2016 Issaquah Run with the Fishes 5K: Runs help me cope with difficult Duck football season

Family members and close friends do this race together

Family members and close friends do this race together

The year 2016 will not be remembered fondly by Oregon Duck football fans — at least if the team does not engineer a dramatic turnaround from their current abyss. So having running, among other diversions (e.g., Seahawks on the way to winning their division), is going to get me through my weekends until basketball season starts.

Finish line

Runners cross the finish line

I ran the Issaquah Run with the Fishes 5K last Sunday (October 2), the morning after I suffered through watching a thorough pounding of the Ducks by the Washington State Cougars. The annual Salmon Days festival run was therapeutic, even if I ran 38 seconds slower than my 2015 time for this event. I was able to get beyond the agonizing way our wet-cardboard defense let the Cougars run and throw for 51 points. (Our 2016 defense is even worse than last year’s Swiss-cheese defense.)

But, oh no! We’re now 2-3 and play the rival Huskies this coming Saturday, and I’m going to be there in person for what could be a horror show!

Yes, perhaps I am being overly dramatic. I will make it through this football season with the help of my friends, even if many of them are Husky fans and are relishing this Duck downturn. But doing training runs and races will help with the stress of watching another blown coverage on third down.

And now about the run

The number of finishers at the Run with the Fishes (formerly known as the Issaquah Salmon Days Run) dipped under 1,000 this year to 992, compared to 1,244 last year and 1,341 in 2014.

Course mapBut even with the slightly lower turnout, this race remains a good showing of community spirit, with all ages participating. I saw six-year-olds running with their moms or dads. I saw husbands and wives keeping up with each together. I saw elderly men and women helped by loved ones gently across the finish line after walking 3.1 miles.

I also like the flat course, much of it on Gilman Boulevard and Front Street, two main thoroughfares that offer lots of running room. Running in stride with others causes me to push myself, even if I’m at the back of the pack. I finish runs like this spent, but invigorated.

At the starting line

At the starting line

My time was 36:21 (11:42 per mile), my third-best of seven 5Ks this year, and, as I said, behind the 35:43 (11:31 per mile) that I clocked in this race a year ago. Full results are here. But I finished the race strong and felt better than I usually do in the last mile of a 5K, so there’s that.

It was my 12th run of this year (my, the year is going by fast), and my 201st race overall. For context, my 5K PR is 24:32 on healthy ankles in 2005.

Former Allytics teammate gets first place

Among the reasons I did this run, besides the mental break from thinking about Duck football, was the chance to see my former Allytics teammate Jamin King (who happens to be a UW grad). He texted me awhile back and said he was going to do this run.

Jamin King, former colleague at Allytics, won this race

Jamin King (orange shirt), former colleague at Allytics, won this race

Jamin is not only a talented developer who now has a promising new gig, but he’s also a strong distance runner who is a threat to win most any race he enters. And he won this race, as I thought he would and told him so at the starting line.

Jamin finished in 15:54 (5:08 per mile), nearly a minute faster than the second-place runner. Obviously, I was well behind him and didn’t see him, but my sense is that he jumped out ahead of everyone else and wasn’t challenged, winning going away. I’ve run three races with him in the past year, and he’s won two of them.

Congrats, Jamin, on a great race!

What’s next

The shirtI’m hoping to find another October run. I haven’t yet run the Seattle Rivalry Clash 5K, 10K and Half-Marathon event, and may try the 10K there. The Dawg Dash 10K and 5K at the University of Washington is the same day, October 23, but I have done that run enough times that I want to try something new.

In early November, I’m definitely planning to do the Mustache Dache 5K in Seattle; I missed this race last year because I was sick with a cold. I recorded my best post-surgery 5K time in this race in 2014. Ahh, November — basketball season starts.

Hey, I will get through this difficult Ducks football season. Wish me luck. And thanks for reading. Till next time!

