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More photos from Guam and Saipan

Here are a few more photos from the week and the events surrounding the race:

South Island riding on Guam

Riding with Joseph on the southern end of Guam

Fest at PIC Guam2

Sharing a feast we grilled ourselves - from left, Chris, Stacey, Joseph, and myself

On the plane to Saipan

On the plane to Saipan

Approaching Saipan

Approaching Saipan

Driving out to course recce

Driving out to course recce on Friday

Ak riding

Heading towards Suicide Cliff

Derek, Ak and Joseph at Banzai Cliff

Derek, myself and Joseph at Banzai Cliff

Chris and Derek ride

Derek and Chris fooling around

Smashed Potatoes

When mashed is simply not enough...

Sand in My Chamois - the 4th annual Hell of the Marianas

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!



Chris solo

Couse Recce

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



1 = team leader

One on the end means team leader

Suicide Cliff

Suicide Cliff

Saipan Shakedown

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 Saipan

Bike in nice hotel room

Island Lifestyle

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 ride

Ak and Joseph on little spin

Suntori Time

For relaxing times....           Canned coffee from Japan is popular here

Guam Sunset

Guam sunset

No Hamburglar

No Hamburglar!

ritidian beach

Ritidian Beach.  Completely unspoiled and amazingly beautiful

Imminent Departure

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!

LittleBigRide raises over $60,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guam

Today BBBS of Guam was presented with a check reflecting the excellent fundraising Joseph accomplished on his LittleBigRide last month.   The local paper covered it right here:

And I even got a mention, along the lines of my upcoming trip to HOM.

Tomorrow is the day

Tomorrow is the day that the Beacon Foundation matches any contributions you make to Big Brothers Big Sisters .  Make your donation right here:

Preparations for Guam and the Hell of the Marianas are going well.  Today, the Saipan Tribune published an article about the race.  Is Mr. Fast the one to beat?  We'll see!

The Hell of the Marianas

It is not often that I get an offer to race my bike in a warm, sunny place in December, but recently just such an offer came my way.  In a few weeks time, I will fly to Guam and Saipan for the 4th edition of the annual Hell of the Marianas race.  This is made possible by my athlete Joseph Husslein, whose fantastic fund-raising ride across America I wrote a bit about earlier:

By the way, there is still time to give and, this Friday, the Beacon Foundation will match any donations made to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guam dollar-for-dollar, DOUBLING the value of your pledge.

The preparation for HOM has meant a bit of sacrifice.  This sacrifice has come in the form of

  1. Missing out on cyclocross
  2. Doing long, tough intervals in November in the rain
  3. Not indulging in my usual feast of autumn sweet treats
  4. Going to bed early, and...
  5. Not going Salsa dancing every weekend

Okay, the last one is not such a big sacrifice.  However, while my friends are hanging around doing coffee rides, I'm training.  I'm not complaining, though.  It's an excellent race in a beautiful place and the field improves each year.  I'll post updates here whenever I get near a computer.


Autumn in California

We do not take a trip; a trip takes us.

John Steinbeck

It has been just over a year since we moved to California and it has been interesting to watch the seasons pass.  Some say that California doesn’t have seasons, but it does – they’re just more subtle. 

The other day, Jeff and I took an afternoon to ride Mt Diablo, which has become something of a regular stop in my riding experiences while living here.  We’ve ridden it in each season and it always offers something a bit different.

In winter, the mountain can be very cold, if not at the bottom, then at the top which rises to over 1200 meters above sea level.  There is occasionally ice on the road in the shadows and the wind can be fierce.  In springtime, the grass is green, with hillsides full of blue, red and purple wildflowers, while in the summer it turns from a light brown to dark as the sun bakes the grasses and the days heat up.  All the while, the oak trees stay a beautiful dark green.  In the autumn, just after the first rains, the grass again begins to turn green.  The air goes from feeling heavy and dusty to feeling clean and washed and a pleasure to breathe.

This is how it felt last Tuesday when we rode once again from the South entrance to the summit.  Each season brings with it its own pleasures, even in California.

Here are some photos looking to the South:

Visitors traveling by bike

These guys stopped by to talk business for a couple of days and I had the privilege of showing them some of the local riding.  They are promoting their new adventure-sports website by riding their bikes down the West Coast and talking to outfitters along the way.  When they wanted to meet us here at LCA I was skeptical, but it turned out to be a great meeting.

Afterwards, we went for a spin.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to see all we had planned, but I am sure they will be back!  Read more about our ride here:

Sausalito Fog

This post is mostly about trying to assuage my guilt about not having posted anything in a while.  Stay tuned as there are articles in the works.  In the meantime, here is a photo I took from Belvedere on a ride today of the fog cresting the hills of the Headlands and descending on Sausalito:

Afternoon fog descends on Sausalito
Afternoon fog descends on Sausalito

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