I raced the first Ironman here, in 1981. I had just turned 24 and it was my first time in Kona. Don't get me wrong. It was a life changing experience! But I did think to myself, "It's sort of barren. Where are the waterfalls?"
Turns out, there are waterfalls on the Big Island. The one thing I planned to do, but didn't (because I took sick on my 3rd day there) was run the Z trail from Waipio Valley. Here's a picture. See that mountainside rising from the valley? Believe it or not, there's a trail there, from bottom to top, about 1,200' vertical, and next year I'm going to run it, I think Bree Wee lives out there, I hope to ask her to be my guide.
Certainly the most efficient and prolific use of the bike goes to the crew at ENVE, which threw together three spectacular days of riding: Captain Cook, Moana Kea and Kaloko Road. They didn't cheat Madame Pele. They started Mauna Kea at the beach.
Here are a few pics, but on their own journal, Sea to Sky: the Hardest Climb in the World, you'll see a better presentation than mine here.
ENVE's Jake Pantone, Jonny Hintze, Clint Child and Neil Shirley took part, Jesse Moore and Chris Lyman (Carl Spackler on the Slowtwitch Forum), with Ian Matteson/ENVE taking the photos.
Supporting this effort was Alex Candelario, owner of Big Island Bike Tours in Waimea. I knew Alex from his professional cycling days on Team Rally. I wrote up my own Atlas Mountains (Morocco) adventure with Team Rally's owner Charles Aaron. More on Alex later.
This goes to above 13,000 feet in elevation from, of course, zero. It doesn't remain the same temp. If you do this climb you've got to bring clothes for the descent (honestly, because of food, water, and clothes, you probably can't do it unsupported).
The road turns to dirt at - what? - maybe 9,000 feet? Most guys rode their gravel bikes because of this.
Then it's paved again at the top.
These guys weren't the only ones to go up Mauna Kea. Certainly the most badass single day event during Kona week didn't happen in Kona, but our own Lars Finanger did it.
I think it's possible that Lars' Alohaman, ENVE's epic ride, and some of us who chose Mana Road on gravel bikes, were all on different sides of Mauna Kea within the same 24hr period.
Alex Candelario was a busy guy. Three of us, Matt Hill (Diamondback), Ian Murray, and I arrived in Waimea to do this gravel ride, and I forgot Matt's thru axle. So, we called up Alex, who invited us over, and he just lent Matt a more appropriate bike (Matt brought his DB Podium road bike; Alex lent him an OPEN UP).
We got a couple flats. Part of the fun.
I was Rockin' the S (our Slowtwitch kit which De Soto made for us last month) and so was Ian.
Mana Road starts somewhere between 2,500' and 3,000', and heads up the backside of Mauna Kea, hitting the paved road ridden by the ENVE guys about 7,400' in elevation. Mana Road, from Waimea to the Visitors Center (where it bumps into the paved road) is about 46 miles long.
I mentioned to my buddies on the way there, "You know, I've never exactly found out where Parker Ranch is on this island." This is famed for being one of the largest cattle ranches in the United States (a quarter million acres) and one of the oldest (predating many or most of the largest in Texas).
Anyway, that's what I said. I suspect we saw at least a dozen forest green flatbed pickups during our ride with Parker Ranch emblazoned on the side. And, we ran into the occasional herd.
Basically, just about everyone who found out what we were doing, and what the ENVE guys were doing, said, "Dang, I shoulda brought my gravel bike!" Ian and I and Alex are trying to figure out if there's a slick way to circumnavigate Mauna Kea when we come back next year.
We did do other stuff. Peter Hurley, owner of Quintana Roo, had a tri bike waiting for me and we did that too. But, honestly, one reason why we Ironman folks are not as well liked as we could be by the locals is we blow in, we blow out, and we never take time to appreciate what it is this island's all about. This year, more than any other I can remember, we took the roads less traveled.