Posted in 10K, 5K, Mustache Dache, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Labor Day Half-Marathon: Leg cramps and all, I conquer race No. 200

Nearly 900 runners started together in front of a Macy's store at Redmond Town Center

Nearly 900 runners started in front of a Macy’s store at Redmond Town Center

The minute I finished this race, I realized I need to do the Overlake Medical Center Labor Day Half-Marathon again next year. It’s a flat, familiar course, near where I work and where I log Fitbit steps every day. It’s also a chance to get my half-marathon time back under three hours.

Crossing the finish line of race No. 200

Crossing the finish line of race No. 200

Only next time, I will remember to hydrate better the day before.

This Labor Day (September 5) event was road race No. 200 for me, as well as my 38th half-marathon. I got my best half-marathon time since my 2011 ankle surgery (3:00:30, a 13:47 per mile pace), and would have finished under three hours had I not battled leg cramps much of the race. Because of the leg pain and the fear of cramping further, I stopped to stretch three different times, which cost me a few minutes.

Otherwise, this was a decent run for me, even if I tripped and fell for a second in Mile 3 after veering quickly to the right to high-five two young children. I momentarily lost track of where I was stepping as I reached out to slap hands, and awkwardly hit a curb. It was ridiculously clumsy; I got up quickly and tried to hide. See you next fall!

Course ran just north of my workplace

This half-marathon course started and ended at Redmond Town Center, and was pretty un-memorable. Mile 2 skirted the north side of the block where Allytics, my workplace in Redmond, is headquartered. We ran westward to Willows Road, north to N.E. 124th Street, and then east to the Sammamish River Trail at Mile 6.

The course: Flat, straight, hairpin turns

The course: Flat, straight, hairpin turns

After that, we logged six miles north and south on the trail, with two hairpin turnarounds, and then took a jaunt eastward back to Redmond Town Center to finish. Total elevation for this 13.1 miles was under 130 feet. I was oh-so-close to breaking three hours, and I was focused on doing that for the last four miles or so. But I couldn’t get to the finish line fast enough.

It was back in 2008 that I remember pushing myself through the Mercer Island Half-Marathon to break two hours. I’d gotten used to logging times in the 1:55-1:57 range at the time, and didn’t want to fall back over two hours. But, alas, I crossed in 2:00:08. A year later in the same race, I was in a similar situation and finished in 2:00:09.

Last Monday brought back those memories, even as I ran. “Go, legs, go,” I urged to my lower body. Didn’t work. I have to be happy with simply beating my now-second-best post-surgery time of 3:07:47 from the Mercer Island Half-Marathon earlier this year. (My half-marathon PR is 1:55:33 in 2005.) Full results are here.

Refreshing to worry about my other leg

Finish line is same spot as where we started

Finish line is same spot as where we started

Ironically, I spent this Labor Day race worried more about the calf muscle in my right leg than my bad left ankle. A nice change, I might add. It appears that the constant pounding on flat pavement, coupled with my lack of proper hydration, caused the cramping that started in Mile 4.

After stretching a few times and making it a point to stop at several water stations to drink water or sports drink (Nuun) the rest of the way, I staved off any more major cramping. But I still hurt and felt a problem could easily flair back up. That’s my excuse anyway.

Band and beer garden afterwards

Band and beer garden afterwards

Some 699 runners and walkers finished this half-marathon, and another 184 completed the 4-Mile Run, a race I’ve done twice in recent years. Congrats to Facebook friend Joyce Szymanski for her 4-Mile Run finish and for continuing to do at least one race a month in 2016. Nice job, Joyce!

Congrats also to one of the Seattle area’s best-known runners, Uli Steidl, who won the half-marathon in 1:10:46 (a 5:24 per mile pace). The fact that he signed up to do this run tells me the event has some cache regionally.

A few tips from a back-of-the-packer

Here are some things to pass on from this race:

  • Avoid running on cement: This course is extremely flat, and the constant pounding using the same joints and muscles can cause some soreness. Don’t make it worse by running on sidewalks. Choose asphalt over cement, and consider running on the dirt and gravel shoulders of the Sammamish River Trail where you can.
  • Watch out for speeding bicyclists: About half the run is on the busy Sammamish River Trail, which many bicyclists feel is their trail and you’re just in their way — even runners participating in an organized race. Always hug the right of the trail and be aware that bicyclists will be zipping by you and may not give you much room.
  • Don’t freak out about the hairpin turns: It can be unsettling to feel you’re getting close to the end of the course, and then seeing runners ahead of you running in the other direction. The course planners needed to work in these extra turns to bring the course to a full 13.1 miles. In the last three miles, I was entering the course’s second hairpin turn near Redmond Town Center when I suddenly started seeing runners I thought had gone off-course. Then I realized that we all had to run to the shopping center, then run back away from it, then run back to it again to finish.
  • Hydrate well the day before any half-marathon: I’ve been pretty good at doing this for warm-weather races. The heat was not an issue for this run — temperatures were comfortably in the upper 60s. But hydrating is still important, especially for running long distances on flat pavement. Lesson learned.

My coincidental bib number — and what’s next

Nice race shirts!

Nice race shirts!

I was out-of-town the days before this race, and had to get my bib the day of the event. I pinned it to my shirt and didn’t even look at the number until I arrived home afterwards. I noticed it read No. 200 — for my 200th road run (since 2001). Total coincidence; the organizers had no idea. But still very cool.

We’ll see if I get to No. 300.

In the meantime, No. 201 will likely be a 5K. I haven’t signed up for anything yet, but the possibilities include the Alpine Climb 5K Sept. 25 as part of Fremont Oktoberfest, the Issaquah Rotary Run with the Fishes 5K on Oct. 2, or the Dawg Dash 5K at the University of Washington Oct. 23.

My finisher's medal and No. 200 bib

My finisher’s medal and No. 200 bib

Unfortunately, none of the few remaining bicycle rides in 2016 work for my schedule, which includes watching a lot of football.

Thanks for reading! Till No. 201.

Posted in 5K, Bicycling, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Seattle Marathon 10K: Bathroom scene mars otherwise classy event

Elite runners at the start

Elite runners at the start in Gas Works Park. Photo by James Taylor

The Seattle Marathon 10K last Saturday was an enjoyable, well-organized race, with a relatively flat course, comfortable running weather, and having Allytics teammate R.J. Ricker join me for what was her first 10K (she’s an experienced runner, but this was her first time at this distance).

RJ and yours truly before the race

R.J. and yours truly before the race

But what I will remember the most happened the day before. On Friday I went to Gas Works Park, where the race started and ended, to get my bib and chip as part of early packet pickup. I had a nice walk around the park, shot some pictures of people paddle-boarding at nearby Lake Union, and then made a bathroom stop just before heading back to my car.

Inside the bathroom, in plain sight in front of the toilets and urinals, were two men helping each other shoot up heroin. These weren’t down-and-outers; they were two young men in their 20s, possibly students at the University of Washington not far away. I maneuvered around them as they raved about the potency of their junk, the cool vibe they were feeling, and even joked about being diabetics shooting insulin.

Sea10K7I’ve seen people shoot up heroin before. And my dad was a diabetic and took insulin shots every day. I just felt a little sick about two young men seemingly ruining their lives. Where will this dangerous habit lead them? I’d been better off not having seen it. But I kept my mouth shut and left.

The run the next day was therapeutic after that experience. I went back to the same bathroom and this time it was packed full of runners. I’ll take that any day, even if I have to wait in line to go.

Stiff and slow at first — again

The finish line inside the park

The finish line inside the park

So let me talk about the race. Just like a year ago when I ran the Seattle Marathon 10K, I started out feeling sluggish and my bad ankle a bit stiff. But unlike a year ago, no one running beside me was concerned enough to offer me her brace — I still shake my head at how someone cared enough to remove her knee brace and offer it to me, only to have me tell her that it’s my ankle that’s the problem.

The course is essentially and out-and-back west toward Ballard, followed by an out-and-back east toward the UW. Much of the run is on the Burke-Gilman Trail. In the second mile, my groin started hurting; I probably need to stretch more before a race. But after I relaxed and ran a tad easier, the pain subsided and I started feeling some momentum and energy.

