• Tuesday Time-Waster: 1,000 musicians for the Foo Fighters

    Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters are kind of known for being good guys. He recently fell off a stage while performing, broke his leg, but finished the show. And then he fought to cancel as few shows as possible despite having major surgery.

    Well, a guy in Italy is a Foo Fighters fan and was sad that the band hadn’t been to Italy since 1997. He came up with an idea: He recruited 1,000 musicians (guitarists, bassists, drummers and singers) from across the country and got them to perform the Foo Fighters’ song “Learn to Fly.” They videotaped it and asked the Foo Fighters to come perform in their town of Cesena, Italy.

    The project took a year of fundraising, planning and recruiting — and I’m not at all surprised, because can you imagine trying to get 1,000 people to all play in harmony?! I mean, it was bad enough when three or four of us briefly tried to start a band in high school. (It didn’t help that our lead singer was also the drummer and it was hard for him to do both at once, and that I was the pianist but didn’t play by ear.)

    The musicians were not paid, and they also had pay their own way to the field where the final performance happened. I assume the field was far away from neighbors who would complain about the noise, and I also assume that meant electricity was another challenge. But it all worked! On July 26, they did their grand one-song performance. Here’s the video, and it’s fantastic!

     

    So, the performance was on July 26. Four days later, they had edited into that amazing video and posted it publicly. And within HOURS Dave Grohl, being the cool guy that he is, learned enough Italian to record a video in that language, saying yes, the Foo Fighters would come perform for the 1,000 Italian musicians.

    I sat here and watched the whole video of the musicians’ performance. And then it played in the background while I typed this post. It’s just so impressive! In two days, the video received 13 million hits on YouTube, and I’m happy to be one of them.

    If you want more, here’s the website of Rockin 1000, which organized the whole thing. Their diary section tells the story of how it all came together, and there are some videos on that site. Here’s a story about the Foo Fighters also agreeing to playing in Richmond, VA, after fans there sold tickets to a concert in hopes of the band coming. And if you don’t know who this Dave Grohl guy is, well, look no further than Wikipedia. Also, regarding that broken leg earlier this year, here’s what went down that night, and here’s what he did so that the Foo Fighters’ packed show schedule could keep rolling.


  • Website construction

    Things are slightly under construction around here, but I got impatient and decided to post the progress. It’s at the point where I can let it sit for a little while, and it’s also at a good point for some other opinions. I whole-heartedly welcome feedback!

    Here’s what I’ve changed:

    1. I finally updated Word Press, which I’ve been using for four years and 10 months without updating it once. That may be some kind of record (it’s kind of like those people who still use AOL email, which means I’m as cool as my grandma, so I’m not complaining). But really, I revamped my website and hid all the old content almost five years ago. Time flies.
    2. I’m using a new Word Press theme. I’m not sure I like it, and it’s got a couple bugs, but it’s just flexible enough that I haven’t given up. Since I have exactly zero ads on this site, I can’t justify paying my sister to design the site from scratch — though if you’re in the market, check out her work.
    3. I added a “Bicycling” page up there.
    4. I also finally figured out how to reorder the page links up there at the top. It was driving me nuts, so that’s a small victory.
    5. I went back and added “bicycling” categories to old posts.
    6. The “archives” section over there on the right is now a drop-down menu because it was getting so long. (If I ever figure out how to add in old Moveable Type blog posts from 2002 to 2010, it will be VERY long. And there are LiveJournal posts from 2000 to 2002. I fear that work blog posts from 2008 to 2010 are gone forever, though.)
    7. I added the J.R.R. Tolkien quote that inspired this domain name way back in January 2002: “I am told that I talk in shorthand and then smudge it.” It was on other versions of my website, but for some unknown reason I didn’t put it on this one.
    8. The photo up there is new. The old one was five years old, and here’s a blurb I wrote about it at the time. And, in the interest of preserving history, here’s the full version of the photo I just posted today. It’s of Mt. Shasta, a 14,162-foot mountain in Northern California. IMG_2730

     


  • Seattle to Portland 2015 ride

    I did it! I successfully finished this year’s annual 10,000-rider Seattle to Portland bike ride! And I have no idea how to sum up the two days of 206 miles.

    We are serious athletes.

