Not everything went well with the Seattle Century 85-mile ride I did yesterday (July 28), but when I hit the finish line, it didn’t matter. The hospitality of the volunteers, the toughness of the course, and the achievement of completing my longest ride to date made it all worth it.
This ride covers a lot of King County. Here’s a quick overview of the course: You start at Magnuson Park north of the University of Washington in Seattle, and spend the first 20 miles on the flat Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River trails, rimming the north side of Lake Washington and then landing in Redmond. From there, you do a bit of climbing, heading northeast to Duvall. You then turn south to Carnation, then southwest over a big hill to Issaquah, and head back to Seattle through Bellevue and Mercer Island. Your last leg is from the I-90 bridge in Seattle along the Lake Washington loop through the UW campus and back to Magnuson Park.
There are rolling hills throughout, but the really steep bad boys are Novelty Hill Road just east of Redmond, which is manageable but just never seems to end, and the monster hill leading into Sammamish, which is seriously no fun. I got a chance to do this latter hill in the Flying Wheels 65-mile ride in June; it pretty much takes all of your energy to get to the top.
Here are my highlights and lowlights from the ride:
- Late start … again: I need to discipline myself better to get to the starting line earlier. Unlike road races, bike rides don’t have a set starting time. But I started riding yesterday almost an hour later than the desired 8 a.m. start time, and I paid for it in being late to food stops and late to the finish line. More on that in a moment. When I do my first 100-mile ride on Aug. 12, as planned, I need to start as close to 7 a.m. as possible.
- Getting lost: The Seattle Century folks were great, and the ride was a lot of fun as well as hard work, but … I feel the course should have been better marked in many spots. One spot was in leaving the Sammamish River and Redmond Town Center trails to attempt to head onto Avondale Road. I went more than a mile on the wrong road east before I had the sense to backtrack to find Avondale Road. The energy it cost me was less of a disaster than the time I lost.
- Food stop 1: The first food stop, near the end of the Sammamish River Trail in Redmond, was fun and festive. Everyone there seemed casual and in no hurry. I indulged in the donut holes, cookies, bananas, and most everything else they had. Many people were there; and these were folks I never saw again during the ride. I realized later they were all doing the less ambitious 50-mile ride, not the 85- or 100-mile routes, and felt less urgency to get back on their bikes. I shouldn’t have spent so much time there (but, boy, those donut holes were good!).
- Major hill 1: Novelty Hill Road, as I said, just keeps going up, and up, and up. The only thing that helps is that the hill has leveling off points before it spurts up again, so you get some time to catch your breath. Once at the top, the course routes you through some of the area’s nicer housing developments, including the plush Trilogy subdivision, with a golf course.
- Food stops 2 and 3: I made it to Duvall just as the volunteers had all the food packed up and were getting ready to leave. All my lateness had caught up with me. The two volunteers let me grab some bananas and filled my water jug. They were cool. The third food stop was at Remlinger Farms in Carnation, and they too were packed up when I arrived. But a volunteer didn’t want me to leave without food. He urged me to let him get me some stuff; I said OK, and he came back from his truck carrying hands full of peanut bars, granola bars, and other treats. Very cool. Fortunately, I wasn’t late to the last two food stops.
- The offer to “jump ahead”: That same volunteer in Carnation was piloting a moving van full of food and water to all the different stops. He was packed up at the Remlinger Farms and ready to move on and re-supply the last two food stops. He asked me if I wanted to pack my bike in the back and ride with him to the next stop, bypassing the tough hill into Sammamish. I politely declined. It was a nice gesture, but I wanted to complete the ride. He then asked if, after I climbed the hill and arrived at the next stop in Sammamish, I wanted to ride with him to the final stop on Mercer Island. Again, I politely declined. No regrets.
- Major hill 2: I’ve already said a lot about the hill leading into Sammamish, but I was proud of making it up that hill on my Schwinn hybrid with wider tires (I’ve got to get more of a racing bike). Some riders doing the 100-mile route fell in behind me on the hill. “Nice work going up that hill,” one said to me. Fortunately, food stop 4 was at the top of that hill, at Endeavour Elementary School, and had lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches left.
- The rest: Food stop 5 at the Lid Park over I-90 in Mercer Island had strawberry shortcake! Boy, did that taste good. After crossing the I-90 bridge, the route in Seattle back to Magnuson Park took longer than I wanted. There were lots of road construction bypasses, unnecessary hills, stoplights, and other obstacles.
- The finish: I finished this ride more than nine hours after beginning it, averaging 9 miles per hour. I finished about an hour later than the organizers wanted, and thought I had no hopes of getting food or refreshments. It was still good to finish.
However, when I entered the finishers’ area and parked my bike to use the restroom, one of the volunteers I’d met at the Duvall stop remembered me and came running to me from the behind the food tables. ”Did you just come in?” he said with a smile. I said, “Yep,” and he responded, “Let me go get you some food!” I said I was too late and could easily go eat elsewhere, and he said, “No way!” True to his word, after I came back from the port-o-potty, he had two plates full of food for me, and another volunteer got me some water. I sat down next to some fellow late finishers and wolfed it all down.
These Seattle Century volunteers were great to me, and I won’t soon forget it. But I must get started riding earlier, and also not get lost. Next test: the Tour de Peaks 100-mile ride on Aug. 12, my first full century, which I have already signed up for.
An update on running: While I am having great fun riding my bike this summer, I have pretty much given up on doing any running. I have done a ton of walking as well as biking, but running feels awkward and unnatural because of my bad ankle. I miss running, but preserving my ankle is a better way to go.
I do plan to do the Seattle Marathon Walk this November, for my 21st marathon. More on that in future posts.
Thanks for reading. Till next time.