The clock is ticking.
T-minus two weeks and counting.
Then summer is gone.
If you’ve made the most of summer – the warmest July and August on record in Seattle according to the National Weather Service – these two weeks are the perfect time to put your fitness to the test.
There is time for a last challenge or two before the days shrink and become cold enough to push many weekend warriors inside for their offseason workout routines.
This morning, as many as 600 cyclists are doing just that with a 7,500-foot climb from Packwood to Windy Ridge at Mount St. Helens in the annual High Pass Challenge. Participants in this event make the climb on the winding roads in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, then zip back to Packwood in a 114-mile race against the clock.
They start as early as 7 a.m. and get a medal if they finish by 5 p.m. But the real bragging rights come from the color of the ribbon lanyard holding the medal.
Reach Windy Ridge by 10:30 a.m. and you get a gold ribbon. The ribbon is silver if you get there before 11:30 a.m. and its bronze if you can finish before 2 p.m. No word what the medal hangs from if you reach Windy Ridge after 2 p.m. and still finish before 5. Probably twine or old shoe laces.
If the 600-rider limit hasn’t been reached you can still participate if you can get to Packwood with your $100 registration fee before 8:30 a.m. (See cascade.org for more information). Too late? Don’t worry, here are five other events to challenge yourself before summer fades away:
PASSPORT 2 PAIN
Vashon Island, Saturday
Quickly earning a reputation as one of the toughest organized bike rides in the South Sound, Passport 2 Pain lives up to its name by challenging riders to climb about 10,000 feet in 80 miles on Vashon Island.
Sponsored by people who know a little bit about pushing yourself, the Vashon Island Rowing Club, the ride’s long route is nicknamed the "Idiot Ride." That should give you an idea of what most folks think of people who know the joy of suffering like this.
Those people might not even be interested in the easier rides: the 50-mile (6,500-vertical feet) Weasel Ride or the 30-mile (3,400) Weenie Ride. There’s also a relay option and a 3-mile rides for kids.
Participants get a passport for their $110 entry fee which they get stamped each time they complete one of the course’s 18 hills. Each stamp increases your chances to win prizes in the post-race drawing.
TOUR DE BLAST
This ride from Toutle to Mount St. Helens’ Johnston Ridge used to be more challenging. Not only did you have climb 6,280 feet over 82 miles, but odds are it was going to be cold and maybe even rainy. Even well prepared cyclists could flirt with hypothermia.
Wisely, organizers of this ride eventually moved it from mid-June to September, when significantly more comfortable weather is hardly guaranteed but much more likely.
As for the climb, it’s still tough. Rest stops stocked with food and beverages are strategically placed along the route to offer early turnaround points for those looking for an easier ride.
YOU GO GIRL HALF MARATHON
Tacoma, Sept. 14
The name suggests this is a race for women, but the fourth of six Tacoma City Marathon Association half marathons this year is open to everybody. But only women are eligible to win.
Last summer, 298 women and 22 men ran the half marathon, while 473 women and 19 men ran the 10-kilomter race.
The race, in its fifth year, is a mostly flat out-and-back course on the Tacoma waterfront. The entry fee is $90 for the half marathon and $40 for the 10K with prices set to increase by $5 after Sept. 10.
BLACK DIAMOND SPORTS FESTIVAL
Enumclaw, Saturday-Sept. 14
Nolte State Park and the surrounding streets are the site of a multisport weekend where athletes get one more try to set a summer personal best in a sport of their choosing. Try an Ironman distance triathlon (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run) or endurance duathlon (1.4-mile run, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run) on Sept. 13.
The next morning, take your pick of three different triathlon distances (sprint, Olympic and novice), a half marathon, or an Olympic distance duathlon (1.4-mile run, 24.8-mile bike, 6.2-mile run).
There’s also relay options for the multi-sport races. Entry fees are $50-$225.
KITSAP COLOR CLASSIC
Edmonds or Kingston, Sept. 21
At 57 miles and 3,844 feet of climbing this isn’t quite on par as the other late-summer challenges on this list. But the rolling hills around Poulsbo, Port Gamble and Hansville are still a good workout. Since this ride started in 1992 it has earned its place as the unofficial end of Western Washington’s bicycle touring season. The ride also has 25- and 39-mile versions and a ferry ride for those starting in Edmonds. Registration is $23 for a Kingston start and $28 (ferry included) for an Edmonds start for those who register before Sept. 17.