AES athletes and Guam National Triathlon Team Members Chiyo and Peter Lombard, along with compatriot Mark Walters took home the team bronze medal in New Caledonia yesterday at the 2011 Pacific Games. In addition, Chiyo Lombard set the fastest women's bike time of the Games. Peter and Chiyo placed 7th and 5th in their respective races. It was an excellent showing after both overcame injuries and setbacks to take excellent results in what are known as the "Olympics of Oceana."
Team medal presentation ceremony
The Guam National Triathlon Team. From left, Kelly Dawes, Mark Walters, Joe De La Cruz, AES Athletes Chiyo Lombard and Peter Lombard (Guam Triathlon Champion).
Guam national team member and Aeolus Endurance Sport athlete Chiyo Lombard overcame a nagging season-long knee injury to take an excellent 3rd in her age group at Hawaii's TinMan Triathlon last weekend. Her time netted her a 10th place overall and sets her up nicely to represent her country in September's Pacific Games in New Caledonia. Here's more on Chiyo's accomplishments:
Last weekend saw a fantastic result from AES athlete and Guam National Triathlon Team member Peter Lombard. After working his way back to fitness from a debilitating hamstring injury, Peter won his country's national championship triathlon. This result puts Peter in an excellent position heading into September's Pacific Games, where he will represent Guam.
Peter in action this weekend:
I've just finished another beautiful day of cross country skiing near Mt Hood. It's incredibly scenic up there, but it's a long way from the clear waters and sandy beaches of Guam and Saipan. I must admit - I miss the islands.
Mt. Hood on December 21, 2010
Micronesia is a special place. The remoteness of location makes it less of a tourist draw and allows the beauty of the local culture to thrive. I think about Guam, and what keeps coming back to me is how the people I met were among the most welcoming and generous I had ever seen. I'm still amazed by how we were treated and with what genuine interest everyone took in our journey. Everyone wanted to make us feel like we were always part of the family. Leaving bordered on painful.
As for the cycling, it was excellent. In hindsight, the slippery roads were not so bad, and I would rather risk those than the icy ones we currently have here. The terrain was stunning and the drivers generally courteous and friendly. One guy passed us twice, each time flashing a shaka. On every ride bar one it rained a bit, sometimes heavily, but it didn't seem to matter very much. It is so warm that the rain almost comes as a relief. The local riders seem to like it, actually. I'll take warm rain over the cold stuff we have here any day.
Now that some time has passed, I have had a chance to think about the race and all that surrounded it. I didn't finish as well as I had hoped, but there are lots of things in races one can't control and I'm happy with how it turned out. I was able to show up in top condition. I made some incredible friends and met some awesome people. I had amazing support from my wife Stacey and friends Monessa, Karly, and Rosie. Invaluable material support came from Russell Cree, my good friend Joseph, and from Easton Cycling. Without any of these folks, things would have been very different.
As we settle into what looks to be yet another deep freeze here, I find myself dreaming of the Islands and the warm rain. I'm even thinking about Guam's premier cycling event in February. Who's coming with me?
The official website of the Hell of the Marianas has published a story on the race. The description of the race is not exactly how it went down, but it is still an entertaining read:
Here is some Russian TV coverage of the Hell of the Marianas. Naturally, it's in Russian, but they put in some nice race coverage:
I'll embed the video if it becomes available.
Here are a few more photos from the week and the events surrounding the race:
Riding with Joseph on the southern end of Guam
Sharing a feast we grilled ourselves - from left, Chris, Stacey, Joseph, and myself
On the plane to Saipan
Driving out to course recce on Friday
Heading towards Suicide Cliff
Derek, myself and Joseph at Banzai Cliff
Derek and Chris fooling around
When mashed is simply not enough...
What a day. Between the 90 degree sun, rain showers, international field, and slick descents, the HOM was bound to be interesting. The race started bright (well, dark, actually) and early at 6.15am and the attacks began almost immediately. Chris and I sat in and tried to save energy as we knew the first climb and the 1km gravel section afterwards would prove decisive. Indeed they did with the field exploding behind an acceleration from one of the Russians. A group of 9 got away, with myself just getting tailed off over the top of the climb (something that always seems to happen to me at the most inopportune time) into the gravel. The field behind had shattered with Chris and one of the South Koreans about one minute behind me and the rest in small groups after them.
I felt as if I stood a chance of catching the group ahead, and so I pressed on, up the climb of Kagman and then down to Kingfisher and back up again. By this time I was right in the middle - the break was 2 mins ahead and Chris, who was now on his own, was 2 mins behind. I lost a couple more minutes to the break on the flat, headwind section that followed. I thought about waiting for Chris, but I had been steadily picking off riders who had been dropped from the break.
By the time I hit the climb of Radar Tower, I was 6th place on the road and I had closed the gap to the break back down to 2 mins. So, I rode as fast as I could, getting a water hand-up from the car, towards Suicide Cliff. I was feeling good on the climb, but on a short descent from Bird Cove there was a problem - I could feel my rear tire losing air. I had just seen Stacey and Peter, so I knew the car and spare wheels were nearby, but I couldn't reach them. The tire went flat right at the intersection with the road to the Grotto, where a policeman happened to be standing. I asked him if he would drive up the climb and tell Peter that I was here with a puncture and, in the friendly way that is so much a part of Island life, he actually did! Peter was there 2 mins later and as Chris passed, soft-pedaling, handed me a wheel. It was 10 speed and didn't quite work with my 11 speed shifters, but it was better than sitting in the car.
