Perhaps it is more than a coincidence that there is a connection between Hawaii and Savaii-The Big Island of Samoa. The well known Upolu Point is also located on the Big Island of Hawaii. Upolu is the second biggest Island in Samoa. The word Hamoa(another word for Samoa) is also the name given to a popular beach on Maui. It’s obvious that the Poynesian connection through language, place names and cultures is what ties many of the Polynesian cultures found in the Pacific. Lets see how things unfolded by bike…..
Since the very first IRONMAN event in Kailua Kona back in 1981 the Big Island Hawaii has become known as the Mecca of Ironman. It’s the home of the Ironman World Championships. Most Hawaiian local’s we meet on this side of the island have had some form of experience in the iconic event. Many people you meet and talk to have experienced Ironman supporting or completing the event. The old skool stories about completing Ironman back in the day when it first started with no cut off times, and when it was sponsored by a brewery were revealing to say the least. The locals are friendly and the ethnic mix of the population reflect's the growing numbers form the mainland/abroad who have found the Big Island, fell in love with the place and stayed.
Today the Big Island is also host to the Ultraman-a triathlon event x2 the distance of Ironman, Lavaman Triathlon, 5km runs and through Lavakids there are a number of Biathlons, run clinics, events for Keiki. There is also the Hawaii Cycling club based on the Kona side of the Big Island who also run cycle races. If you want to hire a bike go to the number one bike shop Bike Works Kona-a huge range of bikes and the wheel sets on display are awesome.
From a cycling and learning perspective I urge you to venture outside of Kailua Kona. Cycle around the island. You will get to appreciate and experience a hidden mecca of endless smooth roads and an abundance of climbs that reach high up into the clouds-even higher than many of the peaks at the Tour de France. You will experience communities, people, beaches, historical sites that will remain untouched if you stay in Kona. So if you’re coming to support someone doing Ironman and you are a runner, swimmer, cyclist- set some time aside to check the Big Island out!
#RideAloha #RideAlofa #RideAroha #uso4life
In Hawaiian mythogy Mauna Kea (White Mountain) was an ancient site sacred to all but ranking tribal chiefs. Today at the very summit of this dormant volcano are 13 telescopes that are also popular with visitors. These telescopes were first built in the 1970’s for scientific and so called economic benefits. However it was the prospect of building a gigantic new thirty meter telescope in April 2018 that led to a wave of indegenous protests throughout 2015.
Lets face it, with a natural site perched so high above sea level with unobstructed views it is a perfect site to view the skies. The claimed economic benefits would continue to flow back to the community. However, the success of this development needs the buy in of the local indegenous people. World History is littered with stories of colonised takeovers by European powers of pre occupied land. As is obvious with this story, the locals will fight to the end. The Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory group appears to have severely underestimated the connection of the people to their land and the cultural identity that comes with it. See this article for more…or do a search. There are plenty of stories and videos on this important subject.
Mauna Kea stands 4,200 meters tall- Climbs like the world famous Alpe D’Huez and Mount Ventoux are easily overshadowed by Mauna Kea. Five of us took this beast on. Kelly, Nigel and I started us off. We were joined later on for the bulk of the middle section of the climb by Jemma an Deb's-Kelly and Nigel's wives. We needed all the help we could get today. We left from the small township of Waikaloa and cycled to the Mauna Kea visitor center a total distance of 64kms. Heres our course
The gearing on my bike was a 36 x25 set up. Fitness wise I felt I had enough form to get up, it wasn't a race and we could take our time. We also had a support vehicle with food, drinks and a change of clothing. However it is a hot virtual non stop climb for the first 3/4's. The last 1/4 the temperature drops and the density of the air starts to thin out.
For this climb there are different spots around the base of the mountain like Hilo or Waikaloa where you can make a start. We started from the Waikaloa Village. The first 56kms of the ride was non stop climbing- a gentle false flat for the first 4 kms and then it starts to pitch up. Most of the elevation for the climbing is like Ngauranga Gorge- steady but sure climbing. Find your rhythm and spin. Aim to conserve your energy-it is a long day in the saddle. We made a point to eat and drink plenty as it was hot. You are also exposed to the elements and really need to get into a good head space and spin away. The roads are nice and smooth with wide shoulders-plenty of room. Traffic is minimal.
The length of the climb means we climb at our own tempos we are comfortable with-we stay within distance of each other and regroup at drink breaks. The loud bang of the big barreled military guns echo around the valley as we head up Saddle Road past the Pohakuloa Training Area with a small military airstrip - Bradshaw Army Airfield.
We take our final rest stop at the Saddle Road turn off to the Mauna Kea Access Road. This road leads to the Mauna Kea Visitor Center. We pull over here, fuel up, eat, put on a few layers of clothing etc and are ready for the final assault up the climb.
The climb to the Visitor Center is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. This is when the reality check really ramps up. The climb itself starts to pitch up 10+ percent. You think its ok- and try to settle into your rhythm, manage the breathing BUT you find yourself breathing even heavier with each pedal. Then you hit the 2km stretch with an average gradient of 14%+ Now you feel like you are virtually crawling. It feels like everything is in slow motion and your lungs are bursting. You try to stay relaxed but it’s a real struggle and then you virtually hit a brick wall. I came to an absolute stop! Breathing heavily I jump off and walk the bike to the side of the road. I wait for the heavy breathing to subside. The mind is all good but I couldn’t seem to get out of 1st gear. I’m standing there regretting that I had underestimated the density of the air at this height. I'm also regretting that I should have put a 34x32 ratio for this climb!
Once composed I start off again. Further up the road the support crew are set up encouraging and calling out “only ¼ of a mile to go!” It actually felt like 5kms lol. I finally arrive at the visitor center and notice x2 things. It’s a lot cooler now compared to when we started and the air is thin. Kelly and then Nigel arrive shortly afterwards. We congratulate each other and then Nige starts to attempt the last section and I follow.
From the Visitor center to the summit there is a gravel road and a short sealed section to get to the Observatories. All up about 10kms. As I follow Nige my tyre's start to slip and sink into the sand, loose gravel. I am crawling and sliding and thinking this will take forever! We make a decision to stop return to the visitor center- A good call!
Nige puts on some warm gear and then proceeds to bomb the descent back to the turn off. He is literally flying..
All up a great climb not to underestimate. Obviously if I did it again I would go with a 34-32 combination and do some training. The support crew is essential-plenty of food, drink and some warm clothes. Support crew must be weary that sitting in a car and then getting out at altitude can have a dizzying effect. The support crew would also need a 4x4 vehicle and take spare mountainbikes for the last 10kms!.