Wednesday, May 2, 2007
One Bad Hill to Swallow
This was hands-down the hardest EFC Cycling Club Saturday ride ever. And, oddly enough, the best-attended Saturday ride ever. Which just means misery must really love company, because we had plenty of both.
Fourteen of us met at 8 a.m. at Eastside Foursquare Church, ready for what turned out to be a absolutely beautiful day for riding. I had found a new route online called Issaquah Alps that looked challenging and covered some new territory in the Newcastle/Renton area. So after a great devotional by Kristin, and a short prayer, we headed off for a morning of riding under the "late April sun"--admittedly an oxymoron for the Seattle region.
Being a ride leader has it's blessings and it's curses. But, leading a ride from a map that you personally haven't yet explored--that's mostly curses. Fortunately, I only had about three missed turns--only two that my ride group would have noticed with a third that thankfully led to the road I had intended for. With a smaller group, it's easier to lead, but the "friendly criticism" is inversely proportional to the size of the group. Bigger group: more polite. Smaller group: rip into the ride leader! After the first wrong turn, I was glad I was leading a polite group... a rare treasure.
As we began exploring new areas like SE 88th and May Valley Rd. in the Renton/Cougar Mountain area, it became apparent that most of our newcomers to this ride were either younger or stronger than us regulars. Okay, in most cases, they were both. And their ride pace showcased it. We took a loop up the backside of Squak Mountain that probably had some nice views, but I was too busy focusing on keeping my lungs inside. As hard as this little climb was, it was merely a foreshadowing of what was to come.
We took our break at the trailhead to Squak Mountain State Park and were pleased to meet up with some other riders from the International Christian Cycling Club. After a bathroom break, some conversation, and a group photo, we headed north to Issaquah and prepared to meet our toughest match of the day.
They call this "Zoo Hill." Perhaps because it's home to the Cougar Mountain Zoological Park. But, it might also be that this hill reduces you to animal instincts. This is 1100 ft. of elevation climbed in 2.5 miles. (Insert expletive or groan, whine, whimper, or gasp here.) This is one of those climbs that focuses your thoughts--"Why am I doing this?", "What is that terrible gasping sound I hear? Oh. That's me", "Is that the crest of the hill? No... crap. There's more. Much more." But as bad of a hill this was to swallow, when you do finally reach the top, you feel like you've accomplished something important, something noble, something that will cause you to be in considerable pain for the remainder of the week.
However, there is one thing more painful than a hill of this magnitude. It's Kristin's comment at the top... "Hey guys, we should do this climb again this summer!"