Monday, February 23, 2015

Chilly Hilly 2015

Okay, I promise, I will try to make this the last biking post for a while. This past Sunday was the Chilly Hilly. 32 miles, 2400 feet of elevation gain (plus 14-15 miles riding to and from the ferry and a few hundred more feet of climbing coming home from the ferry).

Despite having done the mileage and the climbing in previous rides, I was still nervous. Ryan wasn't terribly understanding of this, but some of my nerves was due to having very few long and/or hilly rides under my belt and part was due to knowing I'd be riding at the same time as lots of other people, which I hadn't done before.

Our group of three left our houses at 7:45. The ride to the ferry is primarily downhill, which makes it a cold ride that time of morning. Luckily it was forecast to be a sunny and warm (for February) day, so we knew things would improve. They filled the 8:50 ferry with bikes rather than cars, so we were going to be starting the ride with a very large crowd.

Things were quite crowded initially, which takes some getting used to. But eventually the fast people work their way ahead and the slower people drop behind and so everyone gets spread out. It was a lovely day, with some beautiful views. I didn't take any pictures. Should have, but honestly was just trying to make it through the ride and didn't want to stop too often. I was definitely the weak rider in our group, but my friends were kind enough to slow down for me. If you want to see the pictures the official photo people took of me riding, go here.

While the Mercer Island loop approximated the distance and the climbing of the Chilly Hilly, it turns out that Mercer Island is way, way easier. On Mercer Island, almost all hills are preceded by downhills, allowing you to use the momentum from the down to coast most of the way up. A lot of the climbing is made up just from gentle rolling hills. Very few actual climbs. There's definitely a lot of that on Bainbridge, but Bainbridge also has 4 good climbs, some of which are just preceded by flat stretches. Not to mention that even if there is a downhill, when you're riding with a crowd of people it's difficult to gain a lot of momentum on the slope if you're also trying not to run into anyone.

But I made it, and I didn't walk up any of the hills. I was glad that I maintained my average speed from previous rides, meaning the ride took us 3 hours. We gave ourselves a chance to relax a bit when we were done. We missed one ferry because of this, then missed the next one because the line of cyclists trying to get on was huge and they were letting mostly cars on. So while we finished the course at 1, we didn't get home until about 5:30 (had to ride home after getting off the ferry).

All the other riders were pleasant and polite. There were people on tandems, parents pulling kids in trailers, a few recumbent bikes, and even a couple kids right around Gareth's age on their own bikes (usually they ended up walking some of the biggest hills). As far as we saw, no one ended up injured. It was fun to see the Bainbridge families standing in their driveways, cheering us on. Some even offered cookies and drinks. There was one point where a guy was up in a tree doing some trimming and as I rode past he screamed out that he was bleeding. Luckily it sounded like he had co-workers there to help him, and some cyclists who were taking a break ran over to see if they could help. I kept going because there wasn't anything I could offer in the way of help. Hopefully he's okay.

When I got home, Ryan looked up his co-worker's Strava account of the ride and helpfully informed me that I wasn't as fast as his co-worker, who finished the course in two hours. My goal for next year is to have the climbs not feel quite as horrible. And maybe Ryan will be up for joining us next year. It's definitely a good ride for a first organized ride. Of course, it helped a lot that it was neither rainy nor terribly chilly. I probably would be looking on it much less fondly if it had been either of those!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Alki Lighthouse

This week my friend and I opted for miles without hills since we'll get plenty of those on Sunday. He showed me the ride to Alki Lighthouse, which I'm hoping to take Gareth on eventually - probably this spring or summer. There's a lot of construction at the waterfront downtown, partly due to Bertha being stuck, partly because of waterfront construction. This makes a chunk of the ride quite messy, but the rest is mostly on trails and lovely.

When you get to West Seattle you get a lovely view of the city:

I think this is Alki Beach Park at the point where we were taking these pictures. At any rate, we rode along the park, which you'll know from the movie Sleepless in Seattle (Tom Hanks' character playing with his son on the beach). Malcolm had fallen asleep, so that's why he's not in the pictures. And when I tried to take him out to see the view when he woke up he was very unhappy with me. I'm guessing he has bad memories of the wind a couple weeks ago. Coffee shops = good places to get out, scenic views = bad.

The lighthouse itself is actually a bit anti-climatic. The coast guard operates it and you can't see the lighthouse from the coast guard gate. However, if you ride down a driveway around the corner you can see some of the lighthouse. You can't get any closer than that because it's all gated/private property. I didn't snap a picture of it, but it looks somewhat similar to the West Lighthouse. We made sure to stop for food this time, popping into a Tully's where Malcolm requested a cupcake, I got him a cookie instead, which he wasn't at all happy about, and then he proceeded to eat all the yogurt I had purchased for myself. I'd brought a sandwich along as well, so not a big deal. I was just happy he wasn't screaming in a busy coffee shop.

