Go West: Part I
One of the perks (or curses) of my job requires that I travel- a lot. I never really realized just how much time I spend away from NYC until one particularly long stretch on the road last year I added up the days spent on the road the past year and it totaled to over 4 months living out of a suitcase! Usually it’s impossible or impractical to bring a bicycle- either because of logistics, my usual 12 hour days, or even that’s it’s just not long enough a trip warrant lugging a bike with me. This past year, I landed a fairly regular gig that took me to Seattle for 2 weeks out of every month, and even more importantly, I would have “normal working hours”. The usual 12 hour days and group dinners every evening would not be on the cards. This would be the perfect opportunity to bring my bike along. I scoured the internet message boards and ride sites to find local rides and places where I could do intervals in the morning, undisturbed by traffic and stoplights a la’ Central Park. I found the Seattle area’s racing organization (WSBA) and spammed a couple of local teams to see if they would at the very least recommend some routes. Team Apex Racing responded and graciously agreed to allow me to tag along their team rides. The first day I arrived I met up with a local recreational rider downtown not far from my hotel. We rode north along the water on a bike-dedicated path and hit a few well-ridden short climbs on the way into Magnolia and Discovery Park. It was a nice introduction to Seattle riding, but the route was too far away from work to consider for a morning ride.
A local shop recommended that I ride south along Lake Washington Boulevard- it served as a local training ground for racers. Looking it up on a map, it was perfect as it was on my way to work. The next few days, I experienced the winter weather Seattle is famous for- rain. I wasn’t mentally prepared to ride in the wet before work so I settled for my hotel’s excellent gym. 4 consecutive rainy days passed and I was getting a little antsy.
The local team that I got in touch with invited me out for their Saturday training ride. I was going to meet them rain or shine. The meeting point was at Logboom Park in Kenmore, near the very end of the Burke-Gilman Trail- a typical meeting point for locals on rides that head due north. The Burke-Gillman Trail is a multi-use recreational path that runs along the northeast Seattle, partly along Lake Washington. Think of it as a much wider (in parts) and longer West Side path with ½ the traffic.
I severely misjudged the time I thought it would take to get there and missed the team by a good 20 minutes (insert laughing from my present teammates). Undaunted, I asked a for some directions to some locals also meeting their group rides at Logboom Park. Armed with precious little knowledge, I headed up north in search of a bakery in Snohomish (the team’s turnaround point). The ride turned out to be a cold, wet, lonely, slog. I was lost and made extremely bad road choice decisions that made my life miserable, not to mention I wasn’t dressed for the rain. The “80% chance of sun” weather report did not pan out. At one point, I wondered why I was doing this so I after a quick gas station nutrition stop, I turned around and thoughts of a warm bath spurred me on.
I was determined to make sure I didn’t repeat my tardiness from the previous day and on Sunday morning, I left for the meeting point extra early. Predictably, I got lost, but I left so early I got to there a good 30 minutes ahead of time. Time enough for a coffee as the meeting place was at a Starbucks in Leschi. Leschi is a cute (read this to mean posh) lakefront town on Lake Washington.
I met Ben and Peter from Team Apex Racing and we set off around the southern tip of the lake, then up north on the east side of the lake. When we got to the I90 bridge we decided to do the shorter ride and cross over and onto Mercer Island to do a Mercer Island Loop. This was an 11 mile point to point with lots rollers and technical switchbacks. It’s a really popular route with the cyclists in the area and I can see why- there were almost no cars (I saw 2) and it’s really stunning- even though I was too busy hanging on for dear life to notice as Ben and Peter put the hurt on my fat winter self.
The next week I met up with Apex’s team leader, Travis- a fierce cat 2 sprinter with a no-nonsense attitude- and Ben at their sponsor’s training facility, Cycle U. Imagine a college fullback who decided to lose most of his bulk and race bikes instead and that’s a pretty apt description of Travis. Most of the team was away for training camp in Arizona so it was just the 3 of us on a Wednesday evening. On the schedule was a 7 x 3 V02 max interval.
I had never really spent too much time on a computrainer and I had forgotten that computrainers didn’t allow cheating. The workout was particularly hard, and as the new guy, I wasn’t about to give up so I suffered through the workout. The facility was pretty cool. There were lot’s of computrainers facing a big screen so you could see your workout progress, (or regression in my case). They trusted the team enough to allow them to use the facility after hours, giving them the key to lock up afterwards. Afterwards, Travis threw in a core workout that led Ben to complain to Travis (after too many push-ups) “we’re riding bikes Travis!”.
Although the rain put a damper on my time in Seattle, I was anxious to come back in 2 weeks to explore some more new roads and try my hand at racing on the Pacific Northwest.