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).
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?
About 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
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.
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
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).
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.