This past Monday (May 25th) I completed my longest ever bike ride. Weighing in at 160km, it's not exactly record breaking, but 7 hours on the saddle was a new challenge for me. The ride was part of the 7 Hills of Kirkland event I referenced in my last post.
My day started with a 5:40 alarm wake up and a breakfast of oatmeal and a Brendan Brazier style smoothie. I loaded up my gear headed down the hill to the registration area then dropped off my backpack at the office (which luckily was just a km or two away). By about 6:45 I was back at the start line (having ridden 7.4km already) and on my way along with the rest of the early risers.
The start of the route climbs up hills along the North Eastern shore of Lake Washington before looping back along the Burke-Gilman trail for a short jaunt before exiting back in to the road system for another climb. At somewhere not to far beyond the half-way mark for the 40 mile route riders the century riders branched off for the extra 100 km and 1200 meters climbing.
At 70km and the tough Union Hill climb I began to despair, but a fortunate stretch in the draft of a speedier rider and my first stop at one of the several well equipped volunteer food stops re-energized me to continue in good spirits. Once the route diverged from the main 40 and 60 mile routes I was on my own most of the time with stretches here and there riding with one or two other riders. The route was well marked with Dan Henry's and at no point did I feel lost.
Once past the 80km half way mark I began to feel a bit better, and by 100km I knew with decent certainty that I'd finish in good shape, and by the time I started up the final hill with about 20km to ago I was feeling quite good, and I even had the energy to kick myself back over the magic 30km/h mark for the final few km to finish strong.
My goal wasn't to finish with the most amazing time (I averaged 22.4km/h including rest stops), but to finish in good shape having gone at a steady pace, and while my pace did decline over the course of the ride I never got dehydrated or ran into an energy wall. Infact I wasn't terribly sore after I got off the bike, and the next day, though I could feel my muscles, I wasn't in any discomfort. Even more importantly, my new Brooks saddle held up extremely well; I've had less comfortable 7 hour road trips in a car.
I was impressed by the other riders I saw on the course, many who were very strong riders keeping up a pace decently quicker than my own. Also impressive was that on the entire ride I only came across one discourteous driver (he wasn't impressed at having to share the road, or perhaps it was just my pink handle bar wrap). Other than the few small exceptions I've found that drivers in the Seattle area (at least on the Eastside of Lake Washington) are generally cycle aware and decently careful.
All in all a very enjoyable event that left me wanting more. Hopefully this summer will provide opportunities for further cycling adventures.