Thursday, September 29, 2011

Honolulu Century Ride Report

Distance- 107.45mi*
Time- 6:23*
*at 100 miles my time was 5:58**

**Two minutes under my goal time***

***not that that's important****

****but it is kind of neat

One hundred miles on a bicycle. For fun and fitness. And it was glorious.
Did I match my earrings to my bike? Maybe
I have to say, while there are some things to complain about, by and far I had a great ride on Sunday. My first century was something I'll never regret doing and never forget doing. I felt strong, happy, and solid for 90% of the ride, which is as much as you can ask when you're out on the bike for that long. But I get ahead of myself.
My day started at 3:30am, when my alarm went off. Then it started again a 4:15am when Super Awesome Wife woke me up and asked why I hadn't gotten up with my alarm. Whoops. So I shaved a few minutes off my planned morning preparation and ate my Clif Bar and banana breakfast in the truck on the way downtown. That's right, I had to drive 30 miles to get to the place where I was going to ride 100 miles. And, it being an island and all, the 100 mile turn-around is actually about 35 miles from my house. The mind boggles.
Kratos is prepared for destruction

Good morning, handsome
Today I am 578
I found parking at Kapiolani park, which was easier than I expected, got my gear out, and started pre-ride prep. The night before I'd put everything I was going to need into a Ziplock and into my backpack, then checked it, then laid down to read before I fell asleep, then got up and checked it again, then crashed out. So, of course, I couldn't find my watch in the bag. Which kind of frustrated me, but I decided that I wouldn't worry about time because this was supposed to be a ride for fun. Even though I really wanted to know how long it would take me. Turns out I put my watch in my cycling shoe. You know, so I wouldn't lose it. Right. Good star, Dirtbag. I decided these were my two small problems, and everything else would go swimmingly, er, cyclingly. Which actually worked.
Zeroed out, ready to go
I forgot to sunscreen before leaving the house (have to forget something) but lucky for me the Planet Sun guy had a booth. He has a booth at every single event I go to. Never tried his stuff before. But I didn't want to cook like a lobster on wheels so I grabbed some free samples. This was a good call. I was out for six and a half hours and didn't redden at all.Might have to actually buy something from him next time.
The reported attendance for Sunday's event was two thousand. That's a ton of bikes. I, fact, I would go so far as to say a fuck-ton of bikes. The pictures don't do it justice. These are just of Group A. Group A was supposed to be, according to the ride fliers, only experienced cyclists who plan to ride at around 20mph. What it actually turned out to be was those people, plus the 700 tourists flown in from Japan who don't read pre-ride flyers or listen to pre-ride briefings given in both English and Japanese. This brings us to my start and my only real gripe of the ride report. Can you guess what it is?
Group A-ish
Mass of cycling humanity
That's right! The first fifteen miles were madness bunched against craziness riding inches from blindly ignoring the other thousand people on the small space of road we had. I want to be clear: I don't blame the ride director or the Honolulu Bicycling League. They did all they could to keep the start organized and safe. It's just that there is only so much you can do to save people from themselves. At the risk of veering into racist territory (which is different from veering into the path of another rider trying to pass you without running into two tons of car), let me just say that the reason traffic here is often so bad became extremely clear in those first fifteen miles. Yeah, many of the people here can't drive to save their lives, but it looks like all of the people who visit from a certain island nation to the east whose name rhymes Hapan can't.
Still, it wasn't awful and I knew that as we got out of town the groups would thin out, so I got through it. Also inside of that first little bit was our first real climb, the aptly named Heartbreak Hill. To be honest, I was concerned about the climbs during the ride. I've never ridden over on the Windward side of the island so I've only heard about Heartbreak. The name seemed to say it all. But, aside from dropping my chain at the base of the climb, it wasn't that bad. I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but it wasn't awful. Oh, I forgot, at the very start was Diamond Head, another climb that seemed much bigger in my head than it actually was. Easy. I have living on top of Pineapple Hill and my diesel-powered riding partner showing me Pupukea to thank for my climbing. Not that I'm the best climber in the world, but there was some passing going on on the way up these hills. And the payoff is magnificent. In the spirit of keeping the ride fun, and because I'm really seven years old, I did whoop and  holler while zooming down the other side of Diamond Head and Heartbreak. And Makapu'u. And any other descent we had.
Aid Station #1- 20 mile turn around
My plan was to not stop at every single aid station and I didn't. But I did need a nature break at the twenty mile turn around. Guess my pre-race hydration was up to par. The aid stations were spaced, with one exemption, at the possible turn-around points during the ride. So the first was 10 miles out of town for the 20 mile ride, the next was 25 miles out of town for the fifty mile ride, et cetera.And the course was clearly marked with yellow signs and black arrows. This was only a problem once.
