STAGE 2: Western Cordoba
What a crazy way to start a
race…..take 170 riders up a 10 second sprint on a dirt road and pinch them all
through a 2 person wide hole in the fence which sends everyone STRAIGHT down a
steep loose rocky hill. It was tempting to ride that steep part but with
all the mayhem, carnage and people slipping everywhere (on foot and on bike) I
chose to think about the bike and the rest of the LONG day we had ahead and run
It was a good move because
whatever Jenny and I did allowed us to jump on Mads and Henrick’s wheels
(current Masters Leaders) across the flats. They were drilling it to get
a gap on their competition while Jenny and I held on strong behind them before
going our own pace up the long climb. We were doing well at this point.
So well that we were in the lead!
The leaders caught us towards
the top and we continued to put the pressure on when Jenny said "We are doing
GREAT Kathy”. And (not even kidding) a second later she says "OH
NO!!” Jenny had chain suck BAD. So bad that she had to take the
chain apart to repair the thing. I was calm, as I didn’t want to rush the
repair job. I was confident in our ability to get back in there if we
could do a solid fix. The real thing I was worried about was what seemed
to be an angry bull headed our way. He got close but didn’t bother us
(amen!). 15 minutes later we were back on the bike and riding our own tempo
in 5th place now. Such is bike racing!
It took us about an hour to
catch up to the next competitors. As we made our way through the field,
fellow racers were cheering, giving us time gaps and letting us draft off them.
Pretty neat to see the excitement and enthusiasm everyone had to race a
bike and help us get back up front!
I think we ran into almost every
kind of scenario on this day. From the mechanical to horses merging onto
the path that we needed to take, some random hike a bikes on the river (it was a
NICE change to get off the bike), some missed turns (discovered quickly – no
time loss) and a few dropped water bottles (which must be collected in a race
like this) but we found our way to back up to 2nd place
and 2nd overall in the race!!
Note: I think I am already
getting as good as those competitive eaters are at powering down bananas and
figs in the feed zone. What a sight!! It’s something you’d not want to be
caught doing at the dinner table!
STAGE 3: Eastern Cordoba
What a mess. Today after
hitting the first mud puddle my rear brakes decided to work just barely.
Sweet…only 45 miles to go on unfamiliar terrain!! UGH. At least
when I kept them dry I would get a bit more out of them.
This was the day that I knew
would likely come but I didn’t know when. I could barley turn the pedals
over. A sufferfest at its finest for me. Luckily it was only 5600
feet of climbing on this day but that was about 5599 too much. My body
had a complete melt down and I know it was screaming "REALLY?? AGAIN???”
It was an excruciatingly painful 5-hour day of dare I say, hell.
Towards the end I almost lost it
completely but didn’t let my mind go there. Told myself I HAVE to get
through this because there kind of really is no choice when you don’t know
where you are and you aren’t really just going to stop. Instead I chose to
enjoy the captivating views as I slogged every foot of that stage to the very
end. And it was odd, I didn’t want to stop racing or riding I just needed
to get off the bike and recover the best I could. Oh and maybe not see
another hill in a while too. Yeah right, fat chance on that one.
But with Jenny pushing me
around all day we came in 3rd. Here’s to an
understanding and wonderful race partner!!! We were still sitting 2nd
overall in the race too!
Note: After the race I
summoned the help of Julian Absalon’s (2 Time Olympic Gold Medalist and
multi-time World Champion) mechanic for my 29er Alma Team Orbea. They
totally dialed my bike and did WAY MORE than I even asked for. Those guys
were incredible, did an amazing job and were SO NICE. Thank you for
keeping the bike purring!!!!
STAGE 4: Priego de Córdoba-Jaén
Today’s stage was just what I
needed. It was a longer stage of 115k with a climb at the start and end
with the middle section being a long flat Rail Trail. But we didn’t
get to start (what was) the 5hr and 40min stage until our 5:30am wake up call
to pack all our stuff in preparation for the transfer to the new hotel and city
It was important to be race
ready as well since the bus was dropping everyone off at the stage start in the
middle of Jaen, a beautiful white city on a mesa at the stage start. The
only thing I will say is that it was quite interesting finding facilities to
use prior to the race. Imagine 170 racers who are race ready getting
kerplunked in the middle of an ancient city. Yeah…Uh...Hugh. Jenny
and I laughed about that pretty hard that evening.
At the beginning of the race on
the 1hr + climb the top-3 women’s teams stayed together but unfortunately we
were separated from the leaders in the feed zone immediately following.
They had a feed and we had to stop to fill our bottles up. That minor
separation put us in a group of 9 or so along with the Spanish Ladies Team
(Esteve) who have proven that they can and will be right there when we crack or
have a mishap. They are strong and they clearly wanted 2nd
I was purely in love with the
long stretch in between climbs letting my legs flush themselves while Jenny was
looking for her gun. It was a bit windy on the flat section but I found a great
use for all my wrappers as I stuffed them down my race jersey - wind block
barrier! This would prove to be a valuable lesson in the days ahead.
When we hit the final climb The
Spanish Esteve team was off like a shot and I did my best to stay with them. I
didn’t have as many matches as I had hoped for on this day but was able to
climb steady until I almost cracked like an egg along with everyone else near
the top. It was like a sea of delirious people barely turning over
the cranks at that point. I had sweat pouring off me as I suffered up the
last part of the climb at a snails pace. I was more annoyed that I was feeling
that way because my mind was in it but the body was conking out on me.
That is when Josh Ibbett (Mixed
Team Overall Leader with partner Cait Elliot) came to my rescue. It was
taking EVERYTHING I could do to TRY and eat. I wanted to eat my gel
blocks so bad but had no energy to do so once I finally willed myself to get
them out of my pocket. I held the package in my hand forever as they
bounced out onto the ground one by one. Josh recognized the ridiculousness of
the situation and grabbed my bag and literally ended up feeding me. What
a guy! Thanks Josh!!!
By the time I hit the top
deliriousness really set in and so did the lack of balance and
coordination. It was such a terrible feeling knowing you were that
tired. But the trails were so good you wanted to truck ahead! As we
descended towards the finish we encountered a steep slope leaving you to wonder
if you were really even supposed to be WALKING your bike down it.
In the end and with a few gnarly
crashes by yours truly, the Spanish team had come across the line 4.5 minutes
ahead of us. RATS!! We took third, which we were pleased with but
knew we were capable of better.
Note: By now after all
this climbing we have been doing, my mind just assumes that around the corner
is a climb. And you know what; my mind was pretty spot on!
STAGE 5: Eastern
To Be Continued… Check back
tomorrow for stages 5-6 and Kathy’s wrap up