Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Seven (or more) Hills of Kirkland
Our first century of the year!
This past Memorial Day, a few of us set out for our first century of the year. For those not familiar with cycling nomenclature, you might think that's a typo... "you mean, 'the first year of the century', right?" Nope. A century is a 100 mile bike ride. Monday's ride covered 100 miles and was chock full of hilly goodness.
The 7 Hills of Kirkland begins at the Kirkland marina and offers a choice of seven hills over a 40 mile course, 11 hills over a metric-century 62 mile course, or 14 hills over a 100 mile course with 7,000 feet of climbing. Gary, Cary, Brenda, Warren, Kristin and I left shortly before 8 a.m. under a cloudy grey sky. Climbing over Market Street, Juanita Hill, and Seminary Hill in Kirkland and Juanita gave us an easy three hills under our belts before the first hour. Soon we were heading over Norway Hill in Bothell followed by Kingsgate Hill where we had our first reststop. (The cookies on this ride are my favorite reststop treat.)
The sun was now breaking through the clouds as we restarted our motors and dropped down to Woodinville for the first really tough climb of the day--Winery Hill. This climb starts as soon as you turn right off Woodinville Dr. onto NE 145th St. Our pace quickly drops to nearly walking speed as we crank hard up what feels like an 18 percent grade. A rider next to me commented to one of the two riders with him, "Hey, you're dragging again. I hear a scrape, scrape." Before she could reply to him, I said, "That could just be my tongue on the pavement." They laughed good. I smiled.
One of my favorite moments on this ride is at the top of Winery Hill. This was my fourth time on the 7 Hills and each year I'm treated to the same distant sound. As you near the top of the hill, you hear a faint soaring melody of a bagpipe. As you turn the corner, you see at the crest, a bagpiper dressed in full Scottish garb beckoning the riders upward and onward with his droning pipe. I think it gives every rider the extra boost they need. It was what Gary and I needed.
Shortly after our encounter with the bagpiper, we reached the crossroads where the 40-miler riders depart for their last hill and the 62 and 100-miler riders turn for Redmond and parts eastward. Brenda would be taking the shorter, and possibly wiser, route. We crossed the valley between Willows Road and Redmond-Woodinville Road and began our next climb up Education Hill. You know you're in trouble when you look at the cue sheet (the "driving instructions" for us bikers), and notice that all the roads have "hill", or some facsimile thereof, in their name: "Novelty Hill" (the novelty wears off mighty quick, I might add), "Redmond Ridge", and "Union Hill". Once over this series of rollers and climbs, we were rocketing down into the Carnation Valley for our second well-needed reststop. Warren and Kristin were detained by her first flat in two years. Cary rolled in just behind us.
Now the sun was shining and we were warming up a bit. Crossing the Carnation Valley is flat, fast, and cow-filled. But the speed is short-lived. Once we turned north toward Duvall, we had Stillwater Hill to contend with. By now, I've lost track of the number of hills I've climbed. I do know that the next reststop is a mere nine miles away. It's noon and I've reached the halfway point of my ride: 50 miles. No time for celebration. I gear down, turn right, and charge (trudge) up Stillwater Hill with Gary close behind.
The third stop came none too soon. More cookies, sandwiches, and "Oh the joy!" CHAIRS! After nearly 60 miles, it's good to be seated on something larger than a notepad. After a lengthy rest, we mounted our iron steeds once again and rolled west to High Bridge Hill and Maltby Hill. It was at mile 80 that I turned to Gary and offered my analogy for the way I felt at this moment in the ride. "Have you ever sat down to a huge, delicious steak. You savored every bite, ravenously working your way through one of the best cuts of meat you've experienced. Soon, you have just a few bites left and you're very full. You could push your plate away and be done. But, that steak tastes darn good and it would be a shame to let those remaining bites be tossed away." This 100 mile steak was darn tasty, but man was I full. Problem with pushing the plate away was... you still had to find a ride back to your car. So, we ate those last twenty morsels.
Our final reststop at mile 85 was back atop Education Hill. We freshened up, ate another cookie, enjoyed the sun, and noticed that both Cary and Kristin had rejoined us. Warren had indeed pushed himself away from the table back at 70 miles, so it was just the four of us for the remaining 15 miles.
One more hill--Rose Hill--was all it took to get us on the downhill race back to Kirkland. Cary was just behind me, Kristin and Gary slightly ahead, and I kicked it up a notch and barrelled down 116th, flew around Northrup Way, and jetted past Carillon Point north on Lake Washington Blvd. and rolled into the Kirkland Marina at two minutes after 4 p.m. Our 100 miler hits the books at 6 hours 50 minutes. Somebody better still have strawberry shortcake!
Max Elev: 613 ft.
Total Ascent: 7218 ft.
Riders: Cary, Gary, Warren, Kristin, Brenda, Bob