Here I am back four years later at La Ruta. I swore I would never come to this race again, but I'm actually really excited this time. I have a different perspective and a different respect for the race. People have been asking me why I came back. It's two reasons.
The first is that the race organization really wanted to support a top women's field. And I wanted to help in their efforts. I appreciate that they want to give equal recognition to the men and women.
The second reason I came back is to redeem myself. The first time I was taken by surprise and the course had its way with me. I felt that in 2006 I wasn't able to race and was barely able to finish. Now that I know what I'm in for, I'm coming with a much more open attitude and respect for the course and knowing that I'm not necessarily racing against other women. It's kind of me against the course.
So I feel excited instead of nervous and I'm actually looking forward to what the mud will dish out. The reputation of this race is legendary for being super hard and now that I'm ready for that, I feel like I'll have a much better time.
Both the men's and women's fields are really strong, and they've made improvements with increased aid stations and cracking down on outside assistance, and they've worked hard to make it one of the best events in the world. The country has experienced landslides, record-breaking rain and hurricane weather in the past couple of weeks, so the course has been slightly changed, and I expect it will be even more of an adventure than the first time.
In true Costa Rican style, it just started raining tonight.
Tomorrow's stage is 104km. The race director estimated top finishing time at 6.5 hours, so I'm gauging for eight hours. This first stage has a reputation for being the make it or break it stage. It ends a lot of people's races due to mechanicals, dehydration and the sheer difficulty. So I'm treating this first day as a race in itself.