Thursday, July 05, 2007

They call it "half a century" *

*Ed. note, 9 September 2007: They have informed me that "they" actually refer to it as "a half-century." So now we both know.

I took the day off today for various reasons. I am loving the extra vacation time I get at work now--over 3 weeks a year. Whee! That's an almost civilized level of vacation time!

I had set myself a goal for today--a personal challenge. Last Saturday Mr. Thel and I rode our new road bikes 34 miles up and back on the Centennial Trail between Snohomish and Arlington. That was the third time I'd ridden over 30 miles at a go, after a trek down the Green River Trail and another down the Cedar River Trail in late May and early June. Having accomplished that, I decided to challenge myself to do a 50-mile ride on my day off.

I pored through routes online and in my copy of Biking Puget Sound, looking for something just over 50 miles that wouldn't be impossible to accomplish. In other words, I didn't want to ride up Snoqualmie Pass or anything. Yesterday I decided to combine this goal with another and ride around Lake Washington. The length was right, at around 55 miles from home, but the guidebook did list the ride as "strenuous," and I wondered nervously whether I ought to try an "easy" or "moderate" ride first.

Nevertheless, I set out this morning at 6:50 (a bit later than planned, thanks to the neighborhood fireworks that didn't let up until somewhere around 2:30 a.m.). The first ten miles were familiar friends, covering the same route I ride to work all the time. From there it was just a mile or two up to the Burke Gilman Trail, which wasn't too crowded at 8:00 a.m. the day after July 4th. That made for a nice, flat run up to Kenmore; I stopped at 8:50 across from the Lake Forest Park (Third Place Books) shopping center for a snack and a short break.

I had to make a quick bathroom stop at a park just up the road, and then headed on around the north tip of the lake. I climbed the longest hill I've yet done, a slow incline up Juanita Drive past Saint Edwards State Park. I am enormously proud to announce that I rode the whole way up without being forced to get off and walk. I had to stop halfway up at a traffic light (a welcome break), but other than that I just crept steadily uphill. Then down, down, down, down into Kirkland.

I was in unfamiliar territory now, which slowed me down quite a bit as I had to stop and refer to my cue sheet to find the route through Kirkland and Bellevue. (I must make a note to go back and stroll along the "Corduroy Road" next to Juanita Beach Park...) I probably added at least a mile or two to my route at two points where the book's directions confused me. It was after 10:00 and starting to heat up a little, though there was a cooling breeze all morning. I was starting to get a little hungry again, and then I had to get off and walk my bike up two short, steep hills in the Clyde Hill area. I was being very good at drinking water and Gatorade while riding, so I was well hydrated, but my energy started to wane as I wound slowly through the twisty, hilly roads north of I-90.

Finally seeing Enatai park just under the freeway was a relief. I stopped for another bathroom break, a water refill, and half a packet of sunflower seeds before resuming my journey. I knew I was over halfway by now, which cheered me up, but I was just tired enough to seriously contemplate the option of taking the bike path over I-90 and then back down the 6 miles home from there...but no, having gone halfway I was determined to see it through.

On down along I-405 on a bike path, and then another accidental detour down to Newcastle Beach Park, I think...retraced my ride (uphill, naturally) and went on, hoping to get to Gene Coulon Park in Renton by noon. I made that deadline with only minutes to spare, and took another fifteen minute break for water and M&M's. I knew I'd gone nearly 50 miles at that point (my bike computer didn't work today at all, so I had to base my mileage on the book's cue sheet), and was delighted to find that I wasn't completely knackered. It really does help to drink water constantly en route! I flew out of the park, back on familiar ground, and down through Renton, around the south tip of the lake, and back up Rainier Avenue home, almost exactly six hours since I'd left.

I rode about 55 miles in about 5 hours of riding time, I reckon...probably even a little less, but that's my best estimate of break times, anyway. Total elevation gain, according to the book, was a little over 1800 feet. I made it up that Juanita hill on my first try. And best of all, I didn't push myself beyond endurance.

Half a century down! Hm, now what goal shall I set next?