7* Hills of Kirkland

I rode the 7 hills of kirkland this weekend. I’ll start out with the numbers:

Neil Hubbard, neilbagpiper.com
  • One bagpipe player
  • Two flats
  • Three dead amphibians lying on the side of the road
  • 4:48
  • 10 hills, though only nine were labeled on the map.
  • 52.3 miles
  • 3,480′ elevation gain

The standard tour has 7 hills over a 42-mile trek. Because it’s all local,
they have to take some artistic liberties with routing. For example,
Hill 6 on the map is clearly out of the
way. Two more looplets appear on the
supplemental map
, done by harder-core riders who want more hills.
The problem is I have to suppress the purely psychological urge to cut
off the looplets. I don’t have a problem with a large circle, or a
large hill, but out and back seems pointless.

As Gardner
wrote, the weather was pretty bad this week. In some sense, it’s
reminded me of March in Houston: alternating warm and cool days with
light rain morphing into a deluge and lightning. Yes, I said
Monday morning was also looking very iffy, but
I went anyway.

Parking near Kirkland’s marina area was weird because they’re implementing a new pay-metering system. I found a “4 hour” slot, thinking that if the four hours started at 9:00 a.m., this would really give me 5 1/2 hours to bike. When I went by the pay station, there was another placard indicating this wasn’t actually going to be enforced until 1 June. (score!)

Next step was to sign in and pay my $35 registration fee. Their T-shirts looked nice, but my collection needs to be thinned out as it stands, so I just made a beeline for the bagels.

The first two climbs, Market St. and Juanita, were easy, though I did a moderate pace as I warmed up, chatting with the lady in front of me. After a great downhill, whump-whump-whump-whump. Flat tire. I pushed the bike to a clearing to pull the wheel off. (It’s always the rear wheel.) The hole was easy to spot: an 1/8″ glass shard was wedged in the tire. As cyclists gawked, I heard that I was the third person in a row with a flat.

I started up Seminary hill (#3 on the map), chatting with a retired bodybuilder in between gulps of air. She had retired five years ago after nearly 15 years of competition. From her description, the combination of heavy competition and aging eventually drove her to hang up the barbells. Every hobby has The Question, and she was expecting me to ask her about steroids. I didn’t, so she volunteered that she did all of her competition drug free.

I kept up with her for the next several miles until, while turning, my back wheel started slipping under me. Another flat. The glueless patch I had used had a slow leak. I swapped tubes, and put an old-fashioned glue patch on it, anticipating that this was going to be a long day and, quite possibly, I might have been on the wrong ride, the 7 Flats of Kirkland.

Norway Hill and Kingsgate, the fourth and fifth hills of the series, were uneventful. (No flats.) I pulled into the rest stop to top off my water bottles, use the honey bucket and grab a handful of grapes. A guilty pleasure I have is being able to display that I have a kickstand. See, on these event rides, people jocky for the curb so they can lean their pedal on it and keep the bike upright. Me? I just put it in the middle somewhere and deploy the landing gear. 🙂

Hill 6, the Woodinville winery, is a looplet in the opposite direction. I was tempted to skip it, but I realized I hadn’t been in this area before. This was the hardest hill of the day because of the grade. At the top were a group of girls doing cheers for the riders. Even though I was gasping for air and having searing pain from the thighs, I couldn’t help but smile. Beyond the cheerleaders was, inexplicably, a bagpipe player dressed in full Scottish regimen. I’m not sure what the significance of his playing was, but I do enjoy bagpipe music.. I headed out of the looplet, giving a mischievious grin to the riders coming the opposite way. Six hills down.

The next segment winds out to connect to the special bonus hills. I followed this route, unsure at this point how many more I wanted to do. The road leading from 154th Pl to NE 104th St was windy and had a grade of its own that would make it the mysterious 6 1/2th hill. The climb up Education Hill was rough and I lacked the typical resurgence of energy coming down the steep descent to Avondale road. Doing two sequential looplets had no appeal, and I took the left onto Redmond Rd. (I’m familiar with the remaining hills.)

I got back onto the main, 7 hill route, and while trolling down 116th, saw the first of three dead frogs on the road. This was a pretty huge one, easily the size of my hand. It looked so out of place.

I turned south on Willows and saw the second and third dead frogs about 100 yards apart. I asked the rider next to me if she had ever seen the movie

. She hadn’t. The rest of the ride was uneventful, even with the slow and long climb up Rose Hill. There is a lot of cool art in Kirkland, especially along Lake Washington Road.

