out Jeff's silhouette in front of me. I just kept hoping I wouldn't hit a bump or a hole.

Finally I reached a lot of buses and people and I knew the finish line was there. I heard "go Tanya!!" from some of my teammates. They were all there waiting for me at the finish line. I was so exhausted and relieved that I started crying. I gave Jeff a big thanks and a hug. If he hadn't have been there I am not sure I would have made it. He actually said the same to me.

After that the Dirty Girlz took care of me, brought me food and got me onto a bus. Turns out two of them gave up early in the morning after the really hard and hot uphill section. It was too hot for them to carry on. Totally understandable.

I somehow found Enrico and gave him his wheel back and he gave my sorry looking rim back to me as well. I was glad cause I really wanted this as a souvenir. (I've since lost this wheel...)

So...that’s it! The end of my epic journey. Who wants to do La Ruta now?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Naked Scale Review

Snowshoe Racing

Following-up on Fritz's post on snowshoeing, some of you may be interested in doing the Mad Trapper snowshoe race series. I did a race a few years back and it was a blast. Mike Caldwell, the organizer, puts on a great event. $20 includes race registration, a hot meal after and prizes. Check out the website . I will be signing up for this Saturday's race and will do the 5k race carrying Amélie in her carrier. Melissa will also do it. It will be a fun family outing for us.

Day 2 - Dirty Girlz Do Costa Rica

In case you missed Day 1 - this is day 2 (0f 3) of La Ruta back in 2003. My present day comments are in italics throughout this post.

Day 2:
Its 6:00am and I still don't have my front wheel. The race was supposed to start by now but luckily it is delayed half an hour. I am frantically fixing the problems my bike acquired yesterday. My back brakes must have been misaligned and rubbing the tire all day yesterday because the inner tube was popping out of numerous holes in the tire sidewall. (wow! that's embarrassing that I let that happen)

Gimpy Tire

I am sure that I am doing this maintenance in vain as there are no race officials in sight who look like they might be able to help find my missing front wheel. I ignore this thought as best I can.
Ten minutes before race start, out of nowhere, appears Roman Urbina the Event Organizer and also the man who invented this race, La Ruta de la Conquistodores. Roman looks like the hero of a Harlequin Romance novel; tall, dark and handsome with piercing blue eyes. He rode up on a motorcycle with my front wheel tied to the side of his bike. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
"Is this yours", he asks me.
I told him that yes, it was my wheel and thanked him profusely in my clumsy Spanish.

Yay!! I'm racing today! Now I just had minutes to finish fixing my bike.

Andrea is also racing today. She decides last minute to give it a try despite her dehydration troubles the day before. I am proud of her but also worried. We decide not to ride together today and she tells me she will quit if she begins to feel bad.

The race begins. I start a few minutes late but it doesn’t matter. At least I am racing.

Today I feel surprisingly strong. The course takes us up a climb of a volcano - a steady 3-4 hour climb up a smooth paved road.

I meet Monilee at checkpoint one after an hour of fairly easy riding. I am so excited to see her that I forget to refill my hydration pack with water (Really Tanya? you forgot to fill your water in a 100km+ stage race? who does that?). I realize about an hour later when I run out of water. I try not to panic...even though I have no idea where the next checkpoint is and it could be hours before I arrive there. I consider my options and finally decide to ask a support truck of one of the other racers. I feel bad doing this because this guy was there to support his racer, not every racer who runs out of water. But when I asked he didn't seem to mind at all.

I was back in the race, feeling good again. I ride for another hour or two steadily up the volcano. Near the top the climb I start to feel a little weaker. All the supporters I pass cheer and tell me I have 2 km to go. I soon learn that if a Costa Rican tells you that you have 2km to go, it means nothing. They always tell you that there is 2 km to go.

Finally I get to the checkpoint which is the top of the climb, tired but happy. Another rider tells me to put on warm clothes and to be careful on the descent. Its very rocky so don’t go too fast, he says. He wasn't exaggerating... soccer ball sized boulders covered much of the wide path. This was technical riding. Suddenly it began to pour rain and turned very cold. I am wearing everything I have with me: a balaclava, a bandana around my neck, gloves, a jacket and gaiters on my legs. I must have looked pretty foolish but I didn’t care. I was freezing.

After descending for an hour or more I almost wanted the trail to go back uphill - my hands were so sore and cramped curled up in the braking position.

