This was the helmet hair I had after finishing Chilly Hilly 2005. While I’m not complaining about the visual distortion suggesting there’s more than I really have, the snippet is representative of how the rest of my body felt at the end of the ride. Tired. I know why, too. By ride time last year, I had accumulated 500 miles in the saddle. This year, it’s been more like 50. Am I nuts for wanting to do Ride Around Washington? (Don’t answer that right now.)
Our rain has been vacationing in southern California for the last two weeks. However, as a sign that it was on its way back, the past few mornings have greeted us with a nuisance fog. Anticipating another viscous morning of the same, I wasn’t in a particular hurry to get out the door. I left, hoping to make the 9:35 ferry.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct is a north-south freeway running west of downtown Seattle by the waterfront. It was damaged in the Nisqually earthquake of 2001. It’s believed that it’ll come down if we have another big earthquake. There’s an effort to replace it with a tunnel. Suppress the plaus-o-meter because: 1) we’re on the ring of fire, baby — doing a major excavation project with all the hot, seismic action isn’t cheap; 2) we still haven’t built the third runway, a much less complicated project; 3) did I mention it’s unbelievably expensive? They’re saying “$4 billion project.” Applying the same accounting used for The Big Dig, really means prepend a “1” so it’s a “$14 billion project.”
Photo by Kuren Charles
Parking was easy enough to find, and was free on a Sunday. The one mile trek to the regsitration area made me glad I heaped on the layers. The registration desk was underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct (see sidebar), across from the ferry loading area.
Hundreds of cyclists were already queued up, hoping to make it on the 8:45 ferry. The registration site was buzzing as the volunteers tried to crank people through. When the ferry whistle sounded, everything slowed down, but there were still hundreds of cyclists standing around. The cacophony of the espresso stand, announcer, street noise and bodies milling about was overwhelming.
Cyclist boarding the ferry.
Photo by Kuren Charles
The route circles counter-clockwise around the island. This many cyclists exiting the ferry can be dangerous. One guy missed clicking into his pedals and fell over in front of me. His ego was more bruised than anything physical. I was briefly tempted to hang a left and enjoy some time in town getting coffee while the crowd thinned out. With this many riders, and so early in the year, one has to be vigilant for people instances where people randomly stopping, not fully off the road.
At the first hill, I was trailing a guy on a three-wheeled recumbent who was having difficulty staying straight. The “bent” has a wheel on each side of the seat and one in the back. It’s a neat looking design, but is very much like a tailwheel airplane — unstable in a novice’s hands. (I’ll cut him some slack since it is very early in the year.) He was blazingly fast on the downhills, and even with my potential energy turned kinetic, I couldn’t pass him on the straight downhill along Sunrise Drive. I did put in some extra effort on an uphill, giving him a wide berth as I passed. I was pretty proud of myself for mustering the energy to do this.
I started to bonk around the halfway point near Battle Point Park. This was a fundraiser stop replete with baked potatos, chili, fully cooked meat sticks, and various home-baked items for sale. I went for the baked potato, dabbed with a little chili, and got into the long porta pottie line. I timed it just about right, too. On the way back to my bike, my heart rate monitor crapped out. I think I may be inadvertantly hitting the “stop” button or something. The net effect is it closes out my current session and messes up my graphing of the entire course. I manually corrected this later, but somehow ended up with five more miles.
While I was finishing off my potato, some folks were interested in asking about my bike. The two questions I most often am asked are about the small wheels (something I’ll detail in an entry later this week) and the beam.
|Unlike a conventional bike where you’re sitting on a vertical piece of tubing, my bike has a beam that projects out at a 20°-ish angle. It flexes, which provides some degree of cushioning for the bumpiness of the road. One drawback is my pedal stroke isn’t smooth. When I’m exerting a lot of effort, such as climbing a hill, I tend to bounce. After an hour or so of this, my nether regions bother me. It’s a lot better than it was when I first got the bike, but I’m going to play with the beam position to take some of the leverage off the other end. (Losing the 5 lbs I gained over the holiday will help, too.) I saw some ratcheting crank arms at the Bike Expo. The theory is most people using clipless don’t actually “pull” their leg up, but instead force it up with the other leg. With these things you have to pull your leg up, and by working on this, you’ll get a rounder pedal motion.|
The next hill after Battle Point Park was also steep, and I was having doubts about “Baker Hill Road,” the highest climb of the day. I didn’t want to wimp out by short-cutting the route — not that there’s anything wrong with that because this isn’t a competition — and forged ahead. Despite its length, I found it easier than the previous two hills.
After a breather, I hit the wall again along the climb on Blakeley Avenue, pulling over to walk my bike up the last bit. The glide along the coast (Rockaway Beach Road) was a nice treat as the sun had finally come out. The final climb comes along Wyatt Avenue. It’s not that steep, either, but I was very tired and alternating arms to get a small boost.
|Line in Bainbridge
Photo by Robert Kirkpatrick
The line for the ferry going back wasn’t as bad as it was in the morning. Richard captured an interesting vantage point with people milling around, swapping horror stories amplifying the legend of Baker Hill road aka “The Hill.”
Looking at my HRM data for the day, I was really struggling (as if I hadn’t ridden all winter?!). I hit my maximum heart rate twice before the Baker Hill Road climb. (Generally breaking anaerobic threshold on a long ride is bad news.) My average heart rate was about 15bpm higher than I normally do mid-season. After I fiddle with the beam, I want to try the 100km populaire this weekend. The McClinchy Mile is on the 12th and offers a combination of loops with shotcuts if they’re needed. There’s a lot of room to improve…