I apologize for the delay, but after 3 days of torture I was due a few cervesas at the finish line. After the celebratory toasts, I was in no place to be writing anything other than signing my name to the bar tab.
Day 3 of La Ruta came early as all the other days. A number of us decided to find hotel rooms in Turriabla, versus face a 2-hour drive each way back to San Jose. We found a home at Hotel Interamericano. A little side hint for any of you traveling to Turriabla... you might not want to stay there unless you currently live next to a set of very active train tracks. And we wondered why there were earplugs for sale in the lobby. After minimal sleep, and two stages behind us, we arrived just ahead of the start at 7:45. One more day left. The easiest of the three. But nothing here is remotely easy.
Day three began under a hot morning sun. To a New Yorker, it was a brutal beginning to the day. A long paved climb out of Turriabla was a rough way to start the morning. Day three is just a long, long day. It doesn't have the horrific jungles and mud of day one, or to massive climb and the longest decent I've ever seen, but my Sunday was anything but a leisurely brunch at Avenue on the Upper West Side.
Once the numbing returned to my ass, I was sufficiently happier, an odd substitute to my usual caffeine, and ready to take on the 100+ miles left in La Ruta. The first climb proved pretty manageable. Once we reached the peak a fun decent awaited. But this turned out to be a bit hairier than expected as torrential rains greeted us. I couldn't see a thing. Mountain biking by brail at 45 mph is a bit unsettling. Thank God for disk brakes. I was able to open it up while passing dozens who were just holding on for dear life. The rains were actually a welcomed surprise. Three years ago, I did day three under blazing 100 temperatures, adding to my agony. The cold driving rain made me feel just like home in New England, where I grew up and still travel to train on many weekends.
Then one of the many typical "La Ruta stories" happened (anyone reading this who knows someone who's ridden La Ruta will have many stories of their own)... Paul and I are on another decent. Applying any pressure to the brakes was not an option as Paul's died on the Day 2 decent down the volcano and I didn't feel like riding alone. Well, we came around a corner on a dirt and muddy section where massive puddles had formed. Cars were backed up just ahead of a one lane metal bridge crossing a deep river gorge. We were carrying a lot of speed as we hit the puddles, when Paul's front tire sunk into more than a foot of thick mud sending him over his handlebars. He made a great recovery landing on his feet... but then began to slide. For nearly six feet Paul surfed the mud- heading straight toward a cliff dropping nearly 80 feet!! No joke... Paul came three inches from falling to his death. I turned white as I watched one of my best friend's life come near to its end! After about 30 seconds of collecting ourselves we both started laughing. Just another day at La Ruta!!!
"Just keep spinning... it'll be over that much more quickly," is what I kept telling myself as I suffered up the second climb. Again, thank God it was raining. That climb already sucked, no need to ruin any of my joy with more heat and humidity. I really hope everyone who rides La Ruta takes some time to enjoy the country and the beauty Costa Rica has to offer. While I truly hate the second climb on day two (mainly because I just want to go to bed for a week by this point) this might be my favorite section in terms if it's view. Just stunning. One of my favorites of all the places I've traveled. So... mix of more hike-a-bike and hard pedaling brought us to a very fun and rewarding downhill. But the longest part of the day is still ahead.
Race Director, Roman Urbina, likes to put racers mental capacity to the test. La Ruta is as much about ones mental strength as it is physical. Awaiting next are miles upon miles of railroad trestles, bridge crossings, paved road and these damn plantation roads that are made up of fist sized rocks- the kind of riding that gives you no break from the pain. This riding isn't really hard... unless of course you just crossed the rest of the country of Costa Rica, climbed 30,000 vertical feet in the process. It just messes with your head. Crossing the bridges as you're 50 feet above rushing water below can be a horrifying experience. Luckily, I figured out what worked for me on the bridges and just put my bike on my back and walked easily across. Other struggled though.
Have you ever rode a bike on railroad tracks? Don't. It really hurts. It helps to have been here before though. As I knew that they seem to stretch on into eternity and knew how much it would hurt everything. And that riding in a straight line, something I do every day without any worries, would be such a challenge.
Once you leave the tracks, there's about another 8 miles to the finish. The road is a dirt, muddy, wet road along the beach. The beach is white and secluded. I was tired when I got here. My legs ached. I felt like going no further. Even knowing I was near the end gave me no motivation. I was hungry but not able to eat. But like the rest of the riders, just found a way to keep moving the bike forward. This part of the ride is typically under water, adding to the hell that La Ruta is, but this year there were only a few puddles.
Then you hit the road. Just a few more minutes of riding were left. Paul and I crossed the finish together, ending on the beach. Cheers from crowd let you know you were home. It felt good to be done. A country now behind me. Time to have some beers with friends and celebrate a tremendous accomplishment.
I will write a final after-thought entry in a few days. Time to go to the beach now and let the ocean heal. Then maybe a little more celebrating...
Courtesy, Back to the Earth Group