Finally I arrived at the next and thankfully last checkpoint. My teeth are chattering and I can't make them stop. The checkpoint guy gave me warm sugar cane tea - its wonderful and brings me back to life.

As I started to ride again I noticed my brakes were starting to go. Because I was almost done and was still very cold, I didn't want to stop.

I enter a coffee plantation which is basically a maze of short bushes as far as you could see. Still downhill. My brakes have decided to completely quit on me, the rubber pad has disappeared and I have metal on metal contact. I start braking by pushing my foot hard on the top of my back tire. This method proved to be more effective than Fred Flintstone style (dragging my feet on the ground). I nearly tore my ankles off trying that one. Not recommended. ('s an idea, maybe stop and change your brake pads, Tanya?)

I eventually finished this race day without killing myself and luckily they had some great food to eat at the finish line. Day 2 proved to be a much better day than the previous.

Next week: Day 3 - Will Tanya finish Day 3 without destroying her body or her bike? And more importantly, will she see a monkey?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Big Pole Racing

A beautiful day to get out on the skate skis again. My 3rd time already this year, 5th time on my new skis, and 7th time in my life. This is a good workout if you don't know what you're doing. Craig and I started by lining up to get our season passes, which drove us to the brink of madness, then headed off to P8. Getting to the base of the Fortune Parkway gave me enough time to once again re-learn how to ski. We floated gently up hill, stopping on occassion to discuss deep philosophical issues and ponder our places in the universe. Craig was kind enough to monitor when I was hurting and pretend to be slightly out of breath himself as well so that I could stop without feeling too feeble. We turned around at Koegan, practicing our one-ski much of the way back down. No sign of the snow angel I met out while skiing with Dom the other day, leading me to believe that she only shows up when you are truly on the verge of cardiac arrest.

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Winter fun in the Fall

Technically winter does not begin until Dec. 21 but it's been a winter wonderland out here in the great white north. On Saturday, I went out for my first XC ski. I bought some classic skis at the end of the season last year. I thought classic skiing would be a good way to ease into the season, as skate always hurts the first time out.

Before heading out Saturday afternoon, I went over to John's (aka Dr. Kim) to wax my skis. He is the master, the Guru when it comes to waxing.

Prepping my skis under Dr. Kim's direction

Ready to go!

We headed up to the Gats for an afternoon ski and met Stef and Hannah at P9. It was a gorgeous day with temps hovering around -2 celsius.

Lots of skiers out as we drove past P8

While I have been skate skiing for a couple of years, this was my second time on classics in 25 years! I skied classic once at the end of the season last year and I would have to go back to high school for the time before that. Thankfully, Dr. Kim, who is also an instructor at Chelsea Nordiq, worked on my technique - diagonal stride and double-pole and kick. After tripping over myself for a bit, I started to get the hang of it.

We skied from P9 to the intersection of Penguin and the Gatineau Parkway.

me, Hannan, Stef, Dr. Kim at Penguin/Gat Pkwy

Dr. Kim and Hannah as seen by bug-eyed Manzoni

Dr. Kim had lightning bolts coming out his butt! Not suprising,
if you have
ever seen him climb up any hill in the Gats! The dude is fast!

It was a fantastic day for skiing. I was right about classic skiing, while I am sore today (Sunday), it is a lot easier to stay in Zone 1 and 2 on classic skis compared to skate skiing when I am always coughing up a lung. Can't wait until my next outing - couple more time on classics before I take out the skate skis.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?

Anyone on their trainer yet??
Good times.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A look back at La Ruta 2003

I recently found a race report I did for La Ruta back in 2003 so I thought I'd share it with you guys. Note that I was a total newbie to endurance racing and therefore did a lot of stupid things during this race.

After deciding to do La Ruta, I realized that I should start some kind of training. So I attempted some longer races like the Epic 8 hour in Mansfield in the spring and Lost in the Rocks in Trees mid summer. I bonked in both races. Hard. I was (obviously) really worried about how I would do at La Ruta because of this... read on to find out what happened.