Chris and I wasted no time catching the Korean who had by now passed us and was headed down the flat beach road to the finish. With about 6km to go, he began to cramp so we jumped him and cruised in for 6th and 7th places. Since we finished side-by-side, I'm not sure who got what, but I am sure the results will be posted soon.
This was one hard race. The heat and climbing conspire to make it tough. The icy-slick descents meant that there was little rest there, and being caught in no-man's land for 50km didn't help. I ended up burning nearly 3000 calories with a Normalized Power of 300W over more than 3 hours. I didn't reach my goal of a top 5 finish, but I wasn't far off. Of the guys who finished ahead, two are professionals and one is nearly there, so I think it was a good result.
I'll post some photos as soon as I have them.
Okay, now I have them. Here they are:
Waiting for the start in the open-air lobby
Getting a handup from my lovely wife!
Today was the classic day-before-the-race day. We awoke early to pouring rain and no coffee. No coffee!
Once I got over that, we packed up the cars (or the Expedition and Explorer that pass for cars these days) and drove to the top of Radar Tower and then Suicide Cliff. Radar Tower is one of the longer climbs and more dangerous descents on tomorrow's course. The latter is where many Japanese soldiers jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to US Marines during WW2. It's a somber and beautiful place, and it's a much happier place now, since it is the summit of the last real climb. From there we rode down to Banzai Cliff and then back to the finish at the Pacific Islands Club where we are staying. On the flats, my teammate Chris and I did a few 5-min efforts at LT, just to loosen up the legs. So far, so good.
Here are some photos from the day:
Radar Tower. No longer in use, but ominous just the same
Rolling out at Suicide Cliff
Chris at Banzai Cliff
An old Japanese tank from the war
One on the end means team leader
We've just landed on the small island of Saipan where, on Saturday, HOM will take place. I thought that Guam was laid back, but Saipan has set a whole new standard for that. The people here are the most laid back I have ever seen. Less developed, more isolated and much smaller, Guam's northern cousin is the capital of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Saipan saw a lot of action during the Second World War, and there is evidence of that wherever you go. There are abandoned gun emplacements and bunkers everywhere.
Today's shakedown ride took us along the first 12km and the final 7km of the race course. The first climb is preceded by several roadworks with rough hardpack coral gravel as the main feature. Happily, these sections aren't too long, with the longest at about 300 meters. The climb itself is smooth and steady, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see an early shakeout here.
Tomorrow we recce the course's biggest climbs and descents. The descents are of particular importance as the forecast calls for rain and when that happens, the roads become slick and treacherous. The local asphalt of choice includes a lot of coral, and coral becomes slippery when wet. Although I am all for using local ingredients where possible, I doubt the civil planners were thinking about bikes and motorcycles when they designed the roads here. We'll check it all out tomorrow, though, and I will see how it goes.
Bike in nice hotel room
Guam is not what I expected. When I first found out I was to come here to race the Hell of the Marianas, I envisioned a flat, hot jungle with little culture and a lot of people in camouflage running around (Guam is home to US Air Force and Navy bases). What I had assumed could not have been further from what Guam really is. Though not truly mountainous, Guam is hilly with some steep climbs and small mountains bringing dimension to the land. The weather is hot and humid, but in a lovely tropical way, with beautiful rainbows and stunning Pacific sunsets. Its beaches are first class, with waves breaking 300m offshore, creating coral-filled lagoons with crystal-clear warm water. What's even better, though, is that you often have the beach all to yourself.
What really sets Guam apart, though, is its people. They are among the friendliest and most generous I have ever met. Drivers wait patiently to pass cyclists (though there are very few here and the roads are not designed with cycling in mind), and often wave as they drive by. Baristas say "have a nice day" not because they are supposed to, but because they mean it. Strangers say hello as you walk by, even though you're obviously OI (from Off Island - the term used by Guamanians for non-residents). Speaking of OI, although there is a considerable US military presence here, it is hardly noticeable. Guam feels more like its own country than it does an American Territory with military bases.
So, what I had once written off as an overgrown aircraft carrier has instead become one of my favorite places to visit. I know I'll be back.
Here are some photos from the last few days. Tomorrow we fly north to Saipan to prepare for Saturday's race. Enjoy!
Ak and Joseph on little spin
For relaxing times.... Canned coffee from Japan is popular here
Ritidian Beach. Completely unspoiled and amazingly beautiful
In just over a day, I'll be heading to Guam and Saipan for some sunshine and the Hell of the Marianas. It's been cold and grey here, making the last bit of solid training I needed to do more difficult and slightly more dangerous. In the last two days, I've broken a pedal and a computer mount because of the cold! Fortunately, my colleague Russell from Upper Echelon Fitness came to my rescue today and let me do my LT intervals indoors on his SuperTrainer. It's often tough to get a quality workout in extremely cold conditions, so I am most grateful to RC!
Also, I'm fortunate to have a few fantastic sponsors. Today I received a lovely surprise in the form of some sweet wheels from Easton Cycling:
They're Easton's premier carbon clincher, and the perfect wheels for HOM. They come ready to race, complete with brake pads and qr skewers. Thank you, Jenn and Easton, for sorting these out!
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