Jasmine at the end of her race.
PACIFIC CUP REPORT - GUAM
I had no idea what I was getting into… I had no clue. The most common response I got when I told people I was going to race the Pacific Cup in Guam was “where is Guam?” or “oh, it’s an island so it should be all on the beach, right?” Well, to my surprise Guam offers an intense variety of elevation gain, weather, steep fast rolling hills, and a terrain that I can’t describe in detail, only that, you just had to be there.
I was offered the opportunity to represent Samoa at the very first Pacific Cup in early October. I made it official with a plane ticket later in the month with solid plans to race on December 11th. Within a short amount of time to prepare mentally and physically, I studied the course, and I searched social media platforms for previous times and recordings. I tried to track recent times and compared those to my mock-up times. I worked side by side with the Samoa Cycling Federation President Seti Afoa. He offered support over zoom meetings and proper funding, ultimately assisting with my travel. To cover the remaining costs of my trip I was able to work with my family and friends to fundraise through apparel I had designed myself and promoted on my website. I received a lot of support and love from my community, and my colleagues to make this trip possible. I worked with coaching staff Bernie Port to build a race course profile and the most efficient way to approach the race around the island. We spoke about nutrition, positions to maintain, and our overall goal to give the best effort while finishing with the rubber side down and a smile. My teammate Daniel Afoa was by my side in Guam assisting with representation, meals, and transportation. Daniel helped recon the course and helped me understand the geography of the island. We worked together to ensure a safe successful trip.
I arrived in Guam on Wednesday, December 7th, giving me just a few days to assemble my bike from international travel and acclimate to the beautiful humidity of the island. My spirit was high and I was excited about the main event on Sunday. I enjoyed the wonderful beaches of Tumon Bay, also the friendly staff and people at The Pacific Island Club, the hotel that hosted my stay. I was able to get fast service for my bike at a local bike shop called BikeFixGuam. A familiar atmosphere for me where Derek and his wife Monessa helped me feel very welcome and comfortable by letting me use their service stand and tools. I was blessed with the accessibility of their shop, which made me feel safe and confident that my bike was ready to ride for the race.
Team Samoa - Daniel and Jasmine the day before the race
In preparation for the big day, coaches and competitors met to go over the official rules with the UCI. The key points of this meeting included areas to be aware of, support vehicle rules, and the other races happening alongside the Pacific Cup. Tour of Guam and their National Championships would be happening as well, meaning there would be about 200+ riders on the course. The Pacific Cup would get a 5-minute head start on the Tour of Guam. Results would show the Elite group and then the riders participating in the tour. For some, this caused some confusion, but for me, it offered a good mixture of riders. This also helped with direction on the remote sides of the island where there were no volunteers or aid stations. Since men and women were starting together, there was no rule against drafting the men or the other riders of the Tour. This is sometimes a rule that is very strict in the case that other categorized races start at the same time. If there has to be an overlapped start on the same course of a race, some categories would be required to neutralize. But in this case, it was everyone for themselves, and later this fact alone made my experience just a little more enjoyable.
With just one day to go, at packet pick up I received a goodie bag with Tour of Guam merchandise, a shirt, and a bottle. Also my jersey number, helmet number, and a seat post decal number with a tracking magnet to capture the precise time I crossed the finish line. I always feel excited when receiving jersey numbers and registration packets. I honor those moments when you accept your number and realize, there's no turning back now. I also had this sensation when I purchased a non-refundable plane ticket and traveled 20 hours. But, at this point, it became real, because I was here and I felt blessed and grateful to have the chance to represent Samoa and help push cycling and bike racing forward in the pacific islands.
Jasmine is front and centre ready to race. Daniel is on the second row in blue shirt.
On the morning of the race, I woke up two hours earlier than I had wanted. I got up and stretched, hydrated, and connected with some family. I had been monitoring the weather every day since I arrived and realized it rained every. day. in Guam. So when there were dark clouds and thick drops around the hotel balcony I reminded myself “this is what I thought.” In racing, there is no way to escape the weather. It just is, what it is. The cool thing about Guam and the Pacific Islands is, that anyone would feel the relief from the rain, for the fact that it offers coverage from the heavy sun rays that in some cases are inescapable. With a start time of 5:30 am, I was out of my hotel at 4:45 am with a 2.5-mile ride to the start line on a drenched road and refreshing thick air. I got a nice warm-up to the start but my socks were drenched. I accepted my fate. It would rain on and off the entire race. If it wasn’t raining on you, it was raining up on the mountain you were descending, and the water was flowing down the hill with you.
