Did I mention you can’t really train for unpredictable weather? Did I mention that you can’t really predict equipment issues that may result in last minute bike rentals? Did I mention that it is almost impossible to train for 16 weeks without getting sick or knocked off your plan for at least a week or two?
Well, all of thee things happened to our Cycling Fusion group before the big ride up Mount Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii. My girlfriend got incredibly sick with a violent cough for more than 3 weeks that resulted in 3 weeks of no training and 1 week of partial training, and missing 1 of the only 2 outside prep rides. Her sister who was working the same training plan with us discovered a broken part of her bike just days before departure and had to rent a bike in Maui. Finally, one of our other riders who arrived on the island a few days early broke their derailleur as they rode a warm-up ride before the big event. That’s just life…no predicting or preparing for it.
All of that talk of confidence and preparedness began to wane in strength as each situation occurred closer and closer to the day of the big ride. Nevertheless, everyone knew that we had come too far to turn back, and that we would press on the best we could. I had anticipated a 5 – 5.5 hr ride for the group as a whole, but then on the day of the ride, the last 4 to 5 miles had cold, windy rain that pounded us all the way to the summit.
The result was that we had to stop more often (averaging every 45 min instead of every 90 min) to change clothes, get fuel and regroup. I knew that the final half mile was very steep and would be a shock to the system for most, so we also had to “save something” for the very end. We left while it was still dark, so we could start right at sunrise. We were about 30 minutes late, but close enough that we chased the sun for the first 2+ hours.
Once we got about a third of the way up the mountain, I “released” the stronger riders to find their own rhythm and climb at their own pace, since I had forced a collective slow warm-up in the initial stages. Our fastest rider was able to arrive in just under 5 hours and was rewarded with virtually no rain to battle. The rest of us were not so strong and pushing a sub 5 hr tme would have put many at their limit.
Instead I asked multiple times where their Heart Zones® were of the two gals that trained with me so I could gauge my pace to keep them out of Zone 4. I knew if I kept them out of Zone 4, they would have enough to finish regardless of how awful the weather or how tired they were. The only down side of this approach, is that it lengthened the ride to a little over 6 hrs for us and the extra saddle time was not welcome in that wind and rain.
The bottom line though is that everyone made it – even with a little walking of the bikes at the end. It was more psychological than physical but when you are in the moment, it’s hard to step outside yourself and tell yourself you can push through more pain after you’ve been in the saddle for 6+ hrs. In the end, there was victory in the accomplishment, and a lesson learned that they must learn to embrace the pain when they know it will not result in a permanent injury. There is no better result than reaching your goal, and learning more about how to get stronger for the next time. One more bucket list item crossed off.