Back to Costa Rica! Last year I was very fortunate to meet Juan Carlos and have him extend me an invite to come down and race Latin America's first and only 100-mile mtb event, the Rincon de la Vieja Challenge MTB 100. This year he did the same and I brought with me Karen and Sonya. Last year I went into the race a mere 6 days after finishing the Breck-Epic Stage Race. My only goal in 2013 was to take the lingering fatigue and ride as fast as possible, hope for the best. I finished 8th in a time of about 7.5 hours.
This year, I was fresh, knew the course, and had different goals. For the 2014 RVC100 I wanted to finish closer to 7 hours and place better in the standings. I equipped myself with the Canyon Lux CF full-suspension with a XX1 32T chain ring. Last year I had a hard tail and a 30T ring. The hard tail about killed me as the course is super rough from start to finish.
Off the plane, Costa Rica was a lot cooler than in 2013. For the 2 days leading up to the race, conditions were dry and cool. About as perfect as this Gringo could ask for.
I got in a series of rides to check out the first 20 miles of the course. My decision to bring the fully and the XX1 32T chain ring proved ideal. Thumbs up from this guy!
Race day come super early, a grueling 5:30 AM start time. I was up at 3:50 AM, breakfast a 4 AM, then an auto transfer to the start line to line up with 259 other racers. I felt good and confident. Goal #1 was to survive the start, a 30 min DH neutral roll out, that last year was super sketchy. It was anything but neutral in 2013. This year, the roll-out was controlled. I position myself on the outer edge of rows 2 and 3 as the field rolled down the road.
As with all 100-milers I do, I start slow and pick up speed. Once the neutral roll-out was over, the field surged forward. It was chaos in motion. Riders that would take 12 hours to finish were mixing up with the front of the field. At times, it was super sketchy. I was in a defensive-mode riding my speed. It didn't take long and I was up in the Top-10 and in the lead group. The group would surge on the steep 20%+ grades and I would drift off the back. I was keeping my same speed and would eventually get back on.
It wasn't until about mile 30 that I came unattached from the lead group. One of the Specialized Costa Rica rider pushed the pace hard on one of the steeper longer climbs and I fell off. I now found myself riding either solo or with a smaller group of 2 or 4 riders. I was fine with this, as there was a ton of racing left. Conditions which were jungle-like, greasy, misty, and cool.....this would change at about mile 60 to dry and warm. Key word here being warm :)
My nutrition was solid. Tons of water, GU, and ELETE products. The 5 or so American's that were there racing had aid bags dropped at all the aid stations, so we could grab and go. The first 2 aid stations were slow to get me my bags, as I was the first American into each check point. I lost time here, but it was not a huge issue, although it seemed like it at the time.
The 2nd half of the race would prove to be the crux of the race for everyone. As the 100-mile loop circumnavigates an active volcano, it passed through 4-5 climate zones. The last half of the race passes through a section of high-desert....similar to Fruita, CO. The terrain is white limestone and the temps are typically warmer than the first 50-miles. This year, temps were extreme, with the temps maxing out above 110F. There was now no humidity, shade or wind. Personally for me, this is where the wheels fell off the bus. Regardless how much I drank, I stopped sweating and had goosebumps. My pace slowed and I was going backwards.
It was like being in a blast furnace. Not only was the sun beating down from above, but the it was also reflecting off the white sandstone roads. I moved forward as fast as I could without overheating. Occasionally, I would stop in some shade to expedite the cooling. Some Tico's were doing the same, so you knew it was HOT!
The remaining 12 miles, I was in damage control mode. I was asking locals along the route for any liquid to either drink or pour on me. It wasn't until the last 5 miles that I was given a soda hand-up and the a host resort employee was spraying finishing riders with a hose of water. A gracious effort that was a little too late.
I finally crossed the finish line about 8.5 hours after I started. I immediately went to the catered food and drink for the post-race and started slamming cold beverages. It was all I wanted....liquid and cold. It was by far the hottest conditions I have ever ridden in. I sat there for a good hour in my Primal team kit....thankful to be out of the sun and on my way to an overall cooler body temp.
Race file on Strava | http://www.strava.com/activities/185736192
In the end, over 100 riders would NOT finish due to the course and conditions. The course was a beast this year....eating away at everything the riders had. Me, I was lucky to finish and I look forward to the next edition of the RVC100.
If you are looking at racing outside of the USA, the RVC100 is about as logistically easy as they get. Fly into Liberia, Costa Rica......then it is about a 40 minute car transfer to the race venue and the host resort of Hacienda Guachipelin. The event itself is on par with any well run 100-miler in the USA. While little singletrack exists, the course is still worth the trip down! Various terrain keeps you on your toes for 100-miles. Bring a sense of adventure and your eye wide open! Stay a few days after and make the 1 hr drive to the home of the Endless Summer.....Tamarindo, Costa Rica....for a little sun and surf!