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While others are still racing and riding events like the Honolulu Century Ride, my 2012 end-of-season break is closer to its end than its beginning. Unlike other years, I haven’t completely sat on my ass during my time off either. While BMX racing isn’t much of an aerobic workout, it does let me bust out some anaerobic effort while also preventing muscular atrophy. No point in losing all of the gains realized throughout the season!

I already have a pretty good idea of my goals for next season, even beyond next season. This is also the time of year when most people are securing sponsorship deals if not done so already. Last week I was fortunate enough to land an additional sponsor that will help the team that I run (BME Racing) offer its members some support in their cycling. I’m hoping that I will also be promoting at least one race!

Just as training is about to start, the first winter swells have started arriving on O’ahu’s North Shore. Now that the baby is sleeping maybe I can sneak off to get my feet stuck in the wax somewhere on the south shore (Forecast is showing 4-7ft today!)

Blue Angels Flight

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***MORE PHOTOS WILL BE ADDED LATER***

Filing this blog post under the ‘General’ category doesn’t come close to providing the justice that it deserves… If I have a ‘Mind blowing’ category, that may be a step closer!

Like pretty much anyone that was old enough to watch the movie TopGun in 1986, I’ve always wanted to fly in a fighter jet… I spent years of my childhood building scale models starting off with an F-4 Phantom, a bunch of F-14 Tomcat’s, F-15-Eagle, F-18 Hornet, RAF Tornado, RAF Harrier etc. while trying to not glue my fingers together, cut a digit off, of get enamel paint on my bedroom carpet! I wanted to be a pilot for a long time, but a colorblindness test in high-school dictated otherwise. In my early teens I had a surprise flying lesson in a Cessna for my 12th or 13th birthday. I’m pretty sure I was too young at the time, but I got to spend some time at the controls and fly over my house in Scotland.

Anyway… Back in 2010 I was fortunate to get invited to be part of a small group of civilians on a visit to the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76) aircraft carrier. Getting to land and take off from an aircraft carrier in a C-2A was amazing! Standing on the flight deck watching planes take off and land while standing what felt like only 20 feet away was also quite surreal. At that moment I told myself that I HAVE to fly in one of those planes!!!

In late 2010, I was hugely fortunate to receive an invitation from the Navy to be a VIP rider with the Blue Angels. They weren’t coming to Hawaii in 2011, so the two possible locations I picked were Miramar (Top Gun!) and San Francisco. Things didn’t pan out and I thought the dream may be disappearing, but then I saw they had the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii on their 2011 schedule. Earlier this year I got the call to tell me that I would be flying with the Blue Angels at the Kaneohe Bay Airshow! No freakin’ way!

When you’re waiting almost 2 years for a once in a lifetime experience such as this to happen, it feels like forever… But earlier this week it felt like time had flown by.

This morning I drove over the H3 to MCBH in Kaneohe for my flight. First we had a briefing about what to expect during the flight, what to do, what to not do. Also, some direction on what to do in the unlikely event that we would need to eject from the aircraft, and the subsequent parachute ‘bonus ride’ back to earth. We were also told how to breathe during high-G manouvers to prevent G-Loc (Loss Of Consciousness). Then we signed the ATA (Air Transportation Agreement) card, and were handed flight suits to get into. There were supposed to be three people flying, but the third person unfortunately didn’t get to go, only myself and Gina Mangieri from local news channel KHON2.

My flight was in Blue Angel #7 piloted by Lieutenant Mark Tedrow. One cool fact about Lt. Tedrow is that he completed deployments in the Western Pacific and Middle East aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), which is the same Navy vessel that I got a tour of in 2010.

I went up the ladder into the back seat of the aircraft first, and got strapped into the 12-point harness. Next, Lt. Tedrow came up, introduced himself and shook my hand, then got into the front seat. He went over the various hardware in the cockpit; three screens displaying info like speed, G’s, fuel, engine info, and radar. Lt. Tedrow lowered the canopy, and after a test of electronics, we were off to the runway. The acceleration down the runway towards the ocean was insane… A regular 737 or similar airline doesn’t even compare. Once we left the ground, we cruised at about 50ft altitude before Lt. Tedrow pulled the nose of the plane up, creating 6G’s and had is flying pretty much straight up like a rocket. Next he leveled out the aircraft and we cruised out over the pacific north of O’ahu. Lt. Tedrow then pointed the nose of the aircraft slightly upward before dipping it back down and accerelating us beyond the soundbarrier! I didn’t think that I’d get to fly supersonic, but I guess that it’s OK to do it over the open ocean vs in an inhabited area (risk of shattering windows!).

Lt. Tedrow reduced our speed to show me how manouverable the aircraft is at low speed. After that we did various manouvers… A complete loop, flying inverted, aileron roll, flying straight up, experiencing zero-G’s (similar feeling to going over the top of a hump in a rollercoaster…). It was amazing at how fast the F/A-18 can do an aileron roll… Although it doesn’t produce any G’s, it can rotate on its axis quite violently! We also did some low-altitude flying over the ocean which was pretty cool, and I couldn’t see land in any direction. After that Lt. Tedrow played around flying around the low-level clouds.

I managed to not black out and also keep my breakfast down… but only just. While flying back to Kbay along the windward coast I could feel my body trying hard to barf! I pulled out a sick bag just in case, but happily I didn’t have to use it. Phew. One final 7G turn into Kbay with a trail of smoke and we were back on the ground.

I’d like to thank everyone at the Blue Angels and MCBH Hawaii for making today’s flight happen… Flying in an F/A18 Hornet is something that despite dreaming about, never thought that it would realistically happen. Today’s experience is one that I will definitely NEVER forget. It caps of a crazy 2 months where I got married, my daughter was born, I finally got US Citizenship, and finished the final dissertation for my Masters. What next? Virgin Galactic?

