Ultraman - Day 2 Recap

Alarm went off in my Volcano House Hotel room at 4:30 and quickly up again with the crew to head down to the nearby Military Camp for the UM buffet breakfast.  

During training I was never big on eating much before a long ride, but today I loaded as much as I could down my throat.  And I am very careful about my diet -- vegan, gluten free, etc.  But today there wasn't much to choose from and I needed as many calories as possible.  So it was a mountain of fruit, bagels, muffins, juice, coffee and yogurt before heading down the road to the start line.

Another harried process of Chris getting the bike ready and getting me dressed for the chilly morning -- which involved a blistering 25 mile descent down from Volcanoes towards the East end of the Island.  This time the crew vans journeyed ahead down the mountain before the start to convene with us at the bottom of the descent.  Luckily my big fear of rain or wet pavement for this descent was a non-issue -- it was an unusually clear pre-dawn as the gun went off.

The descent was draft legal, and a lead group immediately formed and blasted ahead, churning 56/23 gear ratios and way too fast for me to join, especially in light of the 170 mile journey ahead.  I let them go (actually I didn't "let" them do anything -- they took off!) and I settled into a second group of about 12 riders, which included Eric Seedhouse, Peter Mueller and Shanna Armstrong.  We were a flying peloton, averaging between 35 - 42 mph for the entire first 25 miles, during which I barely pedaled.  It was a thrill.  At the bottom of the descent, we took a right turn and headed south towards the lower eastern region of the Island where riders met up with crews, flinging their shell jackets and warm weather gear off onto the highway shoulders.

I saw my crew and had to pee, so I decided to quickly pull over, get some food and remove my jacket.  In retrospect, I should have tried to pee off the bike (which I succeeded at doing later -- very proud about that!) and keep going, as I lost touch with Seedhouse, Mueller and Shanna.  Needless to say I never saw Seedhouse or Mueller again, and it would be hours before I would catch up to Shanna again in Hilo.

But my coach Chris Hauth's race day plan was for me to eat as much as possible all day, keep it very conservative and even for the first 100 miles, keep my energy levels high and have something left for the climb into Waimea and the steep ascent over the Kohalas at mile 140.  I focused on high carbs, regular foods and staying away from the sugary stuff until the last third.  And this worked great -- peanut butter sandwiches, hash browns, bananas, perpetum, water, repeat.  Level energy all day.

As we continued South, we embarked upon a counter-clockwise loop from Pahoa to Kaimu, then north to Kapoho along what is called the "Red Road" (because its literally red).  Crew vans were not allowed to join for this section, as the roads were very narrow.  It was unfortunate, as I found this untouched section of the Island the most beautiful -- lush and tropical in stark contrast to the endless harsh lava terrain of the previous day.  I was on my own here with no other riders in sight, constantly worried about missing a turn, as this was the only section of the course I was not able to drive prior.  But I was riding comfortably, eating and keeping my HR around 130-135 and feeling strong.  I passed 2 riders before travelling through Isaac Hale beach, a local surf spot.  I was admiring its beauty and the perfect set of surfing waves lining up just off the beach when I felt a sharp sting on my right hip -- I turned to realize a bunch of local kids were throwing unripe fruit at me, using me for target practice!  But I had to ignore it; let it go and soldier on, just grateful I didn't get hit in the face or seriously hurt.

As I emerged from the bumpy uneven pavement of the Red Road, I made a left turn at Kapoho where I was rejoined by my crew, ready with food and water.  I forced myself to eat and drink and just kept going, headed for a long stretch of highway up to Hilo, where I passed Marty Raymond and rejoined Shanna Armstrong, along with Dan Bodden, another member of the Canadian Military Mafia.  As we neared the Island's biggest town, we were forced to slow down, stopping at red lights as a light misty rain started to fall.  It was a welcome forced break, during which point I was able to recharge as we circled slowly around the beautiful Hilo coastline.

As we headed north out of Hilo, I was re-energized and picked up the pace, leaving Dan and Shanna behind as the course roughened with several rolling hills through a series of beautiful gorges and bridges across miles 701-100 before a 1500' gradual long ascent from Honokaa to Waimea.  This was another climb I underestimated from my pre-race scout, as it doesn't look like much from the car, but it was fairly challenging.  But avoiding the sugary foods began to pay dividends, and I was feeling far better than I did the previous day.  Hit mile 100 feeling fresh and ready for the 70 ahead.

