Post-surgery recovery: The waiting is the hardest part

Ugly, perhaps. But my ankle surgeon says my left ankle is healing nicely.

Ugly, perhaps. But my ankle surgeon says my left ankle is healing nicely.

I’m happy to say that my ankle surgery Dec. 18 went smoothly, and so have the last three weeks of recovery time. My pain is so minimal that I can’t complain (yes, sometimes I still do). And my ankle surgeon says he likes how the ankle is healing, even if it looks swollen and purple.

I now have a month more of getting around on my scooter and crutches before I visit my surgeon Feb. 7 to see if I can start walking again.

So I must wait. However, I am back at work, exercising as much as I can without putting (much) weight on my left leg, and catching up on my reading. In other words, I’m trying to make the most of my time with reduced mobility.

The surgery seems like a long time ago now. My surgeon, Dr. Eric Powell, said he was surprised at the mess that was inside my left ankle. He had to remove considerable scar tissue and other debris before setting up the fusing of my leg bone and foot bone. To do that, he used tiny screws and other metal devices — which I know are in there but don’t really feel.

Net-net, he got the job done. I have a much stronger left ankle. When it’s all healed, I will have to handle the limited movement and flexibility. That was the payoff for a healthier ankle and reduced pain long-term. I agreed to it. As I explained in my last post, ankle replacement surgery, rather than this ankle fusion surgery, was a more complicated and costly option, with no guarantees of success.

I wear my boot everywhere; it's the same boot I wore after my 2011 surgery.

I wear my boot everywhere; it’s the same boot I wore after my 2011 surgery.

When I ran races in the last six years, my running motion from right foot to left foot felt like, “Ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk,” as I moved along. That type of motion will now be permanent. I knew that would be the case, and can deal with it. No, I will never be seen on any running videos teaching people correct form.

But the ability to run again will be awesome, if I can make it happen. First up is walking, however. (Then bicycling.) Baby steps.

Life on a scooter, and more

Here are some random musings from my last three weeks:

  • The first four days after the surgery were pain-filled, though I managed the pain with Oxycodone pills and slept most of the time.
  • But on the fifth day, the pain seemed to vanish. I got off the opioids, started sleeping normal hours again, and felt much better.
  • The people from my workplace, Allytics, sent me flowers the day after my surgery. It meant a lot.
  • I had a cast on my ankle and foot for about 10 days, then a wrap for a week to protect the stitches. When I got my stitches out Jan. 3, I was able to shower again without wearing garbage bags around my lower leg. What a relief!
  • Getting around on my scooter is interesting. I have to be vigilant about watching for curbs, sidewalk cracks and pavement issues, etc., to avoid spills. So far, so good. (Knock on wood.)
  • Loaned to me from our HR director at work, Jennifer White, the scooter includes a front basket that is a godsend. It looks funny, but I put just everything in there so I don’t have to carry things.
  • That said, loading the basket with too much weight, and then shifting my own weight too far forward, causes the scooter to tip over forward. This has happened (fortunately, I wasn’t carrying hot coffee).
  • Also, the scooter doesn’t make U-turns or go in reverse as well as I would like.
  • Speaking of weight, I have barely gained any, despite an inability to get much exercise! Boy, was I happy to see that when I first weighed myself more than a week after the surgery.
  • Yes, I have been exercising some. Instead of walks or runs, I do scoots — jaunts of less than a mile on my scooter. I feel calories burning; I also feel my left hamstring and hip getting sore from kneeling on the scooter too long. Surprisingly, this is more work than you think.
  • I just started riding my stationary bike this last weekend. I did five miles on Saturday and again on Sunday. Don’t tell my surgeon; he may not approve.
  • And I’ll be frank. My scooter and crutches can’t get me through tight spots in my bathroom and bedroom. I find myself putting limited weight on my left ankle, as it does not hurt. I try hard to be careful, but still, don’t tell my surgeon.
  • Last but not least, I have to thank my wife Liz for carrying stuff for me, opening doors, and getting me through this. Thanks, Liz!

The reason I need to stay off my left ankle is to let the fusing process play out. It takes about six weeks, according to not only Dr. Powell, but everything I’ve read online. Since I want the fusing process to be a successful one, I am careful. But it seems impossible to avoid putting some weight on the ankle.

