Sitting here on Monday… glowing about the success of the weekend…. and also from to much sun.
ok…. Saturday…. (seems like a week ago)
The team was up at 4:30 to get ready and fuel up for a big day!
Day One I was really nervous and worried. The swim is always a big unknown for me – it is one of the toughest elements and can drain me for the entire race or not….. It was indeed a hard swim, but went well.
Day Two this year features the temporary bike course (because of the volcano this spring) that has over 13,000 feet of elevation gain. The fear among the athletes was tangible all week leading up to the race. We all knew that we were facing a challenge of epic proportions. I love to ride my bike. It is my favourite thing in this race. I was dead serious and concerned about cut off time. That said, the energy in the morning was fun and bright and happy. We all rode off in the pre dawn in great spirits and perfect weather by the glow of our bike lights.
I worked my way to the front of the pack and rode near Tara Horton (pro athlete from Canada) for a while. A few guys were trying to do a pace line and draft – which makes me grumpy….. so I pushed out way ahead to get away from that nonsense. I rode in 6th place for about 30 minutes as we turned right up Waikaloa and started the climb. I am strong…. but big and that takes more power. When you do the math, 92kg Uncle Scotty will take 1.5 hours longer to climb the mountains at the same power output than a 70kg athlete. Yes…. I do go downhill much faster, but I only make up 10 minutes. The advantage is not enough. Given the same power output lighter is faster. (which isn’t entirely fair – I DO have more power than many…. but then the math gets really crazy)
So up we climbed…. for over 4 hours…… in 31- 37C heat (yes….. four hours). That said, I have to mention that we won the weather lottery!!! I have done the Waikaloa climb in spirit crushing winds that had me barely moving and we didn’t even have a whisper on this day. It was the biggest gift!!! The steady climb up the Saddle Road had me slowly drop back to somewhere like 20th over all but I wasn’t too worried about that, (it does play on my mind though). I was worried about riding smart, not crushing it too soon. We set a plan, that the race ‘started’ in Hilo – and that was when I was allowed to go really hard. Climbing forever was hard, but super fun! The crews from other riders were everywhere and everyone is SO supportive and amazing! Of course MY crew is the BEST!!!! Some crews had outfits, goofy hats, great music and more. Jokes, funny comments and so much fun! We had hundreds of great moments along the way. At one point I asked Darren if he knew how car until the summit: “about 5kms” he said. ok…. at 10kph of grinding, we still had a ways to go!! About 15 minutes later he was running beside me and said it was about 5kms to the summit. we laughed. This went on and on for about 8kms…… just 5km to the summit!! All you can do is laugh… and keep turning the pedals!!! (and EAT!)
The whole day (and most of yesterday) the song from Smokey and the Bandit kept playing over and over in my mind. “Eastbound and down, loaded up and trucking, we gonna do what they say can’t be done…… we’ve got a LONG way to go, and short time to get there… I’m east bound just watch your bandit run! Old smokey’s go them ears on, he’s hot on your tail, and he ain’t gonna rest til you’re in jail. You’ve got to dodge you got to duck ’em, you’ve gotta keep that diesel trucking, just put that hammer down and giver hell!!! bum, bum, bum, east bound and down…..” https://youtu.be/uHZJej98_T0
I knew that the descent was my time… and I made up for it. I dropped into aero and hammered the pedals HARD! At 70-80kph you cannot pedal that fast, so I just hung on and stayed tight, with my eyes scanning up ahead, back close, up ahead, back close. There is no margin for error at that speed and a simple crack in the road, rock, branch, broken beer bottle etc would mean a repeat of 2015. Honestly the scariest part of the descent was passing the 5 riders that I overtook. They were clearly not expecting someone to fly by them 10-20kph faster than they were going. 4 of the riders were riding close to the rumble strips on the left of the shoulder – riders are supposed to stay tight to the right, but it’s more comfortable to ride in the middle left of the shoulder, further from the ditch. I yelled as loud as I could “on your left!!” “move right!!” “HEY HEY HEY!!!!” stuff like that…. but it’s windy at that speed and even with a mandatory rear view mirror, riders get in their own headspace and don’t expect to be passed. Same for crews. One lady was standing in the shoulder taking a photo of their rider as I came screaming past. She heard me in time, moved out of the way and said sorry….. all good…. but scary. The most frightening pass was when I went by Juan Coasollo from Argentina…. Factor in wind, speed, yelling in english….. and our pass was REALLY close! We rubbed arms as I went by…… At the speeds we were going, the brakes don’t do enough, I cannot go around on the right (illegal and dangerous because of the ditch) could not go left further because of the rumble strips and traffic, so I had to thread the needle. Thankfully we are both excellent riders and although nerve wracking….. was fine.
