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.
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)
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. (hmmm...here'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?