I ran probably my strongest in the last mile and finished in my best post-surgery 10K time of 1:16:58 (12:24 per mile). I’ll take it, even if it is only 12 seconds better than my next-best time, which was at this race a year ago. Full results are here.

RJ gets ready for a strong run in her first 10K

R.J. gets ready for an impressive first 10K

R.J., which stands for Rachael Joyce, clocked 52:45 (8:30 per mile) in her 10K debut, so she was way ahead of me. She did not beat my 10K PR (51:44 in 2004), but she will in due time. Very nice that she and her boyfriend James Taylor (no relation to the singer) waited for me at the finish line.

Surprisingly low turnout — and my race tips

The Seattle Marathon 10K obviously has a recognizable brand behind it, as it is run by the same organization that brings us the Seattle Marathon and Half-Marathon on Thanksgiving weekend in November. But that didn’t help the turnout this year. Only 593 runners and walkers completed the race, a drop of more than 200 from a year ago.

Sea10K6This is a busy weekend in the late summer. But I also feel this event was not widely marketed this year, and perhaps the organizers actually want to keep the turnout low and manageable. Who knows?

If you’re interested in running in this 10K, I do recommend it. Here are some basic tips:


  • Low turnout or not, there is congestion and potential collisions at the start of the race, with the narrow trail. Stake out a spot where you know you won’t trip over another runner or someone’s dog.
  • Don’t freak out waiting for the turnarounds. You head west at the start, and you don’t see the turnaround point until you are almost at it. Then going east, the turnaround point is even more hidden, and you start to get impatient. Try to keep your pace — you will indeed finally get there!
  • In the last mile heading back to Gas Works Park, you have a long, flat near-straightaway to work up a strong finishing kick. Make that turnaround, cross under I-5 and then start kicking. No reason to hold back.

Road race No. 200 is Labor Day

Sea10K2So that was my race No. 199. I’m running No. 200 on Sept. 5 — the Overlake Medical Center Labor Day Half-Marathon. I am not really ready for a half, but these days, I never am. I’m looking forward to crossing the finish line.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 10K, Burke-Gilman Trail, Running, Seattle Marathon | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Lake Union 10K: Fun run that includes a post-race breakfast

Food line

Last weekend could have been a great one for bicycling. Both the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party!) and Obliteride rides took place, but I took a pass on both. RSVP would have been fantastic, but I couldn’t find a riding partner to share the logistics. Obliteride, a ride for a great cause (cancer research), was simply too expensive.

Finish lineSo instead, I ran the Lake Union 10K on Sunday (Aug. 14), a race I’d never done before. I’m glad I did, because the course is a breezy run around the lake, through Fremont and the edge of the University of Washington campus. It starts and ends at the very well-groomed Lake Union Park near downtown Seattle.

Also, the organizers, Portage Bay Café and 5focus, provide a post-race breakfast of eggs, French toast, strawberry shortcake, fruit and other goodies.

Monte near finish lineMoreover, the event benefits the Puget Sound chapter of Girls on the Run, and has a strong health and fitness vibe. Some 1,255 runners and walkers completed the 6.2-mile loop, including several teams from the nearby Amazon.com headquarters in south Lake Union.

This race took place on an 80-degree day, but it was early enough (7:30 a.m. start) to miss the serious heat.

Bottom line, I will probably run it again.

Course didn’t really rim the lake

I can’t say the course is perfect. I imagined it being one that actually touched the edge of the lake. Instead, it looped around Lake Union more loosely on streets and trails, and did not offer many breathtaking views.

Starting lineBut I still enjoyed the jaunt north up a wide-open Westlake Avenue, across the Fremont Bridge, and through trendy Fremont on the Burke-Gilman Trail. You then cross the University Bridge on a narrow path that doesn’t accommodate runners and strollers side-by-side. A tight squeeze, but I made it.

