This ride was my annual lesson in how I don’t do enough hill training … and how I am no longer 25.
I rode the 7 Hills of Kirkland Metric Century on Memorial Day, my fourth time doing this event and my second time riding the 60-mile version. Organizers said about 1,200 bicyclists participated this year, evenly divided among the three routes.
You climb seven challenging hills in the traditional 40-mile route, 11 hills in the metric century and 14 hills in the full century (which I haven’t yet done).
The 11 hills throughout north and east King County again got the best of me. So did the 70-degree heat. I had enough strength to get to the finish line, and barely enough to enjoy my strawberry shortcake — an annual treat for finishers — afterwards.
No one wears tutus or costumes to an event like this (unlike the road runs I do). This is indeed a tough ride, with 4,635 feet of elevation over the 58.2 miles in the metric century. My legs and quads felt every bit of that.
No time to rest, however. I plan to do the Flying Wheels Summer Century, a 104-miler, on Saturday. But as I write this, I don’t want to think about that.
Toughest of the tough hills
The EvergeenHealth 7 Hills of Kirkland ride starts and finishes at downtown Kirkland’s Marina Park, and is for a good cause: Proceeds benefit Attain Housing, a charity that seeks to end homelessness on the Eastside.
I’ve written about most of these hills in my previous 7 Hills posts. The four toughest for me in this ride were:
- Seminary Hill, in the Finn Hill area between Bothell and Kirkland. You speed down a drop of more than 400 feet along the northeast shore of Lake Washington, only to have to ride back up 455 feet in a steady, steep climb of nearly two miles. It’s the third hill you face and it sobers you up quickly.
- Winery Hill, in Woodinville. This is 390 feet of super-steep climbing up a residential area. I need to weave back and forth on the road to make it up the first, steepest section. That’s not safe. This is the toughest hill overall, but, fortunately, it’s only a half-mile climb.
- Novelty Hill, in east Redmond. This steady climb at the ride’s 31-mile mark is never fun, because it lasts nearly three miles. You chug your way to the top of Redmond Ridge as cars loudly speed past you, showing little regard for your suffering or safety.
- Rose Hill, through Redmond and Kirkland. This is the final hill, and when I do the 40-mile route, it’s not so daunting. But in the longer rides, it goes on forever — 525 feet of elevation over about three miles. Good thing for me that it is followed by a downhill and then a flat stretch along the Kirkland waterfront to the finish line.
Fortunately, I had someone to ride with me up some of the hills. A friend and former colleague of my wife’s, Neil Strother, contacted me before the event about riding together. It made it a more enjoyable day.
But Neil only wanted to do the 40-mile route; I couldn’t talk him into riding the metric century (and he couldn’t talk me into the shorter ride). So our joint ride ended at the 26-mile mark, where the routes split. I soldiered on to face Novelty Hill and three other hills without him, while he headed to ride up Rose Hill and then pedal to the finish line.
A few tips for riding this event
It took me about six hours of riding time to do the metric century, as I rode the last several miles in the midst of a pack of full-century finishers. The full century adds a 40-mile section through the upper Snoqualmie Valley and south Snohomish County. Most of this section I know well from other rides, such as Saturday’s Flying Wheels ride.
My tips for the 7 Hills ride are:
- Train for the hills. Unlike me, do some climbing in training rides to prepare your body for the strain of getting to the top without stopping.
- Stay to the right. Most drivers are in a hurry, and don’t care about your struggles. They will zoom past you and hope you don’t weave into their path. Staying safe in any bike ride is the most important part.
- Enjoy the downhills! Most uphill climbs are followed by sharp descents (as many as 10 or more decent drops). Relax and proceed at a safe rate of speed and in control. Slow down heading down blind corners.
- Fuel up on protein and carbs and drink plenty of water. The hills can take a physical toll; make sure you are adequately nourished and hydrated.
- Leave something left for the last hill. Rose Hill, as I said, is a long, steady climb. It’s hard to do when you are totally spent, as I can attest. So plan for it.
This was my 25th organized bike ride since 2011, and my 12th of 50 miles or longer, including five centuries. I’m just hoping that I am rested and ready for my 26th on Saturday, which is expected to take place in high 80-degree heat.
After the Flying Wheels ride, my butt will be sore. I’ll go back to running for June and July.
Thanks for reading! Till next time (provided I make it to next time).