I rode in no-man's land all the way into Waimea, with about 5-10 minutes on Shanna behind me, preparing mentally for the steep 5 mile windy ascent from Waimea through the Kohalas.  I began to hit the sugar -- Cytomax and gels -- as we came into town and very worried about missing the turn onto Route 250 for the climb, as I had missed it on my drive.  A perilous hazard because missing it leads you on a rapid descent you have to reclimb to get back on course.  I was so afraid of missing it that I thought I had overshot it as my crew drove ahead.  I freaked out and yelled at them that we missed the turn and had to do turn around.  I panicked, turned around and started heading back to Waimea, only to see Shanna ride by going the other direction!  I was the one who screwed up -- not my crew!  Holy crap.  I 180-ed around and tried to catch and follow Shanna, who clearly knew where she was going, losing at least 5 minutes in my lunatic mishap.  I apologized to my crew for my freak-out and tried to calm down and ready myself for the climb.

My only true challenge was some serious numbness in my left hand.  This is a normal occurrence for me (despite countless bike fits) so was not overly concerned.  Usually I can just shake it off and I'm fine.  But even after shaking it out, I found I had lost any ability in my fingers to exert force.  This meant that I became unable to use the left gear shift withe my left hand to shift in/out of the big chain ring.  I actually had to reach across my handlebars with my right hand to shift the front derailleur, creating a bit of an instability on the road.  Just one of those things....

Chris hit me with a Red Bull at the base of the Kohala climb and I paced the first half of the ascent, which reminded me of Stunt Road, my backyard training climb.  I just kept reminding myself, this is just like Stunt.  You've done this climb a million times.  You know what to do.  Relax.  And although my butt was starting to hurt from all the hours in the saddle, I felt great after 145 miles.  I caught Shanna early in the climb as the winds started to really blow.  As always, she was chatty and encouraging.  Just another fun day at the office for her, unfazed by anything, her stuffed animal monkey resting on her handlebars.  She warned me about the cross-winds on the descent (particularly with my deep rimmed wheels), then I decided to push on, laying down the hammer, powering the last 3 miles of the climb as hard as I could, knowing that when I crested, I was looking at a fast 20 mile descent to the finish line.  All I had to do was summit, and the day was over.  I felt so good, I thought maybe I should have rode a bit harder earlier in the day.  Whereas I took it out a bit too hard on the Day 1 ride, maybe I was too conservative today.  But no matter.  All alone, I peaked, welcomed by cheers from my crew and unreal views of rolling pastures, cattle and Kona coastline below.  It was a true high as I began the fastest descent of my life, battling heavy crosswinds that were blowing my bike (and my deep rim Zipp 404's) all over the road.  It was like the best roller coaster ride of my life, averaging close to 40 mph for the entire last 20 miles down into Hawi and across the finish line.

Again, and as I was riding basically alone almost the entire day, I had no idea where I stood in the rankings.  I was certain I had dropped considerably.  With so many strong riders over 170 miles, there was no way I was still holding on to a descent placing.  But I was amazed to discover I had only dropped 2 places to 9th overall -- top 10!  I truly could not believe it.

Haggard and throbbing, my back tight and my shoulders still burning from Day 1, my crew once again met my every need -- getting me my recovery food, stretching me out and getting me to our accomodations at Lew Whitney's nearby Kokolulu Farms retreat.

Overall - a great day.  My best ride ever.  And despite the 170 miles, a much easier day than Day 1.  And once again, the Island blessed us -- no flat tires.  No mechanicals.  No bonking.  No stomach problems.  No rain.  No crashes.  A perfect day.

Chris, LW and my dad unloaded my luggage for me at Kokolulu and then Chris & my dad headed back to Kona for the night.  I took a long shower, then Lew drove LW and me down the hill into Hawi for dinner at Bamboo -- one of the best restaurants on the Island.  We had a great meal, then LW and I walked back to the Farm, marvelling at the amazing stars in the sky -- it looked like you could reach out and touch the Milky Way.

In bed at 8:30, almost too tired to think about the Day 3 double marathon waiting for me in the morning.  As it was, my legs were toast.  Spent.  The idea of running at all, let alone 52.4 miles in the blazing heat of the Kona coast, was almost unthinkable.  So I didn't think about it.  I just went to bed.


Jen said...

This race report is just amazing... Congratulations on this incredible achievement! (And WHAT is up with children these days? Throwing FRUIT at cyclists?! The nerve!)

Can't wait to read about your run.