Scouting the course, 3 Stooges style…

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While I was up in Seattle, I had the opportunity to scout the Lake Stevens course, which is coming up in three short weeks. My friend M was kind enough to accompany me for this outing and the weather was absolutely beautiful, so I was looking forward to a fun day. I’ve been a little nervous about this course since the elevation profile of the bike course looks like this:

Hills aren’t exactly my strong suit and this looked like it had some doozies! (It’s a two loop course, so it’s the same hill twice… )

Because most of the races I’ve done are either in parks or very well publicized sections of major cities, I didn’t really think it would be hard to find the race site. So, I took a quick look at Google maps and we hit the road, armed with a copy of the bike course map as our only real map of the area:

As you can see, it’s very detailed… 🙂

As it so happens, Lake Stevens isn’t really a park so much as a small town next to Everett, WA. And with the exception of two public parks, the lake is bordered by a bunch of privately owned docks and houses. Since our very excellent map didn’t have the name of the park marked on it (nor did I think to look it up, since I’d assumed it would be self-explanatory) we weren’t really sure where the starting point was. We’d driven in, sort of at random and followed the lake around, eventually landing at a little park in the “downtown” Lake Stevens area. I didn’t walk down to the water, but it looked like it was much too small for a triathlon and the street it was on didn’t appear on our map, so we decided to keep going.

Circling the lake and turning into various access points didn’t seem to be working, but then I got the bright idea to look at the run course map, which would have more streets around the transition area on it. So we found one of the roads on that and followed it along… right to the park that we’d started at. D’oh! While I changed into my bike clothes, M went into the town hall (conveniently located right next to the public restrooms) and double checked that this was in fact the right spot, which it was.

M had brought her bike along also, but our extensive circling of the lake showed no really good areas for her to ride, so she set off with her camera and a good book to find something to do while I rode and I headed out onto the bike course. It all started well enough, but my first left was onto a fairly busy highway, which I thought was a little odd, but the race starts at 6:30 in the morning, so maybe it was better then. It had a nice wide shoulder, but a lot of big trucks, so it kind of sucked. Then the next turn was an even bigger highway… hmmm… this doesn’t seem right, better check the map. Nope, I’m definitely not on the course. Luckily, there was a sign directing me back to Lake Stevens and thanks to our earlier circling of the lake, I knew exactly how to get back into town.

I called M to tell her what happened and make sure she was cool with hanging out while I went back out and tried to figure out where I went wrong. Turns out, I made a left instead of a right pretty much right away and was doomed from the start, but my misadventure had a great up-side because this time around I noticed a really great bike path that would be perfect for M to ride her bike on. So, I called her again and had her bring the car down to meet me, so that I could help assemble her bike (we’d had to take it apart to get it into the backseat of my Saturn and she’s only had it for a week… ) So, we both set out on our respective rides, enjoying the bright sunshine.

For the record, the correct route is MUCH nicer than my first attempt and is very pretty. There were a few trucks on the road because of a construction site, but they were few and far between and shouldn’t be an issue on a Sunday morning. The hills were no where near as bad as they look on the elevation chart, even after racing yesterday, so I felt much better about the race. I decided to just ride the hilly part and then turn around, rather than doing the whole loop, as I was getting hungry and didn’t want to be driving back to Seattle too late in the day. It was actually a good idea, because I got a second look at the hills and got a better idea of how much of an uphill there was on some of the flat sections.

I met up with M and we decided to head into town for some lunch. We’d seen a place by the park that both of us were intrigued by:

I mean, come on – who doesn’t love a chicken drive in? It turned out to be a walk/drive-up restaurant with no tables, so we figured we’d eat in the park. While we were waiting, we noticed the awesome special they had on the board:

Mmmm… taco shells. Made by ho’s. Get it, ho-made? (I also really like the idea of eating taco shells for lunch.) I also snapped this picture of M, while I was taking a picture of the restaurant. Isn’t she so cute?

(I was trying to take a picture of her taking a picture of the homade special, but my camera is too slow… ) After getting our cheeseburger/french fries (presumably not made by ho’s) we headed back to the park for a nice lunch. This is the view from our table:

My totally unhealthy but very delicious lunch:

And my delightful company:

We had a great day and I’m really looking forward to coming back in three weeks. (Especially to the post-race milkshake I’ve got my eye on!) Many thanks to M for making what could have been a really frustrating day so much fun.

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