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All the reasons and excuses I didn't make it up the volcano

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All the reasons and excuses I didn't make it up the volcano

Old 01-12-14, 12:29 PM
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All the reasons and excuses I didn't make it up the volcano

I made an attempt at climbing Mt Haleakala in Maui (I know, it's hard, but somebody had to go there). It is 10000' of non-stop climbing over 36 miles and a 5.3% average grade. I didn't make it, getting up to just short of 6000' before I just had to stop. Now 6000' is still a lot of climbing and by far the longest climb I've ever done so I don't feel too bad about it. But still, I really, really wanted to get to the top and tell the world about it. (BF is not the world, I mean my non-cyclist world.)

Anyway, as I was riding today back here in Brooklyn, actually the first ride since my attempt 10 days ago, I was going through in my head all the reasons I didn't make it so here goes:

1. Training. I started training in September, not the best time to get serious about this as the weather is starting to change. But I did lots of rides. The biggest problem though is there aren't any hills that could really be called training that I can get to and back with a day of riding. Bear Mountain is the longest accessible one, and that was 1500' and the same 5.3% grade overall. I did it on a cool day and had no trouble at all. But 1500' is NOT 10000'. I also went and did Alpine hill just about every weekend. This is steeper, but not very long. It definitely slows you down but still, not very long. I would try to simulate hills on all the smaller climbs by going to a higher gear but that wasn't all that useful. And forget about the trainer...

2. Dont get sick. I felt a scratchy throat the day before we left, and it only got worse over the week+ that I was there before it started getting better. I arrived on a Monday, and didn't do the ride until the next Monday because of it. I was going to try on Sunday but it was raining steadily that morning so I did a different ride.

3. Take your own bike. While the rental that I used was actually a really nice bike, a Fuji Altamira carbon fiber, ultegra equipped, I would have preferred to be on my own bike with my own setup.

4. Get lower gears. Again, I'd have put on lower gears on my own bike. I ended up with a 34/27 as the low, not bad but another step or two would have been nice.

5. Have someone meet you at the top. You have to carry a lot of clothes to do the downhill, and really I'd have rather not carried that stuff. This isn't about being self sufficient, it is about doing the climb. I had too much stuff that I was carrying. If you going to carry, keep it on the frame.

6. Lose 30 pounds. Yea, I'm a little overweight.

7. Lose 30 years. I'm 59. The last time I was in Maui I was 30, and 30 pounds lighter too.

8. Have a good idea of the entire route. I should have taken a cue sheet, not because I'd get lost, but I didn't know where all the steeper parts are. I quit just as it was getting less steep. If I'd have known I'd have persevered, maybe. I didn't know that I'd been at a 6.5 to 8% grade for the last couple of miles. I thought I was just running out of steam. It "leveled" off to 4 - 5%, a much easier grade to spin.

9. Keep eating and drinking. This I did. Eat before you run out of steam, drink regularly.

10. Don't wait for your last day. Because I was sick I waited. Make the attempt earlier in your trip as there will then be a second chance. I might have quit not long after I started with the intent of trying again without the extra stuff.

11. Survey the road. Mt Haleakala is a destination for everyone visiting Maui. I should have done the drive up before the ride.

12. Stand up occasionally. I did, but maybe if I'd stretched on the last switchback before I just gave up I'd have more in me. Maybe I did but I don't remember. I was beat.

13. An offering to the volcano gods. I didn't do this and they were probably angry.

All in all still a good day, and the downhill is a blast. My brother-in-law happened to be having lunch with his family at the outdoor cafe at the very end of the ride and saw me. He ordered me a beer, and I finished his kids mostly uneaten lunch, every last bit, and then went back to the condo and ate again. A great ending.

Last edited by zacster; 01-12-14 at 05:14 PM.
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Old 01-12-14, 12:40 PM
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Well, at least you tried Sounds like a nice trip, and something I'd like to do one day. I would also prefer something more than a 34/27. I rented a triple to do a ride around Lake Tahoe a few years ago, and there was one section where I was glad I had that small ring.
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Old 01-12-14, 01:08 PM
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I did the "2nd hardest climb in SoCal" over the holidays, Tramway Road out of Palm Springs, and can echo a couple of your points. I too was sick with some sort of auto-immune crap and so at my aerobic limit, where I normally feel strong like ox, I felt dizzy like schoolgirl in school play. And, my rental bike was also a mere shadow of my bike, at least for climbing. The climb I was on has sections of 15% and averages around 10%, so one more granny gear would have been awesome. As would a frame that wasn't noodly.

