I had to miss the Valentine’s Day Dash 5K in February, for the first time in nine years, due to a unplanned business trip. So then I moved on to bicycling, and it felt good to get back on my bike after a layoff since late September.
It felt even better to do my first organized ride of 2015 — the 33-mile Chilly Hilly ride around Bainbridge Island last Sunday, Feb. 22. This was the fourth time I’ve done this ride, which is indeed a chilly but uplifting event that annually signals the start of the Puget Sound-area bicycling season.
Some 4,400 people did this year’s ride, according to sponsor Cascade Bicycle Club.
Part of its attraction is being among a ferry-full of rabid bicyclists who load up in Seattle and then excitedly ride off the boat for the start of the event at the Bainbridge terminal in Winslow. Part of it is testing yourself on some of the more challenging hills of the ride, which boasts 2,675 feet of elevation. And part of it are the incredibly scenic views you get of the mountains, the Seattle skyline and the Puget Sound as you are riding a loop around the perimeter of this island.
It was also nice this year to be able to ride with a friend, Paras Bedmutha, from my previous job at Edifecs. I got a chance to catch up with Paras, as we rode the ferry together both ways and rode the course at a similar pace. One of the big differences that day was that after I finished, I went home to relax, and after Paras finished, he played in a USTA tennis match he had scheduled for late that afternoon in Bellevue. I don’t know how he did it — he said he actually won the match — as I was totally spent for the rest of the day.
It snowed in spurts the first year I did this ride (2012). Last year, it rained throughout, and I finished thoroughly wet. This year’s ride was dry, fortunately, but the ferry rides over and back were cold and windy, which is what I will remember about the 2015 ride. I was dressed for a warmer day.
Two hills stand out as toughest
I’ve detailed this course in recapping my previous Chilly Hilly rides, and it hasn’t changed any — even if I remember certain parts differently. For example, I used to consider N.E. Baker Hill Road as the toughest, steepest hill of the ride. But I have ridden it all the way to the top in least two of the last four rides. Two other hills earlier in the race, which are near each other and which both creep up on you before you can get your legs going, now seem the toughest.
For these two hills (I can’t remember what streets they are), I had to walk my bike for short stretches to make it to the top. I did in 2014, as well. Not enough hill training prior to each ride. But also — excuse time — my gears didn’t properly shift going up the first tough hill and I had to stop pedaling and re-start.
But I successfully made it up all of the other steep hills, and completed the ride in three-and-a-half hours, counting food stops, potty breaks, and stops to take pictures. I had more stoppage time than in previous years — for picture-taking — so I actually felt I rode this year’s ride a tad faster, though I did 3:34 in 2014.
One other notable item was how fast the first 10 miles seemed this year. When you’re in a pack of riders moving quickly from the get-go, you’d better ride fast to avoid causing slowdowns and crashes. I kept up, merely to survive. After 10 miles or so, you hit some rolling hills and riders string out a bit.
Though we did not ride the whole way together, Paras and I maintained a similar pace and stayed close to each other, all the way to the finish. I suspect he was conserving energy for his tennis match later that afternoon. I used all my energy for the ride, including that last big hill up Wyatt Way NW that led to the finish line.
A quick shout out to the great photojournalist, Anthony Bolante, who did the ride. I ran into him, a former Bellevue Journal-American and Microsoft colleague, at the food stop near the halfway point. Sorry we didn’t get to chat longer!
I look forward to doing the 7 Hills of Kirkland and Flying Wheels Century rides in coming months. But before then, I go back to running in March for the St. Patrick’s Day Dash — it’s a true 5K course this year — and the Mercer Island Half-Marathon, my 12th year of doing this race.