Spring in the Pacific Northwest is a magical time of year. The days get longer, quite obviously, increasing by minutes from day to day. At yesterday’s solstice, we enjoyed a full 16 hours, 4 minutes of sunlight, bookended by long twilights. It’s hard to sleep much past 5:00 AM this time of year.
The long days couldn’t arrive at a better time! With my April marathon and June half marathon now behind me, I’ve turned my full attention to cycling. The Seattle to Portland (STP) ride is now less than a month away. That’s 206 miles, two back-to-back century rides amidst a throng of 10,000 cyclists. My longest ride so far this year has been a paltry 47 miles, but at least I’m now riding almost daily and spending as many hours as possible in the saddle.
Given that I live in the Pacific Northwest, that often means riding in the rain. I found myself cringing at the idea of riding my expensive road bike on a trail that, while paved, can get muddy in places. So I bought a second bike. I call it my a-rainy-day-is-not-an-excuse bike. The geometry is essentially the same as my road bike, but it’s heavier and sturdier, which means it’s a bit less twitchy and a lot less fussy on messy surfaces. I’m enjoying going back and forth between the two bikes — now when I get back on the road bike, it feels even faster!
I do most of my training rides solo. I stay close to either home or the car, riding a series of long loops or out-and-backs so that I’m not too far out in the middle of nowhere should anything go wrong. On those rare occasions when CFL and I can synchronize our schedules, we’ll do a longer ride to a destination together. For the most part, however, he does his training his way and I do my training my way.
His way mostly involves riding up hills. Last year, in preparing for Ride Around Washington (RAW) I rode at least twice as many total miles as he did (and spent many more hours), but he did a lot more hill-climbing. To my surprise, he came through RAW at least as well as I did, so this year I’m trying to include more hill training.
We are fortunate to live right at the foot of a world-class hill! Hurricane Ridge, at 5,242 feet, is one of the highlights of Olympic National Park. It’s also considered one of the best, most scenic cycling climbs in the USA. I live at an elevation of 300 feet. The top of Hurricane Ridge is 18 miles from my front door. That’s a lot of hill climbing in a very short distance!
For me the climb is a long, slow slog. The grade varies from 6-8%, which is not impossibly steep — but it’s nearly constant. It certainly gets the heart pumping, especially near the summit when the elevation becomes a factor. So far this year I’ve only made it halfway up, whereas CFL has gone the whole way several times. The views are spectacular, and the adrenaline-packed descent is the final reward for the climb.
Two short weeks after STP, we’ll do Ride Around Washington again. This year we’ll ride 437 miles in 6 days from Walla Walla, WA to Metaline Falls in the far northeast corner of the state. Although it’s another huge goal, it’s not as intimidating as STP because there are only 250 cyclists, and we are well-pampered with catered meals, hot showers, and luggage services. It’s a sort of traveling summer camp.
After that, I’m flirting with the idea of doing a duathlon. There’s a local one planned in mid-August: a 5K run, a 22-mile bike ride, and another 5K run. A triathlon is out of the question because I refuse to get in the water… but run/bike/run? Yeah, that’s tempting.
It’s good to be back in the saddle again!