Wednesday, November 26, 2008

RUSA 517 - The Alps Inaugural Ride

Vincent Muoneke and I rode the inaugural ride of "The Alps" today. It was going to be the inaugural ride of "The 10K", but since it turns out to have just shy of 9,000 feet of climbing, I had to rename the ride. 9,000 feet was plenty of climbing as it was.

We met at Peet's, across from Whole Foods, so we started off with a warm beverage in our tummies ... nice since it was cold out. We left at 7:09, checking at Whole Foods in case another rider was going to join us.

We were a few minutes behind pace at the first control - Somerset Elementary School. Even though we were at the top of the hill, clouds were coming in ... fog was going to be an issue.

Riding with Vincent was great. This his sixth Permanent this month. Wow. He was in awesome shape and zoomed up the hills. Since he had the original route sheet, which didn't have the info control questions nor the route changes I had made Monday night, he couldn't get too far ahead of me. We got behind a school bus on Newport Way and had to stop three or four times as it stopped to pick up kids. Then up Cougar Mountain, one of the toughest climbs of the ride. We did pretty well on it tough and were back on time by the time we hit the info control towards the top.

The next control was a bit confusing. While just a four way stop, an intersection of two roads right? Wrong - there six road names ...lots of different road signs (133rd Ave, 134th Ave, 72nd Place, Newcastle Way, Newcastle - Coal Creek Way, & Newcastle Golf Club Road). How did that happen?

We don't figure that out. From there it is off towards Renton. Part way down 148th Vincent stops ahead of me and picks up a SIR mud flap ... it was probably mine from Monday's ride, as I had the mud flap last week and don't have it now. Well, that was fortuitous.

Down towards the Maple Valley Highway and then a turn onto Jones Road. Another nice road find from the Issaquah Populaire. Foggy though. Pretty too.

We zipped down the Auburn-Black Diamond Road and then up the Green River Valley. More fog.

Out of the valley up to Black Diamond and then up Tiger Mountain. No fog though ... gorgeous blue sky. From there it was on to Squak Mountain (a nice little 500 foot addition to the ride since Monday). Then up Highland Drive and over to the Snoqualmie Valley ... what fog again? Thick fog. Fortunately Vincent's Garmin beeps as he reaches the Issaquah-Fall City turnoff ... as otherwise we might not have even seen it.

And now for the ultimate climb ... we head up Lake Alice Road. This climb had a maximium grade of 24 % when I rode it a few weeks ago. While I doubt it really has changed, my Garmin read a maximum of 32 % as I rode up. Ouch! I had plenty of time to read it as I ground my way up. As the turn-off came into sight I saw Vincent pedaling onward and upward ...I yelled, but he didn't stop. Since there isn't another way out (well, not an easy one anyway), I figured I could sit and wait, but then decided I'd ride up and find him ... it was only another 100 feet of climbing. He was at the intersection at the top, getting directions from a car that had stopped. We went back down and then through the path to Snoqualmie Ridge.

Food. We were both hungry when we got to the Shell station at Snoqualmie Ridge. I had a corn dog ... hit the spot. It was starting to get dark now, so we didn't stay long. I wanted to make it down the descent to Fall City while there was still some light. With darkness falling, heading into the misty fog again, the ride along 203 was not pleasant. The mist kept collecting on my glasses, which magnified the headlights of the oncoming cars, making it difficult to see. A few miles down 203 there was a deep grate on a bridge that I barely missed. It was a relief to turn off 203 and climb Tolt Hill.

As this part of the ride was new from Monday, I was looking for a good place for the information control ... fortunately we found a spot near the top that had a street light ... much easier to have an information control when you have light. After a climb up Lake Ames Road and the last information control, it was over Union Hill Road and back to Whole Foods.

We made it in 11 hours and 40 minutes. 8,800 feet of climbing. My legs felt like rubber. A piece of pizza and I felt somewhat renewed ... at least I know had enough energy to make it home for dinner.

Monday, November 24, 2008

RUSA 517 The 10K ... or not

I was psyched. The 10K ride was approved! This was going to be a great winter training ride .... lots and lots and lots of climbing, yet a maximum elevation of only about 1,100 feet. I had sent an invite to the SIR list for the inaugural ride of the 10K on Wednesday, but needed to pre-ride it to make sure the route sheet was a-okay and, most importantly, to come up with the information control questions.

I started from Peet's Coffee at 6:30. The ride starts gently, going through Marymoor Park and then going down the east side of Lake Sammamish. At the south end of the Lake I was warmed up and ready for some climbing. Up to Eastgate and then up to Somerset. Nice views here of Lake Washington, Mercer Island, etc. No time for enjoying the views though. I am barely within the control time limits. Okay, they don't apply to information controls, so it isn't absolutely critical at this point, but I need to stay on time so that when they do count, at a regular control, I'm within the limit. I come up with a couple of information control questions and hit the road.

