Saturday, June 30, 2018

Up the Mountain with the Tall Boyz


Roller skiing on the old highway from Denny Creek to Snoqualmie Summit is a Kongsberger training staple, done by many members over the years.  I did it with Rune a couple of years ago and thought it was so amazing -- we roller skied up the mountain! -- that I really wanted to do it again.  So this is the year:  I put out the call to the membership list last week and got two takers.  Well, because they're both scientists, I didn't get a firm affirmative -- there are always more data to consider!  Jonathan, with a new baby at home, said there was a non-zero chance that he could come, and Tim, with a proposal to write, said there was a 75% chance that he could come.  Being a glass-half-full kind of girl, I took those as yeses and began to plan.

To maximize flexibility, we each brought our own car, rather than car-pooling, and Jonathan and I, planning to do two laps, brought our bikes.  Tim had to get back to work after one lap, so our plan was to make sure his car was one of the ones left at the top.  We met at the gas station at the summit, a perfect meeting spot because there's plenty of parking and ... a food truck!  We left my car, Tim's car, and both bikes at the gas station, then loaded roller skis and poles and helmets and water bottles into Jonathan's car and drove down to the bottom.

We parked in a pull-out on the side of the road, just past the wooden bridge.  Jonathan's dad was there, too, and left his motor scooter in case we needed an extra shuttle.  He brought his bike and was planning to do some exploring around the summit.


So we unloaded, took pictures, and started up the mountain.  The road is perfect, smoothly paved, winding through the forest and then switchbacking up to the top, but it is relentlessly uphill, and the switchbacks, when you leave the forest, are smack out there in the sun.  When I did this with Rune a couple of years ago, it was September and I bet we saw one car all day.  This time, surprisingly, there was a steady stream of traffic all day; the cars weren't going fast and they were very patient with us, but there were a lot of them, probably because it was a gorgeous sunny day and there are multiple trailheads along that road, but also probably because of the  big construction-related traffic jams on the west side of the pass.  We figured people who knew about this road were diverting off the freeway.

No matter; we were out for a workout and we definitely got it!  Did I mention already the relentless uphill and bright sun?

Jonathan on the upper switchback, Tim and I far below on the lower switchback

Just before we got to the top, a line of cyclists passed us, on their way to riding 110 miles!  Chris was in the group and stopped to chat; that's him in the bright green helmet.



For the first lap I made the mistake of trying to keep up with the Tall Boyz, who are a lot stronger than I am.

Such an unattractive place for a workout; wouldn't you rather be in the gym? 


I skied too hard and didn't drink enough, and got to the top pretty dehydrated and overheated, but still jubilant at making it to the summit!  We said our goodbyes to Tim, then Jonathan and I got ready to bike our skis back down to the bottom.  Jonathan was on skating skis, which are a little shorter and fit nicely on the rack on the back of his bike.


My classic skis were a little longer, but fit perfectly into my official Birkie pack, which seemed kind of appropriate!



We strapped our poles to our bikes and rode back down in our ski boots, which was a little bit tenuous but worked out okay.  I couldn't even imagine a more gorgeous route for our two-sport workout; it was just such a pure pleasure!


And it was so fun to ride down with Jonathan.  Secret talent: he knows rocks and can identify bird songs!  The thrushes were singing their little hearts out, loving the beautiful day as much as we were.

Back down at the bottom, we locked our bikes to Jonathan's car and started back up again.  I knew there was no way I could keep speedy Jonathan in sight, so I told him to go on ahead and I'd meet him at the food truck.  I slowed way down for the second lap, stopping often to take a drink and even pour a little water down my back.  I'm not gonna lie; those switchbacks were tough the second time!  I skied from tiny shady spot to tiny shady spot, taking a short break each time I could get out of the sun.  The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River parallels most of the road, and there were places where the soft cool breeze coming off the river probably saved my life!



But I made it!  Sort of.  At the summit, with literally my last stride and my last smidgen of energy, I hit a rock with my roller ski and came crashing down, scuffing up my knee and startling the couple climbing out of their RV right there.  They looked at me in curiosity and asked if I was okay; I couldn't stop laughing and said, I'm just. so. tired!  I saw Jonathan across the street at the food truck giving me the thumbs up, so I waved back, gathered up my stuff, and staggered across the street.  Getting to the food truck became my only goal in life, and when I got there, I found that Jonathan's father had bought me some chicken tacos that were so insanely deliciously just what I needed that I could have wept with gratitude, except that I was so dehydrated.  I inhaled them both in approximately ten seconds.  Best tacos I've ever had.

So we sat in the shade and ate and drank and told stories and recovered; what an absolutely marvelous afternoon!  Finally, it was time to pack up and go home, already thinking about when we can go again!

Notes for when we go again:

Safety: blinking lights are required.  Jonathan and I both had them; Tim did not, and he was pretty much invisible in the shade/sun/shade/sun kaleidoscope on the road.

Pacing: it's pretty steadily uphill the whole way.  Pace yourself, and don't forget to look at that spectacular mountain scenery.

Refreshments: bring water.  Lots of water.  A nice bottle of Nuun chilling in the river would have been very welcome after the first lap and before we began the second!  And for apres-ski, food truck.  So good.  Food truck.  Yes.



Many thanks to the Tall Boyz for this wonderful adventure, and to Jonathan for all of the photos except the one at the top, which Tim took.




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