Road to La Ruta

See How it All Ends

Conquering La Ruta de Los Conquistadores: The Film

Nearly a year after his training began, Dirk Shaw called from Costa Rica, where he had just completed the final mission in The Road to La Ruta: the race itself. He explained how he’d learned to enjoy the process as much as the culminating event. Process over product. Wise words, Mr. Shaw. But we also know that race day happens to be both process and product, when reason and reflection give way to adrenaline and ecstasy -- or despair. Deep, raw despair that people in the industry call “injury”, “mechanical failure”, or simply “Did Not Finish”. Luckily, as Dirk's grueling journey from coast to coast and peak to peak unfolded, we had someone on hand to document the dramatic highs and lows. Now we present the final chapter in the Road to La Ruta series, our film of the epic race.

Conquering La Ruta

Suffering Shared: The Road to La Ruta, Part 8

Suffering is a universal language. October 24-26 were the hardest three days I have ever spent on a bike, but they were also the most connected I have ever felt with the people and the world around me. The power of a shared experience, through joy and pain, transcends almost everything. It crushes barriers of language and culture. Now I know why everyone becomes so emotionally bonded to the La Ruta de Los Conquistadores: words are unnecessary when you have shared the suffering of a ride that is practically straight up for nearly two hours in the blazing heat.

Power to the people

Tested: Stages Power X9

Power was the single metric I was looking to improve during the lead-up to La Ruta. I became power savvy by establishing my baseline watts at lactate threshold and VO2 Max during the F.U.E.L. testing we covered in Part II and then had the next six months to train against these numbers to improve fitness and manage nutrition on long rides. Yet I still had just one gap in my arsenal of gear: a power meter for my mountain bike. The Stages Power X9 ($700) is both new and affordable relative to other power meters, so I decided to give it a test run.

Gear worth its weight in...

Kit: Fool’s Gold 100

Competing in endurance mountain bike racing requires a significant amount of time on the bike. There are days when you eat your breakfast and lunch on the go, get on your bike before the sun comes up and even get lost in the woods trying to find six hours worth of trails. We all settle into distinct collections of gear to make the bike our home, but for us, this kit offers the perfect blend of performance, durability and comfort.

Endangering specie

Photo Essay: Fool’s Gold 100

At 5 a.m. I felt the slight buzz of my UP band. Go time. Well, actually it was time to fill 10 water bottles with Skratch Labs hydration, get my cooler ready and find a decent cup of coffee in the mountains of North Georgia. After a short chat with a couple of young police officers at Dunkin Donuts about why I would ride 100 miles on a mountain bike, I was off for the Montaluce Winery. It was pitch black on the winding roads leading up to the parking lot, so I followed the stream of cars with bikes on the roof. Race director Eddie O'Dea welcomed us at the entrance, where I parked the car and unloaded my gear for the Fool's Gold 100.

Time-poor, nutrient-rich

Fat is Fuel: The Road to La Ruta, Part 5

For the last six months my dietary goal has been fairly simple: use more fat and less glycogen (stored carbs) for fuel during long rides. You're probably wondering why I'd do that when I could just carbo-load the night before and suck down a few gels to get through the day. A new school of thought is emerging, though, that debunks the myth that a diet rich in starchy carbohydrates is the best way to fuel during training and racing. As I prepare for the Fool's Gold 100 this weekend, I'm hoping to see this dietary tactic pay dividends.

Addiction, sacrifice and withdrawal

Tapering Hell: The Road to La Ruta, Part 4

If you watched Trainspotting, the Indie film that follows a group of Scottish youths as they sink deep into a life of addiction, you would certainly remember the scene where Marc Renton (played by Ewan McGregor) sits alone in his room wrestling with withdrawal as the somber track of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” plays in the background. You'd be right to wonder what that has to do with endurance mountain bike racing. Find out in The Road to La Ruta, Part 4.

Ultra-distance athlete

30 Minutes With: Joe Berg

Finding inspiration to do things I never imagined possible rarely comes from professional athletes. What inspires, rather, is meeting someone who seems like an ordinary guy -- and suddenly realizing five minutes in that he's anything but. These are the people who make me say to myself, "I can do that". Joe Berg isn't ordinary. I sat down with him to chat about his ultra endurance racing experience, opera and some tips for me as I prepare for La Ruta.

63 miles and 11,000 feet of NC single track

Assault on Mt. Mitchell: The Road to La Ruta, Part 3

The Off Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell is a 63-mile epic mountain bike race in western North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest. Really, the day itself was epic, starting with the beautiful drive out of Asheville where thick fog filled the Smoky Mountains as the sun started to rise. The key word here is sun. The weather in the southeast has been extremely rainy of late, and I was fully prepared to race all day on a muddy course. But mother nature had something else planned, at least for the first five hours of this mid-season race en route to La Ruta.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Planning (and Going Balls Out) is Everything: The Road to La Ruta, Part 2

This is the second part of an eight-part original GP series, The Road to La Ruta, in which contributor Dirk Shaw chronicles his training for the Fool's Gold 100 and La Ruta de Los Conquistadores -- one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world. Check back throughout the summer to watch the story unfold. I am a binary person. 1 = balls out, and 0 = no interest. So once I decided to start competing, I consumed every training book I could get my hands on. If total immersion works when I need to understand a client’s brand strategy, then why not go deep and steep myself in every possible theory on training, workouts and mental preparation for endurance competition? I researched and downloaded and read and re-read all the wisdom of many who have tried and some who have succeeded. When I came up for air, what really stuck with me was one simple fact: to be a successful endurance athlete, you need to plan for next year -- today.

Time to leave it all on the trail

Taking on the World’s Toughest Bike Race: The Road to La Ruta Starts Now

Anyone who’s been in a race knows that the rush of crossing the finish line is followed almost immediately by the sinking question “What’s next?” The longer the training leading up to the race, the more acute the question. So it wasn't long after last year’s Road to Ironman series that we were already planning something bigger, inspired by a friendly reader inquiry from Mr. Dirk Shaw, a Senior Vice President at Ogilvy, husband, father of three and endurance cycling fanatic. His assigment: a coast-to-coast race mountain bike race in Costa Rica ranking among the hardest in the world.