Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chilly Hilly Demons

Tracy woke up today and decided that she wanted to ride the Chilly Hilly, which of course meant that I would be riding it as well. Never a fan of riding amongst huge crowds, I was still encouraged to see her take the initiative. Later on in the day, I would be glad that it was her decision, and not mine.

Our strategy was to minimize the crowds by taking the last boat over, figuring that everyone would be well ahead of us. We were skeptical that it would work as soon as we pinned on our ride numbers, which were above 6000. Of course, gigantic crowds made the event a tremendous success for Cascade Bicycle Club, and we were happy about that. Nevertheless, I spent a large part of the ride in what I call the “Guardian Angel” position, just behind and to Tracy’s left. I wanted to make sure that people bombing downhill in a swarm of bikes were forced to go well wide of Tracy.

It was a spectacular day weather-wise, but it was kind of odd that the only time the sun actually shined upon us was when we waited for the ferry in Seattle, and then again waiting for the return ferry in Bainbridge. Actually two ferries in Bainbridge, having missed boarding the first one by about 20 people. Even though the Chilly Hilly is only about 33 miles long, the logistics and crowds turned the event into a mini-epic, and we only had to ride to the ferry from our place in Downtown Seattle.

Many years ago, Tracy also made a last minute decision to ride the Chilly Hilly. It happened to be the day after she got her first set of “real” pedals. On the very last hill that day, she had very tired legs, and was in a pack of riders. She wasn’t the only one with fried legs, and she got squeezed in a slow down. Her legs were so wasted that she just plopped on her side into the grass, having failed to release from her new pedals. Pissed off, Tracy walked up the rest of the hill, and she’s never forgotten that, along with the degenerate who proclaimed loudly, “Onward ever, backward never!” as she toppled over. This after she had conquered the mighty Baker Hill and the ride looked to be in the bag.

There is a short, sharp, and steep hill right before the final hill of the Chilly Hilly, and Tracy had to work hard. She rolled up and came to a stop, and the look in her eye reaffirmed that I was indeed glad that the ride had been her idea! There was to be no “Whose idea was this anyway?”

At the top of Baker Hill today, Tracy exclaimed, “Take that, you blanket-blank hill! I passed everyone in sight, and no one went by me.” Turns out that one guy did pass her on the lower part of the hill, but she re-passed him towards the top! I told Tracy that he must have cracked due to her relentless pressure. It’s amazing how many people were pushing expensive bicycles up that hill. Just as in golf, you can’t buy a game.

When Tracy came to that very last hill today, she was tired just as she had been the only other time she had been on the hill, but she hunkered down and hit it hard. Once again, she took no prisoners, and passed all in sight. Tracy was pretty wiped out, but she had eradicated some personal demons, along with kicking some serious hill ass in her own little world.

Sometimes it’s just so pleasurable to see someone else achieve a goal, and share in the sense of accomplishment. The day may not have been a perfect one for me, but she helped to turn it into one.

I hope to see you on the road.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hills of the West Coast "Pro" Cyclists

Miles: 55 Climbing: 3900’ Route: Downtown Seattle--Mercer Island--Honda Hill--164th to the top of Lakemont on Cougar—Newcastle Golf Club--May Valley--Tiger Mountain from the north--Issaquah Hobart Rd.--Issaquah--Newport Way--Mercer Island--Downtown Attrition Rate: 10%

If you are going to have "Pro" written across your ass, maybe you should act like it, at least part of the time; like when there are others around? It's kind of like having your name on your golf bag; it's nice to have the game to go along with it. More later.

We had a nice group of ten for today's HOWC. Emil led the ride, and I don't know what he was expecting, but I thought we might have 20+ show. I guess the still chilly early morning discouraged some riders, but I think many people likely tired themselves out during Saturday's equally stunning weather.

We had some new folks today, and all rode well. We did have someone show up with panniers, not typical gear on the HOWC. I guess Baggage Man didn't get the memo...or read the ride description? In any case, he exited fairly early.

Jeff S is recovering from surgery, and it was nice to see him on the bike. He left early, not wanting to push it, and Reg N and I peeled off early as well, as we both had to get back to town.

Right at May Valley Road, we happened to "merge" with a local racing club, the one with "Pro" on their backsides. We found ourselves in one large paceline with a bunch of people we didn't know—never an ideal situation. As the cars piled up behind us while our now large group hogged the road, I cringed to think what was going through the drivers’ minds.

Some in our group had to work a little harder to catch back on after stop signs, as the Pros simply blew through, dropping at least one of their own in the process. Others in our group appeared to have trouble making up their minds as to which group they belonged with. It was easy to see the group mentality take hold. I was glad when we elected to opt out and wait for Baggage Man and another rider who had missed a light...and wisely decided not to run it.

As I saw large group after large group on May Valley, I was once again reminded of how delicate cycling's image seems to be right now. While some drivers enthusiastically support cycling, many others seem to grin and bear it. As you leave the Seattle environs, I think there is a little less grinning.

As serious cyclists, most of us know our rights, but not too many think of the responsibilities. A little courtesy can go a long way.