Ride Report: Flying Wheels Century

Another chilly, overcast Saturday morning came with another opportunity to head to Marymoor Park in Redmond for a 100-mile road bike ride. The Flying Wheels Century is, essentially, the de facto official training ride for Seattle to Portland and, much to my surprise, over 3,000 cyclists showed up to ride either the 100, 70, or 50 mile rides. That wasn't a typo. I had never seen so many people on bikes in my life.

I was hoping to meet up with a couple of the guys from the Arrogant Bastard team, but I didn't find them in the crowd and ended up going it alone. Unlike the Tour de Cure route which primarily ventured north toward Snohomish county, the Flying Wheels ride uses many of the lesser-travelled roads near Carnation and Duvall before jutting north towards Monroe. Once again, I started about 40 minutes after the course opened and, as such, found myself with a steady stream of people to pass. I'm not sure what got into me during the ride, but I was feeling great and decided to just go for it right from the start. After a couple miles warmup on East Lake Sammammish Parkway, we turned onto our first hill and I dropped the hammer right away. Maybe I was subconsciously looking for some redemption after last week's disappointing race down in Oregon, but I was charging pretty hard throughout the entire ride. The sheer numbers of people on the road made it impossible to completely avoid drafting -- I found myself in a pace-line for about 2% of the ride -- but I did try to stay out of the draft to make sure I actually earned my 100 miles. Nothing personal against those who draft, it's just that I wanted the training.

I had two bottles of Nuun on my bike, a ziploc bag filled with about 30 Cliff Bloks in one jersey pocket, an extra tube of Nuun for refills, and a Gu flask filled with the disgusting "tropical" Hammergel. I stopped at three of the five aid stations to grab a bagel and some peanut butter and to refill my water bottles, but primarily I just kept on pedaling. After all, it was kind of chilly and a stop at an aid station was hard to do quickly given the hordes of people in attendance.

The folks organizing this ride tried early on to hype up how hilly this ride was. As my friend Ellen said earlier in the week, what's hilly to road cyclists isn't really hilly to mountain bikers. She was right. This "very hilly" route actually had only 4,000 feet of climbing over 100 miles -- 20% less than this year's Tour de Cure course. For comparison's sake, the mountain bike ride I have planned for this coming Saturday has (according to the TOPO! software) 10,000 feet of climbing in 41 miles. Granted, the gearing on the bikes is very different and there's no way in hell I could manage 10,000 feet of vert in 41 miles on my road bike, but I nevertheless found the notion of Saturday's ride being "very hilly" as somewhat laughable. It had two or three semi-noteworthy hills, but really just the one big climb up Issaquah-Fall City Road at mile 80.

Regardless, it was a fun ride and pretty scenic too. And I'd like to point out that despite there being thousands of cyclists I didn't see a single crash, nor even a close call. As for my performance, I'm very happy. I ride most of these roads all the time so I felt kind of "at home" on the course, but I had a great day and completely and absolutely shattered my previous best time for 100-mile road ride. The weather was conducive to going fast and I think taking it easy since Spokane has really helped get my energy levels back to where they need to be. I hadn't ridden my road bike in a month, but I managed a 5:08 for the full 100 mile route, which happens to be over thirty minutes faster than my previous best time. And like I said earlier, I purposely avoided drafting for as much as possible. Yeah, I'm really happy with how this went.


Maarten said...

10,000ft in 40 miles would be a steady 40 miles of 4.5% grade. Myeah, that would be tough one.

Wait... how long is the road that goes from the coast up to the top of Haleakala? Web pages I'm finding say 36-38miles for 10,000 feet. I've wanted to do that climb for years.

Doug Walsh said...

I've driven that road but never biked it. Climbing from Hilo up to the summit of Mauna Kea would be even more impressive (i.e. ridiculous).

TOPO! is saying 10,000 feet but I have trouble thinking it will be that much. It breaks out 250 ft/mile which is about 2x what I consider "hilly" for a bike ride.

Fortunately there's plenty of lengthy downhill so it won't be as tough as it sounds, although it does make the Triple Crown sound all that much more difficult, being that there's still the climb up Sun Top to do on top of what I'll be riding. Yikes! I'm saving Sun Top for Sunday.

Jackie said...

Congrats on the race performance and good luck on the next one--as usual, very impressive! I look forward to hearing the story and perhaps seeing some pictures as well. :-)

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