    First of all, most of the steps in this pre-ride blog post did happen. I never really threw a hissy fit, though. The closest I came was when I desperately needed Advil for my neck around mile 60 on the second day, and Michaela stopped when she would have preferred to keep rolling (me too, though, because we were in a great pace line).

    Second, riding with Michaela was an absolute blast. She got hangry (hungry + angry) at one point and was apparently considering killing and eating me, but she refrained. She did then eat the innards of three turkey sandwiches at the lunch stop, so she clearly wanted meat…

    Third, I don’t know how to write about the ride. Unlike a running race report, I am not about to bore all of us with how long it took to ride each of the 206 miles. However, both days’ rides were faster than my first century ride in May — even though the first day was almost 102 miles and the second day was 104 miles.

    Training: Well, considering that my first-ever century ride was two months before STP (as this ride is known), I guess my mileage increased? Honestly, though, I was VERY undertrained compared to what most people may think. It’s hard for me to ride on week days, and I haven’t gone to gym spin classes since, um, February? Three weeks before STP, I rode 63 miles (of hills) on Saturday and 50 miles (plus a flat tire) on Sunday. The next weekend I had company who didn’t bring his bike, so I kept Saturday to 28 miles — and then Sunday was a failure of only 10 miles because it was incredibly windy and I just couldn’t mentally deal with it after nearly being blown over by a big rig. The Friday before STP was a work holiday for Independence Day, Michaela came to town, and we had a group ride of 60 miles. And that was it for my training. I guess you could say I am a consistent but determined under-trainer.

    Pre-ride photo, in full denial about the 206 miles.

    Pre-ride: I drove 11 hours to Portland on Thursday, then drove three hours to Seattle on Friday. I highly recommend audio books for road trips. Friday night, we went out to dinner with a few of Michaela’s friends, and then she packed.

    Saturday morning: We woke up around 4:30 a.m. with Michaela saying, “Why is everybody meowing?!” This is what happens when one owns three cats… We drove three miles to the start (because it would be all uphill with backpacks on our way home, and we weren’t having any of that). Well, that was a mess and took about an hour to get in to the parking lot. First lesson learned for next time! Comedic moment #1: A guy’s bike apparently came off the rack on his car at a stoplight. How that happened was beyond us, and then Michaela realized the guy was wearing his bicycle helmet while trying to fix it. Safety first?!

    We got started around 6 a.m., after happening to meet up with Karin and Greg, which is kind of impressive in a sea of thousands of riders, most wearing spandex and bike helmets. The riders start in waves to prevent total chaos, and we got started without incident. I later talked to a guy who started within a few minutes of us, and he saw a bunch of people falling over; I missed all of that.

    We went up a few hills that really seemed like nothing to this “I live on hilly routes and have no choice” rider. We wound through some nondescript parts of Seattle while my nerves and excitement calmed down. I have no idea what we saw, actually.

    Photo booth water stop. I refrained from trying to ride my bike with those glasses.

    Somewhere after mile 50, we wound up on well-traveled roads with a lot of cars. The shoulder got narrower and the big trucks seemed to get bigger. And then we reached Joint Base Lewis McChord, a massive military base that has six — yes, six — exits along Interstate 5. (Those of us who know about Fort Lewis and are confused: it’s the same place.) It was the first year riders could enter the base, and it was the most welcome relief EVER from that vehicle traffic. The roads were smooth and wide, the traffic was non-existent, and soldiers were standing at intervals, welcoming us and making sure we didn’t go into the areas that had signs warning about live ammo.

    The lunch stop was inside the base, in a big area surrounded by vintage airplanes and signs reading “Do not lean bikes against planes!”

    When being watched by the military, obey the signs!

    Michaela ate her several sandwich innards (no gluten-free substitutes at this ride, unfortunately), and all was well.

    Planes at JBLM
    Again, bicycling is serious work.

    We rolled into the town of Centralia, Washington 101-plus miles later. Ride time was 6:50, for a pace of 14.8 miles per hour. I was pleasantly surprised, and I also really liked the creamsicles they were handing us.

    Halfway done.

    We got the bags we had left in a truck in Seattle, and then hauled ourselves back onto our bicycles to ride 1.4 miles to a motel. A lot of people camp, but both of us wanted real beds and showers that were not in a truck. On our ride to the motel, we came across a giant pencil. This was actually one of four roadside attractions I had printed out and hoped to see on my road trip, and I may have gotten deliriously excited about it…

    Delirious bicyclist meets a very large pencil.

