Thursday, July 31, 2008

8000 stone steps- Stage 5

Day 5 didn't start out that great. I felt so nauseous in the morning that I couldn't force down breakfast. I had even brought some of my own "fitness bread" to add a little fiber to my diet, but it just did not look very appetizing. My solution was to chug 2 cups of thick Sustained Energy and eat a banana, to get some calories before the 7 am start. We actually started in 3 big groups except for the fastest 10 riders who had to go one at a time. I was very happy to have a 10 km warm up before the start of the special stage. We were all riding at what should have been a comfortable pace but I was feeling so sick. I started to slack behind and Eric stopped with me. After puking up the Sustained Energy and banana on the side of the road I felt slightly better, but I was wondering how I was going to make it through the day.

I actually started feeling better during the special stage. It included a really long, "easy"dirt climb and I was able to ride at a good pace. When I finished the stage in 3 hrs 40 minutes I was feeling completely back to normal. Eric and I ended up riding out of the checkpoint together.

We had a long section to get to the next special stage which started at the top of a castle. There was a very steep pavement climb to get there and I caught up to Katia who was riding with one the funniest guys I have ever met, Fabritzio. I don't want to rip on Fabritzio, but he is a smoker and he couldn't wait to get to the end each day to light up a cigarette after kissing his wife and daughter. He has a full head of curly red hair and a goatee. He was a really good rider and to entertain us during the "non-special stages" he would fly down hill and lay down on his saddle and scream with a "devilish voice". Sometimes he would pretend like his bike was a motorcycle and do wheelies, or he would just yell at or taunt other Italians he knew. Fabritzio's English was slightly better than my Italian and it was really funny trying to communicate in the 20 words we had in common. Super nice and friendly guy.

The next special stage was my favorite of the whole race. We started at an ancient castle which was built on the mountain side and rode down 8000 stone steps. It was absolutely amazing!! We started out going through pitch black tunnels and after the first one I got off my bike, because you couldn't see the steps at all, and they were definitely not evenly spaced. I had a hard time even walking through the tunnels and had to hold on to to the stonewall to keep my balance. After the tunnels the steps continued down the mountain side, but at least you could see where you were going. I am amazed at how well my equipment held up. At the bottom of the staircases we went in to another super-fun section with tight switch backs and finished with a short but steep single track climb up to the check point. At the check point we could look up the mountain and see the old castle. I thought I was making good time, but I actually ended up somewhere in the middle of the field with a time of 30 minutes. I guess I need to practice my stair case riding more!!

We still had another couple of hours to finish the day in Pragelato and I was determined to finish within the Target time that day. I lost both the special stages to Katia that day, she was riding very strong, but since I reached the target time, I still ended up with 27 points less.

At night we walked into the town and had dinner again. The restaurant quickly filled up with other racers, and we dined with a guy who has done the Ironbike 12 times. Eric and I both ordered a hamburger and were a bit surprised when our 7 Euro hamburger turned out to be only the patty. It was still good, but we had to supplement with some additional food.

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