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Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #3

Go, riders!

When a break in the weather opened up, we seized the moment. Our group of 36 riders took advantage of the time between two storms to head out on a 50-mile ride that offered a little bit of everything: speed, hills, flat tires, and more than a few wrong turns.

Yes, let's talk about the wrong turns first and get the bad stuff out of the way. Quite a few folks ended up riding "bonus miles" today -- anywhere from just a couple city miles to quite a few hilly miles. Whenever this happens, I personally feel more than a bit responsible, because that means two things: the route sheet wasn't detailed enough for everyone to follow, and I didn't do an adequate job during the pre-ride briefing. So let me apologize if you ended up someplace you weren't supposed to go -- and I particularly feel sorry for the few folks who ended up on busy El Camino Real in Menlo Park.

That said, I can offer a couple of observations. First and most important, if you think you've made a wrong turn and don't see any other riders, never hesitate to call a ride leader and ask for assistance. If you end up on a road that doesn't feel like it's a reasonable bicycle route -- and if I haven't warned about it in the briefing -- chances are that you're in the wrong place. And if you're unfamiliar with an area we'll be riding in, take a couple of minutes ahead of the ride to check a map of the route. The ride descriptions on my blog always have a map window attached to them, and you can zoom in and out and scroll around and have all sorts of fun with the map. Today's route went to some places we rarely go on our training rides, and I think that caught a few folks off guard. So again, my apologies. I know my route sheets have developed a reputation for being accurate, and it hurts just a little bit inside when I come up short in that department.

OK, enough about that. Now it's only good news for the rest of-- What? Flat tires, you say? Oh yeah, that too.

We had another load of flat tires today, enough to send two riders out of the ride early. I didn't take a detailed survey today, but I know of at least seven. Some of those no doubt came from the nasty pile of glass that was in the shoulder on Central Expressway, and many of the others were once again consequences of riding on wet pavement. When the pavement is wet, our tires pick up all sorts of little nasties from the surface of the pavement, and those little nasties can cause pinch flats. One common piece of advice, as given here by Bicycling magazine, is to inflate your tires to about 10 psi less than normal in wet conditions. Of course, today's early-morning wet conditions gave way to sunny and dry weather later on, so there's no hard and fast rule.

It is worth noting, though, that many mornings of the ride in June start out chilly, damp, and even foggy, and the road surface can be wet even if it hasn't rained. Every year I see lots of riders with flats in the first few miles of many days. If it happens to you, just take it in stride -- it happens to all of us sooner or later, and eventually we all have one of those multi-flat days that makes us just say, "Awww, the heck with it, I'm going home."

Although a lot of you went quite fast during the first 20 miles today, this route was not designed for speed. We didn't put 25 nearly-flat miles at the beginning of the ride just to serve up what sometimes are incorrectly called "junk miles." Although the ride in June has lots of climbing, it also has lots of flat miles, sometimes seemingly without end. Part of the secret to success in June is learning how to deal with those miles as part of your overall ride.

When we went through Palo Alto, we encountered eight stop signs and three traffic signals in a very short distance. How did that make you feel? Were you getting frustrated by the time you reached the end of downtown? Were you thinking about maybe just possibly not coming to a full and complete stop at the sixth or seventh stop sign? It's a natural reaction. Sure, that's life on a bicycle in Palo Alto, but that's also what we experience while riding through Pismo Beach in June. And ALC in Pismo Beach has developed a somewhat bad reputation in past years because of riders who don't follow the rules. Especially if you're a faster rider, but even if you're not, take the frequent stops in stride and don't let them affect your mood. Remember, the future of ALC depends on all of us following all of the rules.

And as you were nearing the 40-mile mark of the ride, how were you feeling about all of the hills? If you're familiar with the area, you no doubt knew that you were just a few easy miles away from Mountain View, but no, we still had lots of climbing to do. What was your mind saying to you? Were you looking forward to the challenge? Or were you cursing me for putting in all of those "unnecessary" hills? There are no right or wrong answers, but you should think about how your mind worked during today's ride. The emotions and thoughts you had today are similar to those that you'll have in June, and now is a good time to work on training your mind as well as your body.

Although we're talking mainly about the mind here, there is one important point: If your mood during a ride starts turning really sour, that's a possible indication that your nutrition is out of whack. If you start hating everyone and everything while you're riding (it's happened to me), stop and have some calories, from an energy drink, an energy bar, some gel, or whatever else you might be carrying with you. When you ride while mad, you can pose a safety risk not only to yourself, but also to other riders. We're here to get all of us to Los Angeles safely, as a group, and that depends on each of us.

What's next? In two weeks, on Saturday the 21st, we'll do our first metric century (100-kilometer ride) of the season with a ride to the quaint East Bay community of Sunol. Even though the ride is longer, there's less climbing than we did today. And there are far fewer turns, too! Details and RSVP are here. And note that our meeting times get earlier starting with the next ride. On the 21st, we meet at 8:30 a.m., so this means that our San Francisco riders can no longer take the train to the ride. (The trains don't run that early on Saturdays.)

And save the date: In three weeks, on Saturday the 28th, I'm running a special bonus ride, a climb all the way up to the top of Highway 9 (elevation 2,650 feet) with a cruise along Skyline Drive to Sky Londa. You can do the ride as either a 48-mile route or a 53-mile route, in honor of the two birthday boys who will be leading the ride, myself and David Goldsmith. I'll have details and an RSVP link up soon.

Finally, please make sure you're taking part in other training rides, especially on the weekends that I don't have a ride scheduled. And make sure that you're doing at least one long ride every weekend -- at least as long as our last ride -- so that you'll be ready to deal with the increased miles, which now go up by 10 to 15 miles every ride. A new set of Cat-3 rides is running out of San Francisco, and the organizers of those rides have been super kind and have scheduled their rides to not conflict with ours. So if you're looking for more Cat-3 fun, consider heading up to San Francisco. Details are in the official ALC calendar.

Thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle, and I look forward to riding with you again soon.

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