I talked myself across the Eastside, Mercer Island, and the I-90 bridge with “you’ll stop at the Leschi Starbucks, get chocolate milk and a banana, and it’ll all be ok. You’ll be ok.” Of course, I was forgetting that the Leschi Starbucks is closed in the afternoons for remodeling. I didn’t cry, but I did consider it.
This was the meat of the plan for the day:
If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s an easy, flat ride around the south end of Lake Washington, a traverse to Issaquah, followed by a climb up Squak Mountain (not as much elevation gain as Zoo Hill, but plenty challenging…), then up Zoo Hill, then up to the Newcastle Golf course (not super challenging, but great views) then climbing Montreux, and home via looping Mercer Island.
Spoiler alert: I said “@#&% this ^&@*” to looping Mercer Island, and went straight across.
The day started off well–I enjoy the south lake loop, despite some busy roads, because it goes by such a range of stuff. I especially enjoy circumnavigating the Renton airport.
Riding out to Issaquah is nothing special–the special started with Squak. I hadn’t done this one before, and I really enjoyed it. It’s a very stairsteppy climb, with some of the steps eliciting a “you’ve got to be kidding me!” But it’s a fun challenge, with some great views, and a sense that you really biked yourself to somewhere.
Then, Zoo Hill with 40+ miles and one hell of a climb in my legs… Was fine. I actually like this climb–the first time I did it, I was super worried that I wouldn’t even be able to make it up to the top, as it is such a notorious climb. But if you just relax and take it a bit at a time, it’s fine. And the landscape changes throughout, eventually yielding some great vistas. Note that I am making no claims to setting landspeed records, but hey, it’s a hard climb and I’m still stoked that I can do it at all.
Over to the Newcastle golf course is a bit bumpy, but compared to the previous two climbs, hardly noticeable. I guess. Though it’s not an epic ascent, the golf course has a panoramic view that is well worth it. Plus, I always feel like I’m putting something over on snooty golfers by riding on “their” road…
Montreux. I’d done this once before, and didn’t like it then. It has less elevation gain than Zoo Hill, but all of the difficulty and none of the redeeming features. It’s just a wide suburban road, with McMansions hidden behind high hedges–which also mean you can see nothing except the road rising in front of you. No vistas, no interesting neighborhood, no forest, no distraction.
Montreux was what broke me. Partway up, my day of fun challenges ended, and I was done. Finis. Kaput. I did not want to be doing difficult things on a bicycle any more. I wanted to be home. Horizontal. Preferably with beer. And nachos. And a blanket. And a teddy bear. Physically I was pretty tired, but it was my mental resources that just disappeared.
But I did not turn around and go back down the hill, I finished the climb (and was pissed about it), then rolled downhill and towards home (20+ miles away).
And as mentioned, I decided to omit the Mercer Island loop (oh yeah, I’m also getting hungry, and have eaten all my food), and take the direct route to Leschi Starbucks. All considering, I’m pretty proud of not crying when I got there and it was closed for the afternoon (did I mention I could see a big pile of perfect-looking bananas through the window?)
Luckily, there’s a bike shop next door, where I got a snack and some water–many thanks to the Polka Dot Jersey shop for making the end of my ride much better than it otherwise would have been!
And then home. When I later went to the grocery store to get some things I wanted for dinner, I grabbed a shopping cart specifically so I could have something to lean on. I’m pretty wiped out.
I recorded 77 miles and 6,500 feet of elevation gain–the vast majority of that packed into 20 miles.
Overall, it was a great day on the bike, but it took a lot out of me, mentally and physically. Which I guess is kind of the point of training.
I’d actually happily repeat the climbing insanity on the Eastside–but without Montreux. I’d rather do hill repeats of Squak and Zoo. As far as I’m concerned, the Montreux climb has no redeeming value, other than dealing with suffering for suffering’s sake. Have I yet made myself clear on how much I don’t like Montreux?
The ride’s elevation profile: