Skipping Flying Wheels because of a prior commitment (missing your wife's graduation for her doctorate is not really an option), and missing RAMROD because of injuries and a severe lack of training dedication, I needed to find a century to do this year. I came across the Seattle Century, which looked interesting because it had a 50 mile route that looked good for the wife and offspring, who had expressed interest in such a ride.
It must be a great ride, because it's "Seattle's premier century ride with gorgeous 50 and 100 mile route options and unrivalled amenities." At least, that's what the website says...
There are a limited number of ways of stringing together long rides on the eastside, so I was curious what choices they had made. The detailed map isn't very, lacking things like useful landmarks. Though I am excited about going to "Lake Samish State Park", and the chance to ride through Bellvue. But, that's all okay because the actual route isn't the route we rode on.
The elevation profile is an absolute work of fiction. There is a 200 foot climb on the Sammamish river trail somewhere between Bothel and Marymoor, Novelty Hill Road climbs less than 200 feet (rather than close to 500), etc.
But, it fits into our schedule, supposedly has good food, so we pay the $60 each and sign up for it.
Sunday dawns damply, and as we travel over the Albert D. Rosselini floating bridge, it gets considerably damper. We get to Magnuson, get our packets, I put on my arm and leg warmers, and wish that I'd brought my vest.
We head out on the Burke on our trip to Marymoor. My goal is to spin (105+) and keep my heart rate below 120 or so to save myself for the rest of the ride. I end up riding at the front pretty much the whole way to Marymoor, but it's my pace so I'm happy. My feet are wet, I'm cold, and I'm wondering why the ride booklet had us riding on Woodinville-Redmond road instead of the trail. We took the trail.
We get to Marymoor, and they send us south at the T (instead of heading towards the Tennis courts), and then left along the shoulder into the main entrance. "?" We head east to try to find the food stop (I skipped the Bothel one), and find it near the Velodrome. I'd like to get water, but they're refilling their water jugs with a decidedly-not-food-grade hose (why do rides keep making this mistake?), so I skip the water. I also pass over the bins of fried chicken. "?"
I head out the east side of Marymoor, and we head south. I figure that we'll climb up 187th, and there are flaggers there to guide us. At the type my riding group typically heads north, but this ride has us turning right, and more flaggers to help us turn left on 196th. Interesting - we never ride on this, I wonder why. For about 10 seconds.
Or, more specifically, the semi-famous Red Brick Road. Yes, it's not real cobblestone, but it's a 1.3 mile test of fastener tightness, and I don't understand the point of putting it on this kind of ride. I survive that, get to Avondale, and head up Novelty. My legs feel decent, and at the top we need to turn left on Trilogy to head north (at least they avoided the Novelty descent at the east end...). I know this because I read it, but the Dan henry marking is only about 40 feet back from the intersection, so if you don't know that you see the mark and then need to get across two lanes to get into the left turn lane.
A brief digression to rant about road markings (aka Dan Henrys).
With the exception of the year at RSVP when the chalk markings (they weren't allowed to paint that year) washed away, all the rides I've been on around here have had good markings. Good markings are:
Easy to see
Practically, this means that you can see the markings easily, they give you enough warning before a turn, and you know you're on the right track afterwards. Extra points for putting "don't go here" marks if you miss a turn and reassurance ones in situations where it's not clear.
The markings here fall down on all of those, which means it's often hard at times to know if you're on track. I came across at least 5 cases people were stopped trying to figure out the markings and I had to use my "local knowledge" to help them. Markings are ride 101.
Okay, so we get into Duvall (after I stop to help somebody get the tire back on the rim) and climb up Cherry Hill to the next stop. Nice mini-stop, and they have sandwich makings. I had a nice salty piece of ham and grabbed a few cookies. I've done this loop in the other direction, and this one is not quite as steep but still not too nice. We go up, we go down, I help point people in the right direction, and we head south on 202. 30 seconds after I get on the road a paceline goes by 3 MPH faster than I am riding. Score!
I hop on the back, and we roll all the way to carnation and beyond. I don't get to the front to help out, but not for lack of trying. There's a nice 5MPH headwind so the 20 or so we're going is a lot harder than usual. We get to the next rest stop, and pull in. The theme foods are pie and ice cream. Not what I want right now - what I want is a nice piece of fried chicken, but I have to settle for some stale pretzels, and yet another bottle of accelerade (mountain berry).
This is pretty typical of rides - you'll see something that sounds good at one point and then it doesn't show up later. You'll be four hours into a really hot ride, and the rest stop offers... fruit, and cookies.
I follow a large group out, and I end up paceline with a tandem and another single to fall city. I feel sorry for the tandem because they're clearly working hard, so we take turns jumping in front to give them a bit of break. I wonder why we're heading down 203, but traffic isn't too bad and we get to fall city - only to find that the left out of the stop was supposed to be a straight. We spend time looking at the map, and end up taking Preston-fall city road towards Preston. After 15 minutes we come across other riders, and roll into Preston. Still no chicken - I fill one bottle with accelerade and my second with water as I'm feeling a little bit dehydrated. I've been taking a salt tablet at every stop, and so far it's working great. One of the ride people tells us that there's a change in the route from the booklet - one of the route changes didn't make it into the booklet.
We roll out of Preston on a road that heads West, parallel to I-90. Until the road turns under I-90, and the Dan Henrys point onto the onramp. Bicycles are allowed on interstates in Washington where there are no alternate routes, and I ride the shoulder on a nice long downhill into Issaquah. It's okay, except that there is a fair bit of junk on the road and there are those big rumble strips, so you have to pay a lot of attention. Not a place where you want to mess up at 30MPH.
Right as I pull off the exit, I run into two other riders, and I ride a bit faster than them through Issaquah. The Dan Henrys point up a totally gratuitous climb (tip to course setters - climbs that you don't have to take are find at 30 miles. They aren't at 70+ miles, on a general ride). I opt to skip it, and head north to get to Newport way. Stuck at a left two guys pull up. One I've seen off and on, and the other is a guy on a hybrid with hand-made fenders. The guy on the hybrid and I complain about the routing and the markings as we ride up Newport. The guy I'm riding with looks familiar, and I notice he's riding a fixie with a hand-made fender on it, and is using platform pedals. I also find out that he works in Seattle, doesn't own a car, and commutes from Issaquah. Can you figure out who it was?
Along the way, we pass painted out markings leading to the left.
Right at the base of Zoo hill.
Not sure how they got as far as marking a course up the zoo...
We head up Newport towards Eastgate. On the way we meet the 50-mile riders as the come across the bridge over I-90, which means they rode up the trail above the school. Through the switchbacks. The ones that are really tight, and often wet.
Really, really bad decision. The ride under the freeway and up the route we took is so much better. I found out from my wife later that multiple people had fallen in the switchbacks.
Now, we need to get to the Mercer Island trail entrance on Lake Washington Blvd. There are three ways I'd send people.
You can descend all the way on Newport to Factoria way, turn left, and take the bike trail to coal creek. You then have a bit of traffic to deal with at the interchange, so it's not my choice for 50 mile riders.
You can descend partway down Newport, then work your way through neighborhoods to get over to SE 36th. This is a nice route, but has the most turns and it's possible to get lost.
Or, you can take the bike route down to SE38th, and take it all the way to Factoria.
With this ride, I'd probably take the last one. It's the simplest, and it feels the most direct.
Instead, the riders are routed all the way to the end of Newport and then right on Factoria way, taking the riders through heavy traffic. Another bad choice.
We head out onto Mercer Island. The routing is a bit strange, and I end up missing the food stop. I ride over to the other side, and stop at Leschi grocer to get some water.
Finally, we head north towards the last climb up to the arboretum. This is a steep climb, but it's usually not that busy. But, instead of heading up Lake WA Blvd, we head north on 36th, which then means we have to ride the really steep Madison. In traffic. Another bad choice.
The ride back to Sand Point is uneventful, except for waiting for the bridge at Montlake.
I finish in 5:55:50 with 91.9 miles on my polar. I lost a few miles in carnation, but I don't think it was 8 miles, so the ride may be a bit short. I don't care as the 100 mile mark isn't really my goal.
The ride shows 3250 feet of climbing, which puts it pretty much on par with Flying Wheels. My average is 15.5, which is okay given my current state of fitness and riding alone for most of it. Polar claims 3798 calories. My legs are tired, but I don't feel bad at all.
Dinner is pretty good. Nice rolls, grilled asparagus, salad, and a choice of grilled chicken *** or salmon. And beer if you want it. We leave with a goodie bag with beer and some other stuff (the offspring gets root beer).
So, it's not a ride I can recommend. Poor markings, lots of bad routing choices.
When I get home I take a quick trip online to check, and find out that I was indeed riding with local cycling notable Kent Peterson, co-creator of the Mountain Populaire I've written about. Kent, it was a pleasure to ride with you, and your blog offers a position of honor next to Fatty's.