After spending the night on Volcano it was time to get moving. After Day 1 during Ultraman Florida I was able to get a massage, wear compression gear, and sleep quite comfortably. This time around I wasn't able to do any of those 3. My whole left side was bruised up and rolling the wrong way was a painful experience. Surprisingly though when I got on my feet I didn't feel any ill effects from the crash, besides the annoyance of road rash. Knowing the history of the race I figured it would likely be a wet/cold descent for the first 25 miles as we went down the other side of the Volcano that we had climbed the previous night.
As we left our house I started walking out without my jacket that I brought specifically for the first descent, Jeremy who had both crewed once and finished the race once before reminded me to take it. Considering Erica had to remind me to pack it before we left for Hawaii I don't think subconsciously I really wanted to have any part of that jacket! As expected it was in the low 50's and drizzling when we got to the start. The crews weren't allowed to have contact with us until we hit the bottom for safety reasons so I said my goodbyes and lined up close to the front. As I made my way over Meredith noticed that I was bandaged up and asked if I crashed, and told me to be careful today!
My strategy was to lay back for the first few miles and see how everyone was going to play, I knew that there wasn't much time to be gained out front or much time to be lost by hanging back a bit and seeing how things played out for that first hour. As the countdown to takeoff started and the rain started to come down a bit harder I decided to take off my glasses to make sighting a bit better which turned out to be a good decision in the end. Before I knew it we were off, Craig, Miro, Tony and Jochen took off leaving everyone in their dust. I sat back at first and before I knew it I was riding somewhere in the middle of the group with about 15 in front of me. Part of it was strategy, but part of it was also being a little more cautious and timid than normal after I went down hard on Day 1. The rain was starting to come down harder, the roads, were slick, and I could barely see. But as I started to fall back my competitive nature kicked back in, and I moved back up in the field. When I finally settled in I was somewhere in the top 10 between Ultraman Veteran Gary Wang and Peter Kotland. I sat there for a majority of the descent knowing full well there was a 10,000 ft of climbing and a lot of tough riding ahead of me.
Knowing that I spent most of Day 1 in the vicinity of Tony, Tobias, and Peter I expected to eventually be riding in a legal group with them and 1 or 2 others while trying to limit any further advancement by Craig. My plan seemed to be working as I hit the bottom of volcano and made the right turn to head towards Pahoa I could see the crew cars lined up ahead. Everyone was looking to shed their jackets and gloves from the cold rainy descent, I spotted my car, dropped my gear, and sped off as quickly as possible. I picked off quite a few riders that were taking their time changing and forged ahead. Suddenly I found myself largely alone, with no one in sight up the road. The next time I saw Erica and the boys they told me I was in second, and the only one up the road was someone with a size-able lead but not a contender. I kept my competitive streak under wraps and decided I would hope to real him in naturally instead of going on an attack so early on. Here I am about 30 miles in chasing to make sure I am in the front group
The rain and repetitive motion of cycling had started to deteriorate my bandage on my leg and it was starting to unravel. I tried several times to tear it off while cycling, but it just wasn't going to work. Eventually it got to the point where it was dangerous and I had to stop before the bandage would get stuck in my chain or on my crank. Next time I saw them I told Erica and the boys to meet me at the top of the next hill so I could get the bandage off. Once at the top and stopped it didn't take long for Tony and Tobias to come flying by me. I was reminded to stay patient and calm as there was still a lot of riding to do. Once the bandage was finally off I chased to make sure I was with them, but then I backed off once I got there. Over the next several miles we played leap frog with each other with Tony eventually dropping Tobias and I on the long descent to the red road.
At the last stop right before the no feed zone I missed my hand off and Tobias had offered me one of his gels, since I didn't necessarily need anything and my last hand off was more of a precautionary measure I declined and we kept riding. As we hit the left turn on to red road Steve King was there announcing that we were coming through in 3rd and 4th place. We could still see Tony just up the road so he hadn't made too much progress on us. The red road is some of the most beautiful riding I have ever done in my life. Luscious greenery on a gorgeous coastline with the waves crashing against it for several miles. The rain had died down so it was easy to enjoy the scenery. The road itself is like a roller coaster with a lot of short ups and downs which made for a fun ride, but made it hard to see what was going on. Tobias and I were going back and forth battling for the first half of the red road neither one of us wanting to give up too much to the other while still chasing Tony.