And it'd be nice to be hauling less of ME of the hill!

I made it, but not without a stop about 1/4 mile from the top. There's a parking lot, several actually, where they shuttle people up to the tram. It was crazy busy with confused Japanese and Indian tourists milling around on foot... cars... buses... and a dude trying to direct it all. Meanwhile it's like 12-14% grade and I'm utterly blowing up. So I stopped and inhaled sweet oxygen for a couple minutes before navigating the mess of humanity. A very prudent move, but of course now I wish I had just floated on through somehow (I was having a near out-of-body experience by then on this climb!).

Now you've got me fired up to try this volcano next time I'm in Hawaii. What island again?

Hats off to the OP for the effort!
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Old 01-12-14, 01:18 PM
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Mt. Haleakala is on Maui.
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Old 01-12-14, 01:48 PM
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That is on my bucket list to do Haleakala. Drove up to the top years ago but now that I am back on a bike it's a fool to go make the top by my own power. Sounds like with the sickness and everything else you may have subconsciously been defeated before you even started. You gave it a shot any way so my hat is off too you. I hope to get there before I get to Old and just thought how cool would that be to go climb it on my 50th. That's 5 years to get ready.
Did you ride any where else on Maui?
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Old 01-12-14, 01:55 PM
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I know strong riders who didn't make it up their first time or two.
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Old 01-12-14, 04:53 PM
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Great ride. In 2001 I rode down the volcano which is much easier. While we were going down we passed several bicyclists going up. I can appreciate the extra weight you hauled in clothing for the cold. The morning I rode down it was 20 degrees (the ranger said it was a warm day) and the wind was stout.

Maybe you will get a chance to try again with your bike or lower gearing.
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Old 01-12-14, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by nastystang
That is on my bucket list to do Haleakala. Drove up to the top years ago but now that I am back on a bike it's a fool to go make the top by my own power. Sounds like with the sickness and everything else you may have subconsciously been defeated before you even started. You gave it a shot any way so my hat is off too you. I hope to get there before I get to Old and just thought how cool would that be to go climb it on my 50th. That's 5 years to get ready.
Did you ride any where else on Maui?
Your still a young'un. Try to do it though as soon as you can. It doesn't get any easier when you get older.
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Old 01-12-14, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by texbiker
Great ride. In 2001 I rode down the volcano which is much easier. While we were going down we passed several bicyclists going up. I can appreciate the extra weight you hauled in clothing for the cold. The morning I rode down it was 20 degrees (the ranger said it was a warm day) and the wind was stout.

Maybe you will get a chance to try again with your bike or lower gearing.
I'm already checking off-season airfares. Maybe for my 60th birthday or my 25th anniversary. That would be really cool to do it on my 60th though, or just as cool to meet my bride at the top on our anniversary. Both are in 2015.

Maybe I need to make an offering to the volcano gods next time too. My first born? (he just walked in the house.) Or maybe something more modest.

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Old 01-12-14, 05:12 PM
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Ya, like I said it would be cool to do it at 50 and then enjoy some cold brews in the sun on the beach at a nice hotel. I would like to ride around the Island as well. Sounds like more fun the the typical turning 50 over the hill birthday bs that goes on. More affordable than a Z06 Corvette.
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Old 01-12-14, 05:30 PM
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6000ft of climbing on a cold is a good showing for a nonracing cyclist. That's a darn big mtn - I gotta ride that someday (soon).
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Old 01-12-14, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by hhnngg1
6000ft of climbing on a cold is a good showing for a nonracing cyclist. That's a darn big mtn - I gotta ride that someday (soon).
Make that a nonracing OLD cyclist.
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Old 10-21-18, 09:18 AM
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Well I'm going to make an attempt at the mountain again, but this time it will be virtual. In the last year I started doing more serious bike training, both indoors and outdoors, and have gotten a lot stronger. A few weeks ago a bought a Kickr Core trainer and I had the Haleakala route from RidewithGPS, so I was going to ride up in simulation mode. Today though I was exploring other training systems, and found Rouvy has a video simulation. I'm going to set aside a time to make an attempt over the next few weeks, maybe when the forecast is for rain.

