Piece by Piece

I think it is amazing when pieces of your life begin to come together and form a picture that is not quite what you imagined, but is much more amazing than you could have dreamed up on your own.  Shortly after arriving in Colorado, I noticed my back tire rubbing on the frame of my road bike.  It was subtle at first but after a few rides, the rubbing became more substantial and started to wear the frame and the tire.  We went around to a few local bike shops to get it looked at and received a myriad of responses.    One shop trued the wheel – which means to make it spin straight again –  (or at least they claimed to) and when that did not fix it, suggested that we shave out a notch in the frame.  I was extremely weary of altering the frame of my bike, especially since it is a super expensive carbon frame.  We decided it would be best to take the bike to a cervélo rep in order to get better advice on how to handle the situation, especially if we wanted to go through the warranty with the company.  We searched for a cervélo shop in the Denver area and one of the first places that came up was TriBella in downtown Denver.  Peter was the one who did the google search so I knew nothing about the shop and only assumed it was another typical bike shop.  I was not particularly excited about going since it was a Sunday afternoon and I did not want to waste it driving downtown.  But, Peter was motivated to fix my bike so we headed that way.

We walked in the door and the first thing I noticed was all of the pink colors around the store.  Awesome pink swivel stools sit underneath a wrap-around bar that opens up to the work area. You automatically feel invited to sit down and watch or strike up a conversation as the lead mechanic and shop owner, James, works on the bikes.  Peter’s first comment was that the store had no men’s clothing.  Instead it is full of triathlon gear for women.  (You have to check this place out!) I felt comfortable and at home, wandering around the store to look at all of the clothing and equipment.  I have never had an experience like this.  Usually bike shops are very intimidating, male dominant, and full of guys eager to share their macho biking stories with each other.  This can be very uncomfortable, especially if you are new to the sport.  Before talking with anyone it the store, I knew what TriBella stood for and I loved it.

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The more I thought about it, the more I realized that TriBella aligns with who I want to be as an athlete.  I want to be more than just an athlete who promotes an active multisport lifestyle.  I want to share the love that I find in triathlon training to inspire and motivate anyone and everyone to jump that intimidating hurdle of trying something new.  TriBella cultivates that atmosphere and I know that is why I was so immediately drawn to them.  So I am tickled pink (no pun intended!) to share that TriBella and I have decided to work together to achieve that common goal.  I am so honored to have TriBella as my very first sponsor.  It is my future goal to pursue this sport as a professional triathlete and I am so overwhelmingly thankful to now have TriBella there to support me on this journey.  Another wonderful part of this relationship is that the husband and wife shop owners, James and Liz, are well on their way to opening up a men’s specific store, separate from TriBella, and with that they have decided to sponsor Peter.  So, Peter and I now have the opportunity to work together on this mission of empowering other’s to reach their potential. We can’t wait to get started.

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The shop took care of us right away getting us a top of the line bike fit at the Denver Fit Loft, a bike fitting studio in the back of the shop.  This is honestly one of the coolest things I have had the opportunity to do.  The Denver Fit Loft uses a Retul 3D Motion Capture system and the expertise of their head fitter, Josh, to uniquely fit your body to your bike.  They hooked me up to these motion sensors, analyzed every angle possible from my ankles to my shoulders, and then positioned me on my bike in a way that optimizes my power output, efficiency, and aerodynamics.  When you spend hours and hours on your bike, it kind of helps to know that it is adjusted properly to your body and I am eager to see and feel the benefits of my new fit.  The best part of this fit was what I learned from Josh.  From the video analysis he was able to show me different things about my ankle flex and where I sit on my seat and how minor adjustments to things like this can greatly improve my efficiency and power.  I find this stuff so interesting.

I got my first chance to sport my new TriBella kit this past weekend.  Peter and I rode the 78-mile Copper Triangle organized alpine road ride.  It is an amazingly beautiful route that crests Fremont Pass, Tennessee Pass, and Vail Pass with 6,000 ft of climbing.  It is a no pressure ride and we thoroughly enjoyed the casual atmosphere and the scenery that comes with climbing in the mountains of Colorado.  It was also really cool to hear a few other cyclists shout out “TriBella!” as I biked past.

My next big adventure will be the Kona training camp I am going to this next week, put on by my coach.  It will be five days and four nights of straight training with lots of mileage in the ocean and on the roads.  I can’t wait to be back in Hawaii, to swim in the ocean, and to breathe the wonderfully moist sea-level air.  I will be putting lots of miles in on my bike so I am also very thankful to have my new bike fit.  All of the athletes are staying in big a house together with my coach and this will be an amazing time for learning, growing, and sharing with other athletes.  I cannot wait!

Thanks to a random issue with my road bike (which, by the way, James fixed for me by correctly truing my wheel), I was led to a bike shop in downtown Denver that I am not sure I would have found otherwise.  My life picture is forming and pieces are coming together in ways I could never have dreamed of.  I am just excited to share it with others!

