Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our Unintentional 75-Mile Cycling Odyssey

We were out of the condo yesterday morning at 8:00, proud of ourselves for getting an early start on our bike ride. The plan was that we do a half-cenetury (50 miles, a century being 100 miels). We would start at Maalaea and ride past Lahaina and the Ka’apali coast to Kalapua, then return to Maalaea. 

The ride up was ok, but there was a fair bit of head and cross wind, which I’ve given up complaining about. The weather was good except that we got briefly showered by a misty rain that the wind had blown down out of the mountains. Overhead was a sunny blue sky, but we were getting wet nonetheless. I was looking forward to that 25-mile ride back with a nice tail wind pushing us along.

When we got to the 25-mile mark – which coincidentally was a scenic overlook – I saw Mark fiddling with his phone while I took pictures. He then walked over to me and showed me what was on his phone, which was a map of West Maui that indicated where we were. He was smiling, expectantly. I was not: I immediately understood that he was suggesting we go all the way around West Maui, making for a 66-mile ride (a metric century).

I had no idea what Mark was up to when I took this picture at the 25-mile mark.

My instincts told me to say no. I had been looking forward the whole way up to turning around and enjoying that nice tail wind. Fifty miles was definitely a respectable ride. We didn’t really know what the road ahead of us would be like. We hadn’t prepared for a metric century.

But then there was Mark’s smile, and I didn’t want to come across as a party pooper. As if to sweeten the deal, he said, smiling, “I’ll make it worth your while." 

While this was going on, I had noticed a couple of state employees in the background working on securing a stop sign. They got in their truck and started to leave, whereupon I motioned that I wanted to ask them a question. They stopped and rolled down their window. We came up and asked about the road beyond. They replied that there was one “steep hill,” but after that it was rolling; and the wind shouldn’t be a factor, they said.

So that clinched it. We would attempt it.

The scenery was magnificent. But the road was proving hillier than I would have thought. And when we got to the “steep hill,” I hit the wall – the first of a number of such occasions on that ride. In one sense, I literally did “hit the wall,” because the grade on that hill had to have been at least 20% if not more. I was forced to do something I’ve never done before – get off my bike and walk up the last 100 yards of the ascent. Needless to say, this did not help the mood I was in.

Mark charged on up the hill. To avoid a heart attack - or so I imagined - I felt like I had to pull over and walk the last bit.

This was the view looking down the hill
What the guy had referred to as “rolling” was actually descending and climbing through what I guess would be called “headlands.” We would descend into a ravine or cove, then climb back up the other side, and this went on for 10 miles. Plus there was most definitely a headwind. I was hating that ride, even though it was one of the most beautiful rides I have ever been on.

I was reminded of a day on the cycling tour we took in September 2012 on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea (which I wrote about here). Part of that ride was through similar landscape, in that we rode up and down ravines for what seemed like miles and miles, all the while searching for a place to have lunch. Similarly, yesterday, there was no sign of civilization to speak of. No towns, no hamlets, nowhere to get some food.

The "restaurant" where we stopped for lunch.

Finally, at 37 miles, we ran across a food truck parked on a spectacular bluff or promontory. The menu was extremely limited, none of which appealed to us, so we each got a Diet Coke and sat down for a rest. Mark got up at one point, and I soon heard him talking to the guy in the food truck. It sounded like he was asking about road conditions and whether the terrain became flatter down the road.

Those questions, it turned out, were irrelevant. The road, we discovered, was closed five miles beyond where we then were. We would have no choice but to go back the way we had come, making for a 75-mile ride. A 75-mile ride! Last year, our longest training ride was 72 miles – and that was toward the end of the summer, just before we rode the Marin County Century (100 miles) north of San Francisco. 

Pictures I took from the promontory where he had "lunch"

This was one of those instances where I simply had to bow in the face of circumstances that were beyond my control. So after sitting and staring into space for a few minutes, I got up and mounted my bike. As I did so, I was reminded of the day that Mark found out that he had prostate cancer. 

I remembered when the call came (just over a year ago) and how, after he had hung up, he sat at his desk and stared out of the window for a number of minutes. He had encountered something that was totally beyond his control. He had no choice but to move forward through something that was unknown and frightening. 

Similarly, on that windy bluff, despite all my bitching and moaning during the previous 10 miles, I had no choice but to accept the circumstances. It wasn’t a matter of whether I could do the rest of the ride; I had to do the rest of the ride. And with that acceptance came resignation and peace.

Mark took this picture of me having my "come to self" moments on the bluff

As we retraced our route, I set in my mind the goal of getting back to the original half-way mark. It was a tough ride for both of us, but we made it. Then my next goal was to get to the McDonalds we had seen another five miles or so back toward Lahaina. By then, we would have ridden approximately 55 miles, fueled by a couple of eggs at breakfast and a Diet Coke. As it turned out, however, I could only eat a little more than half my Quarter Pounder and down some more Diet Coke. 

We then set out on the last 20 miles of the ride. Unfortunately, the wind had shifted during the day and we found ourselves facing yet another fairly stiff headwind. But we made it, with Mark “pulling me” most of the way. (Pulling is a cycling term that refers to a rider riding in front of one or more riders to creat a wind block, making it easier for the rider(s) behind (a process called “drafting”). 

“Monumental!” Mark exclaimed as we got in the car. (Mark has much more of a sense than I do of competing against himself, seeing what he is capable of doing, how far he can stretch himself. Me, not so much. He’s been an athlete for most of his life; I haven’t.) “The fact that we rode 75 miles on April 16th (i.e., that early in the season), is monumental!” And, um, yeah, there was also that total of 4100 feet we climbed.

Yeah, well, it was over. That was my main thought. But … it had truly been one of the most beautiful rides we have ever been on. And we had made it. 


  1. The pictures you took are of such amazing and beautiful scenery. Wow. It made my heart stop, it was stunning. Thank you so much for sharing them!! I need to go to Hawaii again, and soon. Such a gorgeous place to be. I envy your good fortune of being there right now. Congratulations!! :)