Sunday, May 31, 2009

Prayers for the Ride for Impact

On the weekend of May 30-31, I was honored to be introduced in our weekend services at Eastside Foursquare Church as the congregation prayed for my upcoming Ride for Impact cross-country cycling tour of the United States. Pastor Matt Messner introduces me in this clip from the 9 a.m. service. Thank you all of my friends, family, and church who are praying for me on each day of this 3800-mile adventure! God bless each of you!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Five Trails Ride--It's Like Sight-Seeing Seattle By Bike

For my last ride I would lead before taking on the "Ride For Impact" Cross-Country tour across the United States, I chose to lead my favorite ride, "The Five Trails Ride." This ride is so-named because it takes riders on five regional trails in King County: I-90 Trail, Alki Trail, Duwamish Trail, Elliott Bay Trail, and the Burke-Gilman Trail. It's like spending a day sight-seeing Greater Seattle on your bike.

We gathered as we usually do at Eastside Foursquare Church for a brief devotional and prayer. Today, however, I was the focus of much of that prayer as my friends and fellow riders prayed for my safety, protection, and health on my upcoming cross-country ride. We departed and headed south. When we reached Carillon Point in Kirkland, we turned right up a good warm-up hill that takes us to Yarrow Bay Point and Clyde Hill. The regulars among us didn't grown quite as much as they usually do. I really like this route through the nicer neighborhoods of Bellevue. We chatted as we rode through Medina and then into Old Town Bellevue. A man hollering to advertise a community car wash outside the Chevron barked at us to get our bikes washed. "It's not dirty!" I exclaimed. "If it's not dirty, you aren't riding it enough!" he replied. Hmmm... Good point, I smiled to myself. I think it will be plenty dirty in a few weeks when I'm halfway across Colorado.

We turned south and I took my group to our second hard climb, but one that dwarfs the first one. Mike commented that last time I took him up this hill, he had to walk his bike. No walking today. We all got to the summit, breathing hard, but at the summit nonetheless. The fast descent takes us down and back up and down again through Beaux Arts. If you've lived near Bellevue but have never driven or biked through Beaux Arts, I highly recommend it. It's a beautifully wooded community overlooking Lake Washington and the East Channel. We exited Beaux Arts and got on our first regional trail, the I-90 trail (#1).

The I-90 trail takes you across Mercer Island and then into Seattle. The weather was warm and sunny as we rode on the floating bridge and then up to the I-90 Bike Tunnel. This tunnel runs directly above the I-90 car traffic but you would never know by how quiet it is. Halfway through the tunnel, Tenille slipped and fell. No reason really. She just brought down the bike and then got back up again. "Good thing that's done," I commented. "Now you won't have to fall for the rest of the day!"

Our route now took us through South Seattle and SODO (South of Downtown) near Safeco Field and the Starbucks headquarters. We turned west and got on the Alki Trail (#2) past men fishing on the pier near the Port of Seattle and then up and over the West Seattle bridge ( the lower one... that other one is way too high!). As we neared our turn into Alki, Dale got a flat. We positioned our bikes where he would be out of the way and he quickly went about changing his tire. Then we were off again.

West Seattle and Alki is an amazing place. It's the closest thing Seattle has to an honest beach. Today, plenty of families were out walking their dogs, riding their bikes or jogging along the waterfront. The Alki Beach Volleyball Association was in full force with bikinied players setting, digging, and spiking. We stopped at our traditional Tully's for coffee, pastries, and relaxation. What a great place to rest in the sunlight and enjoy good conversation.

As we left Tully's, we headed west around Alki Point and then turned south towards the Fauntleroy Ferry terminal. Our route now included a few hills as we climbed up and over West Seattle and White Center. Rob explained how years ago this area gained the nickname "Rat City." It had to do with the abundance of rats. Hmmm. You think?

We droppped down a screaming descent onto the Duwamish Trail (#3). At the bottom, Mike remarked how his brakes were smoking. Jim commented on how much he loves that downhill. I believe in the biblical principle Paul taught in 2 Cor. 9:6 about "sowing and reaping." Downhills are what we reap after climbing all those uphills. We reaped good on this one!