Dirty Girlz Do Costa Rica (Part 1)

Day 1:

Andrea gets overheated, weak and dehydrated right away...all the things you don't want to happen at the start of a 3-day stage mountain bike race across Costa Rica. My other teammates, Monilee and Caroline have shot ahead and do not realize that Andrea is struggling. I stay with Andrea and try to encourage her to keep going. We fall back from the rest of the racers. We are pushing our bikes up an unridable steep muddy mountain. No one is on their bike. Its about 40 degrees Celsius with the humidity. I tell Andrea to drink repeatedly.

Despite this, she seems to be getting weaker so I have no choice but to push her bike up the mountain for her. I do this because otherwise I feel that we won't make the cutoff time for check point 1. This was not an attractive option for me, after all the training and hard work we did in preparation for this race during the last year. So I alternate dragging my bike and Andrea's bike up the steep incline. Andrea is then able to walk up the mountain at her own pace. This seemed to help a bit.

We finally arrive at check point 1, after about 2 hours and before the cutoff time. Andrea suddenly starts vomiting. The camera guys are eating this up. They are trying to be discreet and respectful but you can tell they are glad they caught this on tape.

Looking back at this moment, I realize I should have stopped Andrea from continuing to race . But hindsight is 20/20 so I keep encouraging her that she can do it. Andrea tells me she wants to go on.

When Andrea seems to be doing better we head off to the next section - the dreaded jungle. This is supposed to be the hardest section of the entire race.

The jungle is a nightmare; its hot and sticky and there are an endless amount of hills to climb and descend. Andrea is extremely overheated and cannot seem to cool down. Long rocky downhills lead into rivers and streams. Andrea dunks herself into each one, desperately trying to cool off. The downhills give way to even steeper uphills on the other side of each stream. Which meant more pushing the bikes. Finally after 5 hours we reach checkpoint 2 - one hour too late. They told us we were done and wouldn't let us go any further. Needless to say, I was very disappointed because I really wanted to continue.

Andrea started to feel bad very quickly. One minute she was joking around, the next she was lying on the plywood floor of the race van. She could barely speak; all she could say was that she felt empty inside. Luckily there was a doctor at the checkpoint. She told me to keep feeding her Gatorade. I anxiously comply.

Dehydrated Andrea
Photo: tanya

After waiting an hour for other racers to straggle into the check point (we were not last!!) we finally start driving. The roads of Costa Rica are worse than any I have ever experienced. These roads should only be traversed on ATV's but we were 10 riders packed in the back of a cube van sitting on the floor holding on for dear life. We were bouncing around so much I spilled Gatorade all over Andrea and myself. She was lying in the fetal position on the floor. I kept telling Andrea to drink. I had never seen anyone this bad before...I was actually scared that she was going to become unconscious. I kept trying to talk with her and comfort her. We drove in these terrible conditions for an hour. It felt like days.

We made it to checkpoint 2 where an ambulance was waiting for us. They picked up Andrea and I to take us to the medical tent at the finish line. This involved yet another hour drive; thankfully on paved roads. This time Andrea was comfortable lying on a stretcher in the back of the ambulance. The paramedics assured me she was going to be fine. Costa Rica has one of the best medical care systems in Central America so I felt somewhat confident she was going to be okay. She was in good hands and seemed to be more alert now.

Finally we arrive at the finish line. They start pumping IV into Andrea. Slowly she comes back to life.

I found out that while I was in the ambulance with Andrea, the race officials have lost the front wheel of my bike when it was packed into the bus. Since I wasn't there to watch it, I have no idea where to begin looking for it. The race officials are so overwhelmed with everything else going on at the finish line that they are of no help.

As I search for my wheel throughout the grounds I meet a lot of people who are hurting and need my help so I soon forget about my wheel and start helping any way I can. I was running back and forth getting food and bags to people and checking on Andrea in the medical tent. Suddenly I start feeling wonky, cold and kind of teary. I realize that I haven't eaten or drank since I stopped racing and I was still wearing my wet bike shorts and jersey. The race ended over 5 hours ago. Stupid. After chastising myself for being so dumb I changed into warm clothes and found Andrea again. She was feeling much better and begins to take care of me. She washed my bike and gave me some food. Things were looking up after that.

My wheel is still not found when we leave the finish line area at 7pm. I have talked to race officials who say that I should come to the start line tomorrow and they will take care of finding my wheel tonight. This sounded reasonable but if I have learned one thing so far: nothing was certain at La Ruta de la Conquistadores...

Stay tuned for part deux next week "Will Tanya find her wheel?"