Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chilly Hilly Bike Race - My Trial Run Friday

I saw the name Chilly Hilly on the Bainbridge Island maps.  There were trail markers and it looked like a race.  Then I learned it was a bike race.  Then Wednesday I saw a poster on the ferry to Seattle warning that the ferries would be very crowded Sunday due to the Chilly Hilly race.

I like to run.  I like to bike.  But I'm not really into doing those things in big crowds.  But  the route passes very close to where we are staying and also close to where our daughter lives.  It said 33 miles.  Last time I biked 33 miles was on the Denali Highway - it was an unpaved road with lots of hills.  I ended up with a knee that took a couple of years to fully recover.  (I could run on it, but it hurt when I biked.)

But this was on pavement.  And I've done 14 mile roundtrip rides around Anchorage in recent years.  And this race is coming to me.  While there is a signup at the ferry terminal in Seattle, I'm already on Bainbridge Island.

So Friday I decided to try out the southern part of the route - about ten miles.  The Chilly Hilly website FAQ's mention it here:
Q: What if I can not make it the entire 33 miles?
A: At the Cider Rest Stop, mile mark 19.3, you can take a short cut back to the ferry that cuts off 10 miles (23 miles total).
I'll just try that ten miles at the end.

So I got my daughter's bike and decided to brave the rain and wind.  Ten miles.  I should be able to do that in what, an hour?  The road where I'm starting out - Wyatt - is a narrow two lane road and here it has maybe a foot or less on the bike side of the white line.  It gets wider at some points and then back to narrow.  You just have to trust that cars will give you some space as they zip by, and most do.  Somehow, despite checking the map several times, I take Blakely instead of the road out to Point White Dock.  I realize my mistake and look for a road that will take me west.  I get to Fort Ward Road hoping it will get me back to do the Point White loop.  But I've gone too far and didn't realize the road had curved and now I'm headed south instead of west.

I've already done several hills. (There's been lots of up and down, but I'm only talking about serious hills.)  One I finished walking.  But the downs are also pretty steep and the bike's brakes aren't that great.  I'm afraid to go too fast down because I won't be able to stop.  Plus the road's wet and in some places there's mud or sand.  I don't know this bike well enough to handle a skid.  And there's branches and other debris from the wind.  

I check the map and decide I can make my own loop to the south and that should make up for what I missed.  I come down Fort Ward Hill.  That's the name of the street now.  There are a lot of streets with hill in them on Bainbridge.  They aren't just cute names made up by developers - there's really a serious hill involved.  Anyway, I get to the bottom and I'm at open water.  The wind is blowing hard, the water is moving toward shore, there are big clouds, and a giant ferry - it must be the Bremerton ferry.  Even a hint of sun.  I've been out an hour. 

I'm at South Beach and the map shows I can make a loop here and get back to where I was supposed to be.                             

Now that I have my camera out, there's even a hint of sun along the beach.

Now, this NOT on the Chilly Hilly route, but this turns out to have been my favorite spot.  There's a narrow road with houses on the water side.  Then a sign that says "one lane road" and sure enough, the road gets even narrower and there's a row of maybe a dozen houses along this perfect spot on the rocky beach.

 There was a couple - red coats - walking their dog and a faint  rainbow in the distance (it comes down into the pier.)  I talked to the couple - I wanted to know if the road that goes around the end of the point would be less hilly than the one that cuts across which the map shows has a very steep hill.

Yes, the map shows the hills with blue single, double, and triple arrows.  Here are some on the loop that I missed.  The Chilly Hilly is in purple lines. 

Yes, the road along the water would be less hilly, but it's a private road.  And the road ahead - Toe Jam Hill Road - was very steep up on this end and down on the other end.  But I'd already come down Fort Ward Hill and didn't want to go back up it. 

I tried to take this picture looking back down Toe Jam Hill so that you could get a sense of how steep it was.  It's hard to capture.  Trust me, it was steep.  I didn't even try to ride up this one.

When I got down the other side, I saw why the other road was now a private road.  It went to the country club.

I got back onto the Chilly Hilly route and went around another loop which got some great views of downtown Seattle between the houses across the sound.

Eventually, I made it back to my daughter's place, happy for having gone on the ride.  I felt pretty good, my body wasn't too beat up.  I was comfortably tired, but I was rethinking the idea of joining the race on Sunday.  It had taken me two and a half hours.  When I checked my route on Running Ahead - a website where you can map out your run and get data on mileage and elevation changes - I found my route had been 13.2 miles, not ten.  And to give you a sense of the Hilly part of the race name, here is the mile by mile elevation change I had:

I thought I might do the other 23 miles Sunday and leave off the part I did.  I don't think the hills in the first 23 miles are quite as frequent.  But I think I'll just do the route when there aren't a million people here and in shorter stints where I can stop and take my time and enjoy the scenery.

The sun has been out more than usual today, but there are also a lot of clouds and it was colder than normal this morning - there was frost out on the lawn and the thermometer said 35˚ at about 8am.  

I know the bikers will enjoy themselves tomorrow and I hope to get some pictures. 

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