Now for a downhill portion ... down to Newport Way and then along Newport Way to the base of Cougar Mountain. I hadn't ridden up Cougar Mountain until the Issaquah 100K Populaire ... the inspiration for this ride. It is a great climb. So up I went. It was close to a 1,000 feet of climbing, with much of it in the 10-15 % grade range and a max of around 20%. By the top I was definitely warmed up.

Even though I was hot, the way down would be cold, so I bundled up and headed down Lakemont to Newcastle. Chilly yes, but a restful change. Before turning onto Coal Creek Parkway it was time for another Information Control ... a few minutes to spare now. The sun was out and it seemed to be warming up a bit.

No more big hills for a while, so I had the chance to put some time in the bank. I headed off. By the time I got to May Valley Road my hands were freezing ... it was much colder in this valley. Time to put my gloves back on ... what had I been thinking?

Up a modest hill, 148th Ave SE, into Renton and over to Jones Road by the Maple Valley Highway. Jones Road was a nice alternative to the Maple Valley Highway...rural, windy, and scenic. It was then time to cross the Maple Valley Highway and head up 196th Avenue. I had never been along this road before - found it on the King County Bike Map. It is a nice road to ride on ... a bit more climbing than I had expected, but then that's what this ride is all about!

By the time I reached the first real control on the Auburn-Black Diamond Road, I had about half an hour in the bank. However, it was beginning to look like the ride wouldn't hit 10,000 feet of climbing ... so I started thinking of how I could tweak the course to get some more climbing in. But from here it was a nice long, gentle descent towards Auburn and the start of the Green River Valley. Very enjoyable. And from there the ride up the Green River Valley is one of the best. So picturesque !The climb up out of the valley towards 169 and Black Diamond was gone in a flash. A climb yes, but no killer grades here.

Lots of rolling hills and then a real climb up Tiger Mountain to the Fire Station. No need for a 911 call here, the climb is very doable. A nice descent to Issaquah and time for a climbing check ... 5,000 feet so far. I now expect the ride will be only 7,500 feet ... how did it get to be so far shorter than the projected 10,000? Oh well. I figure I can add perhaps a 1,000 feet with a few teaks - up Squak Mountain, over Tolt Hill Road, offset by shortening the ride in a couple of other places.

But before that, I have to make it up the next set of hills ... up Highland Drive and then probably the toughest climb of the day ... Lake Alice. I ride up Highland Drive ... on the road, not the bike path, just to check it out. I decide the bike path is better. Can't get the bike to shift into the smallest gear in the front though ... that is a disappointment as I work my way slowly up Lake Alice Road. Still doable though. It is quite a relief to make it to the top ... only one real climb left - Union Hill Road.

By the time I make it to the last info control at Lake Ames & W Snoqualmie Vally Road, it is just starting to get dark. The ride to the end is pretty straightforward except for the routing through the Park & Ride lot. Not sure how that got in there ... but simple enough to take out. I make it to the end just before 5:30 ... just under 11 hours. Not bad. 7,700 feet of climbing. I guess I'll have to rename the route, as I can't get it to 10,000 feet of climbing unless I make major changes. Should be able to get close to 9,000 feet with some minor tweaks though.

Now hopefully I can recover enough to ride it again day after tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

RUSA 083: Why would anyone

... in their right mind ride across the Hood Canal Bridge? Sure, if you look at the scenery from the bridge it is wonderful, but who can look at it? The "shoulders" are minimal to non-existent on either end, there is the gap in the middle of the bridge that is great at grabbing tires, and then there are the metal grates on either end and in the middle. While you can avoid the grates by riding on the very edge of the road, the covering on the metal plates has worn off in large chunks ... so not much better than the grates, but okay as long as you keep it totally straight. Not easy to do with a semi blaring by and the metal plates banging. It is a stressful experience. And on this ride (RUSA 83, Hood Canal North) you get to do it twice !!

A screw loose, not playing with a full deck, bonkers ... but that is what I did today. At least it wasn't foggy when I crossed it today.

On the other hand if I had ridden the Hood Canal Loop and only crossed the bridge once today I would have ended up in Bremerton ... where the ferry terminal was closed due to a bomb threat. So this must have been the right choice.

Rational thought was not my strong suit today. Or was it? On the way back I convinced myself that it was better to take it easy, stop and get something to eat, than push it a bit and catch an earlier ferry. So I missed the 4:35 ferry by 2-3 minutes and was able to ride "easy" the last 3 hours and stop at McDonalds because it made more sense?

I must have fallen out of bed and hit my head last night!