The 7 Hills of Kirkland marks the unofficial real start of the riding season for me. It takes me over hills that are close to my house that I’ve ridden a lot, and has a decent potential for pain. Last year I did the Metric Century (58 miles (yes, I know…)) and felt pretty strong, and that was the plan this year.
Until I cracked my rib.
I went out last Thursday and did some steep hills, and the pain was bearable but I was only at about 70% on breathing before it hurt. I decided to do the 7 Hills variant (well, actually, I decided to do the first few hills, knowing that it was easy to head back if I didn’t feel up to it). Usually, I start with a group of friends and ride with them on the first few hills (or, more rarely, for the whole ride), mostly because they carry a lot more mileage than I do, but this year I decided to get dropped at the starting line and rode by myself, leaving at around 7:20.
I chanced riding in a jersey, shorts, arm & leg warmers despite the temp in the low 50s, because of the amount of climbing. I climbed fairly slowly up Market, and up Juanita, flew down Holmes Pt Drive, and came to the first real hill, Seminary (#3). Seminary has a steep section at the beginning, and then it levels off and people speed up, generally too fast. I rode to keep my heartrate down below my lactate threshold for most of the hill, only speeding up for the last part of the ride. I passed a bunch of people who hit it too hard at the bottom.
A screaming descent down Juanita drive to the North took me onto the trail, and to the base of Norway (one of the 3 hardest hills). I rode the first half conservatively, and then the second half a bit harder, talking with a rider who was doing the century. We crested, descended, and then traversed across to the first food stop. That involves hill #4, which I guess technically is a hill but seems pretty minor compared to all the others. A quick stop for a bagel, a nature break, and a salt pill, and I was on my way.
We work our way over to the top of Brickyard, and then descended down. I was able to hold a full aero position (something I couldn’t do on Thursday), and was going fast enough to not worry about cars needing to pass me. We worked our way around, and got to Winery.
Winery is reckoned by many to be the hardest hill. I think Seminary is harder because it doesn’t let you rest much, while winery is more rolling. I took the first pitch conservatively, and then took the second pitch harder as there were some people catching me. I recovered on the last pitch, listening to the strains of the 7 hills bagpiper as I reached the top of the hill (the bagpiper is a guy who donates his time (7 hills is a fundraising ride) every year, and if you’re riding the short course, you know that that worst is over.
I skipped the food stop, avoided some people turning left (please don’t ride through turns with two tandems side by side, it tends to make it hard for other riders), and then dropped down the hill onto Willows road. This is one of the “ride fast home” sections that my evening group often takes, and it’s good for a paceline. To triathletes took off faster than I wanted to go, so I just rode a comfortable pace (probably 20ish – I deliberately had my computer on altitude so I wouldn’t ride too fast). After 5 minutes or so, another rider eased by and he pulled the rest of the way, and we rode to the base of Old Redmond road for the last time. He took off (better legs than me), and I rode the steep pitch at a moderate pace, and then rode all out to the top. That put me on the descent on 116th (another one of my favorites)(where I passed the guy I worked with on Willows), the descent on Northup, and then the pull back to Kirkland.
I decided to air things out back to Kirkland, and was at a steady (and painful) 22-23 on the flats. About half a mile from the finish, I slowed down, and the faster guy passed me (he had chased and caught up), and we rode to the finish.
Which was pretty much deserted – probably 20 riders total. Most of the stronger riders were on the metric or the century, so I drank my Endurox, had some strawberry shortcake, and bought a $5 T-shirt before riding home.
Total time was 2:28, with an average speed of 15.4MPH. Not bad for me and my current training state.
And I finished feeling good, so it was a nice enjoyable ride.