And now that I've seen what Rouvy can do, I want to see what it takes to record and playback some of my regular rides. My guess is it takes some doing because even some that I expected to be there are not, like Central Park. I just would have thought someone had done it already. Just the other day though Zwift created a virtual CP and it is in their rotation. I'll see what it takes.
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Old 10-21-18, 11:14 AM
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I hope you get a couple more chances to do it for real, too. Just so you can ride around Hawaii, if for no other reason. Enjoy!
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Old 10-21-18, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs
I hope you get a couple more chances to do it for real, too. Just so you can ride around Hawaii, if for no other reason. Enjoy!
I did it part way today just to see what it felt like again and it is a real slog. Not quite the same either as being in Hawaii. I put it back on my list of places to go when I retire in 2020.
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Old 10-21-18, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by zacster
Make that a nonracing OLD cyclist.
it is a hard climb; the altitude hurts. I was so glad I had someone to pick me up at the top and drive me down — though maybe.

Low gearing, for sure. Not sure what the Scott CR-1 I rented had (34/28?). Pacing — and I live at 6,000’ and ride to 10k relatively often. Acclimation helps, and it’s hard to get.

Congrats on getting to the 6k. It’s bloody hard!!
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Old 10-21-18, 04:33 PM
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How do you simulate the oxygen depletion?
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Old 10-21-18, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by expatbrit
It is a hard climb; the altitude hurts.
This is the first thing I thought of.

The highest paved road on the east coast is 6600 ft. Riding hard at altitude for someone who is not used to it is going to be difficult. 10k ft is no joke.

I would not doubt that altitude was the limiter.


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Old 10-21-18, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by wgscott
How do you simulate the oxygen depletion?
Hypobaric chamber or actual altitude training.
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Old 10-21-18, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by expatbrit


Hypobaric chamber or actual altitude training.
Not everyone has access to either. While the altitude can be a factor, the other big factor is 10000' of non-stop climbing. There is only one break the entire ride and it is pretty short.
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Old 10-21-18, 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH
This is the first thing I thought of.

The highest paved road on the east coast is 6600 ft. Riding hard at altitude for someone who is not used to it is going to be difficult. 10k ft is no joke.

I would not doubt that altitude was the limiter.


-Tim-
This.

Altitude is a huge factor and 5000 is about where this sea level rider would start to notice.

Only way to adjust for this is to spend some time above 5,000. I used to do my summers in Santa Fe, NM at 7,000 and it was 2 weeks, when I was in my mid 40’s, to adapt and feel like I was to going to die on every hill. Not sure how long that would be know at 63, probably never.
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Old 10-21-18, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by zacster
Not everyone has access to either. While the altitude can be a factor, the other big factor is 10000' of non-stop climbing. There is only one break the entire ride and it is pretty short.
oh, yes. I know — it was more ‘there are no short cuts’

after doing the climb in ‘16, I totally understand the pure evil of the solid climbing. I just think it is easy to underestimate the impact of thinner air.
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Old 10-21-18, 07:39 PM
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Did you forget your concrete pills and also forget to HTFU? Happens to me all the time.
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Old 10-21-18, 08:39 PM
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Originally Posted by expatbrit


Hypobaric chamber or actual altitude training.
Wouldn't it be easier to let the engine of your car run for a few minutes in the garage while you train in there?
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Old 10-21-18, 09:57 PM
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There is actually a 2nd break in the ride. At around 6050' there is a relatively short section of downhill after the last shorter switchbacks. I looked at my Strava ride from 2012 and it was at 3hrs and 2 minutes into my ride where I had about a minute of reprieve and my speed kicked up to 14 and 15mph.

Altitude is no joke. I visited Colorado on vacation this year and drove up to the top of Mt. Evans and Pikes Peak to see future bucket list rides. 14k up and I was not feeling all that great.
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