Friday, 30 November 2007
1. Brew steaming cup of coffee.
2. Head on over to Darryl's Blog.
Seeing the photos, reading the stories, triggering my memories of our little "dip the toe in the touring by bike pond" last Christmas... geez, it's almost enough to bring a tear to my eye! Temuco is only a couple hundred kilometers north of where Tori and I based our trip from last year... Peurto Montt... and we crossed over into Argentina west from Osorno.
Considering I just posted about tungsten carbide studded winter tires, I feel like my heart just about got torn out of my chest seeing another option for "winter" cycling. I think Darryl is doing it right!
The market for 29er (700c) tires is a little slim, and a specialty item like a winter studded tire has an even narrower market still. I prefer a winter tire that doesn't just "get me there". I want something that helps "conquer the winter". I don't care about rolling resistance or weight, I just want traction. I checked out MTBR.com and found the following comments steering me to a set of Nokian Extremes:
• After 3 rides, I understand now why Nokians are the gold standard for studded tires. On hardpack snow or ice, they simply grip like nothing else.
• You will be able to ride fast with confidence. UP, DOWN, and all ROUND cranking turns, the tires grip ice in a stunning, staggering, jaw-dropping manner. Don't mess around with half way solutions, because one trip to the emergency room costs more that a pair of Nokians.
• These tires manhandle frozen ground, snow & ice. If you can stomach the price, go for it!
So there's a set in the mail right now on it's way. My prior experience with studded tires is a set of 2.3" Chinese manufactured knock offs that seemed to work ok, they have a lot of studs. We'll see how these turn out, I hope they live up to expectation. 294 tungsten carbide studs just sounds cool.
Monday, 26 November 2007
Anyway, there's no way I can write it up better than Dali, too funny.
I violated one of my cardinal rules - if I'm going to ride with Steenbergen, I need mechanical advantage, not disadvantage. I rode a 'cross bike, everyone else on roadies.
Having said that, it was a good ride. I had some energy to burn through after La Ruta, although my body wasn't as geared to high end efforts, I'm more in aerobic endurance mode. It's interesting being able to "sort of" keep up to Steenbergen, Bostad, Cyrus, and Dallas' suicide attacks he had to lay down before peeling off for the ride home.
Friday, 23 November 2007
Having said that, if I were to rank my preference of riding my mountain bike through the Costa Rican landscape versus desk jockeying in Calgary, my vote goes firmly to the first option!
Tuesday, 20 November 2007
This is the hardest race I've been to, even picturing anything harder makes me cringe. I'm so proud of Tori that she made it through it all; 40 hours on a bike in 4 days isn't easy. In fact I think this race in many ways was beyond her capability, but that she expanded her capability to pull it off. It was motivational watching the finishers in her realm come across the line each day. This race is hard enough as it is for the very fit, but to watch people come in at 10 hours day after day looking just shattered, yet willing to do it day after day, was inspiring.
It's an individual race, but all that really means is that each person gets their own timing chip. To me it seems much more social than a partner race like TransRockies. You bond with those around you to make it through. Pack your gels for the day, then add 3 more in case your friend on the trail is bonking. Bring an extra chain quick link, or another tube. What goes around comes around.
To give an approximate quantification of the level of effort, the climbing in the first 3 days was as much as 7 days of TransRockies. I'm not sure I've ever climbed as much on a bike in such a short time. The sheer vertical in the grades ridden to achieve it were mind boggling, especially the new day 2. Steeper than Home Road, yet many, many times longer. It just never wanted to stop. Trish also quoted that her ride time was longer than her 7 days at TransRockies too despite only having 4 days of racing here.
This is more than a bike race, so you need to be more than a bike racer - you need more endurance than you can possibly train for, good descending skills, strong hike a bike legs, trailside mechanical skills, patience for things that run on tico time, a positive attitude for each challenge that presents itself when you least expect it, and a really strong will to keep moving and not quit no matter what happens. You can never think that "you've got this in the bag" or "the finish is just around the corner", as that's when the next obstacle presents itself. It's almost comically niave that people stand at 5am near the Pacific clad in lycra with a dozen gels in their pocket feeling adequately for the task at hand.
It's refreshingly unhindered by North American customs. Why not blast off 10 minutes of fireworks 15m away from 500 people standing in a start queue at 5am, despite the fact the rest of the town and tourists are sleeping? Cancel a mountain bike race due to rain and a muddy course... seriously... if 500 people can cross 360km of rainy country and ford it's swollen rivers, why would you ever cancel a race for our level of rain? Why not run a race on live train tracks requiring racers to cross trestle bridges with no railings and missing ties? It appears dangerous, but our rules are also formed in the context of a society dealing with problems like smog and pollution, obesity and smoking. I'd take a "danger" like finding traction on a wet log above a river - one I have a degree of control over - any day.
We had a great time this year as a group, it was a fun way to do the event. I'm so happy that all of the deadgoat's had a great time down here and did well too. "Deadgoat" has become synonomous with achievement in my mind. Meeting Cory Wallace finally was interesting - he's such a nice guy, and did this race in total seat of the pants Costa Rican fashion. One water bottle and a little Cristal 350ml bottle in his back pocket, no extra jersey for the Volcano, and the famous quote "there's checkstops for food out there, right?". I have to overcompensate on the preparation side, some people just have the raw horsepower to get through these events.
I'll have to think about whether or not I come back next year. I feel I can improve in results, which is a small contributor. Racing others here is basically irrelevant, it's more about coaxing what's inside you to the surface, and seeing how you feel under duress.