Dropping down into Hilo I made my way through town and out onto the Hamakua coastline. The shoulders are super tight, the roads windy with lots of hills. The weather was perfect though, no wind or rain, just hot and muggy. Lyle and Jochen were in the crew van and working to keep me fed and cool. Darren and Drew were in the Media Jeep grabbing lots of footage for the documentary. I passed a few more people, and got passed by a few people as we all worked our way along through the 3 big gulches and all of the rolling mountain road.
A funny thing that happened all day was the M&M’s in my aero bottle’s food tray. You know those ‘popper’ toys that toddlers push around? They have a plastic done lid and are full of colourful marbles. They bounce around inside…. yup that was my bike. Lyle would fill the holder with peanut M&M’s and I would snack on them as I rode – little fat and sugar hits. Any bump on the road etc and a few or a bunch of them would pop and bounce out onto my legs or the road. It was entertaining…..
The guys were all set up on ‘the bridge’ and we had a moment as I rolled by safely. I gave a little salute and we pressed on. It was a bit of an emotional moment for sure.
About 30 minutes from Honaka’a by stomach was not happy and was telling me to stop putting things in it. Of course that is a bad plan, as my caloric deficit was growing by the minute. We tried some nuts, nope. Some pretzel bits, nope. electrolytes, nope. a few bites of sandwich – not bad…. ok, a little more of that…. but then, nope. That went on for a long while as the rain started and my energy drained. After passing Honaka’a the boys handed me some warm malasada donut pieces. That sat pretty well, was just a lot to chew while trying to ride a threshold up soul destroying hills in the rain while the information on my watch told me we were not going to make cutoff.
Darren ran up to me and said “remember 2013? you need to find that other gear again” I knew that….. and said so. I felt like throwing up more than I didn’t….. and prior to the malasada bites, for the past hour, all I had been taking in was plain water. It’s hard to generate power on nothing, in the rain, while climbing 3,000 feet…… after already riding for 9 hours. Jochen asked if my stomach was feeling better as he ran beside me in the rain. I said it didn’t matter any more, we couldn’t afford to care. We were 9:15 into the race. 2:45 before cut off. just under 60kms to go, and 20kms of all climbing to Waimea, in the rain, body empty. I gritted my teeth and red lined my suffering to new levels of pain. Many times I thought of my friend Ryan Correy (world renowned endurance cyclist who we lost to cancer this year)….. I asked out loud to the rain “ok Ryan…. talk to me buddy…. how did you do this? How did you carry on when everything was so bad?” I channeled his energy for the next hour and just HURT.
The crew had started to sprint with me. They parked the van and lined up: Darren ran with me cheering encouragements for 200m, then Jochen took over and ran 200m, then Lyle ran 200m telling me I was a beast and he was so proud of me and all sorts of stuff. It was epic level Ohana (family), Aloha (love) and Kokua (Spirit)…. which is what this race is all about.