After awhile I took the lead as it seemed he had started to fade. As I made the way through the bumpy twisty section my focus turned to Tony as I could see him again and I wanted to catch up. However when I hit the first stop sign I and I turned to see if Tobias was behind me he was nowhere in sight. Knowing that it hadn't been that long and not expecting to put too much of a gap on him I told the official that was waiting at the stop sign that he might have flatted and might need help. With Tony still in sight I put a little more pressure on the pedals to make up some more of that ground.
The end of the red road came up quicker than expected and before I knew it we were heading back towards Pahoa and up to Hilo. I had just caught Tony and there was still no sign of Tobias. Once I saw the crew car I grabbed my nutrition right on schedule and kept moving. After 5 minutes I got a little impatient and decided to launch a mini attack of my own. As I went by Tony he gave me a little encouragement telling me to "go get em" , but I knew that wasn't going to be last I saw of him. With all but one person behind me I asked Jeremy and Adam to find out the splits on the leader, the word was that he was 2 minutes up the road, since the gap was 4:30 minutes before the red road, I was confident I was making progress and would eventually be able to catch him and take the lead.
The strong solo riding continued as I made it to Hilo, I also had a bit of a luck streak only hitting 1 of the 8 stoplights in the busiest section of the course. As I rode past the many strip malls and stop lights I was still solo and I was almost back to feeling normal on a bike and riding with more of a purpose instead of the timid way I was riding early on. Part of that might have had to do with the fact that the terrain had become straightforward with the exception of dodging the extra cars. At the one stoplight I did hit I turned around to see if anyone was behind me, but no Tony or anyone else for that matter.
As I made my way past the airport and on in to Bayfront Park I was still in 2nd. I couldn't figure out why I hadn't seen the leader as it was almost 40 miles and I surely should have made up the difference at the pace I was riding, especially since I had been able to ride away from everyone else. As I came out of the park I couldn't see any arrows dictating which way to go at the next intersection but I fortunately spotted Tobias crew car, which clued me in to making a right when I otherwise would have gone straight. I was happy to see his car for two reasons, one, it kept me on course, and two it meant that he was okay. On the other hand his crew car being in my vicinity could only mean one thing, I wasn't going to be riding alone for long.
Right after that I got sent the wrong way and I ended up in traffic instead of on the nice paved road that only the bikes were allowed on. I slowly and carefully made my way around the reflectors and tryied to squeeze my bike in the tight space between the cars and the cement construction guardrails until I hit the end of that road and could get back on course. As soon as I did my great luck with the lights had come to an end and I got stuck at a red light. Sure enough while I was waiting Tony and Tobias had made their way back to me and proved they weren't going to be going away anytime soon. Right around the same time my power meter decided to die. Normally I would get a warning, and I actually had planned on changing my battery after Day 1 since it died on me during Florida on Day 2 but the crash derailed my chain of thought. All of the sudden the next thing I knew it told me battery low and without warning it was dead within the next 3 minutes. I was comfortable pacing myself for the last 90 miles based on perceived effort and heart rate so it wasn't too much of a concern, but it would have been nice to have the data. It was at this light that I found out Tobias was having some nutritional issues back on red road and he had to stop and collect himself because he almost passed out. I was extra thankful that I didn't take the gel from him because he ended up really needing it in the end.
When the light finally turned green we played it conservatively. The three of us rode together for the next 20-30 miles up the gorgeous Honokaa coast constantly changing places with mini attacks while saving enough for the upcoming climbs. Tony was the first one off the front and that sent Tobias and I in to defense mode and off chasing him, right around the same time it the rain started to pick up again. When I pre-drove the course with Erica earlier in the week it was raining extremely hard and I told her I really hoped that it wasn't going to be raining that hard once we hit the gulches because of the long , fast technical descents that were involved.