You see, dear reader, I arrived at the 50 mile turn around/25 mile aid station with plenty of water and energy. No need to stop. So I pulled in, looped around, and followed the arrows back out. WRONG! I followed the arrows marked RETURN back out. As in, "If you are only riding 50 miles and would now like to RETURN to the start, follow these arrows. Otherwise, continue in the direction you were headed prior to this aid station." Luckily, I only went a short way before figuring out my mistake. How? I thought to myself, "You know, this all looks very familiar." So I called out to another rider, "Hey, this is headed towards the 100 mile, right?" "Uh, nope." Damn. Flip around, backtrack, and straight through the aid station. I was annoyed with myself for making such a silly mistake ("Hey, why are we headed to Vegas?") that I neglected to pay attention to how far I went out of my way. Had it only been a mile? Five? This information would have been nice at the end of the ride.
The rest of the way out was uneventful and fun. The roads were, for Hawaii, clean and safe. I rode in or near groups for much of it. I'm pretty sure I was pulling a couple of guys there for a while, but I didn't really mind. I was feeling strong, the weather was perfect, and I was having no mechanical or physical difficulties. It was a great day to be out on the bike. Broke off from the group I was riding with at the next aid station to fill up on water and HEED, and then it was a straight shot to the 100 mile turn-around at Swanzy Beach park.
Up until now the cages shared the road with as much patience as a person can expect. There were a lot of us, we were impacting traffic, but Hawaii has this Drive With Aloha myth/saying and that was on display. Only once did I feel threatened by an idiot driver. I was near the back of a group, maybe half a dozen riders single file like we should be. Occasionally someone would jump to the left to pass, which was my plan. Passing was difficult here because cars were starting to pile up too. Narrow road, right? Not much of a shoulder, so we were kind of in the way, especially if another car were coming from the opposite direction. And this bitch revved her engine at me and mine. She also scooted ever so much to the right, making passing her safely impossible. I don't want to dwell on this because it was the only dark part of a very nice day, so I'll just say that another rider and I had a quick conversation and showed her our lycra-clad butts. Next stop: 100 mile turn-around.
Awesome. Excellent. Wonderful. I'll take Adjectives That Describe Volunteers for $200 please, Alex. At ever aid station they were great, but I really noticed at this one, mostly because I spent more time here than at the others. it was a chance to get off the bike, stretch the legs a little bit (my right quad was starting to tighten up on me), and top off the cylindrical plastic hydration containers. This was where I discovered one of the most wonderful things on this Earth: Ice. Ice is fantastic. Ice is like water, but so so much better. "Would you like me to scoop some of the ice into your bottle before you fill up?" asked the pleasant woman who had been standing behind a table under a tent doling out water to crazy people all day. I swooned. "Ice in a water bottle? Brilliant!" I had been on the road for about three and a half hours at this point, and with a start time of 6:30-ish, that meant that the sun was beginning to strut its stuff. Someone remind me to write a letter to the Vatican nominating Nice Aid Station Lady for sainthood. ("Where do you worship?" "Oh, we go to Our Lady of Great Aid Station in Ka'a'awa.") Also, it was here that I saw another cyclist, a woman, wearing the same jersey as I was, a pirate-themed, "The Beatings Will Continue Until Moral Improves" number. How did we meet? I was getting off the bike and heard, "Yar! Ahoy there!" We are now best friends. "Oh. My. God. I can't believe someone else is wearing the same thing I am! I'm so embarrassed!" I'll let you guess which one of us that was.
(It was me.)
Coming out of that aid station and turning around I hit the hardest part of the ride for me. My knee, which you may remember I babied all week, was fine, but my quad hadn't really loosened up like I wanted it to. So I may have found a friend and turned him into my domestique for a few miles. That's right, I sucked some wheel and I liked it. Hey, I'd been pulling groups too. He owed me. And it got me through the rough part. Not that it was too rough. The HBL had placed photographers along the course and I mugged for all of them. Getting down in aero and looking tough. Flexing and looking tough. Pointing at the camera and looking tough. Kissing a baby and looking tough. Sucking down a GU and looking tough. Explaining the delicate intricacy of the rise and fall of the Time Lord race and looking tough.
I also got musical. Somehow my jersey doppelganger got ahead of me and when I passed her I had to sing, "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!" She joined in. I told you we are best friends now. We even took a picture together and spoke pirately at the next aid station, where more ice water was gotten. Yay, ice! There was also a lady with a guitar singing to keep resting cyclists entertained. I may have requested Free Bird on my way past her. Alas, there was no love for Skynyrd.
Aid Station 25 miles from finish (aka, where I got lost earlier)
I was now back on familiar territory. Familiar because I had already accidentally done this part once. But this climb was much easier three hours earlier. Some time since I'd gone by someone had stretched the hill and upped the angle. Jerks.  Though this did lead to another impromptu sing-along. Someone I'd been riding with for a while was complaining about the length of the climb. Not obnoxious whining, just the complaints you have to voice after 75 miles in the saddle. "Is it over yet?" he'd call. "Almost," I called back. "Just close your eyes and wish." So he started singing, "Close your eyes something something..." but never finished the lyric. "Dude, it's the Beatles. You can't forget the Beatles! Close your eyes and I'll kiss you..." He said that no, he was thinking of a Boys 2 Men song and sang the next lines. Oh, don't know that. I was thinking of the Beatles. He agreed that was a good song, so on the downhill our voices rose in non-harmony, "Close your eyes and I'll kiss you. Tomorrow I'll miss you. Remember, I'll always be true."
And before I knew it we were back at Makapu'u. I was sure this climb would be harder. I had a ton of miles in my legs now, I remembered it being all kinds of steep, and
was prepared for brutality.
Not so much. Dropped my water bottle at the base so I had to stop to grab it, but then I ground right up, passing another gaggle of tourists, thanking Pineapple Hill, Pupukea, and Mr. "Diesel" Price the whole way. One more ascent to go. The backside of Heartbreak Hill. This side is more shallow, but longer. It hurt way more and felt slow. But I conquered it. On every hill I passed people who had gotten off their bikes to walk. In the words of Mr. Mercury, "Get on your bikes and ride!"
It was about this time that I got a bad taste in my mouth. Because I'm not the bright sometimes. I had grabbed some Ibprofen before I left the house and thrown them into one of my Ziplocks in case my knee started hurting. I also through my pieced-up Clif Bar into the same baggie. Anyone want to guess what happened? Yes, you in the back. That's right! Ibprofen will embed itself in Clif Bar over the course of six hours. So I went for a Clif Bar chunk, forgot to check it for stowaways and CRUNCH. Mmmmm, anti-inflammatory-y. Just like momma used to make. Took half a bottle of water to wash that taste out of my mouth. Stuff got ground into my teeth. Blech.
The last bit of non-ordinary excitement came right after Heartbreak. All day I'd been passing people on the side of the road dealing with flats. Hey, it happens. And the ride coordinators had a ton of Sag Wagons out, cars with volunteers keeping an eye out for stranded bikers and giving them a ride to the nearest aid station or back to the Finish. And here was this poor guy walking is bike down the road. I slowed and called out to him. He called back that he'd gotten a flat and ad already used his spare earlier in the day. That sucks! I wasn't sure if we had another aid station were they would let him buy a tube or if he was S.O.L. for the duration. So I stopped and lent him one of mine. Since my training flats I keep two in my seat bag. His tires were the same size as mine, he only needed one so I would still have a spare if leak happened, so I had no problem helping a brother out. I only had my little emergency pump, but it would have done the job had a Sag Wagon not just them appeared, complete with real bike pump. Yay for volunteers! Yay for me being a helpful Dirtbag!
I looked down just in time to see my bike computer tick over to 99 miles and my blood started pumping. There was never any doubt about finishing, but it was a thrill to watch the numbers count up. As it passed 100 I whooped and did a little happy dance in the saddle. One century down. And in 5:58, two minutes quicker than what I expected. Booyah, grandma. Booyah. Of course, I wasn't at the finish line yet and I wasn't sure exactly how far I had to go, but I knew it couldn't be much.
Turned out I was seven miles away and those alternatively zipped and dragged by until I was climbing Diamond Head for the last time. No problem at all. Crushed it and glided back down all aero and awesome. Super Awesome Wife had taken the bus to the park and was waiting at the finish for me cheering along with a group of kid volunteers who were banging those annoying (but for some reason not today) inflatable sticks together and shouting.
And across the line!
Not nearly as tired as I thought I would be, though I wasn't feeling up to a marathon to be sure. My legs sure did get sore over the next two days, and it was that perfect soreness that you know you earned and makes you smile every time you stand or sit or walk or move. I felt like I nailed my hydration and plan and my nutrition plan, which makes me very happy. Never once did I bonk hard or feel like I needed a drink. Those are victories to me. And I have to thank my sponsor, Background Profiles, who made it possible to buy all the foil packets of calories and rear-mounted bottle cages and whatnot I used, and every once else who supported and encouraged me during my training. Specifically, Sister Dirtbag, Official Trainer of Team Dirtbag, and Super Awesome Wife, Official Super Awesome Wife, Nutritionist, and Chef of Team Dirtbag.
We chilled at the park for a while, I picked up my t-shirt, lunch, and a Coke, and I allowed myself some pride. Not that I ever have a pride debt, but this time I earned it. I never doubted my ability to finish or my will to go on, but I was surprised at how much fun I had. I really enjoyed my day out. Sure, there were rough parts where the climb seemed awful long or the breeze would stop and it would just be us and the beating sun, but that passed and I was off again, riding with cool people along one of the prettiest roads in the world, getting some, going again.
In the words of Ghandi, "BAM!"


  1. Sounds like it was fun. Maybe I'll do it next year. Btw, you should try ride Tantalus. It's a good hill climb and they have a TT race up there every year.

  2. Great write up! Really enjoyed the songs you were singing...

  3. You should be proud son. Amazing job, great dedication and follow through. Glad it was a fun ride and happy day.

  4. Excellent race report. While long, it sounds like a fun ride. I would like to do it sometime. Had me laughing about that Ibprofen stuck in your Clif Bar!

  5. Just got to this, sorry. Sounds like a fun day. good to know everyone has a good attitude about it, and you're able to commune with your fellow bikers while riding. Glad to hear the knee held up (where is my raise) and your nutrition was good. Now we gotta get the run going, on to the next challenge!!!