Then it was an uneventful ride back home. 37 miles round trip. My friend is convinced I'm totally ready for Sunday. I'm less certain.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Day

Gareth was so excited to get to celebrate Valentine's Day a day early at school this year. As far as he was concerned, the 13th was Valentine's Day. He took in all his cards (we still have a few to give to friends not in his class) and his decorated shoe box. I love that he's old enough that I can give him scissors, glue, and various supplies and he can do his decorating all on his own.

We dropped him off at school and then headed off on our Mercer Island ride. I was feeling more tired than I liked before we even made it to the island. Got to ride across the I-90 bridge, which was kind of cool. Lots of wind, and my chain dropped partway across. I wasn't quick enough to think to shift back up to get the chain back on, so had to stop and put it back on. But later in the ride when it dropped again I did remember and was very proud of myself for not having to stop. Anyway, the island itself wasn't too bad. Hilly, but you can usually use the momentum of the downhills to get up the uphills. Gorgeous views of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington. Lots of houses way bigger than I'm accustomed to seeing (our response to things we can't afford is usually, "We don't live on Mercer Island!"). We didn't stop for pictures though, and I'm honestly not sure a phone picture could have done the views justice anyway.

Malcolm stayed happy as a clam for all 4.5 hours of riding (well, most of it), eating snacks I'd brought and the Valentine's sugar cookies our friend had brought. He took a brief nap as we were leaving the island. I made it all 43 miles, but was very hungry (we should have stopped for lunch, but didn't) and tired and sore. An hour later we had to head back out to pick up Gareth. We stayed to play at the playground for an hour or so so that Malcolm could have a chance to be out of the trailer, enjoy the nice weather, and get some energy out. I love winter here. We've got daffodils, crocuses and even some hyacinths out. Many trees are starting to bloom. In February! Gareth ate a ridiculous amount of candy after school and some other kid took pity on Malcolm and gave him a lollipop from his stash. The kids were more than happy that my exhaustion meant pizza for dinner. And they got to open a Valentine's package from Gram.

Our actual Valentine's day was incredibly low-key. I went to my clarinet lesson. Ryan went to his drum lesson. I went to the anatomy lab to attempt memorization of bones/bone markings. Because I got home close to dinner time the kids got scrambled eggs for dinner (which they're always thrilled to get). Gareth got to stay up late while waiting for us to make dinner for ourselves so that we could watch Dr. Who with him.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

West Lighthouse

So I signed up for a ride called the Chilly Hilly. My friend got me to sign up by saying we'd ride his tandem. And now we're not riding the tandem, I'm riding alone. Which makes me a little nervous to say the least. The ride is around Bainbridge Island - about 34 miles. Of course, we have to ride to and from the ferry, so I'll be riding about 50 miles total that day. I've already told my clarinet teacher that if I'm not at rehearsal that night it's because I can't walk.

Thankfully we've had some lovely riding weather lately, so I've been able to get some good prep rides in. Sunday I rode on my bike on the Burke Gilman trail. I went 24 miles, but most of that is flat. Monday my friend brought his Fuji touring bike over for me to try out. The padding in cycling pants is definitely more effective when you have a less upright posture. My daytime class was cancelled Monday and Tuesday, so I got in a ride to school dropoff on Monday morning and then we did another ride Tuesday.

Initially the drop-down handlebars were awkward. I'm used to a mountain bike setup where the brakes and the shifters are close together. On the Fuji I can have my hands in multiple positions, meaning I might need to shift them when I want to brake, and the levers to shift gears are at the ends of the bars. That took the most getting used to - at first I felt like I was going to fall over every time I needed to shift. But, man, is it nice to have some lower gears than my bike has and the thinner tires that let me go much faster!

Our ride Tuesday was excellent for getting used to all of that. We rode down to the West Lighthouse, which is at the bottom of Discovery Park. This means a huge hill to go down (hands sore from riding the brakes the whole way) and then you have to ride back up the huge hill. I typically never let my friend pull the trailer, but today I let him pull it coming home from the lighthouse. There is no way I would've made it up the hill pulling that thing. But I did make it up without it! (Some park people tried to point out owls to us on the way up - my friend stopped, but I knew if I stopped I'd never get going again).

Mal didn't like the wind down at the lighthouse. We saw a huge eagle (is that an eagle? some kind of huge bird).

Then we rode through Magnolia, enjoying the lovely views and the houses that cost millions of dollars. On the way home we stopped at Top Pot Doughnuts. Here's Mal after using my trip to get napkins as an opportunity to grab a chunk of my doughnut and stuff it in his mouth:

He probably ate about a third of my doughnut in addition to his own. Not that the calories will hurt him!

Thankfully the Chilly won't have any hills with the grade that the one to the lighthouse has. Or if they do they aren't for that long. Mostly low grade hills, but pretty constant. We'll do another ride Friday that will be closer to the length and mimic some of the hilliness that we'll see on the Chilly.