Rachel and I had been planning a vacation to visit her family in Hawaii. Just as those plans were coming together, I was also on the brink of leaving my full-time job and thought why not turn the family visit/vacation into an opportunity to train and increase fitness.
Cycle to the Sun / Maui
A week in Maui kicked things off with Haleakala. For those of you unfamiliar with Haleakala, it's supposed to be the worlds longest paved climb - around 36 miles and 10,000 feet of constant climbing. Maui Cyclery hosts the race every year and it draws tourists as well as serious climbers from all over the world. I had researched riders a bit before the race and had 3 marked to follow. I sat in the entire climb knowing that I had to be smart since climbing is still my biggest weakness despite vast improvements over the past year.
Around the 7000ft mark, the leading group was down to just six with one other rider up the road as they began laying down bigger efforts to bridge the ~1 minute gap. I was feeling good all things considered until around 8000ft as race veteran and resident skinny man Rick Beach took off with Colorado hill climb champ, Nate Llerandi. It seemed a bit early to me, but as I tried to work with the remaining group, it was becoming clear that the 2 hours and 30 minutes of climbing combined with the lack of oxygen was beginning to wear me down. The next 1500ft turned into survival as my wattage slowly creeped lower and lower. In the end, I wound up 5th out of around 190 and was by far the heaviest guy in the top 5 (yes, I asked everyone what they weighed). At the top, I was very light-headed and had to lay for a bit. Another rider that wasn't too far behind me fell over at the top, I assume for the same reason. This crater/mountain is no joke and the elevation is a killer.
The rest of my week in Maui I had the assistance of a fellow Bay Area native, Phil Mai from Team Fremont. He was kind enough to show me around the island. We took the road to Hana all the way from Paia and back, looped around the northwest section of Maui through Lahaina, and also did one more climb up Haleakala in the remaining days. It was a big block with a total of 31,500ft climbed.
Hawaii State Road Race Championship / Oahu
For my second week in Hawaii, I met up with Rachel and her family in Ouahu. It was so nice to have a car and family around again. As much as I liked Maui, nothing was convenient and getting back from climbing 10,000ft and then having to ride my bike up 750ft to get food sucked. A few nights I went to bed hungry. Note to self: don't cheap out and stay in the "jungle".
With food in my belly and Rachel by my side, we headed towards the North Shore to the Dole plantations for the Pineapple Hill Road Race. We arrived to a steady rain... Wasn't July supposed to be sunny? As we arrived, I proceeded to go about my race ritual of bathroom, reg, dress, ride. Turns out Hawaii doesn't do the whole port-a-potty thing so I ended up standing in the rain in overgrown brush with a box of tissues... Anyway let's fast forward to the race...
Pineapple Hill Road Race is a 4-loop 4-corner oval-ish circuit with a steady 3-6% grade both up and down. The race totals around 4500ft of climbing. As the race started, the rain picked up. Initial pace before the first descent was very slow so I just went off the front to see how they would respond and they didn't really. I let them come back as we made the initial descent. Knowing the group wasn't too keen to chase, I put down a far more serious dig at the bottom of the descent leading into the climb and only the two strongest riders were able/willing to come with me.
As the climb began, the pace slowed enough for two other larger riders to join. I was sitting second wheel behind Jeff Terebey from Tradewinds and allowed a gap to open just to see how they would react. One took the bait and bridged while the others sat on my wheel as the gap grew to ~10-15 meters and the two leaders began chatting. I didn't like the look of that so I bridged up dropping the ones behind. After I looked back to see them scrambling to catch on, I attacked the lead group of two and only Jeff was able to follow. I knew Jeff was strong and Rick Beach couldn't match the power the two of us could create so off we went.
Jeff seemed a little concerned that we were already solo just 5 miles into a 50+ mile race, but I assured him we were okay since this is where I have had the most success. The gap grew and grew. By the third lap, we were 5 minutes ahead of third place - this is where I should have been more aggressive. Instead, I conserved on the last lap behind Jeff's wheel waiting for him to hesitate so I would go around and pull - this is where I would go.
He never really did that and held tempo at the front. We later exchanged blows on the final climb, but neither could get away. After laying down one last big attack about a mile out and then getting pulled back, I conceded that it would come down to a sprint, but now I was the one at the front. The race quickly turned into a game of cat and mouse similar to what you'd see in a track race. Wonderful. I have zero experience with this stuff. As the pace slowed to a crawl, Jeff went and I followed. Problem was the pace had slowed so much that I was in too high of a gear and grinded as he spun a few bike lengths ahead. Never could close down that gap and came across second. Frustrating.
I'm still playing that race out in my head to figure out how I could have executed the last few laps better because, as strong as Jeff was, I feel like that race should have been mine. All of the racers, promotor included, went out of their way to make me feel welcome and it was amazing to get a chance to race with the top talent in Hawaii. I was surprised to find out how many people knew about Team Mike's Bikes p/b Equator Coffees in Hawaii. They even gave me a Pineapple for the racer who traveled the farthest to race, haha. A big thank you to Mike's Bikes for providing a bike case for the two-week excursion and for the team's continued support. Thank you Rachel for supporting my decision to race while on vacation and getting rained on with me. Also, thank you to everyone who has stepped up and supported my decision to focus on cycling including my family - if you are in Pennsylvania and need any construction work, I know just the guy ;) ...Wouldn't be able to do it without these people.
Moving on, 5 weeks into training full-time and I've got a 3rd, 2nd, and 5th so I can't really complain too much. The next race will be Cascade followed by some stage racing in my home state of Pennsylvania. This will be a true test of my new fitness. fingers crossed I can pick up a few points!
Photos by NextElevatorTrip