>7 Hills of Kirkland

I rode a modified version of the century edition of the 7 Hills of Kirkand (map, cue sheet, review it) yesterday. The Joe-Bob summary: 100.1 miles. 5,700′ of elevation gain. Rider-fu. Seven dead animal sightings. Two sore everythings. One “You really rode R.A.W.? On that thing?” flying hatchet-to-the-head comment. Three stars.

Like last year, I left my house around 7:30 a.m. biking. The first observation was how quiet the streets were for a Monday. Oh, yeah, it’s a holiday. It’s been a long time since I’ve legitimately had a government holiday off from work and didn’t have some impending deadline that forced me to use it as a catch-up day.

I made it to the registration area about ten minutes before 9:00. Check-in was efficient. They had photocopied the check and entry form. As this was the tail end of the checkin period, the food had been picked over. I topped off my Camelbak with water, ate one of the organic Clif Bars I brought with me, and set off.

The first two hills, Market (210′) and Juanita (285′) went by quickly. “Quickly,” in this case, refers to the amount of thought I put into them, not so much the speed at which I climbed them. About this time, we had officilaly achieved “partly sunny.” For those outside of the Seattle area, this is our optimistic way of saying “mostly cloudy.” Continuing this optimism, I pulled into a Walgreens to buy and apply sunscreen. Ten minutes later, while climbing Seminary Hill (455′), it started raining.

I think I’m starting to seriously enjoy biking in the rain.

In my dreams

My reverie was broken up shortly after a couple of riders passed me. Rider 684 had a very retro-looking bike with nifty, color-matched blue fenders. Rider 685 had some kind of carbon fiber jobbie with two-spoke lighter-than-air wheels and the latest in His Favorite Team’s cycling wear. Considering the road had a very adequate paved shoulder, but was otherwise windy and two-laned, this “couple” insisted on riding two-abreast, but not close to each other. One was on the fog line, the other in the middle of the car lane, oblivious to the traffic spooling behind them (and comments of “car back”) until a frustrated driver justifiably honked. I watched this spectacle repeat itself a few times, wondering how it would pan out. Occasionally this was broken up by #685 racing up to the top of the hill then “waiting for #684 to catch up. Inexplicably, when he did this, she swung out into the center of the lane. Another few cars queued up behind her until one would beep and she’d get a bleeping clue to move over a bit. Convinced that it would be bad luck to remain behind them, I powered past them at the first opportunity. I never saw them again.

Fast forward a bit over the next couple of hills, Education (410) and Union (636) and through the serene farmlands of Carnation. The ridership had become a trickle as the turnoff for the metric versus century routes. By this point, all of the hard hills are done and it’s some additional extracurricular exercise. I had my fifth Clif Bar for the day and was wishing I had packed a steak or cheeseburger or something meaty, but not so sweet. I did the mental arithmetic and concluded the rest stop on Stillwater would likely be closed by the time I got there.

Sure enough, there was a car sitting at the bottom of the hill, its driver waving at me. She was going to send the food back to the original stop near Norway Hill (as it’s the most common point), but had seen my bib number and wondered if I was having some kind of mechanical difficulty, did I need a ride, etc. I thanked her for the concern (and waited for the “you’re doing the century. On that thing?”) then thought of trying to explain that I was doing fine, this was really mile 66 for me (versus 50 on the tick sheet), and I really wanted to do this last official hill before heading home for a cool 100 miles. Greater reason prevailed and I just said “I’m on my way home, thanks a lot.”

My legs started to hurt as I started up Stillwater Hill, but reaching its top was quick enough. This seemed a heck of a lot easier than it did in March’s Populaire. (Maybe all the commuting is paying off!) There seems to be a definite passive-aggressive driving tendency by people in this area. I’ve learned to stop monitoring the rear view mirror and instead listen to a combination of the doppler shift and the thump-thump-thump if the car veers over centerline to give me some extra berth. Acceleration and no thump are bad.

Coming off the other side of the loop, I was at mile 76. My GPS showed the route back was about 15 miles “as the crow flies.” Taking Redmond-Fall City road, however, was slightly longer. It’s flat enough that I didn’t have to push that hard to maintain 14mph. Going up Dulthie Hill, the final climb towards home, was also easier than I remembered it. I stayed in my center-low gear the rest of the way home while wondering how close I’d get to 100 miles. As I was coming up the final mini-hill near home, I had 99.4 on the odometer. I did a few loops to pad it the extra 0.6 miles.

So, what I like about the 7 Hills is the ride’s accessible from my house. Except for the parts along SR 203, the route’s got relatively light traffic. It’s nice to get most of the steeper hills done early. They’re good about posting the elevation gain so the ‘dread’ is factored out. The downside is the rest stops aren’t spaced too well. I prefer them every 15-20 miles versus 25+ mile intervals. It’s hard to hydrate and not have to pee once an hour or so. I would have been in deep doo doo if this area weren’t experiencing such a construction/remodeling boom and had Honey Buckets scattered around. Also it would have been so nice if they had some pretzels. After I got home, I was eating salty stuff the rest of the evening.