The way back to Lake Union Park on the lake’s eastside is anything but straight as you weave through neighborhoods and businesses, and don’t often see the lake. It was fine, because you avoided cars.

CourseI really liked the last, sidewalk stretch along Valley Street on the south end and the straightaway to the finish line.

I finished in 1:17:54, a 12:33 per mile pace. Full results are here. This was a tad slower than the 1:17:10 I ran at last year’s Seattle Marathon 10K, but better than any other of my post-surgery 10K times. My 10K PR is 51:44 in 2004, and I’m happy to say that a majority of my 10K race times are still under an hour.

Long lines for food

One other point: Though I talked about the post-race breakfast, I did not partake in it. The food looked great, but the lines were just too long, and I wasn’t all that hungry after the race. If you’re reading this and you did have some food, please leave a comment.

LU2Congrats to Facebook friend Joyce Szymanski for her fine race. I didn’t see her or anyone else I knew at the race, but many people milled around Lake Union Park afterwards — largely because of the breakfast, but also because of the sun and fun vibe.

I’m running another 10K, the Seattle Marathon 10K, on August 27. Then on Labor Day, I am doing the Overlake Medical Center Labor Day Half-Marathon beginning at Marymoor Park.

The latter will be my 38th half-marathon and my 200th race overall (since 2001). It will also be my 63rd race since my ankle surgery five years ago this month, when I thought I would never run again. Looking forward to the finish line.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 10K, Bicycling, Burke-Gilman Trail, RSVP, Running, Seattle Marathon | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Redmond Derby Dash 5K: Friday night fight for running room on busy trail

Finish line

It was such an easy decision: Do a Friday night 5K run right next to where I work in Redmond. I was pleased that three workmates of mine at Allytics — RJ Ricker, Hayley Halstead and Kathleen Esses — agreed to run the Redmond Derby Dash 5K on July 8 with me.

Derby3The weather was warm and dry, the course was flat and straight, the vibe was energetic and festive, and a rock band was playing at the finish line. This run kicked off Redmond’s annual Derby Days celebration. Not much to complain about. My only nit: The runners didn’t have the Sammamish River Trail to themselves for this event.

Yes, that is a lot to ask. This popular trail that runs through Redmond, Woodinville and Bothell before it connects to the Burke-Gilman Trail is a major recreational and a transportation corridor through the Eastside. Bicyclists love it; many use it to commute to work at Microsoft. Skaters and skateboarders love it too. Closing it for an event is, well, not going to happen.

Running or roller derby?

About 400 runners and walkers participated in this race (286 were timed; the rest chose not to be timed), and they joined a smattering of bicyclists, skateboarders and other non-participants on the narrow trail. And it was an out-and-back course starting near Redmond City Hall. So after a hairpin turnaround, faster runners sprinted back just beside the slower runners and walkers going out. Congestion ruled.

Our team for the day, from left, RJ Ricker, yours truly, Hayley Halstead and Kathleen Esses

Our team, from left, is RJ Ricker, yours truly in the shadows, Hayley Halstead and Kathleen Esses

I don’t want to suggest there were major problems — that’s not the case. But, as a slower runner going out, I noticed the race leaders having to avoid getting hit by bicyclists passing them. This slowed their times, I’m sure.

I had a couple of skateboarders myself squeezing my running space. One got close enough to me in the last mile of the run that he threatened to bump me on my left side, which includes my gimpy left ankle. My instinctive reaction was to elbow him away, and I accidentally knocked him off his board, though he didn’t fall. I felt bad about that, but I didn’t want to get hurt as I was laboring to reach the finish line.

Derby10Kathleen, the fastest runner in our Allytics group on this day, said her race included a lot of jockeying for position with another runner or two, and it sounded a bit like roller derby.

Yes, this is a popular trail, especially in early evenings of summer. Despite the some bottlenecks during the race, we all had enjoyable runs and some of our best 5K times. Lesson for me: Get over it; this race IS a bit like roller derby.

