Saturday, April 27, 2013

Puyallup Cyclopaths:  Carbon River Entrance to Mt Rainier Ride


Author:  Mike Hassur

The first “official” Puyallup Cyclopath ride of 2013 is in the books.  Twelve of us (John Winter, Scott Larson, Les Becker, Chris Nelson, Mark Delrosario, Kurt Maute, Gabe Scott, Nick Iverson, Brent Moody, Rod Hart, Rob Critchfield, and Mike Hassur) met in Orting and were on the road by about 8:20 AM. 

The weather was good – overcast, 53 degrees, and NOT RAINING!!

The ride from Orting to South Prairie was filled with conversation and went by in the blink of an eye.  The Tubbs Road Hill – as usual – separated the group, but we just cruised along and got back together in Wilkeson.  The big hill from Wilkeson to Carbonado once again separated us, but we regrouped at the Fairfax Bridge and cruised most of the rest of the way to the Carbon River Entrance of Mt Rainier pretty much together.  Again – lots of conversation.  There were various conversations going on at the same time, so I can’t speak for others; but my favorite topics were Rod Hart’s new cabin/house on the Columbia River and Chris Nelson talking about his children.

Brent Moody not pictured (taking photo)

After taking the requisite photos of us on the bridge near the Carbon River Entrance, we were on our way back.  After an initial uphill section, the rest of the ride back to the Fairfax Bridge is mostly downhill.  Usually, we are in a paceline during this section of the ride, but today we just cruised at 20-25 mph in a loose pack and enjoyed riding together and visiting all the way back to the bridge and, then , on to Carbonado.

After Carbonado, we started the descent toward Wilkeson in a big pack.  I have never gone down this descent as fast as we did today (I guess because we were in a big group?).  I glanced at my Garmin, and it showed 40 mph (and we weren’t even pedaling much). 

We lost Rod just past Wilkeson (as he continued on the main road).  We continued on Tubbs Road to South Prairie and then on to Orting.  Nothing spectacular – just a brisk pace and visiting the entire way back – perfect!!

What a nice way to begin our season.  Thanks to everyone involved for a really enjoyable ride.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kona IRONMAN Triathlon bike Course

Posted by Conor Collins

     Beginning a little later than the Kaloko Climb, I met Penn at the Lava Java in downtown Kona at 6:45 a.m. We planned on riding to meet up with the Bike-Works Saturday group ride for the beginning on our ride to Hawi (the turn around point for the IRONMAN) to save our energy for the remaining miles that we would be alone. After about 30 miles, all of the Bike-Works riders had turned back. At mile 35 we came to the end of the Queen K Highway, from there we had about 18 miles to Hawi. Both of us were in need of more water, and some food. Penn and I decided to stop at a Deli and food mart alongside the road. After resupplying our food and water needs, we waited around for another fellow rider on his Time Trial bike. Apparently, he was planning on riding with us all the way to Hawi, but punctured his tire a ways back, and had to get it fixed.
     After about 5 minutes, he rolled up, and we quickly began to ride the remainder of the distance before the turn around point.  I was constantly checking our average speed, flying along the coast of the Big Island; we averaged about 20.5 MPH for the first 50 miles, putting us at about 2:24:45. That time is the fastest 50 miles I have ever done. On the flats our speed would remain around 23-24 MPH; however, there was a slight climb into Hawi, which lowered our average speed to around 20 MPH. The Northern part of the Big Island tends to get more rain, and be cloudy; to our benefit the clouds offered relief from the harsh sunlight along the Queen K highway.
     Once we reached Hawi, we quickly did a U-turn in the road, where the IRONMAN turnaround post was set. The ride back to the food mart was fast. With the majority being downhill, we were cruising at about 30 MPH down the highway. Around mile 70 we reached the food mart, and stopped once again to replenish our food and water. I decided a sugary Snickers bar, and some ice in my water pack would be good enough to get me back to Kona. Having 70 speedy miles on my legs, it took about 30 minutes to get warmed up once more after leaving the rest stop. As expected, to add to the leg pain, the wind on Queen K highway had begun to pick up. Surprisingly, my energy levels began to rise, and I was feeling very strong.
As the tensions began to raise the closer we got to Kona, so did our speed. Our average speed reached 21-22 MPH. I convinced myself I could power through the remaining 9 miles to the finish, crossing the 100 mile mark 16 minutes under 5 hours, that was the fastest 100 miles I had ever done… by over 50 minutes… Our speed was still rising the closer we got to Kona, about 5 miles out, we were cruising along at about 25-27 MPH (I blame the speed increase on myself) I could tell Penn and Sean, the guy on the time trial bike, were in pain. Sean decided to recover the last 2 miles into town, so Penn and I continued our pursuit to the finish. Finally, Penn gave into the pace, and decided to fall back. That was what I was waiting for, payback for leaving me on Kaloko climb. We then coasted into a small parking lot with a water faucet. Penn drenched himself in water, before continuing back along Ali’i Drive.
     My final distance was 109 miles, with an average speed of 21 MPH. Incredible ride that closed an incredible trip, to quite possibly the most incredible Island on Earth. 