    Dinner was at Denny’s, because it was the only thing in walking distance that seemed safe. (Definition of walking distance in this case: Travel 0.5 miles on foot but find short-cuts through parking lots. Avoid making eye contact with the yelling meth head.) Let me tell you, salad and a cheeseburger and hash browns from Denny’s were AMAZING. Michaela was able to get breakfast to go, because our room had a refrigerator and microwave. That worked well, and I now highly recommend Denny’s for cyclists.

    Sunday: Time to do the “ride 100-plus miles” thing all over again. We got back on our bikes with some moaning, rode 1.4 miles to the start, and felt a bit better once we got ridof our backpacks. My knee and neck were hurting, and two spots had chafed the previous day despite my best attempts (those shorts are not going to be used again for rides longer than 40ish miles). But at some point, Michaela took this series of photos (I’m cut off in the thumbnail previews; apologies for making you click on the full pictures). I have no idea what was going on. Maybe I was channelling my inner t-rex?

    The scenery was gorgeous. I don’t take photos while riding, since my phone is in a ziplock bag and I would probably drop the phone, fall over, and have blurry photos for my troubles. But just imagine quiet country farms, lots of greenery, and rolling roads with little to no vehicle traffic on an early Sunday morning.

    About 30 miles into the ride, my knee stopped hurting for good. My chafing had calmed (better shorts this day), so my neck was the only cranky part remaining. The cyclists were more scattered today, since there were various Saturday night stopping points ranging from miles 102 to 140. We began latching onto pace lines and watched the speed pick up. Michaela had more food this day, so she didn’t have any canibalistic thoughts.

    Bicycling photos look slightly less appalling than running photos.

    Then we reached the Lewis & Clark bridge, where we had to wait for a motorcycle escort (Michaela had been quite excited about the “escort”). The bridge design has supports that are big bumps for bicycles, and a volunteer had instructions: “Secure your water bottles and personal belongings. Watch for the bottles that have already been dropped along the way.” Ummm, wasn’t it a bit late to secure my bottles? How was I going to do that? Eat them?! Up the bridge we went, where one woman was apparently afraid of heights and began hyperventilating and making very, uh, awkward gasping sounds. I, meanwhile, was THAT rider who was passing people uphill and saying, “I love this!” The bridge goes over a big river with massive stacks of logs along the banks, and Michaela and I both said at the same time, “Look at all the lumber!” Then we started laughing, because clearly we’d been in close proximity for quite a while. We reached the top of the bridge and began flying down the other side. The side had big metal plates that were clearly the cause of bottle/item loss, and I saw a lot of travel-sized sunscreen bottles. Personally, I had an absolute blast on that bridge.

    We got in more pace lines, at one point behind two guys from a Georgia team, with peaches on the tops of their helmets. One woman was singing “Zip a dee doo dah!” on her steel bike, and we’d pass her uphill but she’d annihilate us downhill.

    We reached Portland, where we had both heard that the ride seems to take forever. It also suddenly got warm, with a hot breeze. We went up the St. John’s Bridge, which we had both started to fear because it comes around mile 190 and I had heard that people are walking their bikes up it because they’re so tired. Well, we had no problems (but did see a few people walking), and that’s when we knew we were going to make it. However, now we feared that we’d make it all this way, only to do something like crash at a stoplight at mile 199. That didn’t happen, but we did hit Every Single Red Light. It was so incredibly frustrating, especially watching our average speed drop when we both just wanted to give it everything we had left.

    The last two blocks were lined with cheering, screaming spectators. It was like a marathon finish line, only I noticed it a bit more this time because I wasn’t as delirious. We passed under a big “Finish” arch and came to a sudden stop because everyone ahead of us was stopping. So, now I have official finisher photos with my foot on the ground… Ride time was 104ish miles in 6:44, for an average pace of 15.7 miles per hour. For perspective about that last aggravating part, it took us 20 minutes to ride the last four miles.

    We did it!

    Then we went to collect our bags, which was a SEA. The bags were in lines based on bib number, but my small-ish rust-colored backpack wasn’t immediately obvious in the 8,000-bib-number range. I started to get annoyed, but then I had a realization: We had ridden fast enough that all of these bags hadn’t yet been claimed by riders! There are no chip timers or official finishing times, but that baggage room told me that thousands of people hadn’t been there yet. Yes, thousands.

    That's me in the back, looking for my bag.

    We dropped our bikes off at a truck that would take them back to Seattle, collected our free cups, and went to wolf down free burritos and Nuun.

    Not pictured: Matching shorts that are back-ordered.

    Then we went to our Kimpton hotel, where Michaela has listed my title as Commander. Because she is Michaela, they had a bottle of chilled champagne and a congratulatory note in our room. And because we are very normal human beings, we had to wear the hotel room robes.

    Doesn't everyone wear a bike helmet while drinking champagne and wearing a hotel room robe?

    And then we walked over to Clyde Common, where we ate fancy cashews and olives and popcorn and salad and scallops and drinks. Because what else do you do after riding 206 miles? Well, aside from talking about how “next time we should try to do it in one day”…


  • Tuesday Time-Waster: Ruth Anne Bortz

    Today’s link is most definitely not a time-waster. Instead, it’s an incredibly poignant, elegant article written by a man who just lost his beloved wife. The writing is poetic, the feelings are so very genuine, and it makes me want to read more of his work (which I will be doing very soon).

    Ruth Anne Bortz died last week after battling Alheimer’s Disease for more than three years. I regret that I hadn’t known of her, because she sounds like an incredible, inspirational woman who took up running later in life and achieved some remarkable times. Winning your age group at the Boston Marathon is no small feat, and neither is a time of 24:34 at the Western States 100-miler (at ANY age). It’s nice to know that she was there last month for a 70-year-old woman’s remarkable run, and that the race is recognizing her.

    Every single person in this world has a story. Ruth Anne was no exception.


  • 36 new dinner recipes in 2015: 7-12

    This is the second installment of “Layla attempts three dozen new dinner recipes in a year.” The first one is here.

    1. Parmesan crusted chicken tenders seemed easy enough, and it made my house smell delicious. As a bonus for a couple friends of mine, the recipe is gluten free. The dish turned out OK, but I should have cooked it less. The recipe said 15-20 minutes, I checked them at 15, and wasn’t sure what “cook until the juices run clear” meant. I think 18 minutes dried them out.
    2. Loaded baked potato and chicken casserole also sounded easy — and hey, it involved bacon. But this was also kind of a dud, partly because the potatoes didn’t cook even when I put it back into the oven. Ultimately, I microwaved it and did eat most of it, but it was a big disappointment. (As always, I wonder if I did something wrong or missed a step. This is a high probability.)
    3. This baked cod/haddock recipe worked wonderfully with freshly caught Ono fish in Hawaii, especially in a fully-equipped kitchen. One note: the recipe calls for Ritz crackers but also says something about bread crumbs — I used seasoned bread crumbs, and it was fantastic! I’m sure this recipe would work with any white fish. My aunt recommended this one, and it was a success. I also dared to buy a random “long squash” in Hawaii because I was looking for zucchini and yellow squash but struck out. It was a risk, especially since I was cooking for others, but I roasted the squash and it was cooked just in time.
    4. This recipe is also courtesy of my aunt, and while hers wasn’t from a website I could readily find, I think this breaded chicken breast recipe is just about the same thing. It called for seasoned bread crumbs and I only had plain panko ones, so I added “grilled chicken seasoning” (basically salt, garlic, and some other seasonings in one container I happened to pick up super cheap at the grocery store awhile ago). That worked perfectly to season the breadcrumbs, and for once I actually did not overcook the chicken! Also, that chicken was apparently well-endowed, so after I added broccoli and grains, this made two meals.
    5. Lime garlic chicken was “meh.” It needed more flavoring, and the lime juice didn’t improve it. But it was certainly easy, so I’d like to try different flavors in the breading. (I took the advice of some commenters on that recipe and used half the butter, plus some olive oil. I don’t think that made much difference.)
    6. Ben’s Chicken Parmesan is something my grandpa makes every time I visit, and I once took the recipe home but never actually made it. Well, after visiting again in May, I came home and made it a few weeks later because it was so delicious. Hooray, it’s a Layla-proof recipe! If you eat meat and visit me, I may just make this dish for you. Consider this your invitation to visit. Once again, I was using well-endowed chicken breasts (hello, Costco!), so one of them filled this 9-inch baking dish.

