Yesterday morning, flew to Maui to climb Haleakala. The climb is a 36 mile ride starting and sea level, ending at the summit of 10,000+ feet. We took the first flight to Kahului, quickly set up our bikes in the airport and hit the road by 0730.
The first 5 miles is a flat ride down to sea level at Paia town...that's where the real ride begins. After we turned out of town, the ascent began. The climb was fairly gentle for the first 14 miles...we only climbed about 4000', keeping the group together for the most part with a couple of breaks. After our 2nd break, I took off with the lead group. I hung for awhile, but realized that if I was going to get up the hill feeling strong, I had to ride my own pace. Trying to pace off another rider on a hill is difficult, as everyone climbs differently. My goal was to keep the heart rate in the 150bpm range up until 7000', before I started pushing harder. I knew the last mile of the climb was the steepest part, and I'd need to have something in reserve to push on to the top. So, at about the 4500' point, I sat up, had a drink of water and watched some of the faster guys pull away. Once they turned up the switchback, I set into my rhythm. The ride was beautiful...not a drop of rain on the way up. The roads were much nicer than Oahu...I didn't see one piece of Heineken glass...and the traffic was much lighter. I saw more bicycles than cars, since there are several tour groups that allow riders to cruise down from the top on the mountain. Here's a group of downhillers passing our lead group of riders....this is the moment where I had decided to back off the group.
Most of the ride up was uneventful. I felt strong and was able to keep the heart rate low most of the time...the weather was definitely cooler after hitting the 6000' mark. I got lucky, as our support van rolled by to pass me arm warmers and more gatorade. I made it to the ranger station at 7000' feeling very fresh. There I met the support van once again, and decided to eat some chips and cookies.
After the ranger station, the ride became increasingly more difficult. First, I pushed up the effort, and the altitude began to take its toll. I rode for the next 10 miles (or 3000' elevation gain) with a heart rate consistently in the 160-170bpm range. I was going through water, gatorade, gel packs and electrolyte tablets very quickly. I stopped the bike once to pick up a water bottle the support van set out for me....big mistake, as the altitude made me light headed. It seemed easier to pedal than to just sit....so I quickly got back to the ride. As I'd planned it, I had a lot left at the top. The last half mile was very steep and challenging, but felt very manageable. I rolled into the parking lot about 5hours after leaving the airport. I estimated about 4.5hrs of riding time...probably about 4hrs since leaving Paia.
Spent about 1.5hrs at the top waiting for everyone to finish...it was cold up there. Being the white man I am, I bundled up in all my performance outdoor apparel for the descent. Unfortunately, some clouds rolled in while we were sitting at the top. The descent was fine until we hit the 8000', then we rode through clouds for the next 4000'...or 15 miles. That sucked. I could barely see the rider in front of me, and the hairpin turns were very challenging with the we roads. Luckily it cleared up near the bottom and we were able to hit speeds up to 50mph for the last 3000' feet or so. We rolled into Kahului with about 80 miles under our belts....had a beer, italian dinner, then rolled up to Krispy Kreme for some donuts. That ride from Krispy Kreme to the airport seemed like the toughest mile of the day. Got to the airport and felt completely drained. It was a great day though...I hope to do this again next year.