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Riding with Power

My race bag is packed, my bike is in the car and we are headed to Racine, Wisconsin for the weekend. One of the great things about working at Sports Authority are the Fridays in the summer. Every Friday is a half-day! So, after I get off work at noon, we will start our road trip out to Wisconsin for my next half-ironman race! It is a 15 hour drive so Peter, my awesome Sherpa, will be taking over the wheel in the night time hours while I sleep in the back. We hope to arrive early-earlySaturday morning so that we can get some sleep before the festivities of athlete check-in, bike check-in, race briefings, etc. begin. At least this time we will have our own car packed with everything I might need (and a cooler of food!) so the logistical aspect of the race will be smoother.

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And we made a nice bed in the back so we can take driving shifts.

I am mentally approaching this race as a training event because I am using it as preparation for my big “A” race at the World Championships in Las Vegas early September. I get to try out three new and really cool toys: my power meter, my wetsuit, and my pink aero helmet!

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Through a few awesome athlete connections I made back in May, I got my new SRM 7900 wireless power meter for a great deal and started training with it right when I got to Colorado. Training with power has been an eye opening experience to say the least. Before, I rode my bike purely off of perceived effort with a little bit of Heart Rate training. This means that when my coach told me to go “strong” for 10 minute intervals, I would go at a pace and cadence that felt like I was working hard. Well, feeling like you are working hard and actually having a device tell you whether you are working hard are two separate things. Basically, the power meter tells you how much force your legs are putting into your pedal stroke over time. So, ideally, you want to be able to output a lot of force in the shortest amount of time possible. This is harder than you might think. Just think about riding a bike and shifting down into a harder gear…its harder to pedal because you have to apply more force to move the pedals around. Now stay in that really hard gear and try to pedal as fast as you can…this is how you die of a heart attack…I mean bike with a lot of power.

Aside from adjusting to Colorado and the altitude for the last few months, I have been adjusting to riding with an appropriate amount of power. The line is now starting to blur between whether my respiratory distress during bike workouts is from the altitude, the power meter, or a combination of both. My coach gave me an interval workout the other day with a set power that I needed to maintain. As she would say, I had to put my “big girl pants” on to finish this workout. Thankfully, I did this workout inside on the trainer (good timing for the Colorado thunderstorms to roll in) because there were points during this workout where I thought I might actually fall off my bike. My mouth was hanging open, saliva and sweat spraying everywhere (don’t worry, I had lots of towels laid out on the ground around me). Tucker was even upset to see me in this state as he tried to lick my hands and legs (not helping!). I entered a new realm of pain where I consciously had to focus on putting everything I had into the pedals and engage with the resistance. One minor loss of focus or a split second of relaxing your legs and your power plummets. And then when the fatigue sets in, this is where you learn the difference between how hard you think you are riding and how hard you are actually riding. There were points where I thought I was giving everything I had but yet my power was no where near the level it was supposed to be. It felt like it was impossible to get it back up. But then you learn to dig deep, embrace the feeling of your quadriceps ripping apart, and mash the pedals to get that power back up. I am at the beginnings of learning to take my riding to a whole new level.

Power has not only been a way to increase my intensity level, but also to gauge myself and learn how to bike more consistently over an entire ride. This past weekend, Peter and I headed out to Boulder to get a long ride in without all of the crazy climbing we have around our house. It was also a great excuse to go and explore the awesome and beautiful city of Boulder. We ended up finding a great 80 mile route that takes you from the heart of Boulder out and around Carter Lake, and then back along the Boulder Reservoir. This is some of the best bike riding I have ever done. The roads are extremely nice with wide shoulders, the scenery was beautiful, and there were barely any cars. And, even though the ride was not completely flat, the climbs are at a steady and gradual incline which is perfect for a long ride where you are trying to log miles, not time. This was the perfect prep ride for my race this weekend because I got used to using my power meter as a gauge of my effort level. It is going to take time to learn how to keep consistent power over the course of 4 hours, but the benefits will be huge. Sometimes I have the tendency to go too hard and then there are times when I back off too much. If you go too hard, you are at risk of wasting valuable energy that you will need later in the ride. It’s like starting a marathon by sprinting the first few miles and then having no gas left in the tank to finish the race. You will end up with a better time if you run a consistent pace throughout the whole race. Unfortunately we got no pictures of Carter Lake, which was beautiful. I guess we have an excuse to go back!

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Riding on the quiet and peaceful roads of Boulder.

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And a nice post ride refresher! Margaritas made with pure lime juice.

The swim portion of my race this weekend is going to be interesting because it will be the first time I race in a wetsuit. I tried the wetsuit out for the first time this past weekend in the Chatfield Reservoir.

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Swimming in open water in Colorado is completely opposite from swimming in Hawaii. In Hawaii, you can go and jump in the ocean any time you want and swim wherever and however you want. I mean literally, you can go any time you want: early morning, under the moonlight (if you are brave), in the heat of the day, or even when you don’t want to but your coach forces you to; like during a storm with major waves and currents (thanks coach!). You swim at your own risk. Here in Colorado, apparently the treacherous waters of a man-made reservoir are too dangerous for a swimmer, you must abide by strict rules and sign-in/out.

