It’s pretty amazing at how time can fly by so quickly at times! Here it is, January already and it’s time to get back on the horse and begin preparations for another season of mtb racing. A couple of pretty cool things happened over the off season. I’ve furthered my commitment to Rasmussen Bike Shop despite offers from other teams. My commitment to Rassy’s was never in question however, as I am 100% committed to Rassy’s until I am no longer able to ride a bike and beyond. The amount of support that Rassy’s provides to myself and the other members of the Rassy squad goes above and beyond any expectations. They’re the best! I’ll once again be using the Orbea Oiz Carbon and the Orbea Orca as my weapons of choice, both 2009’s. Oakley Rob has been supporting me with Oakley eyewear for as long as I can remember and, as always, I’m pretty excited to see what kind of new Oakley products I’ll be sporting for the 2009 season! I’ll also be on board with Louis Garneau, Probar and Sockguy. I am truly blessed to have the support that I have, all of which are the best products and services in the market.
As most of you know, USA Cycling had a pretty big shake up in the mountain bike racing categories. Expert, Sport and Beginner categorizations no longer exist and they have succumbed to the Dark Side. We dirt lovers are now categorized the same as the roadies. Pro, Cat. 1, Cat. 2 and Cat.3. With the shake up, I ended up upgrading to the Pro category. Being a ‘Pro’ doesn’t really change anything for me, other than my USA Cycling license fee increased from $90 to $150. Oh, and I’m also subject to the same doping controls as the real Pro’s. I guess that means that I’m going to have to give up my poppy seed bagels…
I had a great season last year, my best ever. And so I decided to reward myself by starting the 2009 season off with a bang. Julie has two members of her family that own time shares on Maui, and as luck would have it, they happened to be vacationing on Maui during the first half of January. They were generous enough to offer other family members a place to stay if they wanted. So Julie and I threw down for the airfare, boxed up a couple of road bikes and spent 10 days on Maui. As an added bonus, we missed out on some of the worse weather that Iowa had ever experienced…that truly breaks my heart.
I didn’t have time to keep a daily journal while on Maui, so instead, here’s a ‘brief’ summary of what went down on my sweet 10 day training camp.
I decided to start the trip off full throttle by riding up Haleakala. Haleakala is a dormant volcano that tops out at just over 10,000 feet. With our condo being about 1/8 of a mile from the beach, I knew that my total elevation gain for the day would be over 10,000 of climbing…sweet! The short version of the story, it took me 4 ½ hours to get from the condo to the top and it was probably the most difficult road ride that I’ve ever done. The first hour was relatively flat, at about mile 20, the pitch kicked up to a grade that varied between 6% and 8%. The toughest parts of the climb were between 5,000 and 6,000 feet, where the pitch varied from 8% to 12%. The last ¼ mile or so, the pitch kicked up even further to close to 20% in some spots…and it was a severe kick in the groin after having been climbing for the last 3+ hours.
Haleakala from afar.
Halfway up, looking up.
Halfway up, looking down.
Once on top, I chilled, ate some food and enjoyed the amazing views of some of the neighboring islands, including the peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, two of the tallest volcanoes on Earth. After a 15 minute break, I put on some arm and knee warmers and began the descent. Once the actual climb began, it took me about 3 ½ hours to reach the top. It took me about an hour on the descent and it was a blast! I counted 32 switchbacks on the way up. At the top, I was above the clouds and it was pretty cool riding back down as I went through the clouds, ripping through the switchbacks as quickly as I dared.
It took me 2 hours to get from the top of Haleakala back down to the condo. Some ride stats: total ride time – 6 ½ hours, total elevation gain – 10,350 feet, average heart rate for the ride – 147 and a total distance of about 96 miles.
Looking down into the crater of a dormant volcano...kinda creepy lookin' eh?
That's not a moon, that's a space station!
The peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea off in the distance.
Plunging down into the clouds.
I was pretty cooked after yesterdays ride, so I decided to do what I thought would be a fairly flat ride around the northern part of the island, what I called the Lahaina loop. Flat it was not, there were no long sustained climbs like Haleakala, however there were an endless amount of ‘rollers’, one of which averaged about 18% for a little over ¼ of a mile…another kick in the groin! The road was absolutely beautiful and pretty much paralleled the northern coast of the island. From the condo up to Kapalua, the shoulder was about a car width wide, plenty of room for cyclists, however the shoulders were littered with a lot of broken glass in places. I didn’t get a single flat while on Maui and I rode through a lot of glass. My tire of choice, the Continental Dura Skin.
As I passed Kapalua, the road began to narrow and became more serpentine, the hills became more severe and the scenery even more amazing. As I approached the small village of Kahakuloa, the road narrowed to a single lane and the blacktop was pretty cobbled in a lot of places. The cliffs became more abundant, and often times I had a shear cliff going up on my right and a shear cliff going down on my left.
As I neared the town of Waihee, the road gradually began to widen, flatten and straighten until it turned back into a state highway with better quality blacktop and a little more shoulder. One of the cool things about this ride was that as the road narrowed, the amount of vehicular traffic decreased. I saw maybe 5 or 10 cars while the road was one lane wide. At the end of the day, I ended up with the following stats: total ride time – 4 ¼ hours, total elevation gain – 4,560 feet, average heart rate for the ride – 141 and a total ride distance of about 80 miles.
One of many sweet views along the road.
Checkin' out the mother of all rollers, carved into the side of a cliff, 1/4 of a mile long at 18%.
Checkin' out Kapalua, where the rich folk throw down $300 for a round of golf.
Serpentine, steep, cobbled blacktop waitin' to put the hurt on me.