I had to pee for about 2 hours and knew I didn’t have time to stop, but I cannot pee while riding, so I pulled over and went behind the media jeep (Drew did not film that….. I don’t think…..). That felt SO much better!! The pain of being bent over and trying to pedal hard with a full bladder was getting pretty rough. After I was done, Darren asked if I wanted some chocolate milkshake. We have a tight nutrition plan for the race, but at some point, it tuns into what the athletes and crew call “the food lottery”. The body rebels. You try different things until you find what the body needs and wants. That chocolate ice cream shake was GOLD!!! I inhaled half of it and got on my bike with renewed energy! 10k to go. I hammered the pedals harder. “eastbound and down…..”
Soon the hills didn’t seem to matter or affect me, I just kept going faster as I got closer to Waimea…. I knew that if I could just get there in an hour, I could make it. The ride from the edge of town to the coast was flat or downhill. I wanted to make my crew proud, to show them that they had done it. Their 30 minutes of flat out SPRINTING worked and I was back! I was getting in nutrition again – a blend of coca cola and electrolytes, and I was laser focused on making cutoff. If we missed cutoff….. then the race was over. Yes… you can continue as a ‘participant’ and there is a LOT of mobility in that… but I came here to be a finisher and I was not going to leave anything out in that pursuit.
I FLEW through Waimea, made the right turn down towards the Kohala mountains and then turned left and HAMMERED down to the coast. Just before the last downhill heading in to the sun, I reached in my back pocket to grab my sunglasses (I had taken them off hours before in the grey cloudy rain). The arm caught on my rear pocket, twisted the frame and the lens popped out at 40kph!!! These are prescriptions and I need them! I quickly stopped, the boys were there in a flash and I told Lyle what happened. “ok, we’ve got it, just GO!” and they went off back to find the lens (which they DID!! scratched, but intact).
Once we got to the coastline there was still 600 feet of climbing to do, and 24kms….. but we had 78 minutes. Assuming no mechanical issues…. we had done it! We had made up the time! HAMMERED the pedals….. the sun was setting and I did not want to be riding in pitch black. The crew kept stopping to cool me down by pouring ice water on my head and arm coolers and make sure I got some nutrition in.
Like Jochen said all weekend – “yah, this part is not too tough compared to some others, but it’s not for free.” I had been pushing my body hard for 11 hours, and for the last 2.5 hours, at absolute maximum…. and I was feeling it!!!
After what felt like forever, I saw the volunteers at the top of a hill, with a left turn sign….. we did it!! It was dark and dangerous, the sun had been down for 20 minutes and my bright headlamp was dead, so I was using the back up light. I slowed down….. no need to go fast now.. be safe, you cannot see the road.
The finish of Day 2 was unreal…… My crew were there, Peter and Adam and Shae were there. Hilary, Kaden, Sheryl, Jane, Steve, Tara, Jeremy, and dozens of people…. I bawled. A lot of us bawled. We did it!! We finished the bike that nearly ended my life 3 years ago!
After hugging about 30 people, I layed down on the pavement……. coming to terms with the fact that I was in a lot of pain, and bloody exhausted!! Soon Lyle arrived with my shoes and we waddled down to the massage and food area. I talked with Peter and his crew, we laughed, told stories and cursed that crazy bike course! I ate some chili and rice and a malasada (it was what they had) and got a massage.
The results for day two speaks volumes…… 14 DNFs…… the most _ever_. This will be likely be the ONLY year they run this course – returning back to far side of the island once roads are rebuilt from the volcano this spring.
We made our way up to our rental accommodations and checked in. A lovely home in the middle of a quiet area near Hawi. The owner is a lovely lady and she was super friendly and good to us! She brought us some cereal and milk and a few other things. I had burned 8,800 calories in the day, but only eaten 5,400. Yes, my crew tracked everything I ate so we could see where we were at. It becomes important. I was a LOT short on my calories, so I had a bunch of ice cream, a few bowls of cheerios (not my fave, but what we had), and some other stuff….. Then bed…..
Big day coming up…..
This article was written by admin