Monday, October 11, 2004


So yesterdayıs snorkeling becomes this morningıs swim. I hop on my mountain bike, dressed for swimming, carrying my backpack and locks. I drive right up to the edge of the pier, at what I suppose is Dig Me Beach, which appears to be a handful of sand surrounded by a sea wall and a ³pier², which is really an unloading zone for cruise ship ferries. Anyway, Iım there before the crowds, so I lock up and hit the surf. Thereıs a line of red buoys heading out to sea, which may or may not be the actual Ironman swim course. In any event, I go out for what I hope is 750 meters, then turn around and head back. Of course, at that point, everyone else is now heading my way, and they ALL are big motor swimmers. So intense, so streamlined, so sure they have to impress. Swimming is like that in Triathlon. Coming at the start, everybody has all this built up energy, and just wants to fight and power all over, around, and through anyone not going their speed or faster. The bike and the run, either during training or the race, are not like that. Iım not sure I understand it; it might be a result of the bashing we have to endure at the very start, no matter how small the race. And, after all, this IS The Ironman. So all have to impress.


I timidly pick my way back through the speedboats heading my way, and return to the Gatorade tent where everyone, it seems, is now speaking German. No Japanese, no French, some quiet Americans, and certainly no Australians. Too early for them, I guess.

But not too early for me. I bike back, shower, and get into my morning conference. A 35-minute swim is not nearly as hunger-genic as a two hour run, so I feel satiated and maybe even a little tired for the talks today. But no sleep at noon, and Iım ready for the afternoon bike ride. Todayıs plan is to go up mauka, out the saddle road, and into the Kilohana hunting area, elevation 5500-7500ı. The road rises out of the heat, and desert, into an oasis where anyone with any sense lives on this place. Out past the habitation zone, I enter a higher desert. Vague traces of lava still filter up through the vegetation, but mostly itıs grass and a few scrub trees. The higher I go, the closer to the clouds I get. I know, because Iıve been told, that two 13,600 foot mountains rise above me, Maunas Kea and Loa. I canıt see them, as the uplift from the windward side perpetually precipitates the warm pacific waters humidifying the lower level air into status clouds up around 7-9,000ı


I find Saddle Road just before Waimea (save that town for another day). Turning off, I get a flash back of the Road to Hana. In 1981, when Cheryl was pregnant with Cody, Ida bought a weekıs stay at a Wailea condo in an Aspen auction. Leigh was there, and one day, we figured we had to go to Hana. Bumper stickers, t-shirts, and recent visitors all proclaimed, ³I survived the Road to Hana!² Once on it, we found out why. Back then, it was a road gangıs joke; the entire road, which twisted with each curve of the north shore valleys, had once been paved with asphalt, but had long since succumbed to pot hole pox. Each patch had not only two or three neighbors, but also two or three patches and/or new pothole in it. The effect was like riding a wooden rollercoaster with badly out of true wheels and no shock absorbers. Luckily, I was thirty-one, Cheryl was a real trouper, Ida was not along, and Leigh kept her comments to herself. In any event, all subsequent roads could be compared ­ and come up short ­ to the Road to Hana. ³Well, this is really a bad (or twisty, or bumpy, or sandy, or whatever) road!² But itıs not as bad as the Road to Hana!² That stopped all discussion about whatever perverse pavement weıd inflicted on the car that day.


Anyway, Saddle Road was NOT as bad as the old Road to Hana ­ in the middle. It had been a one-lane road originally, and then someone decided to widen it, by placing asphalt over the gravel shoulders. So the middle of the road ­ 5-6 feet on either side of the yellow line ­ was smooth, while the outer 4-5 feet were endless pothole fillings. You could drive legally on one side, and suffer bumps galore on the right hand wheels, or drive right down the middle and stay smooth the whole way. I chose the latter, but saw no one else using that strategy. After ten miles, I got to the location identified by the web site where Kilohana hunter check station was supposed to be ­ between mile markers 44 and 45. Nothing, except a gated cattle road with ³private² and ³no trespassing² posted over the chain locked fence. Using the superior intellect, I reasoned the web site must have been WRONG, and the actual road I was looking for must be farther on. It was, exactly one mile up the Saddle. I pulled in, parked, and checked the temp ­ 74F. I had brought only short bike shorts on this trip, but I had packed a foldable jacket (a yellow ³Finisher² cycling jacket with hood from IM Coeur dıAlene), and brought that along. I headed up the relatively smooth gravel road, which went gently up the endless shoulder of Mauna Kea. After 5-6 miles, and about 16-1700 feet of climbing, I saw a road heading east, which looked a LOT rougher than the one I was on, I headed out, and spent the next 30 minutes pleasantly bouncing around a perfect replication of the Xterra terrain on Maui. Just what I need to ramp me up for the race. I could have gone on forever, but didnıt want to lose the chance to follow the original road to its end. Which turned out to be two hundred feet beyond the turn off. The gate was closed, and I was cold (now down to 64F). I stopped, and listened. All I could hear was a little tinnitus in my own inner ear. No wind, no birds, no cars, no people, about as quiet as I can imagine it ever gets in this world. Any I was only half-way up the mountain. I couldnıt stand it, so I picked out my cell phone. Good service was available, so I called my wife and shared the silence with her. Then I scooted back down the track, which seemed MUCH steeper going down than it did going up. But thatıs the story of my life in mountain biking, as well as many other things ­ itıs usually easier for me to get UP to the top than it is to negotiate my way back down from the heights.

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