Can racing with your spouse be a good idea?

Of course!

I’ve always wanted to compete in a co-ed race with my spouse. La Ruta de los Conquistadores was approaching, and they had a new class, co-ed! We both were coming off a long race season and were on the verge of burnout. The thought of competing in one of the hardest stage races in the world was exhausting, but the new experience of racing co-ed together was exciting. Would this be a good idea? 

La Ruta de los Conquistadores is a three-day stage race from the Pacific side of Costa Rica to the Caribbean Sea. The race covers roughly 140 miles, 22,000 feet of climbing, traverses five mountain ranges through rainforest, jungles, volcanoes, mud and ends on a beautiful sandy beach in Limon.   

My husband, Anthony, and I can’t say “no” to traveling and new adventures, so we made the journey to Costa Rica. We came up with a game plan for success: have fun, good communication, encouragement, and positivity. Anthony would carry the water, tools, and food to help lighten my load (balancing out our climbing speed), so all I had to do was pedal.

The Toops couple at the airport heading to the race.

Going into day one we knew what was ahead, 54 miles and almost 12,000 feet of climbing. We made a mistake by vacationing prior to the race and were having a hard time getting motivated after all the yummy casados. Standing on the beach start at 5AM we were already sweating, it was going to be a long hot day but we were excited to get racing.

The first part of the race was exciting with the helicopter to lead out and all the spectators yelling “vamos!”  It wasn’t until after the initial section of jungle that the excitement wore off and we found ourselves riding mostly alone getting baked in the sun. Our Spanish is limited, so communicating with the checkpoint workers to find out what place we were in was difficult.  We continued to push hard knowing if we got a decent lead the rest of the stages would be easier and less stressful. 

This is the part of the day we got a little testy with each other and really had to work on positivity.  Some quotes of the day: “Just tell me what you want.” “Next time you go that slow, can you warn me so I don’t run into you?” “Just one foot in front of the other…” “Is this hill ever going to end?” “Give me your bike, I’ll push it.” “Mas papas” “Make sure your shoes are tight.” “I think we just passed Lance!”

After an afternoon of learning what we both needed, the day went a lot smoother.  We figured out what works and what doesn’t. Being the faster rider my husband needed to know: if the pace was good, food and water supplies (he could go ahead and resupply food at aids), bike issues, and good communication in pace lines.  I just needed to know I was doing a good job with some positive encouragement to go faster.  Other than that is was just a bike race in Costa Rica with my best friend, what’s not to enjoy!    

Day two we pedaled 25 miles up 9,000 feet to a volcano followed by an hour-long decent with heavy fog, volcanic ash, and freezing rain. With our new leaders’ jerseys and a decent gap to second place, we were ready for a little less business and a lot more fun. After hanging with the lead women for a bit, I surprisingly felt great and Anthony did a great job of encouraging me to just “go.” We pushed the pace and it was amazing getting to experience leading the women up the climb. I never would have done that without his encouragement.

Day three is an all-out road race with only 38 miles and just over a 1,000 feet of climbing. This was Anthony’s day to shine and use all that extra energy he had saved from going my pace.  After the sketchy start was over, my job was to hold his wheel and get to the train bridges before a line formed. On the gravel roads, I had trouble holding his wheel and would yell “off” and he would slow and let me back on.  I was redlining most of this stage and it’s hard to remember to eat/drink but Anthony reminded me to taking gels and fluids. This is a short but high intensity stage, so eating solid food is hard.  We bridged the gap from pace line to pace line until reaching the finish line and taking the win in the co-ed class!

Crossing the finish line and experiencing Costa Rica together is something we will always cherish. I have absolutely no regrets about racing as a team and we are already making plans for more co-ed races in the future.  With the lessons learned in Costa Rica, I think we will have this duo-racing thing down! 

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Growing up in Ohio, Jen's family introduced her to a life full of two-wheeled adventures. She started racing in 2015 and now races on the PEARL iZUMi/ Pivot MTB team focusing on endurance and stage races. Although she loves racing, her real passion is the memories made by traveling and exploring new trails with her husband and two huskies.

PRO Athlete & Ambassador

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