A sweet view of Haleakala near the end of my ride.
As if the two previous rides were not enough, I decided to head out for another epic ride on the famed Road To Hana. The Road to Hana consists of a 52 mile long stretch of highway / road from Kahalui to Hana, on the eastern and southern coast of the island. The road is very windy and hilly and passes over a total of 59 bridges, 46 of which are single lane. Most of the road passes through lush, tropical rain forest and has approximately 620 curves, a lot which are very tight…perfect for a road cyclist! A lot of the road was carved out of some of the cliffs that drop off into the Pacific Ocean and make for some pretty spectacular views.
Typical view from the road.
If you overcook a corner, the consequences will be less than favorable.
A picture of another cliff that would kinda suck to fall off of.
As the ride progressed, I could feel the effects of my previous two rides in my legs and began to realize that I probably was doing a little too much, too early. During yesterdays ride, I had a pretty sharp pain in my right knee that persisted throughout the last half of the ride. It bothered me again on this ride, but it wasn’t quite as severe as it was yesterday. I was on Maui after all, and with the temperature topping out at around 80 each day, I had no choice but to take advantage of it and get outside.
My initial thought on this ride was to log about 5 hours of ride time, however it was one of those rides where I didn’t want to turn around because I wanted to see what was up ahead. I hit 52 miles in about 3 hours and decided that I better turn around before I put myself into the pain cave.
Stats: total ride time – 6 hours, total elevation gain – just over 7,000 feet, average heart rate – 136 and a total ride distance of about 104 miles.
Today was a much needed recovery ride of about two hours with Julie through the towns of Kihei, where we were staying, Laie and Keawakapu. We also took a short tour through Makena State Park. My knee felt great throughout the ride!
When I woke up, I felt good enough that I thought I’d take another trip to the top of Haleakala. My knee felt fine throughout the ride and the ride to the top seemed much easier this time around. Once at the top, a monk dressed in a Hare Krishna looking robe walked up to me. He ended up being a very nice person that used to race road bikes in Florida. Turns out, he’s a monk attending a two year stint in a meditation center on Oahu. I worfed down a couple of poptarts while we talked about cycling for about 20 minutes until I started to get a little cold, the temps at the top of Haleakala were in the 50’s, and I decided that it was time to boogie.
On the way down, there are several blind corners. As I was rounding one of the many blind corners, I came face to face with a massive cow that was hanging out in the middle of the road. I saw it early enough that I was able to slow down. I guess I freaked the cow out, because it started bucking like a bronco and took off for the side of the road. As it was running, its’ hind hooves broke loose and it slid out and fell on its’ arse…I thought that was pretty funny.
Stats: 6 ½ hours of ride time, 10,300 feet of climbing, an average heart rate of 136 and about 96 miles if riding.
Today I did the Lahaina loop in the opposite direction to what I had previously done. It was a little easier this time around as I was descended some of the steeper climbs. Julie, her cousin Mike and her Uncle Jeff did a part of the loop in the opposite direction and turned around just north of Lahaina. As I was cruising through Lahaina, I saw three cyclists up the road and recognized Julie from afar. I caught up to them and I gave Julie a tow for about 30 minutes before she dropped off for fear of putting herself into the hurt locker. She is becoming a beast of a cyclist and will most likely do some damage to the competition this season in mountain bike races and triathlons! As I approached Kihei, I turned around and retraced my route until I ran into Julie. We were both pretty wiped out from the ride and helped each other survive the remainder of the ride back to the condo.
Stats: 4 ½ hours of ride time, 4,600 feet of climbing, an average heart rate of 132 and a total distance of about 80 miles.
I woke up in the morning and felt absolutely cooked. My plan for the day was to ride the road to Hana, however about 5 minutes into the ride, I knew that another hard ride would lead me straight into the pain cave. So I shut it down and did a 2 hour recovery instead. I pretty much stuck to the flat roads in the valley area.
I still felt pretty cooked when I woke up. The weather forecast called for scattered rain all day with high winds of around 20-30 mph. The weather was such that they cancelled school and government jobs for the day. It seemed like a great day to scrap the ride and hop in the car and go for a long drive....so we did.
I didn’t have much time to ride today because we had to move out of one condo and into another before noon. So I took off for Lahaina with the intent of turning around at 90 minutes and heading back. My legs felt a lot better today and ended up getting a great ride in! The computer on my bike decided to take a partial dump on me and it quit tracking my mileage, however it still tracked my speed and altitude along with a few other functions.
I ended up logging 3 hours, 1,200 feet of climbing and an average heart rate of 145 for the day.
My last day on Maui. I had originally planned to ride to the top of Haleakala again, however I didn’t really want to spend my last day on Maui on my saddle. So instead I opted to do the Lahaina loop again. Like yesterday, I felt great throughout the ride and had an awesome time! I ended up logging 4 hours of ride time, 4,600 feet of climbing, an average heart rate of 146 and about 80 miles.
The remainder of the day was spent with Julie, basking in the sun on the beach until the sun set. That was pretty much the M.O. everyday, ride in the morning, relax on the beach in the afternoon and watch the beautiful Maui sunset. After the sunset, I'd go eat four of five meals for dinner. It ended up being pretty close to the perfect training camp, especially in the middle of January. I need to offer a huge thank you to the Klein and Duecker families for allowing us to stay with them, they were amazingly gracious hosts and were a lot of fun to spend time with!
Julie and I chillin' by the seaside.
The end of another beautiful day on Maui.
I plan to do periodic posts on how training progresses throughout the remainder of the winter, so if you’re interested, stay tuned!
Thanks for reading,