Sunday, April 18, 2010

50 Miles of Mexico

This weekend was the 31st annual Rosarito to Ensenada bike ride, which brought me to Mexico for the first time.  Usually the ride draws in over 5,000 cyclists but this year, due to the recent killing sprees there were far less riders.  I was very eager to check another country off my list of ‘Places I’ve Visited’, and Angela being an avid cyclist and triathlete suggested it, so I signed us both up.  A strong man friend of Angela’s accompanied us on the car ride so we would be out of harm’s way.  My only fear was the bike ride ahead.

I am a runner, not a cyclist; this piece of information became very apparent during the ride.   50 miles on a bike is a piece of cake, if those miles are flat with the occasional hill.  The course we rode was anything but flat.  There were hills from the very beginning that had me uneasy, unlike Angela.  She somehow finds enjoyment in them, which makes me question her sanity.   She would have loved it if the ride was 100 miles of hills and still would have finished with an enthusiastic smile.  I, on the other hand, would quit at the first sign of a bar serving margaritas.   That’s just me.    

At one point there was a hill that lasted 3 entire miles without a break.  After that sucker I assumed we were done with the hills, but sure enough, we turned a corner and there was another monster!   This continued for most of the ride but then luckily the down hills came.   Flying down long, steep hills is like riding a rollercoaster that you’re in control of.  It’s magnificent!  It almost makes the hills worth it… almost.

Along the way we rode the beautiful Baja coast and then took a turn inland where everything in sight was lush and green.  There was nothing in sight besides endless fields and mountains.  It is so rare that you can ride for miles in a place with absolutely no commercial influence.  It was pure and completely untouched earth.   

By the end of the race we were back along the highway headed into Ensenada, a tourist town, much like Rosarito.   I had hit that point of hunger where I could no longer push myself.  My speed had slowed drastically and I couldn’t wait to reach the finish line.  I had visions of tacos and churros dancing in my head.  Finally I saw the end and crowds of people.  I hopped my sore butt off the saddle and made a beeline for the food tent where I proceeded to suck down some watermelon, rice and beans.   A few minutes later we hopped on the bus back to our car. 

The shuttle ride was long and bumpy but the views made it worth it.  I was finally able to soak up Mexico’s bountiful beauty because I was no longer pushing myself up those crazy hills.  

Although we only live 20 minutes from the border, it took hours to get back into the U.S.  The line was incredibly long and terribly slow.  If you have never been in line to cross the border I should tell you, it is quite an interesting place to be.  There are endless vendors selling everything imaginable.  From bracelets and tables to large Jesus figurines, you can buy just about anything.  We were entertained by child jugglers but saddened by the state of Tijuana.  In some ways it even reminds me of my time in South Africa.  It is just minutes away from where we live, but it feels like an entirely different world.  There is a very thin line between prosperity and poverty and it is easy to see when you enter Tijuana.   I am thankful that we are fortunate enough to be on the prosperous side. 

All in all, yesterday’s ride was a great experience but I probably won’t be doing it next year.  It made me realize that my love for running far surpasses my like for cycling.  With running, I am able to push myself harder than I ever could on two wheels and I get into a zone that I can’t seem to find when I am on the bike.  With that being said, I am looking forward to today’s run and will give my butt a well-deserved rest.