The Duwamish Trail takes us back north to the Alki Trail where we retrace our path back to Elliott Bay. As we rode along the Elliott Bay trail (#4), we passed a guy playing electric guitar. He was next to the train tracks, standing near some bushes. As we got closer, we could hear him clearly and then I saw why. He didn't have one amp. He had four. He was performing for no one but himself and whoever drove by, including the trains. He made me consider how many parents probably wished their electric-guitar-playing-kids would go outside and play guitar by the railroad tracks. Maybe that's how he got here.

We rode along the Seattle waterfront and saw tourists checking out Seattle, probably disembarked from one of the many cruise ships in port today. When we stopped at a restroom along the Elliott Bay trail, I could see a few more cruise ships at the newer cruise terminal north of us. I decided then and there that if I could combine my love for cycling with my (and my wife's) passion for cruising, I'd really have something. Keep your eyes open for any cycling-cruising tours for me, will ya?

Our route took us towards Discovery Park where I slipped through a neighborhood to one of the best surprises along this ride. Through this neighborhood, there's a hidden trail in the woods with a bridge that crosses railroad tracks. It's bumpy, but charming. When you exit, you are directly south of the Ballard Locks.

We then walked through the Ballard Locks, taking great attention to the posted sign informing us that riding our bikes through the Locks would result in a $75 fine. After crossing the waterways loaded with pleasure crafts and small boats, we remounted our bikes and rode through Ballard and onto our fifth and final trail, the Burke-Gilman (#5).

Our remaining miles back to the Eastside were a bit faster but just as pleasant as those leading up to them. The B-G was filled with other cyclists, some families with kids, but few pedestrians. Soon we were at the north end of Lake Washington riding through Lake Forest Park and then Kenmore where we took our final climb back up to Eastside Foursquare Church. Our ride ended and I said farewell to my fellow riders. The next time I would be cycling with them would be in August. But first, I had a 3800 mile adventure ahead of me. And that adventure was going to include far more than five trails!

Riders: Bob H., Mike, Rob, Cary, Brenda, Dale, Tenille, Jay

Monday, May 25, 2009

"7 Hills of Kirkland" - or - "How do you fit a Century in a Day?"

This is the benchmark ride. This is the ride that will determine if the training has been sufficient. This is the ride that tells me if I'm ready for 3800 miles over 52 days. It's the 7 Hills of Kirkland. One hundred miles of cycling over some of the toughest hills in Kirkland, Bothell, Redmond, and Duvall.

We began our day at the Kirkland Marina at 8:00 a.m. where I met up with Kristin and Bob, my riding partners for the day. I was also joined by Jay, who was riding with me for just an hour or two, and Brenda and Dale, who were taking the shorter 62-mile route. The morning was cold, but clear, and it looked to be a great day of riding.

After registering, getting our map, and praying with my friends, we headed north up Market Street Hill (210 ft.) There's no delay in getting to our first hill. It's right out of the gate and we're climbing. I chatted with Bob all the way up the hill, not really noticing the climb. That was a good sign.

We continued over Juanita Hill (285 ft.) and the harder Seminary Hill (455 ft.). It was on Seminary Hill that Bob joked with Dale that this was the hill that would make him reconsider the friends he had chosen... Cyclists that do hills like these. Jay was breathing hard as we climbed. I was breathing good and able to carry on a conversation. Another good sign.

The downhill into Kenmore is a fast one and the breeze felt good. The morning was warming up fast and so were we. Next, we climbed up the north side of Norway Hill (475 ft.) which is the tallest hill on the Eastside until we reached Redmond. At the bottom of Norway Hill, Jay departed and the rest of us continued on. We were just under 15 miles and had a full day ahead of us.

Our next hill to climb was Kingsgate (412 ft.) which led us right to the first rest stop of the day. Bob and I were riding together and we rejoined Kristin. Our stop was very brief. We rolled through the Kingsgate neighborhood and down the exhilarating descent on Brickyard Road. The downhills are hard-earned on this ride. We were about to pay up.

Winery Hill (390 ft.) is not highest, but it has to be the steepest. The grade is 14% in some places. As we turned up the incline, we made sure we dropped into our easiest gear. Breathing increased. Conversation abated. Climbing ensued. At the top of Winery Hill is an unusual sight. But you hear it long before you see it. A lone bagpiper is there every year playing his pipes while all the cyclists roll by.

Now we had a few miles of flat until we had to climb again. Education Hill (410 ft.) took us into Redmond. The day was now warm enough to remove vests and arm warmers. I was beginning to rethink wearing the over-the-knee knickers. They felt great at 8 a.m. but now two and half hours later, they weren't necessary. At least I had on a sleeveless jersey to keep me cool.

Bob D. and I spent the next handful of miles together chatting about my upcoming cross-country ride, his summer challenge on the Death Ride, and about our wives and families. I like good conversation during a long ride. It makes the miles go by more quickly, but moreover, it builds up friendships. Some of my best friendships have formed on cycling rides.

We were now climbing Union Hill (636 ft.) and had reached the Century / Metric Century cut-off. A Century is a 100-mile ride. A Metric Century is a 100-kilometer (62-mile) ride. If we turn left, we're committed to 60 more miles of riding. If we turn right, we reduce our remaining distance to just 22 miles. We turned left.

We reached our second food stop in the Carnation Valley, rejoined Kristin a second time, and enjoyed cold water, peanut butter and bagels, and oranges. Getting back on the bikes, we rode through Carnation and then towards Duvall. It was a beautiful day in the Carnation Valley. I've ridden this route so many times and yet I never tire of it. But the sightseeing had to be put on hold. It was time to climb Stillwater Hill (320 ft.). Stillwater is a long slog that never really ends. We had a headwind and very slight uphill all the way around Duvall until we were nearly at 60 miles and ready for our third food stop.

The halfway mark had been met and at mile 59.2 we stopped for more water, a small sandwich, and plenty of cookies. The heat was cooking now. But I didn't mind. I was feeling good and still had plenty of energy left for the remaining 40 miles. Our route took us over the Snohomish River valley and then north towards High Bridge Hill (291 ft.) The rolling rural roads run past farms, country homes, and wooded land. We turned south up Fales Road and I realized we were getting down to the last quarter of this thing. I think it's in the bag.

We now had to climb Maltby Hill (471 ft.), ride through the Woodinville Valley and then climb Education Hill a second time to reach our fourth and final food stop. I had been gapped by Bob and Kristin for a few miles and when I pulled into the rest stop, they were pulling out. I decided I needed a restroom and water more than my cycling companions so I chose to stop.

Now I was really regretting wearing these knickers. It wasn't unbearable, but it was definitely too warm for the 80 degrees I was riding in. I was back in Redmond riding through suburban neighborhoods now. The end was in sight. I climbed one last hill, Rose Hill ( 525 ft.), and was now in the home stretch with just 10 miles to go.

As I rolled back into Kirkland, I found Bob and Kristin who had finished just a few minutes ahead of me. We enjoyed the traditional 7 Hills strawberry shortcake and sat in the sun talking about the ride. I remarked how good I felt. I've done this ride before and after 100 miles, I usually have felt sapped. Not today. Today I felt good. Bob noticed and remarked about my upcoming cross-country ride, "Well, Bob, I think you're gonna do fine."

I think so, too.

Riders: Bob D., Bob H., Kristin
Dist: 101.14
Time: 6:45:26
Avg: 14.9
Max: 40.0
Elev Gained: 5896 ft.
Max Elev: 718 ft.
Avg Climb: 3%
Max Climb: 14%

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Climb Ev'ry Mountain!" with apologies to The Sound of Music

One of the toughest club rides we do is the "Issaquah Alps." This ride circumnavigates Cougar Mountain near Issaquah and includes three Cat 1 climbs. (Okay, I don't know if they would really qualify as Cat 1 climbs, but I like to pretend I'm contending for the polka dotted jersey when I'm on them!) The finale is "Zoo Hill" which is a solid three-mile winding climb past the Cougar Mountain Zoological Park. This was the bait that brought out today's contenders.

On this beautiful weekend, our group gathered at Eastside Church in Bothell, ready for a challenging day. We shared a short devotional and prayer, then hit the road. We had barely left the parking lot when David's bike emitted a loud "BANG!" We stopped to discover he had not merely blown a tube, he had a 4-inch gash in that tube! David started the stopwatch and changed his tube in record time. Warren rode back to the car and carried his floor pump over to David. Now, that's a cycling accessory... carry your floor pump with you and just tuck it in your jersey when you're done! Soon, we were riding south once again through Kirkland, Bellevue, and Newcastle. We turned east and began our first "breathing hard" climb to access May Valley Rd. This route along May Valley is on the south side of Cougar Mountain and is a fairly rural, rolling ride.

Our first warm-up climb is an up-and-back-down-again of 1000 ft. with portions that are a 16% grade! I told everyone this was an optional climb and they could wait at the bottom for our return. A few tentative faces looked around and someone muttered, "Are you going?" "Yes, I'm going up." I replied. Soon, the whole group acquiesced and each took the hill at their own pace with four of us summitting and enjoying the awesome view of Lake Washington. The ride back down is a screaming descent in which brake pads overheat and a stop sign greets us far too quickly.

We got back on May Valley Road heading east and took our first lengthy rest stop at Squak Mountain State Park for restrooms and rest. We took our group photo and upon reviewing the photo, I couldn't help but notice Tenille was standing a good three feet away from the rest of the guys! Here's the caption: "Stinky boys... I'll stand over here!"

Johnny had to leave our group after the rest stop and miss the most exciting climbs to come. We turned north on Issaquah-Hobart road and picked up our speed. It's a heavily travelled road, but it's fairly flat and straight and good for pacelining. I let Warren take the lead, tucked in behind him, and we cruised into Issaquah. At about this point, a few of the guys who had ridden this route before began to moan and groan. They knew where I was taking them. I turned left into a residential area that features two very short but severe climbs. More warm up. I grinned. "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" I thought to myself. But, the truth is that whatever doesn't kill you just wears you down so that the next thing will... That would be Zoo Hill.

After those intense neighborhood climbs, we dropped back down into Issaquah and stopped at a neighborhood ballfield for water. Then it was west toward "Zoo." This is the hill that defines you. It proves what you're made of. It separates the men from the boys, the cyclists from the bike riders, the athletes from the hobbyists, and... the sick and twisted from those who know better.

As we geared down and turned up the climb, I pulled out my iPhone. My fellow riders needed some encouragement. And I found the song I was looking for to do just the trick. I turned up the volume, popped the iPhone in my rear jersey pocket and passed my friends while playing "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from the Sound of Music. Warren sneared. Tenille laughed. Jim and Dave largely ignored me. I smiled. This was a great climb!

I reached the top, pulled out my camera and waited for my friends not far behind to capture them as the crested the summit. Jim and David were next, followed closely by Warren and then Tenille. Everyone made it up! Now, it was time for a sweet, screaming descent to Factoria for Starbucks!

We relaxed in the mid-afternoon sun enjoying our iced lattes and mochas and congratulating each other on an intense ride. All we had to do now was enjoy the last 12 miles back to EFC and call it a day. Zoo Hill had not defeated us. Perhaps reminded us we were human--mere mortals--but we had climbed that mountain. At that was sweet music, indeed.

View a few more photos of our ride at:

Riders: Bob H, Warren, Jim, David, Tenille
Dist: 56.2
Time: 4:26:39
Avg: 13.2
Elev Gained: 4410 ft.
Max Elev: 1271 ft.
Avg Climb: 5%
Max Climb: 16%

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Trails! (Lake WA, Interurban, and Green River to Be Exact)

This was a full weekend for me. A Boy Scout campout conflicted with our usual Saturday morning club ride, so my solution? Ride on Sunday! We gathered at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon with hot sun, blue skies, and good friends ready to head south. Our route would take us through Kirkland and Bellevue to Renton and Tukwila where we would find the Interurban Trail, ride it south all the way to Kent, and return north on the Green River Trail.

Our group included Gary, Ken, Jim, myself and a new rider, Tenille. I had encouraged Tenille to come ride with us all Spring. I suggested she start early in the year with us so that when the longer rides come, she'll have some training and be ready. She didn't follow my advice. She waited until mid-May. This was her first ride with us--67 miles. Her longest ride to date was about 35 miles. Hmmmm. This would be interesting to say the least.

As we pulled out of Eastside Foursquare Church's parking lot and headed south through Kirkland and Bellevue, the waterfront was packed with sunbathers, dog walkers, and joggers enjoying the summer-like weather. It felt like July today and I was enjoying it immensely!

Everyone was keeping up just fine on the early hills, including Tenille. So far, so good! We stopped at Gene Coulon Park in Renton for restrooms and water bottle refills. Then I tackled the circuitous route through Renton and Tukwila to reach the Interurban Trail. It's not easy to do. Renton and Tukwila don't have too many good bike routes through town--there are a few--but it takes someone familiar with the communities to navigate the right roads. We took a slightly more creative route but eventually found the trailhead to the Interurban Trail. This 15-mile trail is flat, straight, easy, and was largely empty on this Sunday afternoon. A marked contrast to the closer-to-home Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River Trails which are packed on weekend afternoons!

The Interurban bisects the Green River Trail. We turned onto the GRT and began our return to the north. While the Interurban is arrow-straight, the GRT twists and turns as it follows it's namesake, Green River. We passed well-manicured golf courses, parks, condos, and office complexes. One of the favorite regional sculptures among cyclists is "Slip Stream" by David Govedare located at Van Doren’s Landing Park, 21861 Russell Road. We took our photo with the three steel cyclists and wondered how they maintain their riding stance for hours on end without back strain.

As our ride continued north, we stopped at some off-trail restrooms, surveyed our map, and plotted our return through Tukwila and Renton. I was determined to make my return route less creative than our initial one. Tenille was riding strong and had emphatically told us four guys not to inform her how many miles had passed until we finished the ride. I guess what you don't know can't fatigue you?

We ably navigated through Renton, got back on the Lake Washington Trail, and cruised back through Bellevue, Kirkland and arrived in Bothell back to the EFC parking lot. We congratulated Tenille on her first ride with our group. I asked her to guess what our mileage was. "60?" she replied cautiously. Nah. "Sixty-six point nine three!" She had ridden nearly 67 miles almost doubling her previous highest mileage. "I rock!" she shouted and fist-pumped the air. I shared with Ken her secret. She's a former figure skater. Not too bad for someone more used to ice than asphalt, huh?

Riders: Bob, Ken, Gary, Jim, Tenille
Dist: 66.93
Time: 4:52:28
Avg: 13.7
Max: 35.5
Elev Gained: 2216 ft
Max Elev: 310 ft
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 8%
(can you tell who got a new cyclocomputer with an altimeter?!)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Skagit Spring Classic - 50 miler for Cycling Merit Badge

In April, I began working with a handful of Troop 574 scouts pursuing their Cycling Merit Badge, one of 12 merit badges required for Eagle, Scouting's highest award. Six of these Troop 574 scouts had one last requirement to complete their Cycling Merit Badge. It was the 50 mile ride. I chose for the scouts the Skagit Spring Classic's 25 mile route that we would do twice. I knew it would be fairly flat, fully supported, and have a great spaghetti feed at the end which they would inhale. I wasn't wrong!

We arrived at the Middle School starting point in Burlington. I would be riding and leading the six scouts while Jim S. would drive in his pickup truck watching the back of the pack, taking photos, and being our SAG wagon. The boys were in great spirit as we rode the flat route past the nearby airport and local farmland. They kept in a paceline, observing all the rules of the road they had learned. In fact, a driver in one of the ride's support vehicles pulled alongside of me and commented on how well the boys were doing. I was pleased.

They stayed strong for the first 12.5 miles where we reached the halfway food stop. We would circle this route twice, so we were a quarter of the way around. The boys loved the spread of food available and filled up on watermelon, cookies, grapes, pretzels and more. We filled our water bottles, and then mounted up to take on the next stretch.

The winds were blowing strong on the flat farmland, but soon we were climbing up some rollers and riding along Padilla Bay. The sun was out and the trees along the water protected us from the wind. The boys did a great job climbing up a few of the more challenging hills. As we turned east and neared our starting point, they felt great about their first trip around the loop. We stopped at a grassy area to enjoy our sack lunches.

As we ate lunch, we relaxed on the grass, talked about how well they were doing, and tried to regain energy for the next lap. Soon, we were back on the bikes and riding our second and final 25 miles. As we turned north and reached the flat and windy farmland, I could tell the boys would be digging deep. Our pace slowed and our group spread out as a few scouts dropped back. I relied on Jim in the pickup truck to keep an eye on the scouts in the back of our pack. We encouraged them and clapped as they finally reached the rest stop for our second lap. They were overjoyed to be resting again. Robbie was the last to reach the church rest stop, pulled into the parking lot, and slumped over his handlebars!

All of the boys lingered around the food, sat in the chairs, and enjoyed the respite off the bikes for as long as they could. When we left the church rest stop, the adrenalin surged and the boys found their second wind! We battled the strong headwinds, worked our way along the route back toward Padilla Bay and reached the "big hill" we had already climbed once. Each of the boys did a fine job climbing up the steep roadway. Then I looked back and saw Robbie. I turned around and pulled up alongside Robbie where Mr. Schumacher had pulled over, parked his pickup and was standing with Robbie. Robbie was in pain. He was bending his right leg, complaining of it cramping, and then shouted. As he turned his leg inward to escape the pain, I was sure it was going to spin at the waist, disconnect at the joint, and fall to the ground!

I explained to Robbie that he could put his bike in the truck and ride with Jim, but he only had 10 miles left and it would be a shame to hang it up now. I wasn't sure how much pain he was in and whether or not he could make it. He walked his bike up the hill, and then felt good enough to climb on and continue the ride! Well done, man!

All six of the scouts finished the ride, were elated to pull in the school parking lot, and then parked their bikes, high-fived each other and searched out the Spaghetti Feed! As we sat in the sunshine, devouring our pasta, salad, garlic bread, and ice cream, we talked about the ride, what we enjoyed, and what was the hardest part. They asked me questions about my cycling exploits and my upcoming ride across the United States. More than a few of them were excited to ride again.

This was a great way to expose these boys to a great adventure and fun way to exercise. But, I suspect a few of them may have fallen in love with the road and are now suffering from a new addiction: Cycling! I'm been an addict for many years and I'm afraid there's only one cure... get out and RIDE!

Riders: Bob H, Kyle H, Jonathan L, Sam S, Jacob S, Chris T, Robbie L
Dist: 50.0
Time: 4:53:57
Total Time: 6:15:00

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Camano Climb

The Camano Climb begins on Camano Island which is located in Island County between Whidbey Island and the mainland. Our route was a 45 mile loop around the island with plenty of hills. This was the first time I had ridden the ride. The weather was cool and potentially rainy, but except for some slight drizzles, we had a great day.

Our route took us past attractive waterfront cottages and cute homes. The hills proved to be a great benchmark for me as I tested out my climbing ability in preparation for my cross-country ride in just a month. Kristin and I broke away from the rest of our group and picked up speed until we soon reached our first food stop at a Grange Hall. The food was simple and not in great quantity, but it was good to break and rest.

We had our fill of what was available and hit the road again. We kept a good paceline, hammered up the hills, got a little wet from the drizzle, but enjoyed the green scenery. The route took us all the way to the southernmost point of Camano Island and then we turned north following the waterfront. I could see the appeal of island living here on this quiet, slower-paced community far from the busy-ness of the suburbs and urban areas.

Our route took us along the waterfront on the eastern edge of the island past large homes with beautiful views of the Puget Sound and mainland. We soon reached our second rest stop overlooking a beach strewn with driftwood. We relaxed and enjoyed the food, conversation, and view. As we mounted up to finish our ride, the weather improved and the roads dried out.

We reached the our starting point where a delicious spaghetti feed was waiting for us. We loaded our plates and filled our bellies then relaxed before loading our bikes in the car for the ride back home. Good ride. Good food. Good fellowship. Good Camano Island.

Riders: Bob H, Kristin, Rob M., David Z., Ken W., J.R., Jim
Dist: 45.11
Time: 2:55:27
Avg: 15.4