La Ruta de los Conquistadores

Lacso Katona singing, "I Feel Good" by James Brown after we finished the first climb of stage 1.

Lacso Katona singing, "I Feel Good" after we finished the first climb of stage 1.

Back in the day, Spanish explorer, Juan de Cavallón and his crew of new world conquerors supposedly found a short-cut to travel from the Pacific coast to the Caribbean side of  Costa Rica.  One has to think that Juan was either an adventure-junkie or a man with incredible adventure-race foresight because his 330 km “shortcut” from 1540 is now considered to be the premier mountain bike challenge in the world.

“The Route” that old Juan took  was researched and resurrected by modern-day super-athlete Roman Urbina, and eventually transformed into the La Ruta de los Conquistadores; an insane multi-day competition that attracts iron-men and women from all over the globe.

“It’s not about making it to the finish line; it’s about working with what you’ve got, giving it all your might and surviving the adversities that you might come upon along the way. Lending a hand to someone else, a sip of water, a spare tube, a word of encouragement, a friendly smile… while you compete against yourself… that’s the true spirit of La Ruta.” Said Román, “This will be an edition like no other, a true eulogy to mountain biking, in a location that hosts some of the most challenging terrains for this discipline, the rugged terrains of Costa Rica’s vast mountain ranges. And like Urbina says, “…it’s time to train hard, time to mount your bike with determination and get motivated to conquer Costa Rica on your iron stallion.”

Me singing "the hills are alive with the sound of music."

Me singing, "The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music."

My good friend from Slovakia, Lacso Katona, who sometimes I think is more machine than human, has been taking me on mini-mountain bike excursions every year since I’ve been coming down to Costa Rica for vacation.  Lacso came here for vacation about 20 years ago and basically said “to heck with Slovakia… this will be my new home.”    That same story and similar sentiments have been told to me more than once by my other “gringo” friends who also made ‘pura vida’ their permanent residence.

Over the years, Lacso has been telling me about this holy grail of mountain bike terrain known as La Ruta.  In his Slovakian-Spang-lish accent, the tales are even more dramatic and entertaining than what I found on the internet.

As a fitness enthusiast and a big fan of Mother Nature, it was time to let my tires kiss the dirt and get a taste of what everyone was talking about. Yesterday, after training here for 3 weeks, I did a section of stage 1 and it was absolutely amazing.  The song, Hurts So Good, by John Cougar comes to mind.  Challenging? Yes.  Rewarding? Yes.  Would I be able to do another 300 km’s in November when the trails are muddy and cold?  Fuhgettaboutit!  No, not without training with guys like Lacso and Lance Armstrong consistently for at least a year.

After our four-hour trek of only 33 km’s that included; steep climbs, technical down-hills and the kind of ridiculous scenery that you only see on the Outdoor Life Network, I was ready for lunch and an ice-cold mango smoothie.

Kudos to anyone that has ever competed in La Ruta de los Conquistadores and uber-kudos to anyone that has actually crossed the finish line.  For the rest of my fellow- mortal humans out there; keep spinnin’, keep dreamin’,  and keep enjoyin’ your ride on this journey we call ‘life.’

Encore Gallery:

hawkcheaterA friendly reminder for the tourists.Pura VidaThe owner of the mountain top restaurant Martha, with her son, William and cousin, Nelson.Even after a wind storm literally blew her restaurant off the mountain last February, Matha's manages to stay positive and keep her sense of humor.  No wonder why Ticos are some of the happiest people on the planet.Genetics.  Maybe this is why Lacso had to wait for me after each climb.

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!"

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