Monday, May 25, 2009

7 Hills

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.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The massive Google, Kirkland, Cylcing update of great glory

Here it is the long awaited Google/Seattle(Kirkland) update. I've been down in Kirkland for three full weeks now, so I figure it's time for a proper update.

So far my internship at Google is going very well. The work environment is fantastic: relaxed in the right ways and intense where it should be. The focus is on good product done well as should be evidenced by the many Google offerings we all use on a day to day basis. I don't really know what else to say (that isn't covered by NDA), other than that I'm really glad I stepped up and applied for this internship.

Google has three offices in the Seattle area, two in Kirkland and one in Seattle's (very cool) Fremont district. I'm in one of the Kirkland offices overlooking Lake Washington with quite the view. The Kirkland/Bellevue/Redmond area has a suburban feel and is fairly spread out. Surprisingly everything is well connected by streets with bike lanes making it easy to get from place to place by bike. The problem comes when busing or trying to get over the lake to Seattle. The bus system isn't great with buses coming at most every 30 minutes going to every hour in the evenings. Getting to Seattle is a minimum of two buses taking at the shortest over an hour. Cycling to Seattle is doable, but is a long enough ride to be discouraging for purposes other than the ride itself. With all that said, there is enough on this side of the lake that all my needs are pretty much taken care of.

Before heading down to Kirkland I made the decision that 2009 was going to be the year of the bicycle for me, and so far I've been keeping it up with time spent on my bike 14 out of the last 17 days. I've discovered that they don't know from flat in this part of the world. It's not that Vancouver is flattest terrain in the world, especially when compared to Edmonton for example, but here it's a whole new scale. Basically any ride from where I'm living involves at minimum a hill climb on the way home, and most likely more than that. It's actually a lot of fun, and my fitness on the bike has already improved in the three weeks I've been here.

When I arrived one of the other interns mentioned that Kirkland has a yearly cycling event called the 7 Hills of Kirkland, so of course I couldn't help but enter. There are three distances: 40, 60, and 100miles. In a moment of insanity I registered for the 100mile distance, so in two days from now I'll be setting out in the morning to ride 160 km over some of decently impressive hills to the tune of about 2100 meters worth of climbing. Should be fun, and considering the longest continuous ride I've ever done was just over 100 km a big challenge as well.

I've also recently switched to a Brooks B17 Narrow saddle which so far is completely amazing. It's orders of magnitude more comfortable than the stock saddle it replaced. I'll report back after my ride on Monday, but so far I'm not looking back.

The only real downside to this summer internship is being away from Ilana for the better part of 14 weeks. While we'll visit on the weekends, being apart makes for some long evenings and large phone bills. Other than that I'm enjoying my summer thus far, and this internship is a nice change of pace that I'm hoping will leave me energized for the upcoming academic year.

I'm going to try and update this blog every couple of weeks, but, as past posting frequency might indicate, no promises ;)