|The big ride
||[Jan. 1st, 2018|09:48 pm]
sprockets, sockets, grommets & gaskets
The water is the Hilo harbor. The white point over my right shoulder is the peak of Mauna Kea, where I'm aiming.
This got complicated. My original intent was to ride on either 19 or 20 December. My coworkers all flew out on 17 December, and looked at the weather forecast, which was, "tomorrow, beautiful, the next week, TROPICAL TYPHOON STORM FLOODING" so they decided to do the ride on the 18th, before I was on the island.
Plus, two days after I landed in Hawaii, on the 12th or so, I got sick (and have not yet, today, completely gotten over it.) What I had resulted mostly in me being unwilling and unable to eat, so for the four days preceding the target dates for the ride, I'd managed to eat a banana and drink a glass of orange juice each day.
As such, even if I'd been able to ride with them on the 18th, I would probably have done really poorly. They rode up, we met them afterwards, they described (vividly) what it was like, and then the rain came pouring down for three days straight.
I did go on a short ride with them on my birthday, mostly (I think) because they felt so badly about the situation and decided they wanted to. It rained somewhere between mist and downpour the entire way. Every downhill was exciting because there was so much rain and all the greenery coming down from the trees as a result of the heavy winds made the streets slick and scary.
They all went home and we went over to Hilo, where it usually rains all the time, and instead it was beautiful.
I'd wanted to start from Kona because it rarely rains in Kona. (One guy at a bike store said they saw more than 6 hours of rain in a day, less than five times per year. Two days of nonstop rain was nearly unprecedented.) The route from Hilo is slightly shorter, but presumably much wetter.
However, the wind almost always blows from Hilo towards the mountaintop, and having a tailwind up a hill is a big help.
If I'd been a bit more coordinated I would have rented a bike the moment we got to Hilo. As it was, I made a last-minute decision to try the ride on 23 December, because rental places were mostly closed on 24 December, and by last-minute I mean I decided that the evening of 22 December, so I had to pick up the bike in the morning at 9 AM. I could have used those extra two hours of riding time before 9 AM, but oh well.
So, I actually started at more like 9:30 by the time I got the bike, switched the pedals with the ones I'd brought, and ridden down to the waterline from the bike store.
It's 54 km from waterline to the Mauna Kea visitor center, and 2.8 km of climbing. It's another 13 km to the summit of the mountain, with another 1.2 km of climbing. The section above the visitor center was closed because they'd gotten about a meter of snow during the big storm on my birthday, so I was already scaling my goal back to getting to the visitor center, and in doing estimates based on my power output, it looked like I'd be able to ride up and back and still have about thirty minutes before sunset.
The first 40 km were a fairly consistent 5-6% climb, which isn't too bad. I set a couple local records going up that, according to a website that allows people to compare ride performance over routes. Several hundred other people had ridden that, including a pro racer (who rode all the way to the top of the mountain.) But at about 40km I started to slow down because man that's a lot of climbing. I did eat two bananas. Hawaii has these things called apple bananas, another cultivar, and one neat thing about them is you can basically sit on them and smash them and they still taste fine. Cavendishes get all weird and translucent and taste weird and stuff. Apple bananas just aren't as structured after that kind of abuse, but they still taste fine.
At about the 40km point, my route departs from the nice wide road, and starts to seriously climb. There are a couple of km at about 8%, and then a couple at 10-11%, which is getting to the point where I wouldn't be able to jog up it.
All these huge pickups were driving past me on the way up, and people were yelling encouragement at me. That was different. I'm not used to having people in cars having any sort of positive feelings at all, or at least not positive enough to verbalize, but people were hollering "you're badass! you're a real ironman!" as they drove past.
That's about where I met threemeninaboat, driving back down. She told me that there was a rumor they were going to open the road up to the very top and everyone in the state had driven their big monster truck up there, in some cases sleeping overnight, for the chance to drive in snow for the first time ever. Hence the proliferation of huge pickup trucks driving past me and nobody coming back down. There were so many trucks up there she couldn't wait up there as a support vehicle because there wasn't room, so she drove back down to where I met her.
On up the hill. There was a km at 14%, then one that was slightly less steep, and then one that's called The Steepest Mile on the ride-tracking website, which is 21% for the whole run. It's the last bit. There are staircases that aren't that steep. I did manage to ride up it, but by that point I was just about done.
I got to the visitor's center about twenty minutes after they had indeed opened the road to the top, but it was a solid mass of pickups driving slowly up, and while I was only ten minutes behind my predicted speed, that meant I only had twenty minutes of time to do anything before having to head back to beat the sunset. Even if I'd started at sunrise, I would have been stuck with the same situation.
Six hours, more or less, from Hilo up to the visitor's center.
55 minutes back down to Hilo.
It was an unfamiliar bike, and shorter wheelbase than I like, so I didn't let it get too fast on the upper descent: I saw 75 km/h a few times, but no higher than that, and that was PLENTY FAST.
At least that night I was somewhat hungry, and had about 3/4 of a dinner.
About 120km round trip, and aside from a sunburn on my left side, I emerged mostly unscathed. I wasn't even all that tired: we walked about 25km the next day, and that was okay.
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