i laid in bed before the hour i was due to arise on day four, legs stiff and sore, signifigantly more than lingering doubts in my mind. in fact they were pretty much overwhelming. i was wondering if i would be able to get a ride in a support vehicle to the finish. i knew there was to be 5,000 or so feet of climbing in the first thirty miles. i knew that would hurt. i almost bitched out. i'm glad i didn't. got out of bed. put my 'still wet from last nights washing' shorts on. continued with my dry socks and my last clean/dry jersey. got all geared up and ready to go and headed to the restaurant for breakfast. by the time i got on the bus i felt alot better.
i'm not sure why, but tinker took the bus too. i sort of expected him to have a chauffered ride to the start line every morning. i guess not. i can pretty much guarantee you that the only thing that got the guy who he sat next to across the finish line that day was the fact that he sat next to tinker juarez and had a long conversation about the race. the guy was hurting really bad, which severe blistering on his foot. but he finished.
got my bike and changed the front brake pads, with devin(another sser)'s help. flipped the bike over and the lever went straight to the bar. guess i dislodged an air bubble. some pumping and tapping of the brake later and i was ready to go. lined up at the start with kevin, dan, doug, dicky and timmy a few in front. i think andy was somewhere in there too. my gearing choice worked for me right off the uphill start, as i was keeping pace with the pack dicky and doug were in. the other sser's had switched to a larger gear for the 40+ mile flat to the finish. it eventually turned to walking. i eventually stopped to remove the rain jacket i should have had with me the day before. kevin came up on me at that point and stopped to remove his as well. he told me not to wait up, just keep going, so i did, giant striding it up the hill till it was mellow enough to ride. then came the big fun. i came to a downhill of length and speed i have never experienced before. i was flying down it, screaming "passing", "passando", "left", "right", etc all the way down the doubletrack section where i must've passed in excess of 40 riders. then it turned paved and straight and i became a human rocket, reaching speeds i'm sure i've never reached before on a bike. it was absolutely amazing, and the single most fun part of the entire race.
from there it was a little rolling pavement, then a mid-pa length paved downhill, with very uneven and irregular pavement that presented plenty of opportunity for catching air. my back tire cased what i though would just be a ripple but turned out to be a big crack and i pinch flatted. got it changed reasonably quickly, but a bunch of people passed me, including bob. i eventually caught back up to him in the next rolling bit, and we went back and forth till he dropped me on the big wall of a climb.
approaching the downhill after that big wall, i passed two locals. they readied themselves and psyched each other up(in spanish). the first one passed me on the flat before the hill, and i laughed. the second one gave me a dirty look for it, and i felt like a dick, but said "va a ver.", or "you'll see.". and sure enough, within 150' of starting the descent. i blew right past them in the first turn. it's an odd phenomenon, but, despite their incredible fitness and climbing prowess, the ticos can not descend. it's really odd. near the bottom of the hill, it got mellow. mellow to the point that anyone with a big ring was just cruising past me. occasionally i would get into my super aero tuck, with chin on handlebar clamp, but that hurts my neck, so it would never last long. i would find myself gaining ground back on the big ringers when i did it though.
at the bottom of the hill we turned 90 degrees right onto the railroad tracks. a few facts i didn't realize ahead of time where that A: the ties are square edged concrete, not slightly round edged and forgiving wood; and B: there wasn't going to be nearly as much actual track riding as i had expected. for the next forty-plus miles, i was able to pass alot of people where it was rough(tracks/dirt), and get passed by some where it was paved. i caught bob after a while, and pulled him to the next dirt section. he stopped to take a leak and i kept going. i passed alot of people in the remaining section before the last section of train tracks. i was on fire. especially when i saw the ocean. got back on the tracks and motored along. got a little nervous when i heard my rim hit the ties a couple of times, but figured i would be ok. then my back end started feeling squirmy. i looked down and cursed pretty loudly. got off and decided to walk to the next checkpoint. then people started catching up, and i realized if i walked to the check point and then changed the flat, more people would pass me than if i simply changed the flat now and then rode. i was out of c02, so i would have to use my pump, and had already used my spare tube, so i would have had to use my patch kit. sat down, begand to get to work and it started raining. i wondered how i was going to patch a tube in the rain. finally lenny and one of his buddies, who i had gone back and forth with all day, stopped to see if i needed anything. i asked if either had a tube they would be willing to part with and lenny's buddy handed me a 26" tube, previously patched, that worked like a charm. i thanked him immensely and got to work. as i was nearly done, a group of four rolled up on me with bob on the back.