  • Tuesday Time-Waster: You’re never too old

    I’ve been saying for years, “Life is short; live it.” I tell college kids: “If you want to do foreign exchange, DO IT now so you don’t regret it later.” I tell everyone: “If you think you want to run a marathon, DO IT.”

    I say this mostly because I’ve seen people reach the point where it really is too late. I’ve seen people die. I know some with permanent injuries/disabilities. And I know that when I’ve taken plunges in life, I have not regretted them.

    The thing is, you can take that plunge at any time. Did you know that Intel was founded by a 39-year-old? And that Henry Ford was 40 when he started his automobile company? Costco was started by a 47-year-old, and Starbucks by a 51-year-old. Take a look at this site; you’re never too old to start something new.


  • STP prep

    According to an email I received from the folks at the Cascade Bicycle Club, it’s almost time for a big bike ride I’ve alluded to in a few blog posts. That bike ride happens to be the Seattle to Portland ride, often known as STP. It’s a 206-mile ride in which 10,000 awesome, possibly insane people ride bicycles from Seattle to — you guessed it — Portland. According to my work Outlook calendar and the messages with friends, yes, the trip is rapidly approaching. Never mind the fact that I’m under-trained — how about all the prep for the actual event?! Let’s see here…

    Pre-ride:

    1. Unpack from July 4 weekend shenanigans. Do laundry. Pack a lot of bags.
    2. Do all the normal pre-trip stuff, such as stopping the mail, watering the plant, paying the bills, taking out the trash, running the dishwasher, unplugging some appliances.
    3. Drive to Seattle. This was a mild decision-making circus of its own, which at one point involved a refundable Amtrak ticket and a friend driving one way. But the decision was finally made that I would drive north for many hours on Thursday, with a stop/stay in Portland for one night.
    4. Oh, right, find a place to stay in Portland on Thursday night.
    5. Meet up with a friend in Portland on Friday morning.
    6. Drive from Portland to Seattle, meet up with Michaela, go to ride check-in.
    7. Eat early dinner.
    8. Charge Garmin and phone.
    9. Don’t oversleep, because we want to start early Saturday, since it’s supposed to get hot and we’ll be riding for a Very Long Time.

    Ride Day 1:

    1. Liberally apply sunscreen and chamois cream.
    2. Put on shorts, sports bra, jersey, gloves, helmet, sunglasses, socks, bike shoes. If needed, wear arm and knee warmers.
    3. Fill two water bottles with Gu Roctane and water.
    4. Fill jersey pockets with 10 gels, two more packets of Gu Roctane drink, phone (in ziplock bag), ID/credit card/cash (also in a ziplock bag), sunscreen, travel-sized chamois cream.
    5. Top off air in tires, and make sure my travel pump is securely in place. Make sure my bike bag contains two spare tubes, tire levers and multi-tool.
    6. Fasten race bib to jersey and number to bike/helmet/wherever it’s supposed to go so they let me into the military base along the route.
    7. Drop two nights’ bags at the start line, making sure my phone/Garmin chargers are in the first night’s bag.
    8. Actually start riding after all of this.
    9. Eat a Gu gel every 10 miles, most of them non-caffeinated. Yes, this sounds insane to some people, but it works for me and solid food does not. (I get light-headed, apparently because my body is too busy digesting food, rather than sending blood to my head.) Eat some fruit at the rest stops.
    10. Get through two bottles of Gu Roctane by mile 50, preferably with additional water by then, too.
    11. Keep drinking. Use the port-a-potties to encourage myself to drink (TMI?).
    12. Reapply sunscreen. And chamois cream (maybe TMI, but it’s also something important).
    13. Stop somewhere around mile 100, get night bag from a truck, find our hotel.
    14. Probably discover that I didn’t pack something. Since we do not have a car and are tired, oh well!
    15. Eat dinner.
    16. Charge Garmin and phone.

    Ride Day 2:

    1. Wake up and ask myself why I thought it was a good idea to get back on my bike for a repeat of yesterday.
    2. Repeat steps 1-6 and steps 8-12 from Day 1.
    3. At some point, reach a low point and throw a hissy fit, which I will feel terribly about for a long time afterward.
    4. Arrive in Portland. Promptly take a terrible finish-line photo and post it to every possible social media outlet.
    5. Drop bike off at a truck, in exchange for my bags and some food.
    6. Make our way to the hotel, probably via Uber or cab.
    7. Find an alcoholic beverage. And food.
    8. Sleep.

