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