i got mounted up and rolling quicker than the other two people who were fixing pinch flats in the same spot and caught up to bobs group fairly quickly. came to a spot where there was room to pass on the outside, hopped and hammered. got to the checkpoint and went through it as quick as possible, passing alot of the people who had passed me while i was fixing the flat. charged the rest of the way with a multispeeder, me spin-coasting to keep up with his big ring. we went through a couple of intersections, taking the obvious route because there were no arrows or signs. he slowed down and looked behind us, and then i got nervous too. maybe we were off course. there were no other racers in sight. i suggested maybe we should wait a minute and see if any came from around the last bend. a taxi rolled by and stopped to tell us we were going the right way. as we took off, he looked behind and said there were now 7 other racers coming on strong. i told him to go for it since he had the gears. we came to a choke due to vehicle traffic, but it was just wide enough to ride through. i kept shouting "GO GO!!! SHOOT IT!! YOU GOT IT!!" because there were two riders on our tails, but he hesitated. when we came through the choke they gunned it. there was a guy with a checkered flag just up the road and we all thought that was the finiesh, so we all charged. they had me, untill we realized there was a 90 degree left turn onto the actual finish on the beach. it was an all out three way sprint, dropping the ramps onto the beach. one of them bested me. what a great stage. after a bit of time swimming in the carribean, i went for food and beer.
after hanging out for a while john came by and mentioned to me that there was a small, early shuttle bus leaving right away. i ran, grabbed my bag and got on it. kevin tried too, but i guess didn't make it in time. we sat in the parking lot for a while, because we were blocked in by a box van and a parked car. after alot of trying by the la ruta staff to find a driver of either, 5 or 6 of the male racers in the van(myself and john included), got out and simply picked the car up and moved it out of the way. drew a crowd and got a big cheer for that. once on our way things rolled along fairly smoothly, despite our drivers rather scary innattentiveness behind the wheel. we were to take the tunnel through the mountain, the quick route, to san jose. we stopped and asked a police officer if the route was open, and he said yes. we soldiered on for another hour and came to the traffic jam where people were being turned back because the tunnel was now closed due to rock slides...
an hour back to the turn off. we rounded the bend and found the driver of one of the other busses hitchiking on the side of the road. after a "food" stop at a liquor store, where i shitted up the bathroom good, the drivers switched and we had a much more relaxing ride back to the hotel.
the bike trucks wer another fiasco. i unloaded the first one, with several other riders. my bike wasn't in it. all the bikes got lined up out front of the best western. and stayed lined up with the hundreds of other bikes that showed up later that night. when you felt like it or woke up, you simply walked up, took your bike and walked away with it. total honor system. at one point, i'm sure there were more than $150,000 worth of bike sitting essentially unguarded outside the hotel. kind of scary. 50 or more bikes were still there when i left sunday morning. flew all the way back to charlotte on the same flight as dicky and dan. i sat next to dan but unfortunately was pretty boring and slept most of the way. i felt really sick from the time i took a crap at the airport in san jose, and it lasted through till this morning.
once i was home and had a good nights rest behind me i headed off to the oral surgeon to get two wisdom teeth extracted. i just figured la ruta wasn't painful enough and needed to make up for it somehow. unfortunately the surgeon was pretty good at what she did and my mouth doesn't hurt much at all. even after the low dose painkiller wears off. i have a whole bottle of percocet, but i really have no use for it. guess i'll save it for a rainy day.
68th open class
overall: 93rd out of 108 open division due to my stage 3 dnf. finishing stage three would have put me somewhere in the 70's most likely.