The waiting, as Tom Petty once sang, is the hardest part. Fortunately, time is passing quickly.

Will I be ready to ride in the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Chilly Hilly on Feb. 25? It would be 10 weeks after my surgery. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Running, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy holidays! Mine will be spent on a scooter

No one will confuse me with Richard Sherman, based on how I played defensive back in high school. But I will soon be getting around on a scooter like this.

No one will confuse me with Richard Sherman, based on how I played defensive back in high school. But I will soon be getting around on a scooter like this.

In the four months since I last posted about what I said could be my “last hurrah,” I got my surgery plans squared away. It took a few tests to determine what kind of ankle surgery would be best. Now we’re set.

On Monday, Dec. 18, I will undergo ankle fusion surgery at Swedish Medical Center’s First Hill campus in Seattle. I may spend the night there and be pumped full of painkillers for a week or more. I will get through it, undergo a serious rehab, and quite possibly be running again in 2018. We’ll see.

The type of surgery I’m having is a change of plans. Originally, I was to undergo ankle replacement surgery, where a metal device would be inserted to replace my ankle joint. But an ankle scan found that my ankle bone is too deteriorated and peppered with cysts to make this an easy surgery, according to Dr. Eric Powell, my surgeon.

Ankle fusion surgery is the conventional alternative for the type of erosion of the ankle joint that I suffer. It is a fusing of the lower leg bone and foot bone, with the end result being a decidedly limited range of up-and-down movement in the foot. That is precisely what I have now. The surgery, according to Dr. Powell, will make permanent the lack of movement that I have now.

Me finishing the Eugene Marathon in 2007. Will I be doing this again?

Me finishing the Eugene Marathon in 2007. Will I be able to do this again?

There may be other complications, such as having to step sideways to get up and down stairs. We’ll see. But I shouldn’t have to have another surgery, and I should be done with ankle pain. And I have a chance to run again, though it is unlikely I can make the Olympic team (I will settle for being able to do marathon No. 22, or even race No. 214).

By comparison, ankle replacement surgery would return some of that ability to lift my foot up-and-down. But it is a more complicated surgery, and things have to be right for it to be successful. While my surgeon offered to give it a try, he said it would require two surgeries to complete — one this year just to get my ankle ready, and a second one a year from now to insert the metal implant.

Even then, there are no guarantees of success, and I would not be able to run again. Running would threaten damage to the implant.

No thanks.

Ankle fusion surgery is more conventional, yet it has its own risks. There’s a long healing and rehab process (at least several weeks) before I can even put weight on my left leg. I will be moving around on a scooter, loaned to me by Jennifer White, our head of Human Resources at Allytics (thanks, Jennifer!). I can drive and work, but going up and down stairs will be interesting. Fortunately, I had ankle “scoping” surgery in 2011, so the rehab process is familiar.

The stationary bike will be my friend during rehab. Maybe I will be ready for the Chilly Hilly bicycle ride in late February. It’s uphill until then. Have to be able to walk first. Yes, baby steps.

Thanks for reading. Wish me luck, and see you on the other side. Happy holidays!

Posted in Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Eugene Marathon, Marathons, Running, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2017 Seafair Torchlight 8K Run: My last hurrah?

More than 1,700 runners line up near the Torchlight parade route

More than 1,700 runners line up near the Torchlight parade route

My 213th road run was the Seafair Torchlight 8K Run in downtown Seattle on Saturday night, July 29; it takes place just before the annual Torchlight parade. This has always been one of my favorite races, as I’ve run it 12 times now.

I’m just hoping it’s not my last race. But it might be.

Finishing what could be my last run – at least for 2017

Finishing what could be my last run (at least for 2017)

The condition of my left ankle has worsened in recent weeks, and I am about to schedule ankle replacement surgery to take place in the next month or so. My ankle doctor/surgeon, Dr. Anthony Lo, this past week recommended it over the simpler repair and clean-up surgery that he did for me six years ago. He said my ankle joint is toast, just as he expected it would be in 2017.

Having ankle replacement surgery is problematic. I can physically run again, but it is not recommended. Think of it as driving while texting. The ankle replacement is a prosthetic contraption made of metal and other materials. These parts can loosen under too much stress — for example, trying to run every week — and loose parts will cause pain and require another surgery.

