Month: January 2013

Maui winter training: Day 2, West Maui Loop

Initially the weather forecast pointed to this day to be the most optimal for climbing the big volcano on the island, Mt. Haleakala. The Mt. Haleakala climb is world famous for going straight up from sea level to 10,000 feet in 40 miles on gently graded perfectly smooth pavement, a climber’s dream. In the days preceding the trip, I started to come down with a cold, and woke up in the morning knowing that attempting the big day would be a mistake. Instead, we opted to sleep in a little longer and hit the less ambitious West Maui loop. 
Sonoma or Maui?

The first portion of the loop was pretty mellow taking us south through sugarcane fields on the side of a small highway, then west and north right along the coast. The weather was overcast, so we didn’t get a great view of the nearly vertical green mountains we were riding next to that dominate west Maui. The ride was fairly lack-luster for the first 40 miles (at least compared to expectations) as we rounded the west coast of the island.

Once we approached the north side, things got interesting quickly. The highway gave way to a twisty two lane road, not unlike California hwy 1 in parts. In fact, parts of the north west coast were completely indistinguishable from the coastal roads of Marin and Sonoma counties: rolling hills covered with short grass and rocky outcroppings on coastal cliffs with fenced cattle land. The obvious difference was the frequent tropical rain-forest grottos.

Some sections looked straight out of central america

Being from the heart of redwood country, it usually takes a pretty spectacular forest to impress me, and this did not disappoint. The rolling hills quickly added up to 4,000 feet of climbing and that, along with neglecting to bring enough water, left me in bad shape nearing the end of the ride.

Fortunately, there happened to be a great fruit stand selling coconut water (nature’s electrolyte drink). Aside from the drink, the guy there was practically giving tropical fruit away. He was pushing plenty of free samples, and parting with bags full of fruit for only a dollar! I fit all of the passion fruit and apple-bananas (bananas that taste kind of like apples!) and headed back for home.

Fresh coconut water!

West Maui loop (Strava link)


Maui winter training: Day 4, The Road to Hana

The previous day Adam and I “took off” and ended up doing an 8 mile hike in the Iao valley. I have to remind myself that going on a hike doesn’t necessarily equate to taking it easy.

Today we rode the infamous road to Hana. Driving this road that follows the north coast of the island from the center to the eastern tip is one of the most popular tourist activities on the island. The road snakes though lush rainforest for about 40 miles over 59 mostly one-way bridges, and 620 corners. This is nothing short of heaven on two wheels. Starting in Wailuku it was going to at 110 mile day with 9600 feet of climbing, so we made sure to load up with a ton of GU and Brubars. The first 15 miles were pretty rough going directly into a constant 20 mph headwind across the flattish central agricultural section of Maui. 
The vegetation began to get progressively more tropical, the road narrowed, and the twists began. We had been warned that this road could be very dangerous because it was narrow (in some parts one lane), had blind corners, and was trafficked by rubbernecking tourists. We felt quite the opposite. The traffic was so slow that we were actually faster than the cars in many spots, allowing us to safely take the entire lane for most of the ride. It felt like we were off the front in a big race with our lane closed to traffic.

Picturesque detour to the beach.
It quickly became clear that we would have to inform Jeremy Clarkson (of Top Gear) that we had in fact found “the greatest road….in the world”. Endless hairpin turns over 1 lane bridges, immaculate pavement littered with bright red tropical flowers, and jaw dropping views of cliffs over the ocean and waterfalls. It is really impossible to adequately describe, and the photos fall far short of doing it justice.

Along the ride we met up with a local out for a lunch ride who pointed out a good spot to take a detour down to the beach. It was a good thing as it provided some of the best views of the day, and an excuse to grab some delicious mango bread before the main climb. The 1100 foot climb rewarded us with a gentle, but twisty descent for 10 miles down to Hana. 
Lots of cornering
We took a short break on the beach in Hana and grabbed some snacks at a stand before mounting up and heading back. We were certainly feeling a little fatigued by this point, but the road kept us motivated so we barely noticed it. 
The sun got lower in the sky and shown over the clouds as we rounded one of the many bends. I fortunately was able to capture Adam’s spontaneous celebration in a photo that pretty much sums up our general feelings of this ride. 
This sums up the feeling on the ride

Exiting the forest, we were pleasantly met with a ripping 20+ mph tailwind that allowed us to rip across the flat back to the hostel at 30mph. We immediately headed off to stuff our faces with delicious Thai food to make up for the 4400 calorie day.


Maui winter training: Day 6, Mt Haleakala

On the top of Mt Haleakala

Yesterday we took another “rest day” (40 miles, 2000 feet climbing) riding down to the beach to watch some kite boarding, then heading east along the coast to see the infamous big wave break known as “Jaws”. After riding a few miles down a dirt and gravel road we found that Jaws lacked the bite we had hoped for, and only had a flat tire, and an ejected stainless water bottle to show for it.
Today we rode up Mt Haleakalah, a volcano and the highest point on the island at 10,023 feet. The climb is world famous for huge elevation gain in a single paved climb. Traditionally the ride starts in the town of Paia for a 70 mile ride, but our hostel is in Wailuku, adding another 12 miles and 500 feet of climbing. We woke up early to attack the hill so we would make it back in time to pack up and make our flight that later that evening.

The climb for us started about 5 miles in and kept an average gradient of around 5% the entire way up. Adam and I started off at a good warm-up pace, planning to give it more of an effort when the main switchback section of the climb starts on Crater road. We briefly stopped off at the Kula Market at the base of crater road to fill our bottles before starting into it. Crater road is 20 miles with about 7000 feet of continuous even climbing. The road is in very good shape being recently paved, and has long and gentle sweeping switchbacks. We tried to estimate a pace we could hold for the 20 miles, and used our power meters to pace ourselves. My early season legs couldn’t quite live up to my optimistic estimation, and I was yo-yoing off of Adam, and the pace by the time we hit the park entrance at half way (10 miles, 7000 ft). We slowed just long enough to hand money to the ranger for the entrance fee before continuing on. Adam wanted to keep up the pace, and I let him go, while I settled for something that would be more sustainable for my current fitness level. Taking it down a few notches felt great, and I continued up without struggling to breath like I had expected for the high elevation.

Before we ascended into the clouds, the views were pretty spectacular. We could look down upon the steep West Maui Mountains we had ridden several days before, and see out to the other Hawaiian islands. The gain in altitude brought with it a decidedly Mars-like change to the landscape. Trees became bushes and bushes became small scrub, until virtually all vegetation had disappeared. Being on the bike allowed us to also take in the sounds of the mountain. There was virtually no wind, and everything was creepily quiet, save some chirping of birds. It would have been impossible for us to experience that if we had driven to the top.

A few miles later, and well out of site, Adam flatted, and decided to continue on up as opposed to waiting for me and the pump. Despite the flat, he still ended up just beating me to the top, but suffered for it. On the summit he was pretty dizzy and nauseous from the effort and altitude. Fortuitously, we happened to run into some Davis-ites on the summit that Adam knew through personal training he used to do. They offered him a ride part way down the mountain and he happily accepted.

The view from the top was still pretty fantastic despite mostly looking out on an ocean of clouds. We were really too tired and cold to enjoy it though, and quickly made ready to descend. The 10,000 feet in elevation makes for high temperatures in the 50’s, which is quite chilly once one is acclimated to 80 degrees at sea level. As recommended, we brought our warmers, wind vests, and gloves, which were all very much needed for descending through the cold, cloudy sections. As Adam got a  ride down, I decided to see how quickly I could make the descent, mostly just to create enough heat to stay warm. I almost completely overcooked the first corner, and had to remind myself how much less aerodynamic drag there was at altitude to help slow me down. About 30 minutes later and 7000 feet lower I met up with Adam again. We grabbed some soup at the local market to warm up and fuel up before continuing the descent. I must have been cold, as I ended up wearing the warmers all the way back down to sea level.

Strava link
We had been doing some hard rides over the last several days, but something about this one made it much harder. It was probably a combination of the previous day’s rides, the hard effort, and the altitude that put us over the top; the type of fatigue where you’re too drained to eat, and just pick at your food. On the up side, being drained makes it a little easier to leave the paradise we called home for the last 6 days. We packed up our bags, said our goodbyes to our hostel mates, and jumped on the red-eye to take us back to California. 


Maui winter training: Day 1

As the new year quickly approaches, it is time to get back into riding shape again. I had been thinking about doing a trip to Maui for some winter training for the last several years. It just so happened that the planets aligned (little Mayan Apocalypse joke there) to let me take that trip this year. California has a pretty temperate winter compared to most other places, but the prospect of December rides sans warmers through the tropical rain-forest was too much to pass up. For this adventure I recruited my former UC Davis Cycling teammate and traveling buddy, Adam Smith. Finding some cheap plane tickets, and crashing at a hostel allowed us to pull off the trip on the cheap.
We departed Davis at 3:30am to make our early flight out of Sacramento international airport and ensure our bikes made it on the little puddle jumper to SFO. Ten and a half travel hours later we arrived in beautiful and sunny Maui. After taking a cab to the hostel and getting set up there we decided to go grab some food out, hit the beach, and do some grocery shopping for the next few days. Cue the first awesome thing about a bike vacation: your bike doubles as your around town transport. No need for rental cars, taxis, or long hikes. We grabbed the giant Kryptonite New York chain I bought for the trip and went exploring.
Beer run with Adam. Always a high first day priority. Very disappointed in the lack of Lost Coast brew at the supermarket