Day 1 from Jaco to San Jose was a little rough for me. I felt good going through the jungle and mud, but had a major bonk on a long paved climb during the middle of the day. It was very hot and humid and I had a hard time getting enough calories in. Rebecca passed me on this climb, and all I could do was watch her ride away as I was going in slow motion :-) I ended up finishing in 3rd place behind Adriana Rojas and Rebecca Rusch, quite a ways back.
Day 2 is only 45 miles, but has about 11,000 feet of elevation gain, much of it very steep. At times my Garmin was showing 30 percent grade. I felt a bit better this day and Rebecca and I rode together for about 30 k during the middle of the race. It was really nice to ride with her as it kept our pace and motivation up! Rebecca left me on some flat and rolling sections and I ended up about 8 minutes back, finishing in a down-pour weaving in and out of San Jose traffic.
Day 3 is the volcano day! It's a 32 km climb from San Jose to the top of Irazu, topping out at 3015 meters. I was feeling pretty strong and was in 2nd place at the top of the volcano. At the 2nd checkpoint, I was told I was 7 minutes behind Adriana and I was hoping to use the technical downhill to my advantage. After a bit of a traverse, the trail gets quite rocky. It was wet and muddy in spots, but it was really fun. At some point the journalists were on the trail, telling me I was 3 minutes behind Adriana. The day ends with a HUGE drop on a road followed by a few km of a flat section. It is quite sketchy with lots of cars, people, and dogs on the road. I think I lost a little time in the final stretch as I was riding by myself and it would really help to have another rider to work with. I finished about 5 minutes behind 1st place Adrianna. Rebecca came in only a couple of minutes behind me. Jane Rynbrandt with Carmichael Training Systems had a really strong ride and was not far behind us.
The final day of La Ruta features about 4000 feet of climbing in the first 40 km, followed by a paved downhill and then lots of gravel roads as well as the infamous train trestles. As usual, I started out slowly as it takes my legs a while to warm up!! I was hoping to catch some fast riders toward the top of the climb, so I would have someone to work with for the downhills and flats. A mile or two from the top, I did catch Rebecca and we decided to work together to see if we could catch Adriana. We stopped briefly for fluids at the checkpoint and ended up flying down the descent with Adam Pulford from CTS. As we descended we picked up several other riders and soon we had a fast group of about 8 riders as we hit the flat bumpy gravel roads. We were setting a really fast pace and were told Adriana only had 2 minutes on us. It was very hot and very humid and I was working HARD to keep up with the group. There are lots of sharp turns, rail road sections, and stream crossings that are potentials for losing the group, and I knew we had to stay together if we wanted to catch the first place woman. Riding with Rebecca was great. She is a super strong rider who races very honestly and fairly. Adam (CTS) and a Scottish guy were doing a lot of work for the group.
When we hit 83 km someone mentioned that we hadn't seen any signs for a while..... the checkpoint was supposed to be around km 80. We slowly came to the horrible realization that we had missed a turn and were completely lost. As we reached a dead-end with a few buildings we saw some people and a couple of the spanish speaking guys in our group asked where we were. It was all VERY confusing. As I don't speak spanish, I had no idea what was going on. Someone in the group remembered the name of the town with the next checkpoint, and after stopping several times to ask for directions, we were told we were 11 km away. We were all out of fluids, tired, and deflated, but determined to get back on course so we wouldn't be disqualified. Rebecca and I also didn't want to lose our 2nd and 3rd positions in the race.
At one point we stopped at a small store. The Scottish guy had been smart enough to bring money and he bought us all ice cold coke and water!! We continued on, and FINALLY we popped out at the checkpoint. I had 103 km on my Garmin at this point, we had taken a 22 km detour, BUMMER!!!
We were now on a mission to get to the finish. It had been a long, hard, and hot day, but there were still more adventures to come! As we were riding down a long flat gravel road we spotted a large group of riders standing in the middle of the road next to a support vehicle. When we reached them we were told that a rider had been bike-jacked at gun point and that we should all ride the next section together for safety. How scary!! There was also the bee-section where several riders were stung (some 30 times) and 1 rider ended up taking a 30 foot leap off the railroad bridge and into the water below to avoid the angry bees....
The final 20 km we did a lot of beach riding. The group had dwindled to me, Rebecca, Adam, and a guy from Costa Rica. Although it was great to finally finish in Limon, it was a bit deflating since we lost so much time. Oh well, that's all part of the adventure!! I was happy to keep my 3rd place at least.
Still had a great time as always in Costa Rica. It was super fun hanging out with Eric (racing on his single speed), Mark Jeffery, and Dave Engelbrecht who did awesome their first time at La Ruta!!!!