So, overall, okay ride. Officially, I did nine of the hills, though my altitude profile clearly shows a tenth (or a 6 1/2th). Total elapsed time was just under five hours, not a stellar performance, but that’s why this is training. I have three electronic gizmos on my handlebar: polar HRM, Cateye Wireless cycle computer, and a Garmin eTrex Vista GPS. The HRM worked fine, but because of some bad user interfaces, the “Trip Computer” function is a cumulative tally of the mileage to date (just under 1,300 for the year). My cycle computer transmitter battery died, so I had no idea how far I had gone until the HRM data was loaded on the trip home. The Garmin eTrex Vista GPS, which should be able to tell me everything except heart rate, was pretty useless because I didn’t tape the batteries down. There’s a design issue where vibration causes the battery contacts to jiggle loose, causing the GPS to shut itself down. The boot cycle takes at least a minute, during which time it often jiggled itself off again.

After a day of rest, I feel pretty good except my left elbow is in a lot of pain. Three weeks ago I was bumped up the weight I was using to do butterflies. Despite using a slow, fluid movement, I overtaxed a tendon or muscle in the bottom left of my left elbow. I think this is essentially tennis elbow. It’s been tender, but riding for nearly 5 hours on Monday just made it worse.

5 thoughts on “7* Hills of Kirkland”

  1. Came across this looking for a text description of the 7 Hills route map. Any idea where I could find one? Specifically I’m looking for directions to Norway Hill so I can go check it out. This will be my first year doing 7 Hills and I’ve only been on a road bike since Dec. Am I insane or is this doable if I take a leisurely approach to it? Thanks for putting up with newbies like me.

  2. I had responded to Heather privately, but here’s the gist:

    Here’s the tick sheet: http://7hillskirkland.com/images/7HillsCentury.pdf
    Mile 13.7 is Norway Hill.

    > Am I insane or is this doable if I take a leisurely approach to it?

    What’s your general fitness level and how much do you like hills? 🙂 It’s a hard ride, but doable. Furthermore, there are escape options if the day isn’t going that well. The Woodinville hill felt the steepest of the bunch.

    (Heather later indicated she has a Tri that Saturday.)

    I think you’ll be fine with the five day break between KITH and the Tri, especially given you already run. If you haven’t done so already, it’d be worth ensuring your bike “fits” well. (Long article: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/fitting.htm) Most bike shops can do this for you, and it’s very inexpensive, but will help ensure comfort and reduce the risk of damage.

  3. Hey Jim, did I see you on the 7 Hills ride today? Either that or there was another red Air Friday out there. I was going downhill at about 27 while you were going uphill somewhere around Education Hill so I did not stop to chat.

  4. I did a variation of the 7 hills route again this morning. Started and ended at NE 145th St. and 15th NE in Seattle, which adds the hill from Lake Forest Park Center up through Sheridan Heights to Shoreline. I also went straight up Seminary Hill (AKA Big Finn hill) instead of droping down to the lake and climbing Seminary Hill from the west.

    This is a nice ride, hard enough but not insanely difficult. Total distance was 47 mi. and elevation was about 3400 by DeLorme Topo reckoning. The weather was intermittent showers and moderate south winds. Not too much car traffic. Very few bikes out (probably the weather had something to do with that).

    The route is easy to follow. You can still see the Dan Henrys for last year as well as the ones from 2 weeks ago. There is also a route sheet available on the 7 hills website.


    Norway Hill: 430 ft. in 1.5 miles. Has some steep bits, up to 19% they say.

    Kingsgate Hill: ascent is not much because it is spread out but descending is great, -275 ft. in 0.5 miles.

    Winery Hill: 300 ft. in 0.8 miles. STEEP at the start, winding road through a development.

    Rose Hill: seems endless, 3.5 mile hill with few breaks. About 450 ft of elevation.

    Market Hill: straight line, constant slope hill, about 200′ of elevation in 3/4 mile. Not much compared to the others.

    Big Finn Hill: About 420 ft. in 3 miles. Not terribly steep but unrelenting. This is similar to “The Hill” in Puallup that everyone talks about on the STP route.

    Sheridan Heights: 300 ft. in 2 miles with one steep part, probably 15% or more. Nice neighborhood with some beautiful gardens.

    Overall: Two thumbs up.

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