The race started and I tried to keep track of the women in the first group. I counted 3, and then there was me. I fought to climb with the first group for the first hour and lost them about 7 miles in. I was alone for the first loop of the first section of the course. While on the island crossing road, I heard a sweet voice come around my left side, “Hey, want to draft?” I sat up and caught the gals wheel and she turned around with a plan, “rotate every 20 (pedal) strokes?” I yelled back in slight pain but relief “uhh.. y-yeah !” We worked together for about 20 miles and 2 hours, for a good half of the race through the southern part of the island. We saw two aid stations together and we would root each other through. I would yell “Let’s go girl!” and she would cheer under her breath “go Samoa.” While making our way back north to cross the island for the last time, a few more people passed us and we grabbed their wheel. After about 15 minutes and approaching the last big climb I lost her. I saw her look back and that was the last time we would see each other until the finish.
I was hurting, and I was hungry. I was frustrated, soaking wet, and sweating. I couldn’t cry, because my legs had taken over my body. I didn’t have a thought in my mind except “I will not stop.” I was beside myself yelling vulgar things and pressing to get past this dark part. Ultimately I let go of closing gaps, the finish time I was fighting for, and told myself “let’s just get to the finish line.” So the pressure was off, and my body was still in pieces. I was dreaming of spam musubi and mac n cheese. I wanted an entire thanksgiving dinner after it all. I dreamt up food while I sucked down an energy gel and hydration mix, it helped but I could feel my body chopping through the 200 calories quickly and fatigue was the butcher knife.
Through the final climb, two gentlemen passed on my left with friendly cheer. “Whoooo! It’s almost finished, you’re almost there!” I asked them if they were from Guam. They said YES! And I told them they must do this ride a lot. “Yes, and it’s tough.” they said. They asked where I was from, and I told them I was representing Samoa in the Pacific Cup. “OHH, welcome to Guam..” they said very warmly.
Jasmine on course to complete two laps to finish 5th elite woman in the Pacific Cup. Daniel faced mechanical issues and withdrew from the race after one lap. Results link here. Men’s results here.
Finishing at one minute over 4 hours I found a place to lie on the floor away from the crowd. I felt so happy to have finished. I was overwhelmed by the road I had just ridden, with all those kind people. The beauty of the island I zoomed through started to replay in my mind. I broke down into tears. I couldn’t stop crying, maybe because I was holding all these emotions in for the last 30 miles. I just felt so grateful for the good vibes the whole way through. Every person that passed me or looked back was so kind. Every volunteer or bystander that shouted a “CCHHEEHOO” fired me up. Those moments I was alone with just the road, the sounds of the ocean, and the air of the island were incredible. As I was crying to my mom on the phone the woman that had worked with me through the biggest section of that race approached me. Giving love and thanks, I finally learned her name. Robyn from the Northern Mariana Islands finished 3rd in the Pacific Cup.
Throughout the rest of the day, I had haunting thoughts of where I thought I gave up. I remembered vividly where I let Robyn’s wheel go. The “ifs” and the “I could have” gave me grief. Then I remembered what it really means to be a loser. Losing is a negative term for learning. It means at the moment you encountered parts that you were not prepared for. It also means that you were someone completely different than who you are after that race or experience. After I returned home from Guam I listened to a podcast that featured one of my favorite cyclists, Paige Kostanecki. On Coffee and Van chats with Out Of Collective, she gives insight into how she approaches the start line. “Each time you line up for a race is special, it is a unique opportunity to show what you are capable of. The pressure of that opportunity will not break you, it will make you great. Feelings of anxiety is a good thing, it's your body’s reaction to being on the precipice of something exceptional. It will keep you alive, sharp, and hungry.” She goes on to how she prepares to win, and how it takes a ferocious appetite and commitment to the winning results. She mentions that sometimes we can “future trip” meaning we overstress what may happen in 5 years, 5 months or 5 minutes before the current moment. In the end she gave a solid reminder that “all we have is this moment”.
At that moment, I was on my dream bike on a beautiful island. I was racing for the country of Samoa, pushing bike racing for the pacific nations. At that moment I did my best, and at that moment I achieved a finishing time of 1 minute over 4 hours and secured 5th place overall for Samoa. At that moment I had finished the hardest race of my career. Living in the moment is all we have, give your best and love every part, sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.
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