Walking, swimming, bicycling and elliptical are better ways for me to stay fit. I do all of these, except for swimming, which I can start doing more of. Would I sneak in a 5K here or there? I don’t know. Might be risky.

Happy to finish without problems

At any rate, I ran the Torchlight 8K Run as if it would be my last race for awhile. I ran slow and gingerly, taking a steep downhill very carefully, and avoided ruts and potholes on downtown streets and the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Runners get a fast start down 4th Street toward downtown

Runners get a fast start down 4th Street

I also attempted to savor the experience, especially crossing the finish line, which felt as good as it always has. It was great to do this race without any significant pain or problems (and even finish ahead of about 50 people). I finished in 1:08:21 (13:45 per mile), my slowest 8K time, but good enough on this day. Full results are here. (My 8K PR is 43:00 in 2007.)

But I must admit that running cautiously and carefully to avoid getting hurt is not the most satisfying way to do a race. So I did feel like this was the end of something.

It was my eighth race this year, and more interestingly, my 76th road run since my last surgery in 2011. That includes running or walking one marathon and nine half-marathons.

My last surgery had a shelf life

I had that 2011 surgery because nearly a decade of marathon running had aggravated the ankle bone fracture I’d suffered in a car accident in 1975. But truth be told, as I was training for and running those 20 marathons, I didn’t realize I was causing any destruction. Stuff happens.

But after that surgery, I remember my ankle surgeon’s words when I visited him for my final post-surgery checkup. I had given up on the idea or running again. “Go pound on it,” he said. “Your ankle is good. You can’t hurt it.” He was proud of his work and was telling me to give running a try.

However, I also remember him telling me not to attempt to run marathons again, because of all the training involved. He said I might need another surgery in two to five years, and marathon training would speed up that requirement for a new operation. For the most part, I did give up marathons — I did one more, in 2012, my 21st, but mostly walked it.

So here we are — six years later. I went one year beyond his stated range. Would I need this surgery had I not been running at all? Hard to say. Had I become an avid swimmer, maybe my ankle is in great shape at this time.

Will miss running events, but I will stay fit

It was fun to meet up with Microsoft friends and fellow runners Jonathan Stutz and Jen Gaudette prior to the Torchlight Run. Congrats on your races, you two! Sorry that I could not find you guys at the starting line, so I missed your pre-race picture.

As always, it felt good to cross the finish line

As always, it felt good to cross the finish line

The Torchlight run was apparently the last chance to run on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which will come down soon. So at least I can say I was part of it.

I will miss doing runs with friends like this and teammates from work. But I will do more walking (I already am), and will continue doing bicycle rides (my next one with be my 32nd since 2011).

What’s next? On August 30, I visit the podiatrist who will actually perform the surgery (Dr. Lo will assist). He’ll need to tell me more about what to expect, how to prepare, and physical therapy options afterwards.

I am just hoping he doesn’t say the same thing about my ankle that Dr. Lo has said way too many times: “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.”

That’s no way to talk about my poor ankle. I will miss having that joint. My reign of pain may end after 213 races, including 21 marathons and 38 half-marathons. But I will adjust and move on.

That’s my story. Thanks for reading!

Posted in 8K, Bicycling, Marathons, Running, Seafair Torchlight Run, Seattle Marathon, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2017 Redmond Derby Dash 5K: After-work run a good stress reliever

Here are the age-group winners in the Derby Dash

Derby Dash runners spanned eight decades; these are the age-group winners

Friday night, July 7, offered two recreational options that appealed to me: The Cascade Bicycle Club’s Seattle Night Ride and the Redmond Derby Dash 5K run.

RJ Ricker and I pose after the run

RJ Ricker and I pose after the run

I really want to do the Seattle Night Ride sometime, but the Derby Dash on the same night is hard to turn down. It is a flat, fast 5K run on the Sammamish River Trail, located about a mile from where I work in Redmond. And it’s a great way to end a challenging day and week of working directly with clients.

Three Allytics teammates did the run with me in 2016, but this year, I could only talk one teammate to run with me (thanks, RJ!). We still had fun.

