2018 Emerald City Bike Ride: First ride back is last ride on Seattle’s viaduct

A wet and cold ride was made better by the chance to ride the Alaskan Way Viaduct a fine time before it is demolished

A wet, cold ride was made better by the chance to ride the Alaskan Way Viaduct a final time

The weather gods were in a foul mood for my first post-surgery bicycling event on April 8, as rain and wind made for a wet, chilly Emerald City Bike Ride. But I got the chance to ride one last time (traffic-free) on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which rims downtown Seattle.

The 12-mile course

The 12-mile Emerald City Ride course

I also got to return to bicycling. This was only a 12-mile jaunt around Seattle, but it was my first bike event since last June, when I did the Flying Wheels 100-mile ride. My newly fused left ankle got through it just fine.

For those who don’t live in the Seattle area, a huge tunnel is being constructed to handle traffic and replace the 64-year-old viaduct so it won’t come crashing down during an earthquake. The opening of the freeway tunnel and the demolishing of the viaduct are both scheduled for early 2019.

So the days are numbered for this scenic viaduct, which overlooks Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound. It provides incredible views of the waterfront, ferry boats, the Seattle Great Wheel (big ferris wheel near the water), the Olympic Mountains in the background, and more.

Perhaps I will do a last run on the viaduct in July, because the Seattle Torchlight Run 8K usually has a long stretch on it unless they change the course this year. We’ll see.

But the fun of doing an untimed bike ride on it, when all traffic is diverted from it, is the ability to stop and take pictures. I took my share, and so did many other riders, so the ride took me an hour and 30 minutes.

Fairly easy ride, but almost missed the I-5 cutoff time

Just under 7,000 bicyclists did the ride, a slight decline from the much warmer 2017 ride but still likely the biggest Cascade Bicycle Club-sponsored event of this year. This event — which also includes a shorter 3-mile course — draws families with young kids on small stingray bikes, plus occasional riders who end up walking their bikes up the tougher hills.

The view from the I-5 bridge over the Montlake Cut

The I-5 bridge over the Montlake Cut

The hills, however, weren’t all that tough. The course, which started and ended at the Pyramid Alehouse near Safeco Field in downtown, had numerous flat stretches.

We started by going up the viaduct and then through the Battery Street Tunnel on Aurora (State Route 99). After crossing the Aurora Bridge in Fremont, I stared at the long, steep hill ahead — the same seemingly endless hill that I ran up a year ago in the Hot Chocolate 15K. Riding that hill might have been even worse than running up it, but … we ended up turning off Aurora to ride along the north shore of Lake Union.

There was drama here, however. Because I started the ride just before the 8:45 a.m. cutoff to ride on the viaduct, and because I stopped many times there to take pictures, I had mere minutes to get to the 9:30 a.m. cutoff for getting onto the Interstate 5 express lanes. I stopped to use a porta-potty anyway. Some things can’t wait.

Having the freeway for bicyclists only is cool

Having a freeway for bicyclists only is pretty cool

A group of us were momentarily stopped at a red light and then had sprint up a hill to get to the I-5 express lanes, where two volunteers were manning the entry points — and looking at their watches. They let the rest of this group onto the I-5 lanes, but because I was slightly behind the others, told me I couldn’t continue on the course and had to find another way to the finish line.

But I kept riding, defying their order and mentioning that I was part of this group (I wasn’t). I felt bad about doing this, but I realized several riders in back of me were doing the same thing. We all got on.

And when I did, I saw that no one was moving very fast. It was more like a parking lot of bikes and riders stopping to take pictures from what is the I-5 bridge that spans the Montlake Cut between Lake Washington and Lake Union. Again, nice views.

Second ride and first run coming soon

Car traffic was diverted from the express lanes for the ride. But after the bridge, the express lanes of bicyclists ran side-by-side next to the main freeway lanes full of cars. As a bicyclist, it’s pretty awesome to have a freeway stretch to yourself.

Riding safely along the cars on I-5 near downtown

Riding safely along the cars on I-5 near downtown

The rest of the ride back to downtown and the Pyramid Alehouse was pretty uneventful, but it was nice to finish a ride — short as it was.

Unlike what I said in my previous post, this year’s Emerald City Bike Ride stayed in Seattle and did not cross the bridges into Bellevue and back — as last year’s ride did. A big reason why is that the Interstate 90 express lanes (last year’s route from Bellevue back to the finish line) are closed for the construction of a light-rail line.

Just getting back on a bike again for a big group ride made it worth it. So did the chance to reminisce about the viaduct and all the different road runs I’ve done on it — the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, the St. Patrick’s Day 5K runs, and the Torchlight runs, to name a few.

Ah, the finish line

Ah, the finish line

I just signed up a second Cascade ride, this one the 27-mile Seattle Bike-n-Brews ride on May 6. So I will be back riding again soon. (I’m skipping the 63-mile Ride for Major Taylor on April 22 because I am not quite ready for a longer ride yet.)

In the meantime, I’ve also signed up for the All in for Autism 5K Run in Bellevue April 29, for my first post-surgery run. I ran the 10K in this event a few years ago. (I’m skipping this Sunday’s Seahawk 12K/5K Run for the first time in six years so I can train a bit more.)

I’m running once or twice a week now, bicycling once a week, and walking lots most of the other days. Trying to slowly, methodically ease back in the groove without putting too much stress on the ankle. So far, so good.

Thanks for reading!

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About monteenbysk

I am not an elite runner or bicyclist, though I am friends with many. I run, walk, and bike for fun and the health benefits. I can get you to the finish but probably not to the Boston Marathon (and especially not to the Tour de France).
This entry was posted in 10K, 5K, 8K, ankle surgery, Bicycling, Flying Wheels, Marathons, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Seafair Torchlight Run, Seahawks 12K Run, St. Patrick's Day Dash, Walking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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