Blue Angels 9-26-2012 (Longer video) from Mike Zagorski on Vimeo.

The transition…

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The racing season is pretty much over for me minus a few BMX races, so I’ve only been riding my BMX since Dick Evans. I’ve already got my race plans somewhat set for 2013. Well, not exactly everything, but the main goals for the season have been written down. In the past 10 season of racing, I only did weights during two winter (yup, warm sunny Hawaiian winters). For 2013, weights are definitely a requirement so I’ve already started laying down some base work in the gym. Nothing crazy so far but I’m going to need a gym with more weights! Thankfully, that’s has also been planned for. Another good reason for me spending time in the gym is that I can try and fix a pretty bad muscle imbalance between my right and left leg. Ever since I broke my left leg in the late 90′s I barely have any quads in that leg. Would be nice to race using BOTH legs!

BMX and a baby!

The second qualifier for the Hawaii State BMX Championship was originally scheduled for Sept 8th, but thanks to a bunch of rain which flooded the track, the race got moved to the 15th. Not ideal as my wife’s due date was Sept 16th. Somehow I managed to get a hall-pass to go and race BMX last Saturday night with two rules: 1) Don’t get injured. 2) You better win! Fortunately I managed to stay upright and win both motos and the main and took home a  3+ ft tall trophy. That was my 8th Novice win so I can now bump up to the Intermediate class. In between races I was checking my phone to make sure that the Mrs wasn’t going into labor… When I got home, I basically took a 3 minute shower, grabbed out stuff and drove to hospital. ~8hrs later and my daughter was born. Let the sleepless nights commence!

Bikes@Marks

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That’s my bike (Scott Addict R1) Photo by KVIBE.

Before the 112 Dick Evans memorial road race I received the unusual request to use my bike as part of an exhibit (Bikes @ Marks) at the Arts at Marks in Honolulu’s Chinatown from Sept 4 – 29, 2012. In addition to providing a bit of road bike eye candy, it provides additional enforcement to my end-of-season break from racing and training. I figured why not… Win win. Go check out the display of bikes from all genres, and see my battle-damaged bike still caked in a mix of grime, drool, and honeystinger gels fresh from the 60 mile breakaway at the Dick Evans.

 

 

Dick Evans Memorial Road Race

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Throwing down some watts in the break with Dave Moyer. Photo by Charisa Gum.

Yesterday’s 2012 edition of the Dick Evans Memorial Road Race was fairly epic. Probably too epic for many. It all started off before sunrise at 545am in Hawaii Kai. It was pouring pretty bad when I left Aiea to drive over to the race start, so we ended up with wet roads to race on. Normally not a big deal, but when roadwork happens in Hawaii, it seems to be a long drawn out process. For months there have been metal places across Ala Moana Blvd. Those, plus some oil slick likely left from one of the city and county of Honolulu’s buses, resulted in something like 40 people hitting the deck. Two carted off to hospital with suspected broken hips.

We finally made it to Kunia, but the race stated further up the climb than usual as the officials had to wait for some people to rejoin the peloton. Tim Marr did the first acceleration and had things strung out but then the pace eased up… Probably one of the easiest rides up Kunia during Dick Evans that I’ve ever done. I thought about lifting the pace but figured I’d just sit in and see what others would do. Further up Kunia, Dave Moyer (A strong Cat 1 from Chicago) attacked and I decided to follow suit. Just as I put the power down, my rear wheel decided it wanted to be ahead of my front wheel. I spun out on the wet road landing on my left hip and elbow. All I remember was curling up, covering my head, and feeling the impact of a few bikes and bodies from behind. I bounced back up, straightened out my bars and shifters, hopped back on the saddle, and chased back onto the peloton. A few guys had sat up when I crashed, so thanks to them!

A rotation started amongst the stronger guys at the front all the way through the feed zone to Dole Plantation. The next thing I knew, there was a guy up the road by 100ft or so, so I asked a friend “Who the hell is that? as I hadn’t even seen them launch. His reply was “The guy from Chicago”. Before I had any time to think of the consequences, I’d launched myself up the road and was in pursuit of Moyer. I thought some others would come, but I guess no one was interested. It took a pretty damn good effort before I finally caught up with him about half way down Pineapple. We started rotating and got down to business, keeping the speed pretty steady all the way to Pupukea. Shortly after, Penn Henderson from the Big Island bridged up to us, not too impressed by the lack of work going on in the peloton behind.

Moyer, Penn, and myself… That seemed like the winning move for sure! We worked our asses off but from minimal time checks, the gap only ever got up to about 1 minute. It dropped down to about 34 sec, then back up to 54sec, but by Ahuimanu the chasing peloton were in sight. I thought we were going to get caught quickly, but even though we sat up, the gap seemed to stick around 20seconds. Ray Brust bridged up to us after the feed, so our pace ramped up again. At this point I figured it would be good to get out of Temple Valley to avoid any attacks! On Mokapu Saddle, Moyer finally peeled off leaving me with Ray and Penn. Going up the first climb into Olomana we could see 2011 winner Eric Lau chasing on the highway below. Half way through Olomana I eased up, waited for Eric’s group, then tagged onto the back. We had a good size group, but at the turnaround one rider let a gap open up splitting us from Eric, and that was that. Pretty much game over. Lesson learned. Irritating, but that’s racing. At that point it was over, so I just cruised to the finish taking 12th place. My team mate Kevin Kawainui took 8th, and Shannon O’Shea had a great ride to place 17th.

One of the last words spoken to all the racers before the start was to ‘Race Bravely’ or something along those lines. I’d really like to see more people riding aggressively at the Dick Evans.