This may be the fastest 5K I do this year — and, hopefully, not the last run of 2017, but more on that below. It is a good workout because you push yourself to get what should be your best time of the year.

There’s no reason not to go all out in this event, even if it is hot and sunny out. You need to make it hurt getting through that last mile. Because it is a simple out and back with no hills and only one turnaround, this course is easy to navigate.

Co-worker gets a PR; I get fastest time in a year

RJ Ricker, the Allytics co-worker who ran it with me, got a 5K PR of 25:34 (8:15 per mile), for seventh in her age group and 17th among women overall. Congrats, RJ!

There weren't many dogs in the run, but here is one

There weren’t many dogs in the run, but here’s one

After suffering ankle pain off-and-on over the last month, and wondering if I could even run, period, I was happy to finish in 37:08 (11:59 per mile). It was slower than my 35:40 time for this run a year ago, but my ankle was in better shape then. Still, it was my fastest time since that race. Full 2017 results are here.

By the way, my 5K PR is 24:32 (7:53 per mile) in 2005, when I was younger and injury-free. I will never run that fast again.

Feels good to hit the finish line!

Feels good to hit the finish line!

Some 327 runners and walkers completed the Derby Dash, a slight increase from a year ago. The Sammamish River Trail is narrow enough that it cannot accommodate many more participants, as there is a logjam at the start. But I noticed fewer problems with bicyclists and other non-participants interfering with runners than I wrote about a year ago.

If you do this run next year, you’ll still have to watch out for bicyclists zipping past you in either direction. It’s just one of the hazards of running on the trail near the Microsoft campus, though not all of the cyclists are Microsofties.

Runners and walkers from age 5 to 72

What I liked about the Derby Dash is that participants ranged in age from five to 72, and represented all levels — from first-place winner Devin Wulff (who runs for the University of Portland) in 15:54 to the final finisher from Calgary, Alberta, in 1:08:43. That kind of age and time range means I am likely to beat a few people.

Not far from the finish line, they're dancing

Not far from the finish line, they’re dancing

Among the runners was Sophia Liu, who won both the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon and the 2014 Seattle Marathon. She came in second among women in 18:12.

The Derby Dash is part of Redmond Derby Days, a two-day community festival largely held on the Redmond City Hall campus where the run started and ended.

Nearby, beer and wine were poured at a beer garden, and a classic rock band, Ventura Highway Revisited, played from a big stage for a few hundred people danced and listened.

Another ankle surgery ahead?

Queueing up at the start

Queueing up at the start

This was my seventh road run this year and 212th overall, but we’ll see how many more I can do this year. The pain in my left ankle, which I had surgery on in 2011, has become more frequent in the past month or two, especially during and after a lot of walking. (I honestly don’t any feel pain while running; partly because I run carefully and gingerly.)

I have another July run I plan to do — the Seafair Torchlight 8K Run on July 29. This downtown Seattle event went on hiatus last year and I worried that it wouldn’t come back. I’ve run it 11 times, from 2003 to 2010 and again from 2013 to 2015, and still consider it a must-do event each year.

Bright orange race shirts this year

Bright orange race shirts this year

But I’m not signing up for any others, for now, and plan to meet with my ankle surgeon soon to see if another surgery is needed. He told me in 2011 that I might need another one in five years, and it’s been six. Running and bicycling are important to me, so I very much hope to continue both.

That’s my story. Thanks for reading!

Posted in 5K, 8K, Bicycling, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail, Seattle Marathon, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Washington Beer Run 5K: The slackers’ alternative?

Runners joined other beer enthusiasts at the Brewers Festival after the race

Runners joined other beer enthusiasts at the Brewers Festival after the race

My boss asked me last week if I was doing any runs on the weekend. I said, yes, I am doing the Beer Run. “I mean where you actually run,” he responded with a laugh. He thought I meant I was going to go out to get, like, a case of beer to sit around and drink over Father’s Day weekend.

A family holds hands as it crosses the finish line

A family holds hands as it crosses the finish line

Out of character for me, but fair point.

The Washington Beer Run is indeed a 5K race, but most of the 500 or so participants in 2017 did it for the free beer tokens they get at the Washington Brewers Festival nearby at Marymoor Park. I did it because I wanted get back into running after a month focused on bicycling. But, yes, I was more than happy after the race to sample some craft brews from around the state.

