On memorial day, for the nth year in a row (where n > 4 or so) I spend a morning riding the annual 7 Hills of Kirkland ride. Except that it, was 7 hills, it was 11 hills, the metric century version. Except it isn’t quite a metric century, being 4 miles or so short of that distance. And the hills – only two of them are really in Kirkland.
So, anyway, I spent the morning riding in the 11 Hills within easy riding distance of Kirkland almost metric century ™.
In the pro cycling world, when somebody has spent the fourth quarter of the year glued to the bench in the local gasthaus in a pursuit of the perfect combination of beer and bratwurst, when spring rolls around his fitness is said to be, to use the technical term, “questionable”.
Though I do enjoy a nice Hefe now and then, my capacity for beer these days is usually described as “cheap date” and I can only eat a brat now and then, the weather this spring hasn’t been very good, so I haven’t gotten much training in. I *have* played soccer now and then, but the prospect of a hard century in June has weighed heavy on my mind.
I wanted to ramp up my training again, so I scheduled a 45 mile hilly ride. I got east in the carnation valley, felt okay, and then absolutely died on the ride back. Hydration was fine, nutrition was fine, sodium was fine, just had zero energy. Dragged myself back home.
Found out a week later that I had shingles (a really weird disease), spent two weeks on Valtrex and not training hard, and had only one decent ride before 7 hills (aka “11HwerdoKamc”), a full 30 miler.
I had a fair number of friends (1 fair is 4 big friends or 5 to 6 small ones) who were also riding in the 11 hills within… well, in “the event”, and were planning on meeting up to ride together.
But not for me. I prefer to ride alone on these sorts of rides, for reasons that I would share with you, except for the fact that it would make a really good post on its own.
So, I said hi to my friends waiting for others to show up, and started off. Market (hill #1) was quickly dispatched, as was Juanita (hill #2, the easy way up from the south), then it was a nice descent to the first big hill.
Seminary hill (#3) is so named because of the proximity of a seminary, which I’m pretty sure isn’t there any more so it is more proper to refer to it as “alternative/complementary medical training school hill”. This hill is an ugly roller and always has one more turn than you think it should, but I dropped down to low low (30/26, with my triple up front and 12-26 climbing cassette), and rode up behind a tandem. A few people come by, but I’m expecting that. We crest at the top, and I stop to take off my hat and put on a sweatband.
A quick descent and a mile or so on the newly-paved section of the Burke, and we’re off to climb Norway (#4), a hill I climb a lot. On the 400′ or so, I pass 10 or so people and get passed by 5 or so. Norway has a really nice view at the top. We descend to the south, and work our way to hill #5.
Hill #5 is named “kingsgate”. It does have a climb a fair bit, but rather than being a real hill, it’s more of a “I’m over here and this is the only way to get over there” route. I get passed at the top by Francis and Alan, which is a good sign, since I expected them to pass me on hill #3, not hill #5.
This takes us to the first rest stop, where I remix a new bottle of accelerade, take a salt tablet, and eat half a bagel with some peanut butter.
Then it’s a short ride back northwest (where I pass a clot of 25 riders or so leaving a light), a glorious descent down brickyard (which looks tighter than it is), and then a traverse back to the south into a headwind, where we reach the base of hill #6, Winery.
Winery is a steep climb that nobody takes because there’s little shoulder and it’s busy, so the one that everybody takes is a route through a development that is rolling (aka steep and steeper). Something in the 14-15% range at its worst. Surprisingly, the group that is behind me stays behind me, and my pass to passed ratio is about 15/1 on the climb. At the top, we are greeted by bagpipe music, which is a sign that the hardest part of the ride is over.
From there it’s back to the rest stop (which I skip), down a steep hill over the tracks and then down into the Redmond valley. The 7 hills riders will head south and grab one more climb before the finish, but for the rest of us, we head east.
I get onto 116th across the valley, and then remember that, if I had been smarter, I would have gone across 124th instead, since this way I traded a nice gradual climb for a short *** of a climb, over 15% to my legs. After that bit we head up Education hill (#7) – where everything returns to normal and I get passed by a 5 fair numbers of riders, then we head down the lovely 35 MPH descent to a traffic light on avondale. Then it’s off to climb Novelty Hill (#8), where the Novelty quickly wears off, and it’s just a long climb (475′) with lots of traffic and a mostly decent shoulder. I do start talking with a guy named Matt, though about 75% of the conversation is lost due to traffic noise. We finish the climb, loop back around, and descend down Novelty, then take a hard right to hill #9, McWhirter.
I had to go back and look at the ride description, since I’ve never heard anybody use that name before. My personal name is “that hill that ends up right near where my daughter takes horseback lessons”, but I guess McWhirter is a better name than that. It’s only 175′ high and easy, probably the easiest of the hills on the ride. We finish that, descend a bit, and then we hit the base of hill #10…
Education hill. Or, “re-education hill”, since we’re doing it the opposite direction, though thankfully they don’t send us back up 116th where we came down (I wonder very much at the sanity of our local road department since they put a bike lane up a 20% grade that people only ride on a dare, but whatever), but up the next road down. We climb that, and come to the second food stop, where I refill my bottles again, take another salt pill, and eat half of a turkey and cheese sandwich.
This is a wonderful place in the ride – I feel good, and there’s only one hill left. Matt and I head down into the valley, turn south to rejoin the 7 hills route, ride up the hill at the end of Willows (not a hill since it’s not numbered, though frankly it’s harder than McWhirter), turn down, and hit the base of Old Redmond Road (Rose hill), hill #11. I still have legs, so we ride to the top, and then it’s down on a descent on 116th, down another descent on Northup, and then a nice spin back on Lake Washington Boulevard back into Kirkland.
I ride 7 hills every year because I love the finish – you have 5 miles without much work at all with two very nice descents.
And then I hook up with a fair number of people from my riding group, and refuel with mexican food.
And suddenly, LiveStrong looks possible. It was a very good day…