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I won’t tell you whether I swam during the specified time periods, signed-in, got the special permit, or if I swam in the proper direction on the correct side of the buoys. But I will say that no one seemed to care or be bothered by me swimming around. Tucker even got a chance to cool off and swim a little. The current in these glassy waters was sure difficult to manage though.

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I am glad I was able to get acquainted with my wetsuit before the race because it is a very different feeling in the water. It almost feels like you are wearing a one-piece life jacket, just floating along. But, it is also strange to feel so constricted. It gives me a slight feeling of claustrophobia especially when I start to pick up my pace and my heart rate increases. I am sure that my adrenaline will kick in during the race though and I will be more concentrated on my competition and not getting kicked in the face than I will be with the wetsuit.

Now it is time to relax and enjoy the 15 hour road trip to Wisconsin! And I mean relax in a literal sense because after receiving our shipment of household goods this past Monday, my life has been nothing but chaos. With boxes and stuff EVERYWHERE, I will have to let go my type-A desire for organization and cleanliness and worry about tackling the mess when we get home, even though that probably won’t be until the wee hours of the morning on Monday. Lets just hope we get home early enough for me to get a few hours of sleep before I have to go to work. Heading straight to the office after racing a half-ironman may be very interesting!

I was born this way

After the hectic move over from Hawaii, staying with friends, transitioning into a new job, and acclimating to Colorado’s brutal altitude, we have finally moved into our house. One more step towards normalcy! Tucker is now spoiled with a huge yard to play in and he loves it.

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And yes, that is a swing set in the background! It came with the house. I forgot how fun it is to swing! Living in a neighborhood with a house and a yard is a huge step up from our condo and lanai in Hawaii. I feel like such a grown-up. We even bought our first lawn-mower.

We still don’t have any of our stuff yet, somehow it got lost on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We hope to have it by the middle of July so we can really start settling in. Until then, we are hanging out with paper plates and a futon in an enormous and empty 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 4,000 sq. ft. house with a finished basement. It’s a little crazy for two people and a dog, I know, but it was literally the only thing we could find for rent in the location we needed. So, if anyone wants to visit, we have plenty of rooms. You could probably sneak in and live here and we wouldn’t even know it. Oh, and there is a wet bar and wine fridge downstairs, just in case you want to throw a party. Crazy!

I am most excited about having a kitchen again. I can’t wait to start cooking and experimenting with new recipes. This kitchen is twice the size of ours back in Hawaii so I have more room to spread out and Peter has bigger messes to clean up.

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Double oven, yay!!

Since we don’t have our stuff and there isn’t much to do around the house yet, we have taken advantage of our weekends to explore our surroundings and nail down our training routine. Unlike Hawaii where you can go to the neighborhood 50 meter lap pool and swim for free, (we didn’t know how spoiled we were) we now have to pay to swim. Most pools are associated with a gym which requires you to purchase a gym membership – not cheap! I finally broke down and joined a gym with an amazing pool facility that is on my way to work. It even has an outdoor pool that stays open year around. As long as it is above 10 degrees outside, the pool is open for lap swim. Umm, no thank you. I think I will stick to the indoor pool as long as it is below 50 degrees outside! Peter swims at the pool at his work where they like to remind you about the altitude.

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Yes, the air still feels rare but it is slowly getting better. My training sessions are starting to transition out of death from heart failure to death from volume (thanks coach!). Once I even remotely hinted that I felt better in the altitude, my coach so graciously started tacking on the mileage. Thankfully I have a lighter recovery week this week!

Along with figuring out the pool, I have found a couple of routes I can take to bike to work. They are around 20 to 25 miles each way, which is going to be a great way for me to get my mileage in during the week. The ride to work is mostly downhill which makes it pretty fast and easy. then after work, instead of driving through 45 minutes of traffic to get home and then starting my 90 minute ride, I can knock out the workout while I commute.

I have also come up with a good running routine so far. If the run is less than 45 minutes, I can fit it into my lunch break. There is an awesome running trail along the the South Platte River right next to my work so I can hop on that very easily. We have a small locker room with showers at my work so I have just enough time to rinse off, change, and run a blow dryer through my hair before my lunch break is over. For my longer runs, we are fortunate to live a little over a mile from Daniel’s park which has a plethora of trails and paths with amazing scenery. It is pretty hilly, but I don’t think I will be bored with the same running route.

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Fourth of July sunset at Daniels Park

Sometimes I think it is crazy trying to balance all of this training and have a successful job. I feel this now more than I ever have as my training intensity has increased at the same rate as the responsibility I have at my new job. But, in my blurred haze of exhaustion at mile 11 on my long run this past weekend, I made a seemingly clear connection. For four years during college I struggled to balance the demands of playing Division I volleyball while also double majoring in Mathematics and Operations Research. Everyone thought I was crazy and I remember wondering why I was putting myself through that. I did not have the fun partying college experience. I was either in the gym or in the books. But, during that time I learned how to balance, time manage, and most importantly, still be successful. Up until lately, I have kind of regretted those years, not lightening up and having more free time. I am now realizing more and more that this is just who I am. I thrive on not just being physically and mentally active but seeing how far I can push myself. I don’t like to be average, I like to see how far I can go and then try to push beyond that. But, this takes time and commitment. In a way, it is almost like God used that time in college to teach me how to balance working hard in both aspects of my life. He knew I would use it later on – right now. I have learned that this is just the kind of person I am, I was born this way.