Sure enough as we hit the beginning of the gulches it started down-pouring. Raining absolute buckets, as far as I remember that was the hardest rain of the day. Tobias and I were still chasing Tony and battling each other at the same time. Nobody wanted to fall back this late in the game with the toughest stretch ahead of us. Tonys time in front was short lived as we hit another extremely long light on one of the one-way construction bridges. It felt like forever for the light to turn green, we made small talk about how it wouldn't stop raining and I took the opportunity to relieve myself while not riding. Here is where I noticed the wet conditions were starting to form the beginning of a saddle sore. The sting of the urine on both the sore, and my open wounds at the same time was definitely not something I want to experience again. For anyone who has ever wondered what peeing in an open wound feels like, its certainly not pleasant. Fortunately for us nobody else caught the the group before the light turned green.
Shortly after the light turned Tobias made his way to the front, he went on full on attack mode and I wasn't sure I wanted to follow. Since Tony was a multiple time finisher and knew the course I figured I would sit behind him and use his lines on the technical descents. For the next 2 gulches we would play leapfrog with me sitting behind Tony watching him descend and then passing him on the climbs. In the gulches we were either going 40 mph down sweeping turns, or going 4 mph uphill the other way as soon as we hit the bottom. I was clearly still spooked from crashing on Friday and was much happier riding uphill at 4 mph. The constant deluge of rain made the roads slick and I found myself repeatedly chanting "stay u, stay up" on the way down! Fortunately for me Tony is an excellent descender and I was able to follow his lines quite nicely. After the last Gulch Tobias was nowhere to be seen, and Tony had decided to chase.
Now the real climbing was to begin! Unfortunately for me this is also where I started to fade for the first time all day. I was taking in my calories on schedule and I had no issues getting any fluids or solids down so I couldn't understand why I suddenly was struggling to keep my my cadence and pace. Tony started to get further and further away and Tobias had made his attack stick. Sure enough just as I started to fade I saw Peter Kotlands' crew car. I knew that meant he was hot on my heels and inevitably he would pass me and drop me back to 5th. Peter came through riding strong passing me like a freight train on a mission, he had paced himself well and was ready to attack the final climbs. He didn't stop there either, I watched as he effortlessly did the same thing to Tony who was about 2 or 3 minutes up the road.
I was now in 5th or was I? We surely would have passed the mystery leader at some point given the rate we were gaining on him up to the end of red road. Maybe we passed him while he was off the road, or maybe he made a wrong turn? I wasn't really sure but my focus immediately turned in to getting more calories in knowing that I was going to have some hard climbing to deal with and yesterday I was unable to take in any nutrition on the final climb. I started to take in ensure in addition to what had been my regular diet of EFS and Bonk breakers to hopefully counteract the fade and bank some calories for the final climb up the Kohala Mountains.
Both Tony and Peter were soon out of sight and I was on my own again. This time not in front, but struggling to hang on to the lead that I had built on everyone else. I tried to stay calm and just focus on taking in more calories hoping that it would eventually turn around, like I had been able to do on countless training rides. I also knew as terrible as I felt I could keep moving at a decent pace that would keep me in contention. The next few miles rolled by and I was thankfully still alone, I hadn't made up any ground on Tony or Peter, but I hadn't seen any crew cars besides mine either.
When I finally hit the town of Waimea I was feeling stronger and riding more aggressively once again. It was nice to have some relief from the long climb, but I still had the Kohalas ahead of me. Even though I suddenly felt strong again I Peter, Tony and Tobias were still nowhere to be found. The sun started to peak its head out, but the roads were still slick making sure we still had to ride with caution. Even so it was nice to finally be able to ride with some speed after spending the last hour under 14 mph. As I got closer to the Kohalas the winds started to pick up and I was starting to get thrown around like a rag doll by the cross winds. The next time I saw the crew I yelled wheel swap, so we could get my deep dish 808 off the front and replace it with a shallower 404 for the final climb and descent. This had been the plan all along as I knew how bad the winds on the mountains were proposed to be.