Kaloko Climb from Kailua Kona

Posted by Conor Collins           

            A day after riding up Mauna Kea, I planned a ride with a very successful Kona Triathlete. His name is Penn Henderson, and his accomplishments include racing in Three Kona Ironman triathlons, being invited to compete in Japan, and other foreign countries, as well as placing second overall in the “Cycle to the Sky” race up Haleakala.
            The ride began at 6:30 a.m. Hawaiian time, at a local coffee shop. Penn arrived a little early, and was waiting for me, all ready to go. He decided to go about 11 miles out and back on the Queen K highway as a little warm-up for Kaloko Climb. The climb is about 11 miles long starting directly off of the highway. After our warm-up, and a left turn onto “Hina-Lani Drive” the climb began. Starting off quickly with a 10+% grade, our heart rates skyrocketed. We continued on Hina-Lani road for about 4 miles. Climbing constantly at 10%, this “little” section of road was challenging. Once we reached the stoplight at the end of Hina-Lani, there was a recovery section of road at about 5% for a half a mile. During that time I asked Penn how the section of Hina-Lani compares to the 6 miles remaining on Kaloko road. He replied, “A nice warm-up.”
            With a sharp right turn onto Kaloko road, the final 6 miles of the climb had begun. Once again, around 10-12%, the road shot to the sky. As both of us were pushing each other, the pain was incredible. I probably shouldn’t have told him I was 15… because at the start of the ride we made a deal to keep our heart rates “Low” during the climb. HA! Not quite. Unsure of how long I could hold this pace, I fell back, and let Penn climb off. All alone, I was able to “enjoy” the ride, while at the same time pushing myself to catch Penn.
            As the climb persisted, so did the average grade. The exceptionally wide switchbacks added an additional challenge. As always, the grade increases dramatically while traversing a switchback. This time was special, since the stretch of road in between each switchback was already averaging 8%; the switchbacks averaged around 17%. The second to last turn before the top was the most difficult stretch of road I have ever faced, as the road began to turn, I kept an eye on my Garmin, especially the percent grade. 15%...17%...20%...22%...25%... it climbed higher than I have ever seen it, I really couldn’t believe my eyes. I was going about 3.5 MPH, and could barely keep the front wheel of my bike on the ground. Finally after what seemed like 10 minutes, the road “leveled” out at a nice 8% grade.
Shortly after, the road came to an end. But, Penn was not there. I remember looking at Strava, and seeing a segment continue up for about 0.8 more miles before officially ending. I figured I would turn up the smaller paved road at the end. Sure enough, there was Penn, zigzagging across the road (once again around 17%). I saw him look over his shoulder, and quickly get back to business as he saw I was catching him. Luckily, for him, the road ended. I still had about 0.4 miles of climbing left, which went faster than I would have thought. Once at the top, the view was remarkable looking out over the Pacific Ocean, and Kailua Kona.
Tire completely ripped off the rim
 After a quick bite to eat, we began our descent. Descending on a  -10% slope is not fun, and I was constantly on my brakes. Going about 35 MPH out of the first turn I was convinced I could stay with Penn throughout the entire decent. Until… Bang! Something like a gunshot rang out from my bike. I quickly realized my rear tire had blown out, and another challenge had arisen, coming to a complete stop without crashing. For what seemed like eternity, but was only 12 seconds, I slowed my bike from 35 MPH to 2 MPH before unclipping, and hopping off to inspect the destroyed tire. Penn, did not hear, nor see that I had stopped, and continued to descend. After calling for help to my parents, I had to find a way to get to the base of Kaloko Road. Thankfully, a local lady in her pickup truck started down the road. I flagged her down, and got a “comfortable” ride to the bottom where Penn was patiently waiting. After showing him the rear tire and wheel, we were both thankful for each other’s well being.
My parents arrived, and we drove directly to the bike shop to have professionals inspect the rim, and put a new tire on. Thankfully once again, the expensive wheel was okay, and once again I was ready to rock.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea

Posted by Conor Collins 

Travel day to Hilo, Big island of Hawai’i

Hilo the Morning of the Mauna Loa Climb
     Plane left Maui at 1:17…. However, because some problem with some passenger, we didn’t leave until 1:35. The flight was smooth, and quick, only lasted 20 minutes! Ha, 80 miles in 20 minutes, maybe that should be a new cycling goal! In Hilo it was dumping rain, and really gave us a warm welcome when I checked my phone, and it said there was a flood warning! Enough of that, time to get ready for Mauna Loa tomorrow.

 Mauna Loa Climb: Worlds longest Paved Climb

Riding on Saddle Road. Hilo is in the background 
     6:00 a.m. wake up, and immediately go to the window to see the weather. Thankfully, it was partly cloudy, and surprisingly NOT Raining!! After getting ready, and a quick continental breakfast (when they say continental, they mean it! Ha, nothing more than juice, coffee, and toast!) at the hotel. Then comes a quick pack up of cycling gear, and a 2-mile drive to the start of the ride. Literally, at the main intersection in Hilo the ride starts (Elevation 0). From there it goes 6 miles through residential communities, before connecting with Saddle Road. From then on, its 22 miles of rainforest, and winding road. The road was wide, and with nice shoulders. It climbed 6,500 feet before leveling off at the top.
Saddle Road just before the Mauna Loa turnoff
From then, a left turn onto the “Mauna Loa Observatory road” this at first glance doesn’t look like much… a terrible single lane pot holed road. After about a half a mile the road changes to new pavement, but remains a single lane. The road remains “fairly” level for about a mile, traversing the lava fields of Mauna Loa, up and down… felt a lot like a roller coaster. After about 2 miles, it begins to aim towards the summit. With an average grade of 4-5% as seen on Strava, and out of Leon’s climbing book, I thought this ride was going to be long, and steady all the way to the top. Well, truth is, the climb was long… yes, 45 miles, but steady, not so much. Crossing over old, and new lava fields, the road would have 0.1-mile
sections at 20-30%. At first, they weren’t that bad, until the wind began to pick up. Unlike Haleakala, Mauna Loa has no trees, or wind blockers. The wind would rush over the lava fields, right into my face, making the final 5 miles exceptionally difficult. The sounds the wind made was very spooky, something like an old house, with very poor insulation during a windstorm.
Finally after being on Mauna Loa Observatory for 17 miles, and a total of 45 miles of riding, I passed some spray paint on the road, marking the 11,000 feet elevation. The only other thing up there other than lava, and road was some very expensive weather equipment, and tents for the scientists to stay. The view over the Big Island was indescribable; looking down over the land from 11,000 feet has to be experienced first hand.
Riding on Mauna Loa Road
I thought about descending, but being barely able to even finish the climb, and having terrible side winds, the safe bet was to get a ride down. Along the way off of Mauna Loa, there were two other riders attempting to make the ascent (they started where Mauna Loa road begins, not in Hilo) they flagged us down, and asked to have us take their picture. I don’t know how far they actually made it, I hope telling them my story about starting in Hilo gave them some inspiration!
The decent of saddle road was scary, even in a car. The clouds moved in, and visibility was
At the top of Mauna Loa Road, 11,010 feet of climbing in 45 miles
down to about 75 feet. Going 60 MPH down a curvy, unpredictable road was not enjoyable. Once back in Hilo, and a stop at a burger joint, it was time for a nice shower, and relaxation!... until the next adventure arises.

