Hardcore bicycle riders, for some odd reason, seem attracted to rides featuring tough hills and rotten weather. That’s got to be the reason why rides such as the 7 Hills of Kirkland, the Stinky Spoke, and the Worst Day of the Year Ride in Portland are popular with year-round riders.
The annual Chilly Hilly ride, a 33-mile jaunt around Bainbridge Island, fits this genre of rides. I’m not a hardcore, year-round rider, so I can’t explain why I do it. But last Sunday (February 23), I conned my brother Mark Enbysk to travel up from Portland to ride it with me in what was my seventh Chilly Hilly (his first). Thanks again, Mark; hope your soreness lasted only a day or so.
We were challenged by the hills, as usual, as the course features a half-dozen or so long, steep, and/or annoying hills. We rode together and finished in around four hours, counting stops for food and pictures, which is around my usual course time. What was different than usual was — hooray! — some sunbreaks during the ride. For the most part, this ride was in dry weather, unlike many of the others, especially 2017 and 2016.
A drop in turnout, due to the much ballyhooed threat of rain, was noticeable. Now in its 48th year, this featured Cascade Bicycle Club ride around a scenic island in the Puget Sound often gets up to 5,000 riders or more. Sunday’s weather was forecasted as a full day of heavy rains. Participation, as a result, seemed closer to 500 than 5,000; these, of course, are the hardcore riders.
The ride was not totally dry; a few sprinkles disrupted the good vibe. Also, winds picked up in stretches along the water (especially along Rockaway Beach Road in the southeast end) and slowed us down in the last 10 miles. But, thankfully, we did not finish soaking wet and shivering during the wait for the ferry back to Seattle.
Climbed all but two major hills
The course, with an elevation gain of 2,173 feet, is a counter-clockwise spin around the Bainbridge Island perimeter. You ride off the ferry boat and head north along the island’s scenic eastern edge, with beaches along the Sound on one side and view homes on the other. At the north end, you turn west and ride along Madison Bay, through residential and commercial centers. After you reach the west edge and turn south, you face some of the toughest hills.
I continue to not be able to conquer the course’s first two major hills — Peterson Hill Road and Arrow Point Drive — and needed to walk my bike up parts of each. I believe 2015 is the only year I have successfully climbed Peterson Hill Road. These hills are about 12 miles into the course.
However, I again made it up what might be the toughest hill, Baker Hill Road in the island’s southwest corner. It comes a short distance after the halfway-point rest stop at Battle Point Park (where we each ate a free hot potato). Since I have been able to climb this hill six of seven times, maybe it isn’t so difficult. At nearly a mile in length, it certainly is the longest steep hill.
The largest concentration of (more moderate) hills is in the last eight miles, once you get past the Lynwood Center on the south end. However, the five-mile stretch prior to the Lynwood Center was picturesque — winding roads along the water with awesome views — although we battled temperamental winds and intermittent showers in between sunbreaks.
At some point, these last hills become more tedious than difficult, although it helps knowing you are getting close to finishing the ride. I climbed them all, including the final hill, Wyatt Way, which is arduous because by that time you are spent.
“That was enough hills for me,” my brother said after the ride. For his first time riding in the Chilly Hilly, he did great. Congrats, bro! We completed the ride in serious need of a shower, but otherwise in fine shape. No crashes, no spills, no injuries, no flat tires, and no running out of chili at the post-ride chili feed — my criteria for a successful ride.
Valentine’s Day Dash is canceled (for good?)
This was my 40th organized bicycle event since 2011 (nowhere near my 238 road runs since 2001). I decided to ride it in part because my original February event, the Love ’em or Leave ’em Valentine’s Day Dash 5K (website taken down) at Seattle’s Green Lake Park, was canceled just days before the Feb. 8 race was to take place.
I decided not to do a separate post about this cancellation because, well, stuff happens. It appears that the race organizers, Pro-Motion Events, ran out of money.
“It is with deep regret that we have to announce the cancellation of the 2020 Love ’em or Leave ’em Valentines Day Dash …,” the organizers said in an email to those who had registered and paid for it. “Scheduling, insurance and permitting issues have forced us to make this difficult decision. We’re very sorry about this and look forward to seeing you at next year’s event.”
This cancellation came after Pro-Motion Events announced in October 2019 the addition of a new half-marathon race to the 10K and 5K events (the 10K had been added in 2017). I questioned the move because of the costs involved; for example, the 13.1-mile race meant the event had to be extended outside of the Green Lake area, requiring police to be hired to patrol people running on those streets.
However, the organizers do pledge to resume the event in 2021 and include the half-marathon. Though I have run this event 11 times (the 5K 10 times and the 10K once), I am dubious it will ever return. We’ll see. I asked them for a full refund rather than taking the option of transferring my 2020 registration to 2021.
Next is more running and bicycling
After a two-month break from road races, I will get back to them with the St. Patrick’s Day Dash 5K on March 15. This has long been one of the biggest and sometimes wackiest Seattle races of the year. I’m glad to do it again as the course is once again up and down Aurora Avenue North (Highway 99), after several years of having it run on the other side (west) of Seattle Center.
I’ve done this race about a dozen times since 2003 — I’d have to count how many green, white, or black event shirts I have in closet or cabinets to know how many.
The following month, I’m happy to get back to bicycling with the Emerald City Ride on April 19. This popular 20-mile ride is without long, steep hills. Its attraction is being able to ride through the new Highway 99 Tunnel and on the Interstate 5 express lanes, when both are closed to automobile traffic.
Another fun Cascade Bicycle Club ride, the Seattle Bike-n-Brews, follows on May 3. I’m looking forward to great riding weather by then!
Before I go, a shout-out to my Fluke colleague Frederic Baudart — good luck to you and your wife Joy in the New York City Half-Marathon on March 15! He’ll be running with thousands of others through Times Square, Central Park, and Brooklyn; sounds like a fun time!
Thanks for reading. Go Ducks (men and women), Sounders, and Mariners!