Day’s Verse:
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6-ish

I haven’t mentioned my bicycling lately because by and large it’s not real interesting. I do intervals, either on my trainer in the garage or on my bike on Tuesday nights with my team. Once in a while I do a race and place between 7th and 9th. My last race, Ravensdale Road Race, was on May 11 and without a doubt my heart wasn’t in it. As with any individual (or semi-individual) sport, so much of biking performance depends on your mental state, and that day, two days after Ben died, I couldn’t summon the drive and focus to ride as I could have.

Yesterday I didn’t race, but my ride was interesting enough I’m going to take a moment while Benji mutters unhappily in his crib and talk about it. I’m training for the North Shore Road Race, which is in mid-June, and known to be a hilly race. With my high power-to-weight ratio (read “because I’m skinny and can occasionally ride hard”), I tend to climb hills better than many other women. So I like to target hillier races.

That means I get to ride up lots of hills to train. Years ago, when I first started biking, I remember a bike racer I knew in Massachusetts complaining she couldn’t find any “five-minute hills.” She wanted hills that took at least five minutes of hard riding to summit, and frankly, Massachusetts is woefully lacking in such climbs. At the time she said that, I couldn’t imagine wanting to ride up a hill for five minutes or longer. Now I can, and do.

Which leads us to yesterday’s bike ride, in which I specially went to Issaquah to ride up Cougar Mountain four different ways. Now, properly this is probably a foothill of the Cascades, but it stands alone and rises over 1500′ from base to summit, a common reference for Seattle-area cyclists seeking a “really big hill.” Riding up it once in a ride is an accomplishment. I set out to ride it four times, four different approaches, and honestly I wasn’t even sure I could. Seriously, when cyclists around here talk about Zoo Hill or Montreaux, it’s usually with hushed voices tinged with pride and a memory of suffering. These are long, steep, hard hills.

Here’s what I did:

That first 25 miles I rode with Dad. He, alas, was recovering from a cold and didn’t join me for the hard part, but having company down to Issaquah did make the getting there part more fun.

I started with Zoo Hill, the shortest and therefore (on average) steepest climb. It went well, going steeply but through pretty wooded areas with minimal traffic. I stayed seated almost the entire time and rode to as close to the radio towers at the top of the hill as I could. The temperature dropped about 5° from base to summit. In July there’s a race up this hill called the Cougar Mountain Hill Climb, which I would do at the drop of a hat, except the very next day I’m doing the biking part of the Lake Stevens Half-Ironman. Darn.

Then I rode up Montreaux, where my Garmin battery died partway up and caused me great disappointment. That was overall easier than Zoo Hill, but ended with an incredibly steep section that I had to stand up for. The rest of the hill just softens you up for that part. I passed a guy who complimented me on my bike, which showed his excellent taste in bicycles.

After that I rode up Lakemont, which is longer and less steep, and also had a stoplight I got stuck at for an absurdly long time. Bah!

I finished by riding up 164th (an approach whose name I don’t know, if it has one), the longest and shallowest of the climbs.

Each climb took me about 25 to 30 minutes, so I spent about two hours going up and down — mostly up — Cougar Mountain. Then I rode home through Bellevue, a shorter and more direct way than the way Dad and I took on our way south. Thank goodness the wind came from the south/south-west, so some of the time it felt almost tailwind-y. A headwind would probably have doubled my ride-home time, which even so took an astonishingly long time. Riding up Market Street, which one of my teammates once described as “a big roller” (to all our scoffing), my poor tired legs barely managed to turn the pedals. Throughout the ride, the initially heavy clouds started breaking up and turned to partly sunny skies and much warmer temperatures than I expected: a nice bonus. I got home quite pooped and amazed I’d ridden 70 miles with 7300′ of climbing.

In short, although I rode alone most of the time, I had a really enjoyable, challenging training ride, infinitely more interesting and fun than yet another set of intervals. Sadly, I don’t have the time to do a ride of that magnitude on a regular basis, but Ian gave me an excellent late birthday present by watching Benji while I spent the morning riding.

When I’d gotten fed and showered, I took Benji off to see his great-grandparents. He was fascinated with the gold in Great-Grandpa Fred’s mouth and kept trying to grab that shiny stuff in there. Ha!


3 thoughts on “Cougar Mountain Hill Ride

  1. Just wanted to let you know that one of the guys in my cycling group sent us all this post and four of us were inspired to do our own version of this ride.

    We started at UW, went across i90 and out to Cougar. Did your 4 repeats up Cougar (though we did them in the exact opposite order, which meant we ended with Zoo, which may not have been the brightest idea), then went up the SE side of Tiger, and came back the Cedar River trail to hook up with the Lake WA loop through Renton and back to UW. 100 mi with around 8500 in climbing.

    Thanks for the awesome challenge!

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