Chilly, hilly and kinda thrilly

On the ferry for the Chilly Hilly bike ride

For the Chilly Hilly on Bainbridge Island, you take a ferry with a few thousand other folks

Last weekend was my first test to see if all the commuting over the winter had paid off with better fitness. It was the first big ride of the season, the Chilly Hilly ride around Bainbridge Island in the Puget Sound. It’s not a really long ride, around 33 miles, but it is as advertised, both chilly and hilly, with about 2600 feet of climbing. This year was the coldest so far, with temps hovering around the freezing point, and spurts of rain and even snow flurries. Can I get some fries with that?

My friend Erwin got me into this ride a few years ago, and I did the first one with no training and a mountain bike with knobby tires. Not intelligent. It killed me. Even though we took a shortcut and sliced off the last 10 miles. The next year was a little better, I put slicks on the mountain bike and rode the whole way, but one of the last hills on the ride broke me. I was emotionally bankrupt just from looking up at the bottom of the hill. I made it up, but barely.

Last year I upgraded to the road bike, and did it much faster, much better, but still found myself huffing and puffing on the hills, getting encouragement from people who were at least twenty years older. Better, but still embarrassing. “Keep at it sonny, you’ll make it…”

I finished the ride, and plopped down on a curb at the finish next to a guy with a high-end race bike, who looked just as exhausted as me. “Man,” I said, “that really wiped me out.”

“Yeah, me too,” he said. “I was going to go around the course three times, but I had to stop at two.”

So yes, he had done 66 miles in the time it had taken me to do 33. Nice!

This year, well, I can say there was some improvement. I think I could have beat that racer dude. And by “beat” I mean I could have finished one lap before he finished two. Maybe.

The hills didn’t seem so bad this year, nothing much worse than what I handle on the daily commute back up Mt. Ballard. Still some huffing and puffing, but not that kind of, “Oh god who took the air I’m rolling backwards look out below” kind of huffing. I think my general philosophy is paying off, which is that a lot of little rides builds up your fitness much more effectively than a long ride, uh, once a month. Maybe.

Yes, I need to do some more work, more training. I have my sights set on the STP (Seattle to Portland) ride this summer, which is two days, 100 miles each day. My lofty goal is… to finish.

And I’ve got a little more motivation now. The second car just died. RIP, off to car heaven. And I don’t want to get another one. More on that later…





5 thoughts on “Chilly, hilly and kinda thrilly

  1. Eric says:

    I rode for years on the hilly Palouse with a small cluster in the rear–maybe 21 or 24 teeth on the low gear. After my first Chilly Hilly, I went and got a new, easier cluster.
    You might get some nice results if you work some intensity into your short rides. Once a week, see how fast you can get home, obeying all speed and traffic laws, of course.

  2. dougkimster says:

    Hey Eric, good advice! I think the cassette is fine, at this point it’s really up to the legs. I have two strategies: throw some intervals in on the short rides, and lengthening my route home once or twice a week. Plus I’m going to be riding more now that the car is officially dead. It’s going to be interesting to try to train for this without doing a lot of long weekend rides, but I’m committed now. Just paid my entrance fee.

  3. waynkster says:

    On to Portland! Every inch; every mile!

  4. Waynkster says:

    Saw a guy riding through midtown Tulsa in the dark last night. I turned to Lynn and said, “Man, he needs more blinkies.”

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