After nearly 16 miles of biking uphill in the pouring rain for almost two hours, one might have expected Madison Joseph to be at least a little weary, maybe not in a great mood.
Far from it.
The Lihue woman covered the course with an elevation gain of 3,835 feet in 1 hour, 58 minutes and 20 seconds. After all that, she was all smiles as she waved to friends at the finish line of the fifth annual Pedal to the Meadow race Sunday morning.
She relied on her faith and focus to conquer the hills under demanding conditions.
“There’s a higher power that gives us strength, not only for today, but anything we set our minds to. It’s so amazing to be on this bike path and ride up Kokee, which is all uphill, pretty much focus on your front tire,” she said. “That’s so much like life. You’ve got to focus on what’s right in front of you. Don’t get too caught up in what’s ahead or look behind because you’ll swerve.
“Keep breathing, I think, is the main thing. In and out, in and out. Keeping your breathing under control, and then you’re gold,” she added.
About 85 riders called on all their power and drive to finish the race that started at the old cane haul road in Kekaha and finished at Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in Kokee State Park.
As bicyclists waited for the signal to start, a storm was headed their way and pretty much the minute they started pedaling at 8 a.m., the rains fell hard and didn’t stop for the next two hours. Mix in some thunder and lightning, along with streams of water on the road, and it was a difficult day for riding up a mountain.
“Rain didn’t bother me, other than I felt like I was carrying an extra five pounds in each foot,” said a smiling Lincoln Gill of Kapaa, who finished in 2:04:22.
The Kauai Realtor said he felt strong and held a steady pace throughout. It helped that around the 10-mile mark, there was a reprieve from climbing, with some flats and downhills for several stretches.
“There’s hope,” Gill said. “You hit a couple downhills and you think there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Mark Galedo, a professional from RoadBike Philippines who won last year in a record time of 59:29, defended his title and set another course record, finishing in 58:02. Galedo said he was racing the clock more than anything else.
“From the start, I concentrated on my own time,” he said.
While it was good to get the win and the record, he said without the rain, he could have gone faster.
“The last six kilometers, too cold. It’s not good weather. I feel so cold, my hands were too cold. With no rain, maybe I get a good time,” he said. “With water in my face, it’s hard to get my pace.”
Monique van der Aa of Honolulu claimed the woman’s title, crossing the finish line in a personal best of 1:23:22.
“I actually had a fantastic race,” the cheery New Zealander said. “It was yucky conditions. I had to ride super fast to stay warm.”
She said she trained “super hard” for Pedal to the Meadow and was pleased it paid off. Her strategy throughout was “look at the guy in front of me and chase him.”
As for the rain, thunder and lightning, she was ready.
“I’ve been watching the weather forecast and knew the thunderstorms were coming,” said van der Aa, a member of the Oahu-based Tradewind Cycling Team, the race sponsor. “Those weathermen were right for once.”
Ray Brust of Honolulu won his age group (50-64) in 1:09:45. The chance to participate in a well-organized event, compete on a one-of-a-kind course and meet and ride with “a whole bunch of great people” brought him back for the fifth year.
The key to riding well here, he said, is looking at the race as basically one hour of hill climbing.
“You have to pretty much go all out from the bottom and just try to hang on for the whole hour,” he said.
At the finish, riders were honored with cheers, food, awards and also enjoyed the Banana Poka RoundUp. Everyone seemed in a good mood at the post-race party, especially when the rain finally subsided. Many praised the volunteers who offered support during and after the ride.
Roger Kennedy was also all smiles after finishing in 1:41:02.
“I had a good time. I got a new bike and I think I went faster than last year,” he said.
He called the opening seven miles the “warmup.”
“At my age, you don’t get warmed up until you hit the 10th mile,” the 62-year-old said.
Jim Beatty of Hanalei said he had a great time as he used the race as part of his training for a Half Ironman on Oahu next weekend.
“And if I’d known there was good soup up here, I’d of been up here sooner,” he added.
• Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or email@example.com.