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Getting Back in Shape

Maybe the title of this blog is a little confusing but honestly, my first few weeks here in Colorado have felt like I am coming back from taking a few months off. Everything I do is slow and sluggish. My mile times are on average a minute slower, when I bike up a hill my heart rate shoots through the roof and I always feel like I can’t get enough air into my lungs. Sometimes I think back to my training rides and runs in Hawaii and I can’t believe how great I felt as compared to the way I feel now. Did those times really exist? Did I actually run that fast?

I finished my first week of work at Sports Authority and it is surreal to have such a cool job. The lobby of their corporate building has giant silouhettes of cyclists, skiers, tennis players, golfers and all sorts of other athletes hanging on the walls with flat screen TVs playing Sports Center. I work in the Marketing Department right alongside people who are designing the website, managing and creating our marketing emails, designing our newspaper inserts and advertisements and so many other cool things. Sporting equipment is all over the place and it makes me feel right at home. Not only am I working for an athletic company, but I am surrounded by athletes. One of my colleagues in the department is an elite ultra runner sponsored by Pearl iZumi. The environment fits so well with my lifestyle and goals.

But, it is still a job where I have to be in the office working the majority of the day. And I am still struggling to figure out my training schedule. During this first week, I put in all of my workouts after work which was extremely difficult. Getting off of work, commuting in traffic, and then training for two hours was more stressful than I thought it would be. I didn’t eat dinner until 8pm every night. Back in Hawaii I did a lot of my workouts during my lunch break. It was easy to fit in since I could shower, throw on my uniform and put my hair up in a bun in about 10 minutes. Now that I dress in nice clothes, actually blow dry my hair, and have a shorter time for lunch, workouts in the middle of the day are not going to work. I hate getting up early but swimming at 5:30am is probably the best way to get these workouts in.

I also need to drink more water during day, something I learned the hard way. Running around all day at my job has kept me busy and usually without a water bottle. I cannot remember the last time I had to stop and walk on a run but I was so dehydrated on one of my runs this past week that I felt the grey-ish black tunnel closing in. After I stumbled back to the car I saw my reflection and my mouth and lips were completely coated in white. I felt sick the rest of the night.

Despite my struggle to get back to the level of fitness I had less than a month ago when I raced Honu, I have still enjoyed the long weekend bike rides with Peter. Our first long ride led us to Daniel’s Park which has a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. Instead of heading out the door with a bike route, Peter and I have had fun making it up as we go. This has lead us to some amazing roads with beautiful scenery and crazy hills to climb.

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The roads here are incredibly peaceful and go on forever. You are out all on your own with no traffic or stop-lights to break up the ride and the smell of pine needles and mountain fresh air is rejuvenating. That is until you feel like you can’t get enough air in your lungs to keep forward motion up the hills!

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After getting home from work at 5pm and then finishing my 1 hour 30 minute bike ride this past week, I headed out for my 30 minute brick run. I felt terrible on the bike and continued to feed into my feel-sorry-for-me sob story on the run. My ipod died 2 minutes into the run and I was left to my own thoughts. The headwind was pretty strong so I decided to turn up a side road into a neighborhood to find some relief. Running down the sidewalk I saw a pregnant mom walking her little girl and boy to the corner park. The little girl was skipping all over the sidewalk as the mother tried to coral her to the side so that I could run past. I heard her say “Mommy, look at her run!” 100 yards later my watch beeped signaling my turn around point. After turning back down the sidewalk, I saw the little girl running towards me as if she had been mimicking my steps. She blushed when she saw that I had turned around and ran back to her mom who smiled as I ran by. I smiled and my negative thoughts floated away. This is why I train. I love to inspire others and to share my struggles, my pain, and my accomplishments. And even though that little girl may never remember me or anything about that moment, I will remember the look of pure intrigue and excitement she had as she tried to run in my steps behind me. Even though it is hard right now and even though I sometimes want to give up, the opportunity I have to use my talents and hard work to inspire others is enough to keep me going. And so, my journey to get back in shape continues.

Haleakala

When the HACC group started to plan the yearly bike ride up Haleakala, scheduling it the day after the Maui Stage Race sounded like a great idea. Three of us would already be out in Maui and the other two could just meet us at the hotel and drop their bags. When the alarm went off at 6:00am Monday morning and my legs felt like jello, I wondered why we ever thought this was a great idea.

The ride up the Haleakala Volcano is considered the third-toughest hill climb in the country with a 36 mile switchback road that continually climbs from sea level up to 10,023 feet. It is a pretty steady climb but some of the gradients are as steep as 18%. After biking up Mt. Coronet in New Zealand, Peter and I were really excited to try a harder climb.

