Week 4- First mountain bike race in Ecuador (and at altitude)!!

guayxcocuevas  guayxcostartlinestartline

Had a busy week this week. At work, I led a lab meeting in Spanish where we discussed an NSF proposal I was working on for the Math-Bio Fellowship. I actually just found out that they changed the NSF Biology post-doc program and now the categories don’t include anything about math, stats, or bioinformatics..(the new categories are for minorities, plant genomics, and museum collections!!! 😦 couldnt be further from my research interests. At least the discussion went well and I received some good feedback. I also made some major headway on the hydrological classification of the Napo River Basin.

We spent our mornings this week training for the Guayasamin XCO Mtb Race that would take place in the southern section of Parque Metropolitano. The race is part of the regional championship series and the competition is extremely tough! Pericles told me about a guy named Jaunito in my age group that is known for eating whole turkey legs while racing, taking of his seat for 100km training rides so he won’t be tempted to sit down, and even saving the lives of other racers during adventure races and still finishing his race! Needless to say, I new a win wouldn’t be in the cards for this race. Over the course of the week we met several racers all of whom were really strong and good technical riders to boot. By midweek I was just hoping not to get last place!

The course kept on changing as the week progressed. It alternated from muddy slop to dusty in the course of a few days. The organizers also dropped the most technical part-a super steep, loose, rooty descent (which I had worked on all week and was ready to race!). There were still plenty of technical sections to keep it interesting, but with the loss of the steep descent, it became more of an uphill race than a technical skill race. Normally, this is my strong suit, but at over 10,000ft, I knew the incredibly steep climbs would put me at a disadvantage. We just don’t have climbs like those in Ecuador in the East (at least that I’ve seen). I must say that having the race course right in our backyard was great-without being able to practice this course all week, I’m not sure I would have been able to finish it in once piece!

On Wednesday night we went down to the Banff Film Festival with a group of our friends, but they sold out of tickets before we got there! Since Peri et al. had driven up from Cumbaya, we decided to make the most of it and headed over to a bar called Cleta (short for Bici”cleta”). The place is sweet, all the chairs and table are made of bike parts and they even give a discount to people arriving on bikes! We ended up going back to the Banff Film Festival on Friday night. The videos were a mixed bag. Some tried to make the extreme sport much too artistic-these were epic fails in my opinion. Some were just plain boring (Stand Up Paddle Boarding across some straight or another in Canada-it was almost as boring as actually stand up paddleboarding). But the wingsuit movie and first ascent of some bad ass peak in Antarctica was super sweet.

On Saturday morning we went to Metro to practice the course one final time. Good thing we did since they changed the course yet again, adding a nasty grassy loop with a ditch you have to jump or roll through then an out of the saddle climb. Saturday night we headed down to Nayon to Andreas house for a potluck. Her house was stunning as were the views of the Valley. We had a good time with great food and company, but had to leave early to get a good night’s sleep before the race.
With the race being so close to the house, we didn’t have to get up early or make many preparations. We just leisurely rolled over to the start area a couple hours before the race and began our warm up. Despite heavy rain overnight, the course was in excellent conditions, mercifully.

I had a horrible start off the line and ended up at the back of the pack for the initial climb. As hard as the climbs seemed in practice, they were even worse at full intensity. Ive never been so breathless in a race, even though my heartrate was lower than in many in races-key lesson learned-racing at altitude is FREAKIN tough! The first lap was the most brutal, but once I settled my pace a bit, I actually ended up racing smarter, smoother, and faster and began picking off racers one by one. I just tried to survive the steep uphills, hammer on the flatter/less technical sections, and ride the technical downhills smoothly. By the last lap I had pulled ahead of all but the top 3 racers and ended up finishing fourth. I felt like I had a really good race-its rare that I don’t have a mechanical or crash in XC races, so 4th place was probably the best I could have done. As I get more acclimated, I hope there’ll be podiums in my future….Not surprisingly, Juanito got first place-dude is an animal!!

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