    Post ride:

    1. Return to the finish line Monday morning, to board a bus that takes us back to Seattle.
    2. Get off the bus three hours later, retrieve bikes, and thank Michaela profusely for having a bike rack that holds two bikes, and for buying parking so we don’t have to ride a few miles with all of our stuff.
    3. Do laundry. Oh, blessed laundry. (I love doing laundry. Yes, I am weird.)
    4. Actually do NOT get on the bike.
    5. Remember that I have another rapidly disappearing countdown, which requires that I go for a run.

    And that only takes me through the first five days of the epic adventure that has become “STP and beyond.” The next part of the trip ranges from what will hopefully be my first jet ski adventure to the sadness of finally seeing my fire-ravaged hometown. (Who there wants to put me up for a night, too?)

    I’m already tired after writing all this.


  • Tuesday Time-Waster: 70-year-old runner beats the clock

    A 70-year-old woman became a legend this weekend when she barely beat the 30-hour cutoff time at the prestigious Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. Yes, she’s 70. In fact, she’s almost 71. Yes, that’s 100 miles. In fact, it’s also 18,000 feet of climbing and 22,000 feet of descending. Gunhild Swanson’s endeavor was so remarkable that, when word reached the finish line of an elderly woman trying to finish, winner Rob Krar made his way to the last aid station and ran/walked the last 1.2 miles with her — while wearing flip-flops.

    Here is a photo gallery, including Rob Krar (in the cowboy hat), taken by someone accompanying Swanson:

    And here’s an interview with her after the race, where she explains a few remarkable things. First, she took a wrong turn and added three miles to her run. Second, she ran seven-minute pace around the high school track to the finish line in order to beat the clock — and that’s after 103 miles! Third — oh, just watch the video; it’s worth nine minutes of your Tuesday morning.

    Special congratulations to Desiree, who has dreamed of and fought for this finish line. It’s kind of cool to be able to say “I ran the New York City Marathon with a Western States finisher!”

    And congratulations to Billy Yang, who does a lot for the running community but this time got to be on the receiving end a bit.


  • Grace in South Carolina

    After a white man went into a mostly black church’s Bible study meeting, talked to the dozen people for an hour and then opened fire on them because of their race, grace was not something anyone expected. But family members of the nine victims gracefully said they forgive the shooter. They went to court to face the accused killer, but they did not scream and rage, as they had every right to do as human beings. I don’t know how they found the strength, but their grace rose above all.

    Today, President Barack Obama gave a eulogy for the church’s slain reverend. The entire thing lasted 40 minutes, and Obama ended by singing “Amazing Grace,” with the attendees joining in after the first verse. He then listed each victim’s name as the organ kept playing. While making his way back to his seat, he shook hands and hugged people who were so awed to meet the President of the United States. And then he went to the reverend’s wife and two daughters, giving each one a hug. The grace is worth watching:


  • Biking in Kona

    Of all the various things I’ve done in Hawaii, biking has never been one of them. Put on spandex and climb on a bike rather than sit on a beach or hike around a volcano? Nahhhh, no thanks. But last month, I learned that it’s actually a lot more pleasant than I’d expected, and the logistics were also easier than I feared. So, if you’re planning a trip to the Big Island and feel like getting a taste of what those crazy Ironman people do, read on. Or just scroll down for the pictures; you know who you are.

    A bit of history: I think this can all be blamed on marathons. You see, more than once, I found myself looking at my training schedule and seeing “14 miles” on the plan for a Saturday when I would be in Hawaii. Running in humidity sucks. Running in blazing sun sucks. But I did it — more than once. Then I ran a marathon in Hawaii, because I am an idiot.

    And you know what? Compared to running a marathon in Hawaii, other things don’t seem so crazy. Bicycling, for instance, would offer a breeze because I’d be going faster! OK, so maybe this is just my way of justifying the craziness because I’m signed up for a big, scary ride in July and didn’t want to go for a whole week without riding a bike. I briefly pondered gyms and whether their bikes would be terrible, and then I concluded that I’d rather run another marathon in Hawaii than spend several hours on an unknown gym bike. And that says a LOT, because I have no plans to run another marathon in Hawaii.

    Enough rambling. I fired up the Google machine, along with the Yelp machine, and found that Bike Works Kona has lots of rental bikes, as well as solid reviews.  They even have online rental reservations — that actually work! I telephoned them just because you can never be too sure about Hawaii (things there run on “island time”), and they sounded just fine. I made a reservation online, promptly got an email confirmation, and then got a reminder one week before my rental date. A month later, I’ve had no spam. I also haven’t been paid for all of this awesome advertising that will be seen by millions upon millions of blog readers.

    I got to the bike shop on a Friday afternoon, and it took me a while to find it because it was up a steep drive behind some other buildings. I can’t speak to their Waikoloa location (which I hear doesn’t have as much selection of extra stuff), but this shop had a LOT of options. They’re ready for Type A triathletes who are stressed out and focused on Ironman training — I had brought my own gel, drink and chamois cream, but this place had every brand and flavor I use, plus a ton of other products. They also sell their bottles at half price to people renting bikes, so I got an insulated bottle for $7.50, mayyyybe because it perfectly matches my bike, has a nice top and says “Kona” on it…

    My bike was parked near the counter, waiting for me. I had brought my measurements, so they set the bike up to match them as closely as they could, put my pedals on it, found a helmet that fit me, gave me a tool bag, took an imprint of my credit card as insurance but did not actually charge it (that was nice — no $2,000 charge sitting there until I returned the bike), and I was on my way out the door. I pedaled around the parking lot, but it was just fine so I didn’t need adjustments they also offered for free.

    Their rates are in 24-hour periods, so I originally had the idea of riding Friday afternoon for 25ish miles, then riding longer Saturday morning. Well, it was hot, so I lazily nixed that idea and instead went to happy hour, where I happened to chat for awhile with two guys who recognized me from the bike shop — as it goes in my world.

    Saturday morning, I was up before dawn and driving downtown. I parked in the Target parking lot near the highway, and before long I was heading north.

    I had researched routes, but honestly, I knew from the beginning what I wanted to do: ride the Ironman route. The marathon I ran covered just about all of the ground that the athletes do in their marathon, so now I could experience their bike route. Plus, it’s straight out on a highway that has very wide shoulders, and is undoubtedly the safest place on the island to ride. This hideous website has some other ideas, and you can find more on your route-planning site of choice.

    Looking back up the road -- in the path of world champions.

    I got to Waikoloa 24 miles later, where I refilled my water and reapplied sunscreen. Then I headed back. I had entertained the idea of riding all the way to Hawi, where the Ironman racers turn around, for a full 100 miles. But the rental bike’s seat was not ideal (should have brought my own), and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being 50 miles away from Kona on my first-ever ride there. I did have two spare tubes with me (and luckily didn’t need either one), but I also didn’t know when the wind would pick up; whenever it did, that could be a rough crosswind.

    To my pleasant surprise, the ride back was faster. There was no crosswind, and I passed a couple cyclists — who then passed me when I stopped at a “scenic overview” for an obligatory picture.

    My view for dozens of miles.

    Since I didn’t want to end up with only 48 miles, I detoured down into the Energy Lab, where the Ironman marathon goes and where my marathon had not — now I could do that part of the course! While there, I had a whole conversation with a grieving recent widower who’s a cyclist from Portland. Again, that is normal in my world.

    Beach at the Energy Lab

    I finally got back to the car, and realized that I had parked near a fast food place. Hello, easily accessible bathroom in which to change and wipe all the bugs off me! Then I returned the bike to the shop, got iced 100% Kona coffee, and felt like a million bucks. (Side note: if coffee says it’s “Kona coffee” but doesn’t give the percentage, it means they used a small amount of rejected Kona beans. You’re better off getting something else. Coffee plantation tours in Kona are really cool, and I highly recommend them.)

    Now that I’ve done the “rent a bike in Kona” thing, will I do it again? Absolutely! Honestly, if you’re a cyclist or triathlete who’s thinking of flying your bike to Kona for training, take a look at the options Kona Bike Works offers. Their fees are cheaper than the airline bike baggage fees, and then you don’t have to deal with a giant bike box. Next time, depending on my training/running/life/Hawaii schedule, I’ll probably rent a bike for two days, because it doesn’t cost much more. And maybe I’ll try the hills…

    But for now, I’ll just leave a sunset photo. Because you can’t go to Hawaii and not see the sun set over the ocean.