I used three of my nine free tokens. Out of some 500 craft beers available, here is what I drank:

  • Raspberry Summer Ale from Top Rung Brewing out of Lacey.
  • Scud Runner German Style Hefeweizen from 20 Corners Brewing in Woodinville.
  • Raspberry Pilsner from Sound to Summit Brewing in Snohomish.

It’s not that I have a thing for raspberry, I just liked these options and all tasted great. Some 130 breweries around the state pumped their beer at the annual Brewers Festival. It’s a cool opportunity for breweries to raise their profile and engage a Seattle-area audience of beer fanatics they may not otherwise get a chance to reach.

Now, about the run

Between 400 and 500 runners and walkers participated at Marymoor Park

Between 400 and 500 runners and walkers participated at Marymoor Park

Many people may think the Washington Beer Run 5K is a slackers’ alternative to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon and Half-Marathon going on at the same time. Another fair point. But I just wasn’t ready for a full or half-marathon after doing Flying Wheels Summer Century bike ride the previous weekend and two other rides before that. My bad ankle wouldn’t have approved anyway — it was still mad at me for that 100-mile bike ride.

The Norreds — Sally, Louie, Chris and Ollie — are a true running family

The Norreds — Sally, Louie, Chris and Ollie — are a true running family

But it felt great to get back into running races, even if I ran this event well slower than I did a year ago. It was my 211th road race overall.

The Beer Run is a mostly flat 5K, even with changing courses. It starts and finishes at Marymoor Park and this year traversed the Sammamish River Trail, with a small loop around the Bear Creek Trail near Redmond Town Center. These trails are not far from where I work and I often do walks or training runs on them. So I know them well.

The first mile through Marymoor Park is a narrow, crowded trail, and it was tough getting running room. After I got running room, I had limited acceleration. Race organizers don’t provide chips, so no official time is kept. My watch showed 39 minutes, behind the 36 minutes I did on an even flatter course for this event a year ago.

Congrats to Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle finishers

The Beer Run t-shirt is a keeper

The Beer Run t-shirt is a keeper

Thanks to friend and fellow University of Oregon alum Chris Norred, who slowed his own pace to run and chat with me the whole way. Chris has a running family — sons Louie and Ollie and wife Sally all did the run too and finished ahead of us. It’s fun getting together with them at these runs.

I hadn’t run in two weeks, and my ankle was sore from the bike ride, so I was better off doing a smaller race. I do, however, want to do the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half-Marathon again — because of conflicts with bicycle rides, I haven’t done the Rock ‘n’ Roll half since 2011 and the full marathon since 2010.

Waiting for the starting gun

Waiting for the starting gun

A shout-out to the many friends who competed in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle races last Saturday and Sunday: Mark Nelson earned his 20th full marathon medal, and wife Tyra Nelson, as well as Jen Gaudette, Siri Haynes and Doug Hightower, all finished the half. Gaudette was one of few who also ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle 5K (a new event) last Saturday, the day before she ran the half-marathon. Congrats to all.

July runs are next

More from the Brewers Festival next door

More from the Brewers Festival next door

Looking forward to another 5K and an 8K in July. The Redmond Derby Dash 5K is on July 7, an after-work race with several Allytics teammates again, and the Seattle Torchlight Run 8K is right before the Torchlight Parade on July 29. I’m also hoping to do another bike ride in the next month or two.

Will I need another ankle surgery soon? I am starting to think so, after experiencing more pain in recent weeks — especially after the 100-mile ride. August 2017 will mark six years since my first surgery.

That’s my story. Thanks for reading.

Posted in 5K, 8K, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Marymoor Park, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Flying Wheels Summer Century: Got through 100 miles with a little help from my friends

Inglewood Hill to Sammamish at the 4-mile mark is one of the toughest in the ride

Inglewood Hill to Sammamish at the 4-mile mark is one of the toughest hills in the ride

The heat of my bicycling season took place over the last six weeks, and it culminated last Saturday (June 10) with the Flying Wheels Summer Century. The century is bicycling’s version of the marathon (though not quite as hard on the body, in my opinion).

J.D. Stefaniak, visiting Seattle from his native Ireland, poses at the finish line

J.D. Stefaniak, visiting Seattle from his native Ireland, poses at the finish line

There were shorter distances for this event, but I rode the full 100-mile route again, as I have for four years now. It continues to be a challenging test of energy, mental toughness, bicycle efficiency, and just how long I can sit and pedal.

But I got to the finish line after about 10 hours (9 hours of riding time), and it felt as good as it always does. This was my seventh century and 31st event ride overall. (Five days later, my rear end has fully recovered; but thanks to all those who asked about it.)

A special shout-out to the Cascade Bicycle Club volunteers who kept all the food stops open long enough for me to get muffins and bananas when I really needed something to eat, and to the Cascade communications support folks who patrolled the course to make sure all riders were safe.

It was also very cool to meet JD Stefaniak, a software engineer from Cork, Ireland, during the ride, and to see my former Zones teammate, Russell Poe, at rest stops and on the ride route. They gave me inspiration to finish. More on them below.

Another new course for 2017; will it stick?

Flying Wheels route mapAbout 2,200 riders participated in either the 23-, 46-, 75- or 100-mile routes at the Flying Wheels event, according to race organizers at the Cascade Bicycle Club. The turnout was a 20 percent drop from recent years, they said. It was a mostly cloudy day with some showers, which perhaps affected participation.

For a third straight year, the 100-mile course was different — more of a vertical loop extending further north into Snohomish County than in past years and avoiding Duvall and Fall City. It also did not cross into Bellevue or Newcastle as it did in 2016. The inclusion of the south and east Bellevue neighborhoods near where I live in last year’s course was a departure from the past, but I liked it a lot, and was sorry to see another revamp for 2017.

“The route changes are a combination of rider feedback, community feedback, road construction, and other events going on in the (Snoqualmie) valley,” said Anna Telensky of the Cascade Bicycle Club. “Last year, we were avoiding Duvall Days, this year we were avoiding Fall City Days and trying to cut out a few parts of the route that we’ve received negative rider and community feedback on in the past.”

Highlights and lowlights of the ride

Here’s my half-dozen:

  • A third steep, challenging hill added: Mainstays of the course (46- to 100-mile routes) are the two hills leading up to the East Lake Sammamish Plateau, from the west and east. These hills are at the 4- and 84-mile marks of the century. New this year, because of the new course, was a deceptive 1.5-mile climb northeast of Snohomish at the 44-mile point. I shifted down as fast as I could but was unprepared for this sudden steepness, and ended up walking my bike to the top. Maybe next year. The other two hills? No problem; I know them well now.
  • Ah, but got to go down Novelty Hill Road: I’ve ridden the 7 Hills of Kirkland Metric Century twice, and a dreaded part of that 60-mile ride is climbing up the endless Novelty Hill. But the new Flying Wheels course had riders flying down the hill instead and I’d much rather do that.
  • The ride’s most unpleasant portion: In a 20-mile section north and east of Snohomish, you ride on country roads past fenced homes with signs like “Private Property: Keep Out,” “No Trespassing Allowed,” “Beware of Dog,” and so on. It does not feel safe or bike-friendly. I was glad to finally enter the Monroe city limits.
  • Downtown Snohomish: Just before that section, however, was colorful downtown Snohomish, which is indeed bike-friendly and always fun to spin through.
  • Food stops stayed open to feed stragglers: My late start and general slowness put me at the back of the pack, and the popular peanut butter and bagels were gone at several of the stops after 50 miles. But I devoured a few muffins at one stop and bananas at several.
  • East Lake Sammamish Parkway home stretch is back: After a one-year absence, it was nice to have the final eight-mile sprint up the East Lake Sammamish Parkway to Marymoor Park added back in. You can smell the finish line at Marymoor during that last leg.

Bonding with fellow riders

Riding through downtown Snohomish is J.D.'s manager, with

Riding through downtown Snohomish is JD’s manager, with
JD in the background

JD Stefaniak, an avid cyclist, happened to be in town this past week to visit his Seattle-based manager at EMC Isilon. I didn’t catch his boss’s name, but they both did the ride, and I first saw them outside a bathroom stop in downtown Snohomish.

My turn to pose at the finish line; great to get off the bike!

My turn to pose at the finish line; great to get off the bike!

After I passed them on the course and they passed me, the three of us found ourselves trying to climb the steep hill northeast of Snohomish together. It was futile, but much fun chatting. I rode ahead of them and did not see JD again until he pulled in to the final food stop at the 90-mile mark as I was riding out. To my surprise, he passed me in the final four miles and finished ahead of me by about 100 yards.

It was great to formally meet JD and chat again at the finish line. (His boss finished well behind us both.) It was his first time doing this ride and I was impressed that he handled the course as well as he did. But JD let me know he’s already signed up to do a multi-day ride around the perimeter of Ireland later this year, so he knows endurance bicycling. Perhaps we’ll hook up again in another Seattle-area ride.

Congrats to JD and his manager and to Russell Poe, a veteran cyclist who did the 75-mile route with relative ease. Interacting with other riders like this is one of the best parts of doing these events, in my opinion.

Back to running, for now

We got rained on a bit, as seen in this food stop at 26 miles

We got rained on a bit, as seen in this stop at 26 miles

I’m not sure of my next ride in 2017, but hopefully I will do another one this year. Anyone want to join me for RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., and Party) in August? I’d love to do that one again — I did it in 2014 — but don’t want to ride it alone.

Meanwhile, it’s back to running for awhile, though my ankle is sore after this century. I’m doing the Washington Beer Run 5K on Sunday with runner friend Chris Norred (I did the inaugural Beer Run last year).

Finishing with a picture at the starting line

Finishing with a picture at the starting line

And I’m planning on two July runs — the Redmond Derby Dash 5K on July 7, with several Allytics teammates again, and the Seattle Torchlight Run 8K on July 29. The evening Torchlight Run took last year off, but I’m glad it’s back.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 5K, 7 Hills of Kirkland, 8K, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Marathons, Marymoor Park, RSVP, Running, Seafair Torchlight Run | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2017 Memorial Day weekend: Back-to-back bike rides fun to do, but selfish to try

Emerald City Bike Riders head back to Safeco Field via the Interstate 90 express lanes

Emerald City Bike Riders head back to Safeco Field via the Interstate 90 express lanes

Unlike road runs, the Seattle area does not offer enough organized bicycle rides throughout the year for me to do. So when two rides I like to do each year were on the same weekend, such as the Memorial Day weekend, I signed up to do both.

Map of the Emerald City Bike Ride 25-mile route

Map of the Emerald City Bike Ride 25-mile route

This is probably not a good idea without checking with my wife first. Liz did not raise a stink about it, but she did wonder why I hadn’t thought about the possibility of us getting away somewhere for the weekend. Good idea for next time this comes up. Ask first — before I sign up for two bicycle rides that keep us at home in a hot, muggy house much of the weekend.

There’s my mea culpa. Lesson learned. But, yes, I did both rides: the 2017 Emerald City Bike Ride on Sunday (May 28) and the 7 Hills of Kirkland on Monday (May 29). And I felt I got my money’s worth out of both.

Riders cross the finish line

Riders cross the Emerald City finish line

I worried about this being a physical challenge, but it was really no big deal. That’s because the Emerald City Bike Ride was a flat, scenic, 25-mile ride that offered fast riding on freeways and major roadways that were closed for the morning. The 7 Hills of Kirkland was much more hilly and challenging, but I did the traditional 38-mile route instead of the far more ambitious metric century (60 miles) or full century (100 miles).

I had enough gas left over from Sunday’s jaunt to tackle the major hills in Monday’s more serious ride.

Scenic ride over freeways free of cars a big draw

Another shot on the I-90 express lanes, which will soon be closed for light-rail tracks

Another shot on the I-90 express lanes, which will soon be closed for light-rail tracks

Give area cyclists a chance to ride on Interstate 5, State Route 520 and Interstate 90 and you will get a strong turnout. Some 7,000 cyclists rode in Sunday’s Emerald City Bike Ride, including lots of casual riders and parents riding with their children. The freeway lanes and express lanes were closed to car traffic to allow only bicyclists.

