The Tiger Mountain Winner! Tale #11: Against the Odds, Against the Beast by José Ramírez
In 2016 my wife Sarah and I relocated to the PNW because of a promotion she was awarded. Moving to this area was both scary and exciting, but we were both hopeful and enthusiastic about such a big change. I was born and raised in Costa Rica, and living “pura vida” was all I did for 28 years, I was used to a system, my friends, and family so the move wasn’t particularly easy for me.
A few months after moving here I started to get sick, constant back and stomach aches were a common thing now, each day getting progressively worse and worse. 6 months into moving to Bellevue I was diagnosed with Chron’s Disease and Ankylosing Spondylitis; the lather had progressed so much that it fused my rib cage to the point where my lungs cannot expand naturally, which makes me get winded very easily.
The 2 upcoming years were extremely debilitating both physically and mentally. I got to the point where I lost 30lbs in the span of 2 months when the conditions were flaring at their peak. I dealt with extreme depression and anxiety that made me spend weeks stuck at home with no desire to see the outside.
Chron’s continued to damage my insides to the point where I had to get surgery to get a fistula removed from my colon and that was my rock bottom. I knew that something had to change but I just didn’t know what and I didn’t know how.
Back in high school I used to ride bikes with my friends, I used to have a great time and I wondered if that was something I could start doing here. I went on Facebook looking for support groups and that is when I stumbled on the “Tiger Mountain/Raging River/Olallie MTB” group where I started making connection and literally changing my life forever. Everyone on the group greeted me with open arms, with words of encouragement and guidance to make me come back to the saddle.
The following year was full of amazing experiences from buying a terrible used bike, to buying a world class champion bike from Jill Kintner and Bryn Atkinson. I met amazing people, went to amazing places, crashed a million times but overall, I was saving my own life.
At this point you are probably wondering how does this have anything to do with Tiger? Well here we go… The comments on the group about tiger were always consistent about how rad but how technical and treacherous Tiger Mountain could be. I developed a fear for that mountain and I actually crashed there every single time I rode it.
In 2019 my good friend Reid Postle convinced me to enroll to the Race Cascadia Tiger Enduro. There was no way I could pull off something like that. I couldn’t literally climb more than a few minutes before almost feeling like passing out, let alone full gas a whole day at Tiger Mountain, a place that I legitimately fear…
I was convinced to do it, I trained hard and brought myself to a point where I could take on the challenge. On April 20 2019 we headed out to Tiger and I got to experience my first race ever, not just here but literally the first race I had ever been involved in my life. I was scared, I was concerned, I was stoked! I fought “the beast” for 8 hours from the moment I hit the first pedal stroke to the moment I almost passed out after the last checkpoint. So many close calls, so many cramps, so many memories of a life changing moment. To me finally taking on Tiger was a critical point of my life. A little over a year from then I was ready to give up on life and yet there I was racing bikes and killing the Tiger once and for all.
Tiger Mountain holds a special place in my heart now. It saw me approach it at my weakest and it saw me conquer it at my strongest.
To all people who make this community such a welcoming place, to everyone who makes Tiger a reality, to Patrick Zuest for taking the picture over the rock roll on The Legend that my mother hangs on her wall in Costa Rica as the proof of a miracle… To all of you: Thank you! You have helped this human being stay alive and you helped pass on that positivity to other people through me.
Shred on people!