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Part of the road up Haleakala as it disappears into the clouds

I knew the climb was going to be very difficult but the HACC group decided to take a steady pace and not charge up the mountain, which I was thankful for since my legs and body were still so tired. The other two HACC members flew over from Oahu early on Monday morning, picked their bikes up from the airport, and rode over to meet the three of us already at the hotel. The climb was going to take about four hours and since there were very few places to stop along the way, we had to pack all of our food and nutrition in our shirt pockets. At the hotel it was 85 degrees outside but at the top it was supposed to be 60 degrees so we also had to pack warm weather gear for the climb. I brought arm warmers and a neck warmer from home and luckily I won an awesome cycling jacket in the Maui Stage Race so I brought that along too. I am not used to needing warm clothing while biking in Hawaii!

Getting all our stuff packed before the climb.  Elevation: 75 feet

Getting all our stuff packed before the climb. Elevation: 15 feet

We headed out from the hotel to Pa’ia which is a little town at the start of the climb. We stopped for espresso and I was seriously considering hanging out there all day while they went on the climb. But, the jolt of caffeine got me going and before I knew it we were off.

Espresso Stop

Espresso stop

From this point I watched the elevation on my Garmin tick upwards and I was happy every time I saw another 1000 feet go by. The first 3000 feet of the climb were pretty uneventful because we were still trying to get to the base of the volcano. This was fine with me because it took almost this long for my legs to get warm. Once we finally turned on to the windy road up the volcano I was feeling pretty good. This is also where we entered the layer of clouds that we did not break through until 9500 feet. I welcomed the temperature drop at first because the climb to that point had been warm and humid. The coolness of the clouds was refreshing. Even though we were socked in and couldn’t see the view above or below us, it was still very beautiful and peaceful.

At about 7000 feet we made a stop at the restrooms inside the park and it started to drizzle. The temperature had dropped to 53 degrees and I was freezing. I put on my arm warmers and jacket but it was helpful to get moving again. The hard work of the climb was enough to keep me warm the rest of the way. Being a sea-level girl, I thought I would feel the effects of the altitude by this point but I still felt great. As we approached 8500 feet, the elevation where I thought I would be on my death-bed, I felt amazing. Maybe it was the altitude getting to my head but I felt like I could keep going all day. I did notice my breathing was more labored and standing to climb became more difficult. At 9800 feet you reach the first parking lot and, surprisingly, the steepest part of the climb is between this parking lot and the top. I think the road went straight up. It was physically impossible to stay seated on the bike. I was forced to stand which was much more difficult cardiovascularly. I finally realized how tired I was as my legs and lungs were burning and I gasped for air. But, I had made it.

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We rewarded ourselves with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a few carrots before we bundled back up for the descent.

The HACC group!

The HACC group at the top!

The descent from the top to the bathrooms at 7000 feet was the worst part of the ride for me. I was cruising down at around 30 mph and that speed into the wind at 60 degrees creates a nasty wind chill. Plus, I wasn’t pedaling anymore so my body was not moving to create body heat. I was so cold I started to shiver uncontrollably. It was actually scary at times because every time I convulsed it caused me to jerk my handle bars. This is not ideal for downhill riding at high speeds. Thankfully the bathrooms had warm-air hand dryers so I turned one of those on and stood under it for a little while.

As the elevation dropped the temperature warmed and I stopped shivering. Cruising down the switchbacks was a blast. We were going the same speed as the cars so I felt comfortable taking the whole lane. This made taking the sharp turns much easier. I finally warmed up at 3000 feet and then was blazing hot again once we reached the town of Pa’ia. The group stopped for well deserved burgers and beer. I was starving.

After six hours, 81 miles, and 10,000 feet of climbing, I was ready to get on the plane and head home.

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Blue line is mph, green part is elevation… i.e. the mountain

Even though I was exhausted from racing all weekend and I started the climb tired, I ended up loving this ride and the whole experience. For Peter and I, this was the best way to see Maui. Sure, we could have taken time to lay out on the beach and relax in the sun, but seeing the Haleakala Volcano from a bike is something I will never forget. And now I know why they say it is the longest and steepest paved road in the world.

Racing Maui

This past weekend Peter and I raced in the Maui Stage Race and it was an absolute blast! We wanted to make it over to Maui before we leave Hawaii so when the opportunity to bike in Maui came up we jumped on it. At first I was a little nervous because bike races are much different from triathlon races. They can be very aggressive because you are biking in very close proximity to other riders and, as I found out, a lot of cyclists can be down right mean!  But, I learned a lot from this race and I am really glad I decided to do it.  I think the most important thing was the confidence I gained. I came into the weekend a little tired because I raced hard the weekend before in the Lanikai Triathlon and then I had a pretty tough training week. But, I pushed myself very hard and now I know how far my body can go once I work past the mental block. Because of this I think that towards the end of an Ironman race I can push through and still perform at a high level, even if I am not feeling well.

After Peter and I got off work on Friday we headed straight to the airport and took the long 30 minute flight over to Maui.