Emerald City provided a food stop at Medina Elementary School

Emerald City provided a food stop at Medina Elementary School

Many elite riders started and finished early. Many other cyclists stopped on the bridges and freeway viewpoints to snap selfies and pictures with views of Puget Sound, Lake Washington and Mount Rainier in the background. The photo opportunities were incredible.

A year ago in April, this ride was first held to celebrate the opening of the new Evergreen Point Floating Bridge over Lake Washington. I did that ride and the turnout was similar — about 7,000 riders — for a 21-mile course that went both directions on the 520 bridge and also included the I-5 express lanes.

Half of the 520 floating bridge was closed to cars for the ride

Half of the 520 floating bridge was closed to cars for the ride

In an effort to make this ride an annual event, the organizers, the Cascade Bicycle Club, created more of a loop course for 2017. The start and finish lines were next to Safeco Field, and the 25-mile loop ran from I-5 in Seattle to 520 to Medina and old Bellevue and then back to Seattle on the I-90 express lanes.

For me, it was a thrill to ride on the closed freeways with thousands of others, and to see so many enjoying themselves on a bike. It took me two-and-a-half hours to ride, due to all my stops to take pictures. But the only real challenge was getting to the starting line by the 7:45 a.m. starting time, and I did.

The 7 Hills of Kirkland more for hardcore riders

The 7 Hills of Kirkland had fewer riders, but an important cause

The 7 Hills of Kirkland had fewer riders, but an important cause

It was my fifth time doing this annual Memorial Day event, sponsored by EvergreenHealth and held to raise money for sheltering the region’s homeless. I wasn’t all that worn out after Sunday’s ride, so I got to the 7 Hills of Kirkland starting line in downtown Kirkland’s Marina Park in OK shape.

Posed for a picture after conquering Hill No. 3

Posed for a picture after conquering Hill No. 3

But, as I said, I decided not to ride the metric century route, as I did in 2016 and 2015, but opted for the traditional 38-mile route. That meant seven hills and 3,023 feet of elevation — instead of 11 hills and 4,635 feet of climbing as in the metric century. (The full century has 14 hills and a horrific 7,036 feet of elevation; I don’t know when I am going to try this very difficult ride.)

The 7 Hills traditional route runs through six Eastside cities

The 7 Hills traditional route runs through six Eastside cities

I’m happy to say that I conquered all seven hills, as I usually do, and finished the ride in four hours. Four of the hills — Seminary Hill near Kenmore, Norway Hill in Bothell, Winery Hill in Woodinville and Rose Hill spread over Redmond and Kirkland — are tougher than the others. At 390 feet of climbing, Winery Hill overlooking Chateau Ste. Michelle is not the biggest hill, but is clearly the steepest. I continue to need to weave back and forth up the hill (which is not very safe, by the way), just to make it to the top.

About 1,100 cyclists, most of them serious riders who are experienced at hill climbing, did the ride. I talked to several who, like me, participated in Sunday’s ride as well.

The 7 Hills ride is for a great cause, so I always appreciate the chance to do it. I also like the tradition of having strawberry shortcake at the finish line.

Next up is my annual 100-mile ride

These were my 29th and 30th organized rides since I started bicycling in 2011, and my fourth and fifth rides of 2017.

Cyclists head to 7 Hills finish line in Kirkland

Cyclists head to 7 Hills finish line in Kirkland

Congrats to friends Katherine Long and Geoff Hazel for doing Sunday’s Emerald City Bike Ride, even though I did not see them among the huge throng of riders who participated. And congrats to friends Richard Mareno and Doug Cooley, who completed Monday’s ride. Thanks also to the great support crew riders, one of whom insisted on taking a picture of me at the top of Seminary Hill.

It’s time for my annual 100-mile ride. Again this year, it will be the Flying Wheels Summer Century ride on Saturday, June 10. I’ve checked with Liz, and it’s OK.

Finish line near Safeco Field at the Emerald City Bike Ride

Finish line near Safeco Field at the Emerald City Bike Ride

I’m looking forward to another new Flying Wheels course. This one goes deeper north into Snohomish County, extending north of the city of Snohomish, than it has in the past. I’m hoping for good weather and safe bicycling.

Then, it’s back to running.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.


Posted in 7 Hills of Kirkland, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment