The five of us (Brian, Rod, Eve, Francesca, myself) settled into a nice pace on the Sammamish River Trail. We followed the SRT across the top of Lake Washington, then joined the Burke Gilman trail, and followed it to the University of Washington. From UW, we veered off across the Montlake bridge and through various quiet neighborhood streets, making our way to Leschi park along the lake. So far, the rain was spotty and light - just a few drops here and there, or nothing at all. Still, after riding in the cold we were all looking forward to a coffee stop.
At this point, we had ridden 26.1 miles in about 1 hour 40 minutes. It was great having a warm drink and pastry, but unfortunately, the rain picked up while we were taking a break. Brian didn't have a rain jacket so we crossed the street to visit a triathlon store, Triumph Multisports, where he bought one. We resumed our ride... for about 1 minute, as Eve flatted her rear tire almost immediately.
There isn't much you can do to help someone change a flat on a bike, except hold the bike steady or keep track of small items (valve caps, tools). We all gathered in the entryway of a small grocery store, to get a bit of shelter from the drizzle. Eve changed her tire and had trouble reseating the wheel - it just would not fit back into the dropout properly. All of us looked and took turns checking for anything that would interfere: misaligned brake, skewed fender, chain caught on something, etc. None of us could figure it out, so we went back to Triumph Multisports where the clerk put the bike up on a stand and found the problem - an extra spring on the skewer. These are sometimes added to skewers when you use one in a trainer. Anyway, he was able to seat Eve's rear wheel properly.
I had two layers on, long sleeve jersey and rain jacket, which is usually enough for me. But today, I was feeling a bit cold so I took the opportunity to try on a De Feet bottom layer long sleeve shirt. It felt so good, I didn't take it off - I just handed the clerk the hangar and told him I was already wearing the product! I paid and we once again started up.
We rode along Lakeside Blvd , crossing under I-90, and then climbed Lake Washington Blvd to the top, winding through Colman Park. By now, the rain had picked up to become a cold and steady presence. We rode onto the bike/pedestrian path, and made our way across I-90.
Unfortunately, bike mechanical issues now struck Francesca, as her front tire flatted. Eve and I pulled up next to Francesca and provided moral support (as I mentioned, there isn't much you can do to help, other than keep track of small items), as the rain fell harder and harder. Cars whizzed by just on the other side of the waist-high concrete barrier, so it was loud. Drainage wasn't good so there was a pool of water right next to the wall... but the alternative was leaning up against the open-air grillwork above the lake, and getting splashed by cyclists who would then be forced to steer through the puddles. While we were huddled together, I said "Not to be rude, but I hope this doesn't happen to me!". My attempted humor fell a little flat as we were all shivering. I was really glad I bought that extra layer at the bike shop.
We started pedaling again, and met up with Brian and Rod at a park on Mercer Island. By this time, we had been out for almost four hours. I noticed my toes and fingers were getting a bit numb. This was easy to explain as my gloves were soaked. Eve joked she could milk her fingers for water, and Francesca added she was just wearing her outer gloves for show as they were drenched.
So we continued towards Factoria, through heavier rainfall and large puddles, until we gathered again at the bottom of a long hill climb. We started the climb together, but quickly spread apart. I lost sight of Brian and Rod around a corner, and soon Eve put some distance on me. Not that we were racing or anything, I knew they would wait at the top - I was just wishing that I were up with them, so I'd be done climbing the hill sooner. ;) I glanced to make sure Francesca was there (i.e. no bike trouble) and just kept grinding along, glad my training bike has a triple chainring. I'd glance up the road, glance at the water streaming to the side of the road, glance behind me, just thinking about getting to the top of the hill.
We regrouped again, and wound our way through the neighborhood just west of Lake Sammamish. I've done some runs there, and recognized Weowna park and Phantom Lake. As I whizzed down a nice hill, one that I'm usually running up in the other direction, I realized my fingers were numb. I was having trouble shifting, and with my hands on the brake hoods I couldn't feel the brake levers! We had split into two groups: Brian, Rod, and Eve up ahead; Francesca and I were trailing by a few minutes. We were caught by a light but the other group waited for us at a gas station near Crossroads.
By now we were close to finishing the loop. I was hungry and wanted to eat part of a Clif bar I had in my jersey pocket, but that would have meant stopping for a few minutes to open my rain jacket and get it. Doing that would make everyone wait, or would mean falling behind... and I wasn't sure I could open the wrapper since my fingers were numb. I decided to just grind it out since it wouldn't be too much longer.
We rode along 160th Ave to Bel-Red, where we split: Francesca veered off left up Bel-Red - I assume she parked her car at work - while the rest of us turned right and down the hill. After a nice long coast, the road leveled out and I continued to Marymoor park where I found the others waiting for me. We got back on the SRT and soon enough we were back at Bella Botega.
It was now 3:00 - we had been out for around 5 hours and 30 minutes! According to my stopwatch, the ride time was approximately 3 hours 20 minutes, so we had another 2 hours 10 minutes at the coffee stop and fixing various mechanical issues. Total ride distance was about 47.5 miles.
I was so cold, I had a hard time packing my stuff up because I was shivering constantly. My fingers were so numb I struggled to remove my bike helmet. Heck, just getting my key into the car door was a challenge. In the car, I drank the extra bottle of sports drink I mixed in advance, which helped take the edge off my hunger. Once back home, I jumped into a hot shower and just stood there for 15 minutes, thinking about something to eat.
Francesca called while I was in the shower and left a message: "I bet this ride convinces you to move to Orlando!"
Around mile 32 is the climb in Factoria. Around mile 42 is the nice downhill along Bel-Red.