I remember well my first marathon. It was October 2003 at the Portland Marathon, and I’d waited for this chance for several months of painstaking training. Only a heart attack or serious injury was going to keep me from crossing the finish line.
The race went well, if not spectacularly (I finished in an unimpressive 5:07). I was so full of adrenalin when I finished that I later walked around downtown Portland with my brother, forgetting about all the miles I’d just run. It was such a good experience that I eventually did 19 more.
I can’t say finishing the Tour de Peaks 100-mile ride last Sunday was quite as awesome, but it was very satisfying. I’d set a goal for myself and achieved it. Like after my first marathon, I want to do another century … just not until next year.
Still, it went well if not spectacularly (I finished in nine-plus hours, counting stops; about 11 mph for the ride). The temperature for much of the ride was in the 80s, and I felt my training of recent weeks paid off, especially in that I was able to put on a decent finshing kick over the last three miles.
This was my fifth organized ride this year (33, 40, 65, 85, and now 100 miles), and my seventh overall, since doing the Tour de Peaks 25-mile ride a year ago. I knew after doing that event, when I had to ride 10 additional miles just to feel I’d gotten a workout, that I wanted to do a century in 2012. And, because of the largely flat terrain, and for sentimental reasons, the Tour de Peaks was the right century for me to do first.
Course a mix of familiar and new
A little bit about the course: It starts and ends near downtown North Bend, in east King County. You head east from North Bend, do a nondescript loop through forest land, come back on a side road, continue on to skim Snoqualmie’s north side, and then go down Snoqualmie Falls hill — a long, nice downhill that I later had to ride back up. At the bottom, you continue heading west to Fall City, then north to Carnation, and further north and east to a loop around Lake Joy.
After the Lake Joy loop, you continue north to Duvall and into Snohomish County, where you turn around just south of Monroe and start riding back. You ride back to King County, then take a different road back to Carnation. Then it’s back to Fall City, up the Snoqualmie Falls hill, through Snoqualmie and back into North Bend. There are loops and side roads on the course that are needed to bring you to 100 miles.
I wish I had a course map to run with this post, but there wasn’t one on the Tour de Peaks website. Two things I found interesting about the course:
1. The Snoqualmie Falls hill: The best downhill and worst uphill in the ride were in the July 28 Seattle Century course that I rode. Only, I didn’t do this leg then — I did the 85-mile version, and this was part of the 15-mile loop that I skipped. Trust me, that 85-mile ride was harder than this 100-mile ride (and took me just as long), and adding in this loop would have killed me in July. As it was, doing the Snoqualmie Falls hill as part of thye Tour de Peaks ride was manageable.
2. The Snohomish County jaunt to the north: This stretch between Duvall and Monroe was flat but smelly. I rode past manure farms and dairy farms, even a big tractor show and picnic. This was interesting because it was about half of the 35-mile loop that I skipped when I did the Flying Wheels’ 65-mile course, rather than the full century, in June. Nice to see at least part of what I missed.
- Slow start: I did get to the ride on time, starting promptly at 7:32 a.m. As I said, the ride organizers needed to throw in various loops to get the course to 100 miles, including one at the very start. In my early miles, I struggled to gain speed and keep up on what appeared to be flat terrain. I found out soon that it was a deceptive incline. We rode down it to end the loop and I pretty much flew down it. My mood changed.
- Speaking of flying: Soon we were heading west down the Snoqualmie Falls hill, a nice, long ride down. I enjoyed it, but couldn’t help but thinking about having to climb it coming back. It led to our first food stop in Fall City, where I talked with several riders and learned that most were doing the 50-mile ride and were already about 40 percent done.
- No turning around: From Fall City, we headed north on back roads to Carnation, where the 50-milers turned around. It took almost no time on that flat stretch to get to what was the second food stop in downtown Carnation. Much of this jaunt I’d done in previous rides. If there was any turning back and doing just 50 miles, here was the place to decide that. But it would have been way too easy of a ride. I trudged ahead north to Duvall.
- The Lake Joy loop: En route to Duvall was a side venture to loop around Lake Joy. Previous rides bypassed this. I’d never been here before. Lake Joy is slightly bigger than Green Lake in north Seattle, and for my Pendleton readers, about the size of the McKay Reservoir. I enjoyed riding around this lake and community for first time. Something different.
- Turning around in Snohomish County: After Duvall, the ride through the smelly area was fun because I got to see riders both ahead of me and behind me. It was a long hairpin with a little triangle loop at the very north end. Riders ahead of me cheered as I past; riders behind me were equally vocal. We were all century riders, bonding with our bikes.
- The last stop before the big hill: Riding back south, there were no side jaunts, just a straight ride back to Fall City. It was hot, and I seriously needed a break. I lucked out in that the volunteers staffing the Fall City food stop were just packing up to leave as I showed up. They graciously stopped packing, and let me have all the food (bananas, apples, etc.) and Gatorade I wanted. Man, what a lifesaver! I couldn’t thank them enough.
- The big hill: Only 15 miles remained, but that included the Snoqualmie Falls hill. That stop in Fall City helped me so much. As I said, the hill was pretty manageable. What was harder for me was riding along the Snoqualmie River on the way to it — and seeing loads of people and families splashing and swimming in the river and cooling off. It was in the high 80s, and I was boiling.
- The last stretch and the finish: Once over the hill, the last miles were flat. There was another north of North Bend loop to do to finish out the mileage. Coming back from it, I saw four riders heading the opposite way. I was ahead of them, but wanted to remain so. So I put on my best finishing kick that took me into North Bend and to the finish line.
I remember a year ago, when I finished the Tour de Peaks 25-mile ride at midday, and volunteers were there to clap and shout “Great job!” as I and other rides crossed. Wow, big deal, 25 miles, I thought. This time, after 100 miles, I was doing my own cheering and screaming inside. It felt great. But as I got toward the finish line, there was no other cheering … nothing. Nada. I finished late and they had taken down the finish line, the banners, the tables, everything. No one was around; everyone had gone to the Mount Si Festival a block away.
But there were two porta-potties still there. I celebrated by using one.
One-year anniversary — and next steps
On Sunday, August 19, it will be one year since my ankle surgery. I am anything but back to normal; I am not able to return to a full running stride, in part because I fear risking further damage to my left ankle. So I continue to focus on bicycling and walking. I miss running, but I don’t want to jeopardize my chances of being able to walk in the years ahead.
I plan to do two more organized bike rides this summer, of the 50-60 mile variety, as well as train for the Seattle Marathon Walk in November. That, my friends, will be another long day, and I will wish I had my bike with me. But I am looking forward to it anyway.
Thanks for reading. Till next time.