Next year I would like to try the Century Ride of Centuries in Pendleton. It’s one I wanted to do, but didn’t schedule far enough in advance. John and Terri did it this year. I hope they weren’t too rained upon.

3 thoughts on “>7 Hills of Kirkland”

  1. Congratulations on another 100 miler! My account of the Century Ride of the Centuries is now posted, click my name to mosey that direction. One day out of three was sunny, but we only spent one day soakin’ wet.

  2. What is it with some of the cyclists out there? My favorite clueless spaz story is from last year’s Kitsap Color Classic: there were four of us riding together, all being of different skill levels. Because the weather was cold, foggy, and raining, we didn’t see even half as many riders as we had the year before. Still, we rode single file, and whenever any one person needed a breather, our mini peloton slowed down, and pulled off the road.

    Maybe because there were so few people out there, some of the cyclists started behaving as if they were the only people on Earth. And they weren’t just stopping to look at the cue sheet with their wheels clearly in traffic, they were also changing flats in the bike lane. You don’t have to be an experienced rider to understand the daftness of this on any day, let alone on an organized ride.

    But here’s my favorite: after being stymied by eight tired legs, four pairs of dripping shorts, three flat tires, and one broken spoke, we were finally moving along at a clip that was nice enough to feel like we were accomplishing something, but slow enough for the tiny, cold raindrops not to draw blood. Then, on a peaceful enough straightaway, a group of four other riders who had been standing on the side of the road, suddenly remounted their bikes and pulled slowly into the bike lane without ever looking at the fine folks headed straight at them.

    I saw the first two members of my group scatter in different directions, one taking evasive maneuvers and the other trying to slow down, but giving up and veering sharply left when he realized that the wet ground hadn’t only decreased his stopping distance, it had erased it. I also yanked my bike sharply to the left, when the renegades still hadn’t picked up speed, and one of them had stopped again in the middle of the shoulder.

    As my heartbeat shot up, and I shot forward, one of the fools yelled at me, “Oh my god! Thanks a lot, No Fenders!!” They nearly caused an eight bike pile-up, and never had any idea. Normally I would be more sympathetic of the fender situation, not passing close enough to soak anyone, but I was too concerned with my own mortality to worry about somebody else getting wet.

    Besides, calling me No Fenders was a whole lot nicer than the nickname I gave them.

  3. I had a long recovery from some sort of chest cold, and Monday I finally felt like riding, after about a week off of the bike.

    My husband said he’d be willing to go around Lake Sammamish, a little bone thrown to me because that’s a pretty short and doopie ride. I was looking for at least 30 miles, so I said I’d just ride by myself. And I didn’t want to do anything that involved my regular commute (yawn) or going around Lake Washington (double yawn, plus you don’t want to be on the Burke Gilman Trail on a holiday weekend). I finally decided I’d ride up and around Kirkland.

    So, after doing a couple hours of gardening and lunch, I headed out. While on the way there, I noticed a freshly painted 7 with a circle around it, and I thought, wow, they’ve just repainted the Dan Henrys for the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride. I bet it’s coming up really soon. Then, as I was climbing up a hill, there was someone in front of me
    riding even slower, which is a pretty rare event. As I got closer to him, I saw that he had a ride number on his back; even closer, and I saw it said, “7 Hills of Kirkland – May 28, 2006” on it, and I thought, duh, that ride’s today!

    I rode in to downtown Kirkland, along with some slow pokes that were still on the course. I saw a huge knot of cyclists in the downtown park, and I figured that must be the start/finish line. I skipped that congested scene, and as I had originally planned, started up the Market Street hill. There continued to be Dan Henrys even though there was no one now riding along with me, and I realized this must be the start of the ride route.

    What happened was that I ended up doing almost all of the Seven Hills of Kirkland, about four hours after the last riders should have left the start line, and starting it in the middle. I’ve never done that ride before, although it has a good reputation. If I had been on top of things, I would have skipped the gardening in the morning and done the ride right for real. I guess this way I didn’t support services for the homeless, but then again, I didn’t draw on any ride services other than the Dan Henrys which you’ll see on the pavement for the rest of the year. Oh, and a sign on one shoulderless road that warned cars to look out for bikes that had not yet been taken down, that otherwise wouldn’t have been out there.

    And it was a most enjoyable ride. I also had the ride from the house to Kirkland, and back again, so I got a couple of hills of Redmond along the way. I was surprised, considering that I’ve done a lot of bicycling in the area, how much of the north end of the route was unfamiliar to me. I had never been on top of Norway Hill before, and was most impressed with the scenery and the views. In the past I was a little spooked by the 7 Hills moniker, but I was surprised at really how easy all the hills were. I remember even Juanita Hill being a bit of a slog in the past; this time, while I did put it in the granny a few times, it was mostly spin spin spin to the top, not a struggle at all. I would definitely make a point of doing this ride officially next year. It’s a little early in the year to do the century version of it, but I’d do the classic 7 Hills again, maybe even do the metric century version.

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