Whilst all in Bellingham were preparing to ski to sea, the family and I woke before 4 a.m. Sunday for the drive to Anacortes to catch the 5:35 a.m. ferry to Orcas Island. Our goals: the Mount Constitution Hill Climb time trial (for me) and the dreamy Orcas Island Skatepark for Bake. For Jen: hours of sunshine and uninterupted knitting time in which she began and completed the fetching hat for the boy that you see below.
First, the hill climb. From Rosario Resort at sea level to the top of Mount Constitution at 2,409 feet in 7.8 miles. Take away maybe 3 miles of flat and downhill along Cascade Lake and along the ridge just before the summit and you have roughly 2,600 feet of climbing in about 4-and-a-half miles. Tuff stuff. Held the same day as Bellingham's Ski to Sea (which cuts the area cyclist pool by 800) and requiring a $50-and-up ferry ride to get there, the Constitution Hill climb has yet to draw a lot of riders. Only 20 showed up for this year's race, its third edition, but whatever, the less the merrier. I thought it was a great race. Low key, the islands couldn't be more beautiful, and truthfully, though it may be sacrelig for a B'hamster to say so, Ski to Sea doesn't do much for me. Fanatik's Andrew Leese was the fastest up the hill, setting a record of 36 minutes and some change. I was 43 minutes flat, finishing about 5th. (Results aren't up yet.) Above, that's Charlie Heggem (he the director-guru dude of the Mount Baker Hill Climb) and Richard West, who finished third overall and of course first (and only) in the tandem division. Later, they said they got up to 38 m.p.h. on the Cascade Lake flat. Wo!
The tough parts were right out of Rosario--just a seriously rude hill that went up and up and up for about three-quarters of a mile before leveling out. Later my family had lunch with Richard, Charlie and his wife Kelly, and Richard was saying they'd pushed it a bit on this first hill and that he was in recovery mode for quite a while after. After it leveled out, we cruised through Moran State Park where the smell of campfires and breakfast was extremely alluring. The road tilted back upwards, gradually at first until we hit the Mountain Lake entrance where it got serious. We climbed like 1,300 feet over the next 2-1/2 miles maybe (these are all estimates), the sky clearing, the temperature rising and of course, the views getting better and better. I'd wanted to pre-ride the course, but exhorbitant ferry fares kept me from justifying that. Not quite as steep as the last mile to Mount Erie, the tough Mountain Lake to summit ridge stretch I'd estimate to be about as steep as the steepest part of the Sehome Arboretum climb up at Western Washington University, but for a sustained 2-1/2, 3 miles straight.
Along the ridge at the top, where it flattens a bit before the final evil quarter-mile or so, I'd hoped to be able to really push it, ala Fabian C. time-trial fashion, but I just had no power left. I think I got up to 20 m.p.h. where it was perfectly flat but even the slightest rise gave me serious spots of bother.
Among the folks who finished ahead of me was a fellow riding a 12.67-pound Cervelo SL. Crazy light, and narrow as a shark's fin. I heard him talking afterward and he said that if he and another rider were climbing at the same speed, his power output was probably 40 or 50 watts lower because he had so much less bike to push up the hill.
At lunch, Charlie said he'd had a meeting afterward with the race's director who said that next year he plans to move it to the week before Ski to Sea. Also, Charlie would like to partner with him in the hopes of making the Constitution race part of a series with the Mount Baker Hill Climb. (Which I guess everyone else but me is now calling the Ride 542.) Other Charlie plans: a 2010 running marathon that follows the same Glacier to Artist Point course as Ride 542 and a Sehome Arboretum prologue as part of the 2009 Nooksack Omnium.
Ah yes, and here's the hat Jen finished about 24 hours after she bought the yard at the Bellingham Farmer's Market.
Below is a video of the Bake Boy at the Orcas Skatepark. At the end, I think you can see Jen knitting away.
NOTE: I am forever indebted to Charlie Heggem for at one point during lunch sticking his finger in my ear to kill a mosquito. Charlie, thanks.