Really though I love the cleansing and rebirth of it all. I can't even picture anything harder that I'd really want to attempt. I do pursue suffering as a hobby, but you need to draw the line somewhere, and this race is as hard as any sane person needs. Everyone hits rock bottom out there somewhere, whether you're near hypothermic in the rain, near heat stroke in the jungle, or so tired you can hardly turn another pedalstroke and you've got to climb another 400m of vertical at 20% grade, or your high tech bike has balked at the challenge and you've got miles to push it.
Ask Trish, Jack or Tori, who are now officially La Rutans, if they remember any easy parts out there ; )
I love it because it's so un-Norte Americano. Bike computers hardly work, and high tech stuff is reduced to junk within days and needs replacement. This is no tri-geek race that can be approached with Watts and the science of effort, where the challenge can be quantified ahead of time. You don't know if you'll ride for 3 hours in the baking heat between checkpoints, or if it will be tropical rainshowers where you need to carry a mudded up 40lb bike for 3 hours - but you'd better be ready for either.
There's something purifying about being so close to the earth. At home we seperate ourselves from it with walls, roofs, heating and air conditioning. Here you get only a roof at night and the rest just becomes irrelevant or not applicable. The rain washes your face and runs in your mouth, your body is covered in mud, you wade through running rivers and standing puddles, and you take it at whatever temperature mother nature throws at you. At the end of it all you realize that's exactly what each of our bodies was made for, and the rest that surrounds us might just make life a little to easy.
I've been in waist deep mud and water on and off for four days, and sweated gallons, and been cleansed by the driving rain. I can hardly think of anything more fulfilling for my mind and body. It helps me get a little closer to the Costa Rican motto "pura vida" or "pure life".
Sunday, 18 November 2007
Thursday, 15 November 2007
How steep do they make roads here? Quote from Jon - I was zig zagging just so I could spin my granny gear.
How was the mud? There's about an hour of it at the end of the day. Clung to bike, got it up to 50lbs in no time, slippery to walk on, filled your shoes and sucked them in if they weren't buckled tight.
I was able to put power to the pedals for 5:20 minutes uninterrupted, which felt a lot better than yesterday. Rode 4.5 hours with Susan Haywood, it was nice to remove my brain from the pacing decision, that probably helped me a lot in terms of time. Right before checkstop 3 I shoulder checked and saw Lou Kobin approaching and I had the feeling that she meant business. I popped a gel and hoped I could hold on to watch the leaders compete, but I actually needed to stop at the checkpoint and they skipped it, so I never saw them again. Sue ended up with the stage again.
So having a good day had me finish 60th rather than 73... I thought staying on course and not fighting a bonk might work out better. With climbs this long and steep, I just need a better power to weight ratio. I'm up about 5lbs of fat since TR, that's not helping. Other than that I just need a 3lb bike!
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
Thursday, 8 November 2007
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
Sunday, 4 November 2007
I did a trainer ride at my parent's house today, and felt relatively strong. I went to bed last night feeling muscle soreness all over, but my body seemed to fix itself up fairly well over night. The big problem with sustaining a respectable power output on the trainer was that I decided to turn up the heat to 24C, then proceeded to ride for 2.5 hours with a jersey and turtle neck on. I also did 30 minutes on a stair stepper, carrying a 25lb backpack 1/6th of the time, 10lbs of weight 1/6 of the time, and just sucking wind for the remaining 2/3.
It was a great workout; I went through 6 water bottles in 3 hours.
My house is now set to 22C for the remainder of the week, and I'll arrive in Costa Rica 3 days before the race. Hopefully the heat won't be such a shock to the system this year!
Saturday, 3 November 2007
Shawn, who openly advertises his aversion to long bike rides, turned back about a 1/3 of the way to Cochrane (I emailed him for amusement upon my return home to see what he thought of a longer ride...).
The rest of us made it out to Cochrane and had a session of solving the world's problems at Cochrane Coffee Traders before heading out to my new favourite field rides. Brian left from Cochrane because, strangely, he had "things to do" other than bike riding??
As we went west, the day seemed to stay warm and sunny. It seemed like everyone agreed that the field route was neat, and I was happy to "conquer" the downhill that got the better of me last week. In fact, the downhill was a total non-event. Modern mountain bike technology is not to be under appreciated.
After passing through Cochrane for supplies, we rode up Retreat Road and back on Township 262. We debated riding more "new" route, but we were getting cold and low on fuel, so took the direct route home, which was definitely the right decision.
After stopping at Craig's, then my mom and dad's place, we ripped down through the Northwest on the route I'd perfected during the better part of a decade riding to various stages of school... and pulled into the driveway at 6:00pm. Not bad for a 9am start!
Big rides call for big dinners - Italian pasta joint was calling us!
Friday, 2 November 2007
Tonight Marg Fedyna did a talk at Bow Cycle about her experience at the race last year. Seeing the slideshow, hearing her recount the stories, talking to all the other "La Rutans" there, and the La Rutans in the making, I got totally pumped on the whole idea again. The DVD of La Ruta 2006 had a clip of me in a 3/4 bonked, supremely overheated, trudgingly slow and in a thoroghly burdened state pushing my bike up some monster hill. I think I could feel the heat of the equatorial sun on my back right there on a dark Friday night in Bow Cycle...
Call me crazy, but all that's been in my mind since is - Oh glory I can't wait for the suffer fest to begin!