Times and tips

My time was 35:40 (11:29 per mile), my best 5K time since May 2015 when I ran 35:27 in the Husky 5K at the UW Bothell. Kathleen (25:07), RJ (25:53) and Hayley (39:09) also had among their best times of 2016. Full results are here.

It was my eighth road run of this year and 197th overall — getting close to 200!

Lining up at the starting line pre-race.

Lining up at the starting line pre-race.

My few tips for this race:

  • Stay to the right, obviously. This is what I always tell myself while doing walks or training runs on this trail. Bicyclists speed past you with limited concern for your safety; they just don’t want to have to use their brakes. (P.S. I do like to ride this trail myself, but I know I’ve got to slow down through Redmond.)
  • Push yourself. This is a race to get a PR, so no need to hold back. Your first and third miles should be strong and your second mile steady. The course is straight, so there’s only the one turnaround to slow you down.
  • Watch your back. While you are running hard, you need to just be aware that a bicyclist, skater or faster runner may be trying to pass you. Again, it’s a busy trail, and people get on and off at various trail spurs along this route.

What’s next?

Teammates at the starting line

Teammates at the starting line

My July is nearly spent, with other, non-running weekend commitments. I’m planning to do the Seattle Marathon 10K in August and the Overlake Labor Day Half Marathon in early September.

I’m also hoping to do another long bicycle ride, perhaps the Obliteride in August or  Ride Around The Sound in September.


Thanks for reading! Till next time. Keep moving!

Posted in 10K, 5K, Bicycling, Burke-Gilman Trail, Running, Sammamish River Trail | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Washington Beer Run 5K: Perfect excuse to drink beer on Father’s Day

The starting line at the first-ever Washington Beer Run 5K

The starting line at the first-ever Washington Beer Run 5K

My expectations were low for the inaugural Washington Beer Run 5K — especially after I was one of the first three runners to arrive for the race at Redmond’s Marymoor Park last Sunday (Father’s Day, June 19). I am never one of the first people to arrive for a race; most of the time, I’m one of the last.

I tried to get there early because packet pickup was just before the event. Turns out, race organizers had just gotten there as well, and were setting up the tables and tents in front of me. OK, how small of a race will this be? I thought. But soon, more and more people started arriving, and lines began to get longer.


Ultimately, we had a race with about 500 runners and walkers. It turned out to be fun. The weather was sunny and warm, the course was flat, and I had my best 5K time of the year (by my watch). And my bad ankle got through it OK. And the beer afterwards tasted awesome.

Run is part of Washington Brewers Festival

This run was held in conjunction with the Washington Beer Commission’s 11th annual Washington Brewers Festival, a beer garden on steroids featuring 110 breweries and 500 or more craft beers.

The race shirtApparently, the event organizers felt a Sunday 5K race would help the festival turnout, as few runners will turn down a beer after finishing a race on a hot day. Good move.

More on the beer in a second. Let me just say that my main disappointment was that the race was untimed. No chip on the bib, no chip to wrap around your shoelaces. Perhaps, timing chips will come with the second-annual race.

Had I known it was not a timed race, I might have skipped it. The day before was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, which I forgot had an 8K (it didn’t in the years 2009-11, when I last did the half-marathon or the full marathon). With major bicycling rides recently, I haven’t trained well enough for a half or full. If I’m in the same situation next year, I will likely do that 8K race.

Runners cross togetherStill, based on my watch, I finished the Beer Run in 36 minutes, which is my best 5K time this year (yes, it’s been a slow year; my previous best was 37:00 at the Valentine’s Day Dash). This makes sense because it was a completely flat loop within Marymoor Park, with ample running room despite many runners with strollers who passed me. There were bicyclists and runners who weren’t part of the race clogging the course, but this didn’t cause too much of a problem.

Also, the last three-tenths of a mile was a dirt trail to the finish line, but the mud on the trail was hard. I had to watch my footing because of rocks and holes along the way, but it was a short stretch. For most, this would be a fast course.

Running tips, brews sampled, and more

My few tips for this race are:

  • Stay to the right, wherever possible: When bicyclists and others decide to use Marymoor Park, they don’t care too much if a race is going on. Best move is to accommodate them.
  • Warm up well: Again, this is a flat course, and one where you could get a PR. Break a sweat before the race to get ready.
  • Watch your footing on the dirt trail section: There are just some holes, puddles and sharp, protruding rocks to avoid.
  • Plan to sample a few beers: The 2016 fee for this race was $60, which is steep for a normal run. But this fee includes a ticket to the Brewers Festival, were breweries big and small from around the state are represented. You get to try as many as nine different brews before you exhaust the race fee. So try a couple; if you have a designated driver, you can try more.

The Brewers Festival

I walked over to the Brewers Festival following the race, and sampled the Landwink IPA from Woodinville’s Triplehorn Brewing and the La Raza Mexican Lager from Farmstrong Brewing of Mount Vernon. Both were light beers and just right for my taste. I was dehydrated and thirsty, and they went down fast. But I had to drive home by myself, so I decided to stop drinking at that point.

A Seattle band called WingsNThings played Beatles and Wings hits as people made their way around the different brewers’ booths for samples. I didn’t stick around long enough to see how wild the party got. But it was a good time and a decent, challenging run — my seventh road race this year and my 196th overall.

Beer8My teammates from Allytics will do this race next year; I’ll make sure of that.

What’s next for me? Not sure. I’m looking for road races to do in July that don’t conflict with my niece’s wedding and other plans, as well as another good bicycle ride.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 5K, Bicycling, Marathons, Marymoor Park, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Flying Wheels Summer Century: 104 gritty miles in 85-degree heat

First food stop is Camp Korey in Carnation; you also stop there again after a loop through Duvall

First food stop is Camp Korey in Carnation; you also stop here again after a loop through Duvall

I’ve got some friends in low places — the lowest gears on my Trek 1.1 bicycle. It’s a good thing I rediscovered them recently, because they helped me conquer some tough hills and a 104-mile course in 85-degree heat last Saturday (June 4).

Call it the high spark of low wheel gears. Or something like that.

Riders coffee up at the starting line

Riders coffee up at the starting line

The new, longer course in the 2016 Flying Wheels Summer Century took myself and several hundred other riders through 11 different cities in east King County. It was a long, hot, sweaty, but enjoyable ride, aided by the camaraderie of a group of us back-of-the-pack riders who soldiered on until we hit the finish line at Marymoor Park.

A big thanks to the volunteers for the food stops run by ride organizer Cascade Bicycle Club. They kept their food and water stations open until most of the last bunch of riders came through.

Back to my low gears. I’ve had this bike for three years, but have neglected until recently to fully utilize the lowest back-wheel gear. Duh, you say. OK. Fair enough. I just didn’t realize that using it, combined with my lowest front-wheel gear, could make climbing steep hills much easier. I’d gotten used to not shifting down all the way on my right side.

Riders reach the crest of Inglewood Hill Road

Riders reach the crest of Inglewood Hill Road

Anyway, I made it up the Flying Wheels ride’s steepest hill, Inglewood Hill Road into Sammamish at the 4-mile mark, and that gave me some early momentum for the rest of the ride. After that, I felt confident I could conquer the four or more other tough hills throughout the course. And I did, including the climb back up on the East Lake Sammamish Plateau from the east side on Issaquah-Fall City Road.

I hadn’t been able to get up Inglewood Hill without walking my bike a short distance since my first Flying Wheels ride in 2012.

Not as tough a ride as 7 Hills of Kirkland

Another shot from Camp Korey

Another shot from Camp Korey

Let me be clear about one thing: Unlike the 7 Hills of Kirkland Metric Century ride I completed five days earlier, the hills were not the hardest part of the Flying Wheels Summer Century. It was a longer ride, but actually an easier one on my body. The toughest part was riding all 104 miles in such heat, while staying hydrated and avoiding being sideswiped by a car or suffering a flat tire.

I did it. Took me more than nine hours to finish. But it felt great.

It was my sixth century, which is bicycling’s equivalent of a marathon. It was my fifth time riding in the Flying Wheels event, and 26th major organized bike ride since 2011.

Some highlights and lowlights:

  • New course takes me near my home: Since my first Flying Wheels in 2012 (I did the 65-mile route in 2012 and 2013, and the full century the last three years), the course has always veered north to Snohomish. This year, it dropped that northern loop in lieu of a more southerly one through Issaquah and Newcastle, and back to Marymoor Park through Bellevue. It was cool to ride the last 15 miles through Factoria and east Bellevue, near where I live. (See route map below.)
  • Eastern loop includes climb up — and ride back down — Snoqualmie Falls hill: This 1.5-mile hill is steep and narrow, but a perk of having it on the course is the high-speed, wind-in-your-face, “Wheeee!” ride back down. Other fun downhill jaunts: Union Hill Road toward Carnation, 228th Avenue S.E. from Sammamish to Issaquah, Newcastle Way, and the final downhill to West Lake Sammamish Parkway and Marymoor Park.
  • Food stops were well stocked: I try to avoid eating much at these stops, because in earlier rides, I actually gained weight after a long ride. But last Saturday, in the heat, I made sure I had enough fuel. I enjoyed a chocolate muffin at one stop and a cookie or two at another. There were lots of oranges, bananas, cookies, energy bars, pastries, peanut butter sandwiches and more. Thanks, Cascade! A ton was leftover too; hope it got eaten by someone.
  • Scorching heat hit in the afternoon: The morning hours of the ride were bearable. But by the time I got into the second half of the ride, in the early afternoon, the 80-plus degree heat suddenly slowed me and many others down. It was most intense in miles 70 through 90, heading from Fall City through Issaquah.
  • Great to see more women do this event: I don’t have an official count, but I’m estimating that 2,000 or more people participated in one of the four different 2016 Flying Wheels routes — 23, 45, 63, and 104 miles. Around 35-40 percent were women bicyclists, which is encouraging. It is the reverse of road runs, where women dominate participation, but still nice to see it climb closer to 50 percent in bicycling.

By the time myself and a group of others reached the finish line, the after-ride party had ended and a concert featuring The Lumineers was under way nearby at Marymoor Park. It was still a feeling of accomplishment to complete this ride, even at 6:30 p.m.


Here are my tips for this event:

  • Train for this ride or else skip it: You can do the shorter rides, such as the 23-mile route that is mostly around Lake Sammamish, with little training. But the longer routes require more fitness and stamina, as you need to hit cut-off times to continue riding certain distances (in other words, you needed to reach 44 miles by noon to continue on the 104-mile route).
  • Know your limits: I determined early on in the ride that I was going to attempt all 104 miles. But I was prepared to reevaluate things at the stops at 63 and 79 miles; I decided each time to stay the course, rather than take a shortcut to the finish line. If you feel you’ll be out of gas in those last 20 miles, it’s unsafe not to cut the ride short.
  • Make yourself eat and drink enough water during the ride: As I said, the food was plentiful. You need to eat enough protein and carbs to keep up with other riders and stay safe. Fueling up and staying hydrated, especially at the early stops, is a good way to avoid problems and mishaps later in the race.
  • Meet fellow riders at the stops: There’s nothing better than meeting fellow riders whose chatter and support can keep you motivated. I enjoyed talking to several riders throughout the ride, and many of those conversations gave me inspiration to finish.

What’s next?

The scene at the Marymoor Park starting line

The scene at the Marymoor Park starting line

I honestly want to do another long bike ride soon, perhaps even another century. Maybe I’ll find someone who will ride Seattle-to-Portland (STP) in July or RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party) in August with me. Or perhaps I will raise money for cancer research so I can do Obliteride in August for the first time.

In the meantime, my next event is the Washington Beer Run 5K on Father’s Day, June 19. I got my timing messed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half Marathon the day before; I signed up for the Beer Run at the urging of Allytics co-workers, so I’m doing that instead.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 5K, 7 Hills of Kirkland, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Marymoor Park, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment