2010 and the Not-So-Chilly Hilly

Last year I rode the Chilly Hilly for the first time. I’d heard stories about the event for years and had an image of something so daunting, so challenging as to be beyond my limited cycling credentials. I could feel the gray howling wind bite my skin with iciness. I could see the hills, rising before me, larger and larger, as my leg muscles turned to wobbling brick.

But last year, with a new road bike and the encouragement and company of a posse of cycling friends, I decided to give it a go. It certainly didn’t hurt that the morning of the event dawned with warm temperatures and only high cloud cover. My buddies and I met in downtown Seattle, had some coffee, got in line to register and then hopped aboard the ferry to Bainbridge Island.

The ride? I concur with M.J., who wrote last year of the Chilly Hilly: “It’s a blast!” Yes, there are hills. A lot of them. But they’re manageable. And if you need to, you always can get off your bike and walk (no shame). At one particularly steep incline, there were even words marked on the pavement giving riders permission to dismount and push. We did.

Mostly, though, I didn’t think about the hills. The island course was too beautiful—always something to look at. My favorite spot came near the beginning of the ride when we rounded a corner and found ourselves pedaling alongside the water, with a view of the city, the choppy waves, the sun and clouds, the other happy cyclists (more than 6,000 rode last year!) There was a sense throughout the Chilly Hilly—inspired partly, of course, by the fine weather—that spring was everywhere up-springing and that the long winter was indeed soon to end.

Okay. So the weather isn’t shaping up to be quite so pleasant this year. The current weather report, three days out, calls for a high of 44 degrees and rain on Sunday. Mother Nature, it seems, is ready to put the Chilly back into Chilly Hilly.

But don’t despair! Take to the hills! Facing the elements will impart upon you awesome cycling street cred. Plus, there’s warm food for purchase at Battle Point Park, a benefit for the Bainbridge Island Rope Skippers; free cookies and hot cider midway through, courtesy of the Girl Scouts, at the American Legion Hall; and a big bowl of chili at the Finish Line Festival, a fundraiser for the Squeaky Wheels Cycling Club.

And there’s this: Last year’s weather may have been a delightful harbinger of spring, but it also meant that pollen counts were THROUGH THE ROOF. I spent the last portion of the Chilly Hilly with itchy tears falling from my eyes, a case of the perpetual sneezes and a need for great amounts of facial tissue. Was the ride still worth it? Absolutely. But allergies are probably not going to be much of a problem this year—at all!

Details:

38th Annual Chilly Hilly
Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011
Course open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The course, 33-miles long with 2,675 feet of climbing, begins on Winslow Way at the end of the ferry off-loading ramp. Day-of-race registration is available in Seattle for $35, including ferry fare, under the Alaskan Way Viaduct across from the Coleman Ferry Terminal, or for $30 in Winslow at the B.I. Cycle Shop. Cascade Bicycle Club members get a $5 discount.

Once on the Seattle side, come warm up and enjoy a free beer or soft drink at the Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse. The drink ticket included on your bib can be redeemed for one free post-ride beverage. And if you’re craving that post-ride burger (meat or veggie), they've got a full menu of pub food that you've surely earned after so many hills.

The event, sponsored by Group Health, REI, Raleigh and nuun, is a fundraiser for Cascade and 10 Bainbridge Island charities.