Should I start with the bear cub or the attack dogs or the puking? Lots of stories happen over 92 miles.
Before we set out into the sunny morning, our ride leader cautioned us to watch out for wildlife: deer, for example, or “a sick raccoon out in the daytime.” As he was talking, a bunny hopped behind him on the stairs of the old Renton City Hall.
Our ride leader didn’t say anything about bears.
Cruising downhill after a much-appreciated coffee stop at the Black Diamond Bakery, somebody ahead shouted “Bear!” No way, I thought. I haven’t seen a bear in any of my years of hiking in the North Cascades, no way am I going to see one while biking in South King County.
Wait a sec — what is that big, black thing bounding on the road toward us?
We all veered into the middle of the road, leery of a mama bear roaring out of the bushes next to us. The bear cub disappeared into the green as I fumbled out my camera and took a picture of, well, bushes. I couldn’t believe we saw a bear; I haven’t been that excited since cheetahs in Africa.
During his wildlife talk before the ride, our ride leader described the route as “epic” and spoke almost lovingly of the 196th St. hill as a “signature hill,” whatever that is. “Is that the 196th hill?” I asked as we pulled up at an intersection over the Maple Valley Highway.
“Get ready,” someone said, or should have as I was too busy taking pictures to take off my long sleeve shirt.
We crossed the intersection and started climbing. A big dog barked at us across the street and I was glad there was a fence — except there wasn’t a fence and a bull mastiff came running out onto the street, making all kinds of noise. That got two little white moppy dogs all excited on our side and they charged at us, barking and snarling. One of them came very close to my ankle with that “I’m going to bite you” look in its eye; I had a tough time figuring how I was going to unclip, kick the dog, and continue to push up the hill. Fortunately the dog retreated because I might have killed it.
The dog encounter got all kinds of adrenaline going and I set too fast a pace for myself, or I overheated in my long sleeve shirt, or I just never found my groove on that climb. About halfway up I was overcome with the temptation to stop and take a picture: I’m sure I did it for art and not for a breath.
About three-quarters of the way up I realized I was going to puke.
“Please don’t puke in front of all these people,” I thought to myself as I pulled up to the waiting group at the top of the hill. “Please, please don’t puke.”
I had to get off my bike and lean between my legs, a memory of mountain biking friends (guys, funnily enough) placing bets years ago on whether I was going to puke or just dry heave drifting through my mind. Fortunately, I managed not to throw up my breakfast and soon felt great.
It was, indeed, an epic ride. We rode east through Renton, south to Covington and Black Diamond, north toward Cougar Mountain and Issaquah, west through Bellevue and around Mercer Island, and then south past Seward Park (past my house!) back to Renton.
I hadn’t been looking forward to the route since it covered so much familiar territory, but I found there is something reassuring about travelling familiar roads toward the end of a long ride: there is nothing daunting about riding around Mercer Island to Seward Park where I live – I often do that ride (or should!). As much as I am enjoying exploring new roads, I find it’s the unknown that can be mentally daunting.
We climbed the I-90 bridge and up the very, very steep S. Irving St. hill to Lake Washington Blvd. I had a moment of panic on the Irving St. hill, which I’ve biked many times as a commuter but never after 80-some miles. I wasn’t quite sure I had enough power in my spent legs to power up those steep 50 feet and almost came to a standstill. I managed not to fall backwards down the hill, but it was intellectually interesting to be scraping the bottom of the barrel.
By the end of the ride, my feet were bothering me the most. “Hey Samuel,” I called to an experienced biker in our group. “My feet are asleep — I’m not stroking out, am I?”
“Can you wiggle your toes?” he asked. We decided I was fine.
Next up is the Flying Wheels ride. I’ve decided on the 65-mile loop. How is it that 65 miles now seems easy?
Lovely view of the Cedar River in our biking backyard
Kathryn Saxer is currently enrolled in the Cascade Training Series, a 13-week training series designed to prepare Cascade members physically and mentally for the Group Health STP or RSVP. She’s a personal and professional coach in Seattle. When not learning how to bike long distances, she likes to run in the mountains, share adventures with her 7- and 9-year-old children, and cook terrible dinners for her beloved and long-suffering partner. She’ll be reporting on her CTS journey weekly.