We made a quick pit-stop to change the wheels but the wind was so strong it blew the quick release lever out of Adams hand as he went to make the change. Fortunately it didn't get blown far and I was up and running in less than 30 seconds. When we drove the course this was the section where Erica seriously asked me "how are you going to do this?" Well I was about to find out. I knew it was roughly 7 miles to the top then a 15 mile descent to the finish so I was ready to go all in on the climb. As I started the climb the winds were already rough and only going to get stronger as I got higher. I found myself leaning hard in to the winds to stay upright. It's hard to put in to words how strong the winds were but you can see for yourself by clicking here
On the way up I noticed something I hadn't seen in awhile. It was Tonys' crew car! This immediately gave me extra energy as I realized I had been reeling him in! Each time I saw Erica and the boys the would switch out my bottle and give me splits on Tony and as we kept climbing, he kept getting closer! With about 4.5 miles to go not only could I see Tony up the road I spotted Tobias' crew car which pushed my spirits even higher. Click here for the 4.5 miles to go video
As I got closer to the top I got closer to Tony and when I finally got to the crest of the climb the lead had dwindled to :30 seconds! I had finished the climb and felt absolutely on top of the world and was ready for the final `5 mile descent. I had read several times about how hair raising and scary this particular descent could be but driving it in a car it didn't seem that bad. However I quickly discovered why people describe the final leg as frightening. The unpredictability of the winds adds another level of discomfort that most people, myself included are just not used to.
Unfortunately I quickly lost sight of Tony and all the gains I had just made seemed to be a moot point. The numerous switch backs and blind curves coupled with less than ideal pavement had me riding the breaks more than I would have liked to. The crew van would go ahead of me and then slow down until they saw I made it around a curve before proceeding ahead. I was fully riding my breaks the whole way down and I was still going over 30 mph in certain spots! I was riding scared after crashing and my focus was only on getting to the finish in one piece. I suddenly didn't care how long it took me to get there.
About halfway down the mountain I suddenly saw Jochens' crew car which meant he wasn't far behind. Sure enough shortly after he came flying by me around a curve descending like a bat out of hell. While upset that I was losing another place in the days standings I was impressed by his fearlessness and descending skills at the same time. I made it a point to keep him in my sight for the rest of the ride. I suddenly started to get cold and my forearms were getting sore from having a death grip on the bars and really utilizing the breaks to manage speed. Keeping Jochen in view I made it down the rest of the mountain unscathed but I can honestly say it was the scariest experience I have ever had on a bike! Hitting the final stop sign at the end of kohala mountain road was a relief and I was glad to be done. Knowing that the rest of the way was mostly flat I gave chase to limit the damage that Jochen was able to do which ended up being only 30 seconds or so.
I crossed the line in 6th place, keeping me in 5th place overall and in a great spot to still be in contention for the run. The man in the lead that we were chasing happened to be Craig Percival but I didn't remember him passing me. He was off the front early in the day and missed the first turn in a group with Miro and Jochen. Talking to him after the race he seemed to have remember passing me on the descent to red road, but since Tony is the only one I remember passing me I must have gotten them mixed up at one point and I was fully in control and leading the race before the descent to red road. Looking at the results for day 2 I lost almost 7 minutes to to Tony and I'm sure just as much to Jochen on that final descent. Had I known that Craig was the one in front the whole time I certainly would have made a move to close that gap. He already had a quite sizable lead after day 1 and his 45 minute lead was now 90 minutes but anything can happen over 52 miles especially with the run being his weakest leg. All in all I finished the day in good spirits and showered before we headed out to Waikaloa for the night.
Post Race Analysis: Link to Garmin Data: Average pace 19.8 mph.. avg HR 119!
Ideally it would have been nice to have a complete power file, but the heart rate data shows a pretty consistent effort. You can see where the heart rate drops at lights and long descents and raises on the climbs. It also looks like I spent about 5 minutes waiting at lights, and stopping for minor issues when I needed to like my wheel swap and bandage removal. Looking back I am pretty happy with my ride but I definitely need to work on my descending skills. It's something that's going to be a challenge since long sweeping descents are not readily available where I live.
Day 3 coming soon!