Glad I brought my foam roller...lifesaver!

Glad I brought my foam roller…lifesaver!

There is a great deal for transporting your bike when you fly inter-island in Hawaii. Aloha cargo lets you roll your bikes on their cargo jet, fully assembled, and they over-night them to your destination for $45! This is way cheaper than checking a bag and so much easier because you don’t have to take the bike apart and pack it in a box.

Wrapped in foam to prevent scratches

Wrapped in foam to prevent scratches

I brought my new road bike out for the race.  It has the same bike seat as my tri bike: pink with a big yellow letter “k”. Peter bought me an awesome stem cap too! I love this bike!

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Motivational!

We arrived in Maui, picked up our bikes, and then headed to Whole Foods to get food for the weekend.  You gotta love peanut butter (or in my case almond butter) and jelly sandwiches when you are on vacation!

Eating healthy even on the road

Eating healthy even on the road

Saturday morning I woke up a little bit grumpy. I was hoping my legs would finally feel recovered but they still felt sore and tired. It was also an early start for the women’s time trial. My start time was at 6:40am and the sun was just starting to rise at 6:00am when I was warming up. This first stage of the race was a 25k time trial which is 5k longer than the time trials I have done in the past.  So, I really wasn’t sure what kind of time I was aiming for. A good rule of thumb during a time trial is that you should always be in pain. If there is ever a moment where you feel okay or you can say “this isn’t too bad” then you know you aren’t going hard enough. If you constantly work to engage with the pain in your legs, then you know you are putting maximum power into the pedals.  This is why time trials are so terrible.

The start times were spaced 1 minute apart which means they send a rider off every minute. This is a little harder mentally because you cannot see the rider who goes off in front of you and so there is no one to try to catch. Two minutes after I pushed off I was already unhappy and I guess  it showed in my face. Peter was on the side of the course right after the start and he said I looked mad. And I was! I had just started and my legs were already dead, I felt like I had nothing to give. I proceeded to talk to myself, yell at myself, even sing the lyrics of a few motivational songs.  On the back stretch of the course there was supposedly a short “hill” to climb before rounding a corner for the final 2.5 mile flat stretch to the finish. When I got to the hill I found a few of the women I had been trying to catch, struggling up this so-called hill. This was the motivation I needed and I was able to pass three of them. I rounded the corner for the final stretch and was blasted by a strong headwind. I gave it everything I had, but even yelling at myself in the last half mile didn’t work. I had hit the wall and I had nothing left. I hardly sprinted past the finish line, but I was just happy to be done.

yep, all by myself

yep, all by myself

The race directors organized this race very well. Once all of the women had finished the race, they compiled the results and emailed them to you. I got the results almost instantly which was nice because I knew my time compared to everyone else right away. I was so happy when I saw I had the fastest time, beating the next closest girl by 37 seconds. But I think I was more happy that it was over.

The second stage of the race did not start until 4:30pm so we had a little time to explore Maui. Peter and I drove over to Kihei and found a nice bay to do a recovery swim. The cool water felt nice on my tired legs. The water was pretty calm so that made the swim more enjoyable for me. Where else can you see coral and sea creatures while also getting a workout?

Outside our hotel...trust me this is a lot nicer than the inside of the hotel...

Outside our hotel…trust me this is a lot nicer than the inside of the hotel…

Later that afternoon we drove the road race course which would be the third stage of the race. It was a pretty hilly course with about 3000 feet of elevation gain and it was absolutely beautiful.  But they weren’t kidding about the tough terrain. There were three intense climbs each paired with an even more impressive descent. The last part of the course was a sharp winding 5.5 mile road that overlooked the ocean.  It descended down to a winery where you turned around and climbed it back out to the finish. Driving this road in a mini-van was anything short of motivational. Some of the corners were so sharp it was almost impossible to stay on the right side of the road. I was very nervous to race down the road let alone have to climb back up it.

We returned to the hotel and got ready for the second stage of the race which I was again, really nervous for. It was a 30 minute criterium which is a race that laps around a small closed loop.  Whoever crosses the finish line first without getting lapped wins. This sounds simple enough until you learn about all of the tactics that go into it. Thankfully Mark from the HACC, who is very experienced in criterium racing, was out in Maui racing with us and he coached me through the whole thing. The best strategy is to stay with the pack throughout the whole race because everyone drafts off each other. If you try to break out of the pack and sprint up on your own, you will waste all of your energy and will probably not have the strength to keep the lead. Since the pack is working together, they will be stronger than you and will eventually overtake you. The laps were only 4/10th of a mile long so you can imagine how tight these loops were. This made cornering around the course very critical and kind of sketchy at the same time. It is actually very similar to race car driving, racing in a circle for a really, really long time.  For my race they combined the women with the juniors and the 60 plus senior men. Once they blew the horn we were off and it was all very exciting. There were a lot of spectators lining the course, cheering us on as we rounded the corners.

Another element of a criterium race are the primes. A prime (it’s actually pronounced preem) is a mid-course competition where they ring a bell and whoever wins the next lap wins the prime. The prime is usually a cash prize and they use them to keep the race interesting and maybe even cause an exciting breakaway.  We were about 20 laps into my race when they rang the bell for the first prime. There was one really strong girl who started to take off so I cut over to get on her wheel. I thought to myself, well if she wants to start sprinting this early in the lap I will let her do all the work and stay on her wheel. We rounded the second to last corner and I noticed one of the junior men start to break ahead so I passed the girl on the inside and sprinted.  I was surprised how easy it was to blow past her and I beat her on the sprint by quite a distance.  As I passed she couldn’t keep up and she started cussing at me. See, I told you cyclists can be mean! I beat her by a long shot across the line and I won the prime.

Okay, so this was the tricky part. After the sprint for the prime I was out all by myself away from the group. The headwind was really strong on half of the course so I knew I wouldnt’ be able to maintain the lead by myself.  Fortunately the prime had caused the junior guy to sprint out in front of the pack too and his momentum had carried him a good distance in the lead.  Instead of slowing down to fall back into the pack, I decided to put in the effort to sprint up to him and get on his wheel.  The two of us worked together to stay in front of the pack and keep a lead.  We took turns drafting off each other and somehow we were strong enough to keep almost a half a lap of lead. They rang the bell for the next prime and I was able to beat the junior guy and win that one also. He ended up drafting off of my wheel for the second to last lap so when they rang the bell for the final lap, I had used up too much energy and he beat me in the sprint to the finish.  But, I won the race for the women by half a lap so I was happy.

I tried to catch him!

Sprint to the finish where I tried to catch him!

With two successful stages under my belt, I was in a very good position going into the third stage road race on Sunday morning.  For each stage, riders were awarded points based on how they placed.  After the three stages, the rider with the most points won the entire race.  Since I had won the first two stages, I knew that I just needed to stay with the pack of women for the road race.  If I got at least third place I would win the whole thing.  The race start was at 3000 ft elevation at 6:30 in the morning and I was freezing! I had to wear my arm warmers and I was literally shivering.  All of the men and women started together for this race and after we pushed off, the men almost immediately started to break away.  At first I was just going to let them go while I stayed back with the pack of women.  But, the breakaway was on a hill and I felt like my group was going so slow!  So I made a last-minute impulsive decision to sprint and catch up with the tail end of the men’s breakaway.  One of the other women stayed with me and so now there were just two of us with the men.  We were already so far ahead of the other pack that I knew there was no way they would catch up.  I stayed with that girl for the whole first climb and we actually passed a lot of guys who had fallen off the back of the breakaway.  We finally hit the first descent and I started to take the turns very cautiously, staying behind her.  I have always been a little timid on descents but this time I knew I could gain a lead on her if I sucked it up and attacked.  So, I tucked in, took my fingers off the breaks, and took off past her.  I stayed at or above 35 miles per hour for the entire 5 mile descent and, looking at my garmin watch after the race, I hit 41 mph a couple of times.  I don’t know what got into me but I felt so good at this speed, more comfortable than I ever have.

Needless to say, I lost that girl on the descent and for the rest of the race I rode with the guys.  I stayed with a good-sized pack of them on the second climb and we all took turns pulling for a while.  But, once we hit the winding downhill road to the winery, they dropped me.  First, I don’t have enough body weight to propel me down the hill that fast and second, I was very nervous about this portion of the race based on our mini-van drive from the day before. Once I started to hit the corners though, it was actually a lot of fun.  I was all by myself with the pack of guys way ahead of me and no one even close behind me.  I felt no pressure to take the corners fast.  I really enjoyed this part of the ride.  One by one I started to see small packs of the elite level men coming back up the road as I cruised down.  They were all so nice, cheering for me and encouraging me.  I finally made it to the bottom and knew I just had to climb 5.5 miles out and to the finish.  I didn’t realize how spent my legs actually were until I started this climb.  I swear there were points where I was going so slow you could have walked up it faster.  I kept standing up and pedaling because I thought I might start to roll backwards if I stayed seated.  But then, I started to pass some of the guys that had dropped me on the descent.  This was super motivational so I picked up the pace.  Eventually, I passed every single one of them and started to gain on men I hadn’t even seen before.  I finally came to the last 100 yards of the climb before the finish and as I crossed the line, I almost fell off my bike I was so tired.  I think someone actually pushed me forwards so that I wouldn’t roll back down the hill.

I beat the next closest girl by 5 minutes and only 24 men beat me.  I made out really well this weekend getting a nice cycling jacket and gatorskin tires for my prime wins and $100 for winning overall.  Thanks to Maui Stage Race for putting on such an awesome race!  But, most importantly, I gained confidence in my strength on the bike and I know I can transfer this over to my half-Ironman race that is only 4 weeks away!

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Most people would be satisfied, call this a successful weekend, head back home, and take a day off.  We decided to take our tired legs and bike up Mt. Haleakala the next day with the HACC.  Stay tuned for more to come on this 4 1/2 hour climb from sea level to 10,000ft!

These jersey's smelled so bad at this point!

Getting ready for Haleakala…these jersey’s smelled so bad at this point!

Biking is healing

I think everyone goes through a rough patch with family at some point and I can say I have gone through that with my brother over the past few years.  And it doesn’t matter what caused that difficult time or what kinds of things happened along the way.  The most important part is when you both decide that life is too short and you want to work to restore your relationship, coming together once again as a family.  It’s not an automatic switch either, it still takes time and it still requires a choice.  I had the wonderful opportunity to make that choice and put in that work when Ryan came to visit over this past Christmas.

Ryan got into biking long before I did, kind of out of necessity.  He had no money, he was young and fit, and he needed to get to work.  So, he bought a tri bike off eBay (a really nice cannondale actually) and he started commuting to work.  Now, when I say commuting I know all of you are picturing him in casual clothes with his right pant-leg rolled up and a messenger bag draped over his shoulder riding nice and easy on city streets to his office job.  That is far from it.  Where we grew up in the Sierra Nevadas of Northern California, not only is the terrain mountainous, but our house is at an elevation that is close to 1500′ higher than the closest small city.  To give you perspective, we live in a gated community where it could be spitting sleet at the gate and by the time you drive up the 5 miles to our house it is a heavy snow.  So, Ryan learned to bike the nearly 20 miles to work where he spent hours performing manual labor cutting down trees and digging up plants for a landscaping company, and then rode back home.  He had the whole biking get-up, which I thought looked silly at the time, and he got into biking shape fast.

Fast forward to Christmas 2012 and I am now the one who has fallen for biking.  I have that understanding of how the bike makes you feel.  Peter and I suggested Ryan go on a shorter bike ride with us along the southern tip of the island and we were excited when he jumped at the opportunity.  We rented a pretty decent Specialized road bike from the Kailua Bike Shop, got up early the next morning, and headed out towards Makapu’u.  These are the rides that you capture and will always remember.  Our pace was steady and Ryan rode well considering he hadn’t been on a bike in a few years.  But, it wasn’t about the workout or even showing him the beauty of riding in Hawaii.  It was about re-kindling a relationship with my brother and I can tell you, those few hours of biking were the closest I have felt to him in years.

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We rounded the corner at Sandy Beach, close to 15 miles from my house and I suggested we turn back.  30 miles would be plenty for him on the first ride, I didn’t want his legs to kill him the next day.  But he asked what we would normally do on this ride.  Normally we would continue around the island through Hawaii Kai and Diamond Head before heading back up over the Pali Highway to go home.  This is close to a 60 mile ride and the Pali is a pretty strenuous climb, especially since it starts around mile 45 and your legs are tired.  I will never forget his next words: “Let’s go.  I can take the Pali…Pali wanna cracker?”  I ended up giving him all of my chews and the rest of my bar and even though he struggled and cursed the Pali the whole way up, we slowly made it back home.  He now denies that he ever mocked the Pali but I still make fun of him for it.

As I predicted, he wasted his legs and was pretty much immobile the rest of the day.  The next day he had a stiff-legged walk and ate exorbitant amounts of food.  But he was so happy.  I witnessed rejuvenation.  There was a different kind of sparkle in his eyes and I saw the Ryan I always knew, joking, laughing, being competitive.  He asked when we were riding again.  So, we decided to ride with the HACC group the very next weekend and this time we let Ryan borrow Peter’s bike so he had something less clunky to ride.  Peter borrowed the “HACCdaddy” John’s awesome Trek bike so everyone was excited for this ride.

We rode up on the North Shore this time riding up the Kolekole Pass and then out to Ka’ena Point, which is a beautiful ride out to the northern most point of the island where the paved road ends at a breathtaking view of the ocean and you need a mountain bike to continue on.

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It was awesome to have him riding in the group with us and to experience the camaraderie and pure enjoyment of spending time riding with others that love to bike just as much as you do.  Not much is said during the thick of a ride like that and you spend most of the time struggling and working hard on your bike – fighting the inner voice inside that says you’re too tired.  But when you triumph over a difficult climb or you work together through a strong headwind, you feel a connection with those around you.  You know everyone just struggled through the same thing and it is very satisfying.  We stopped at The Coffee Gallery in Haleiwa for espresso and a muffin and then climbed Pineapple Hill out.

Flat tire stop…yes those are arm warmers in Hawaii!

After another great ride with my brother, sharing something we both love to do, it sparked a new conversation.  He felt the enjoyment of spending time with a bike group and saw the fun we had – whether it was challenging someone up a hill, stopping to help when one person got a flat, or spending time talking over a cup of espresso and a muffin.  After being off the bike for so long, he now wanted to get back into it a maybe find a group to join.  His excitement and motivation flowed over into other awesome and memorable activities like the strenuous and technical climb up to the third peak of the Three Peaks Olomana hike.

I can’t explain how I developed my passion for biking or where the motivation to keep biking comes from.  But, I have been earnestly praying for God to give me a way to re-connect and heal my relationship with my brother and if He gave me this passion as a means to re-kindle that relationship, then that has made this journey of training and biking worthwhile.