 Rest day: Waterfalls 
"Rainbow Falls" right outside of Hilo

 Mauna Kea Climb… incredible

     In the morning comes packing up, and heading out for Kona. Along the way I have planned to stop at the Mauna Kea Access Road, and ride the final 7 miles of the climbing challenge. Since I have already done Mauna Loa (Literally the whole thing above ground at least… 45 miles and 11,010 feet of vertical ascent) I found it impractical to repeat the 27 miles of Saddle Road the two climbs share. The road up Mauna Kea is notorious for high winds, and steep climbing… incredibly STEEP climbing!!
Before the start of the climb. My challenge is in the background...
After the 27-mile drive up Saddle Road, we turned off to a small parking lot used by hunters… I’m guessing they hunt Pigs, and Goats that run wild in Hawai’i. We then reassembled my bike, which actually turned out easier than expected, since things tend to go wrong when nothing can be done to fix them (which is the case 30 miles from the closest town). From then the ride began, I did a quick warm-up by going about a half a mile down saddle road, then back up. After the warm-up, and a quick photo before the ride (Just to prove I did actually attempt to start, just incase the winds blow me off the road). I attempted to go into the climb with the most momentum possible. I got my speed up to 19~20 MPH, which came down to a climbing speed of about 12 MPH directly after crossing the most poorly designed cattle guard in the world, with about a foot of space between each railing, I’m surprised it didn’t swallow me whole!
Mauna Kea Road at about 14%
(Mauna Loa is in the background with snow on its summit) 
After the cattle guard, the grade began to pick up. It remained 5-7% for about a mile, until the real Mauna Kea arrived. From then on, it was a grueling 10-17% for the remainder of the ride. My speed was around 5 MPH on the gnarly sections of road that would traverse “resting” cinder cones. It was ironic how I would call the 10% sections a “recovery period” but that’s how they tended to act. My legs would be able to recover, (as well as increase in cadence) helping me go a little faster, and get this ride from hell to heaven over with! But naturally, who wouldn’t save the best for last? The last 1.0 mile of paved road on Mauna Kea were the most difficult out of
At the Mauna Kea Visitors center.
the end of the ride for me,
"Hurricane force winds at the summit"
any ride I have ever done. Climbing from 8,359 feet to 9,100 feet, at about 15% Grade, the pain was incredible. I found myself going about 4.5-5 MPH, and drifting across the lane. It took me a total of 12 minutes to complete that ONE mile. Reaching the top (the visitors center), and having a road barrier to stop me from going any farther was a big relief! My final time for the access road climb was 43 minutes, and 45 second, pretty good despite the terrible windy conditions. At the visitors center, a man had set up a very large telescope, that was aimed at the sun, it was very interesting to look through, and see the “sunspots” and miniature solar flares.
Overall, throughout these climbs I felt surprisingly unaffected by altitude, being at 11,000 feet on Mauna Loa, 10,023 feet on Haleakala, and 9,100 feet on Mauna Kea, I expected to show signs of that elevation…  This adventure was incredible, showing the incredible challenges and beauty the world has to offer!
From Mauna Kea, the real size of Mauna Loa can be seen
The little line seen going up its side is Mauna Loa Access road ridden previously 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Maui Cycling Trip 2013: Haleakala Climb

Posted by Conor Collins

March 28th, 2013:

Haleakala as seen from Paia, Maui
            4:15 a.m. wake-up, go over the final checklist, and head out to the airport. We didn’t make it out of the house until 5:30; however, the drive to SeaTac is quick and easy. Once to the airport, now comes the trick of maneuvering the merciless bikebox through the crowded Alaskan Airlines ticket counters… that in the end was fairly easy. From then on, it was smooth sailing!   We arrived on the island about 30 minutes early, which gave the pilot time to do a small flyover of Maui; I managed to sneak a peek at Haleakala, and Oh My Gosh, that is one massive mountain!! After the bike was assembled, and I had some food in my belly, I was ready for a small “warm-up for Haleakala” ride. All I can say, is this is one amazing island!! The road was great, and climbing was amazing, I got 2,000 feet of elevation gain in 9 miles. The only downfall to leaving past noon was the 15+ MPH headwinds.

Haleakala Climb

Jason and I around 4,000 feet on Haleakala
     5:30 a.m. (Hawaii Time) wake up, and all I can hear is wind (yes, even louder than the 15+ I heard yesterday) and rain falling. Sunrise wasn’t until 6:20, and in Hawaii most of the rain is at night, so we decided to push the start time back to 7:30. Eventually, the clouds began to clear, and the most amazing view of my challenge appeared in the sky. After a quick breakfast, and changing into the cycling gear I was ready to rock!  Started off full of energy, and going about 15 MPH on a 5% grade. That didn’t last long, as the gods of Haleakala must have felt my presence, and ordered the wind to return. I found a fellow rider, wearing a Canadian uniform, his name was Jason Proche, and we stayed together, pushing each other about another 2500 feet up the mountain, after the first few switchbacks (there are a total of 31) he finally gave in to the pace, and fell back (he finished 10 minutes behind me at the end). From then on, I was on my own. Able to keep a fairly fast pace, and still enjoy the beauty of this magnificent island. At one point, I was able to look down about 7000 feet, to see the Pacific Ocean, and all the lush Hawaiian farmlands in between. From then, around mile 22, it began to get cloudy. The rain soon followed, which was actually fairly pleasant, and cooled my sweaty body.
The final 1,000 feet
The switchbacks began to get bigger the closer I got to the top. Every time I thought I was to the final stretch, I would look up, and see the stupid tour bus making another loop… at that point I was really anxious to get to the top. Finally my effort began to pay off, as I got the 9000-foot level. The road began creep above the clouds, and the sky was bright blue, and clear. With about 1,077 feet left in the climb, the only thing slowing me was the heavy wind… once again I give thanks to the Haleakala gods.
At the summit of Haleakala.
Elevation 10,023 feet.
(3055 meters)
Finally, I was able to spot the NASA observatories that mark the summit. I looked down at my Garmin and noticed I was approaching the 10,000-foot elevation level. Once I passed the visitors center parking lot, only about a quarter of a mile was left to go!! The only catch… its about 10-20% grade. Possibly the most painful, and exhausting part of the whole climb. The feeling, indescribable.  Once around the final corner, I saw the 10,000-foot elevation level marker, marking the end of the road!! Running off of some kind of energy… I’m not exactly sure what. I rode up the final walk to the very top, 10,023 feet. Looking off the southeast part of Haleakala, I was able to see the deep Blue pacific, 10,023 feet beneath me.
 After enjoying the climbing achievement it was time to head back. The weather turned into a terrible, wind/ rain mix with next to zero visibility. I decided to get a ride in the van down to Paia, and the hotel where we are staying. After a quick rest, and some Gelato from the corner shop, this day turned into    one for the record books!