This morning I met up with Chris, Sandy, Francesca, and Jennifer for the 7 Hills of Kirkland bike ride. The ride had three distance choices: 7 hills route (42 miles), 11 hills route (78 miles), and new since the city of Kirkland is celebrating its centennial this year, the Century (100 mile) route.
Chris and I opted for the century route. I originally thought the 78 mile route would be plenty for me, but he was interested in the century. I figured, if he is flying in from the Chicago area, where it isn't very hilly, and wants to do a hilly century, then so can I!
I originally planned to ride my Trek, since it has a triple chainring, which would make the hill climbs easier. But his bike, a Felt S25, only had a double chainring. So, I decided I could ride my Cervelo and its double chainring as well. Besides, I have bigger gears on my derailleur (12-25 versus his 11-23), so I would have an "easier" time. After all, if he can climb on the 11-23 then I can too on the 12-25.
You might detect a slight competitiveness here, but that wasn't really it. Chris is a stronger cyclist than I am. This was more that I needed some pushing to work a bit harder than I originally would have, which makes for better training. Kind of like how a coach will make you stretch a little bit farther than you would on your own.
We all rode up straight into Market Hill, immediately out of the start area. This is pretty gentle compared to the next two hills: Juanita Hill and then Norgate Hill. We took it easy, not wanting to exhaust ourselves 20 miles into a 100 mile ride. At the first food stop Sandy, Jennifer, and Francesca caught as as we were leaving, so we chatted briefly and took a few photos.
Me, Francesca, Sandy, Chris
Chris and I left to do Winery Hill, which was really tough. We climbed a residential street right next to the hill, which had two steep sections with flatter grades in between. At the top was some entertainment: a kilt-wearing bagpipe-playing gentleman, who was really good and a nice diversion from the effort.
After this the route took us by the food stop again, and on down to the Sammamish River valley. We climbed 60 Acres hill (that is what I call it, but it is probably part of Education hill) and midway up was the split: 11 Hills and Century course kept going, while the 7 Hills course turned. Up until this point the course was busy - lots of riders. But after the split, we looked back and saw that nearly everybody following us turned for the 7 Hills route.
We kept going up Education Hill, so named because an elementary, junior high, and Redmond high school are all on it. After a steep descent to Avondale road, we we soon climbing up Novelty Hill Road, a long but reasonable grade. Near the top we turned off and road over to Union Hill and had a nice descent to the next valley, which I think is called Cherry Valley. Food stop #2 was located here, and we took advantage. At this point we were around mile 45 of the trip.
I gobbled up some apple slices, spreading peanut butter on them. I also grabbed a bunch of fig newtons, and decided I wanted more peanut butter so I spread more on the fig newtons and ate them up! After refilling water, we got back on our bikes and took the Century route fork.
This section of the course was a loop through Carnation and Duvall, back to the food stop. It is quite rural, and Chris said it reminded him of his area a little bit. We pedaled on a road that Jennifer and I have biked on, passing the Nestle Regional Training Center, before coming to 203. This part of the route wasn't the greatest, since 203 is busy and doesn't have much of a shoulder. We rode along single-file until Stillwater Hill road, where we turned into a sharp grade and kept climbing for a while.
Fortunately, this road was really a gentle grade, looping around the hill Duvall is on. After circumnavigating Duvall we were back on 203 riding north. There are only a few bridges across Cherry Valley, and the one right at Duvall would be really unwise to bike - two lane, heavy traffic, no shoulder. Our route took us several miles north until we came to a suitable road and bridge we could use to get back across the valley.
At this point we were around mile 65. I've noticed past 60 miles or so, my lower back starts to stiffen up. I stretched a bit while riding, and when we got back to the food stop at mile 74, I hopped off my bike and did various leg and back stretches. And of course, ate more apples, peanut butter, cheese squares, and fig newtons. I had plenty to eat, because I was also eating some gel every 30 minutes or so.
Now we had to climb the nice long Union Hill descent, which seemed like it went on forever. After a lot of work, we were coasting down Novelty Hill road again. Chris was several bike lengths ahead and going too fast to make a turn, so he passed it up. But he signaled and I saw it in time to slow down and make it. This was my only complaint about the course marking - the Dan Henry mark was literally 10 feet before the turn, which isn't enough time to react when you are coasting along downhill at 25+ mph.
I made the turn and saw him slowing to cross the road and come back, so I rode along for a bit, and got off my bike to stretch more while waiting for him. Chris caught up really quick and we took off, getting back to Education Hill at 116th St. After two rollers we found a "mini stop" in a church parking lot, which let me refill water and grab a few snacks. We were at mile 85 at this point, and knew we were almost done.
Throughout most of the ride past the 7 Hills turnoff, we were by ourselves. But now, we found ourselves with half a dozen others, which was nice. As a group we rode back from Education Hill and took the turnoff, so we were back on the common route. We pedaled along Willows Road, which was flat. Chris was leading and two or three others drafted off of him, including myself. But at the first slight hill, we lost them all, only to group up again at a light.
Only one last hill to climb: Rose Hill. I ride this every week, as part of my "basic home hill loop". So I knew as we climbed up that it was in the bag. We left behind the small group and climbed up Rose Hill and turned south to finish up.
We got back to the Kirkland Marina, and ate strawberry shortcake to celebrate. My bike computer showed 103 miles in 6:41 (ride time), which I was pretty happy with.
Afterwards, we went to a Memorial Day barbecue at Eve's house. Sandy made some delicious asparagus and steak, and we ate very well. I prepared some homemade ice cream, and finished it up at Eve's. It turned out OK - I used 2% milk instead of whole, and I could taste the difference - but nobody complained and most of it was eaten on the spot. Next time I'll use whole milk - it just doesn't make sense to use 2% given what else goes into homemade ice cream. ;)