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Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #10

Go, riders!

For most of us, this has been our biggest training weekend before the beginning of ALC8. For two days, we've basically done nothing but sleep and ride. And this year, we've had to cope with triple-digit temperatures both days! Special congratulations are in order to everyone who rode this weekend, including the 26 intrepid riders who took part in the second annual Altamont Pass Double Metric Century -- the longest single-day training ride on the nationwide ALC calendar.

Waking up at 5 a.m. or earlier definitely tests one's determination. And doing it two days in a row is even more challenging. Now, imagine doing that seven days in a row -- that's your life in another two weeks. The first day is full of excitement and anticipation. The second day ... well, that can be tough. The third day ... yipes, can't we just stay in bed?

The first few miles of each day can be especially challenging, no matter the terrain, because your body and mind often still aren't in the right frame of mind for long-distance cycling. That was certainly the case for me today when I set out on a second-day ride. But after about an hour, I was back into my groove and doing just fine. Remembering that can give you the added oomph to get you going in the morning.

Then there's the heat. Temperatures in Dublin Canyon and through parts of Fremont were recorded at 102 degrees yesterday, and we felt every one of those degrees. Many of us learned that heat makes us do all sorts of strange things: We start drinking huge amounts and not peeing hardly at all; we often don't feel like eating when we really need to be eating; and we can become silly, grumpy, and/or just plain loopy.

Remember how your body responded to yesterday's heat; that's an important lesson for you to take forward into the ride, where temperatures on Days 2 and 3 could very well be that hot. Be aware of when you're approaching the threshold of safety, and take proactive steps to make sure you don't cross over into threatening your health. As I've said before, that's important not only for your own sake; it's important for every other rider on the road that you stay conscious and aware of your surroundings so that you can react properly and safely.

Super-size giant thanks go to our SAG drivers and water-stop crew: Cindy, Diana, Dennis, and Taryl. Without them, many of us could not have completed the ride. Here's something important to remember, though: On ALC, water, ice, and other such services are generally available only at scheduled rest stops and occasional water stops (they're all marked on your route sheet every day). Unless there's a true emergency, you won't be able to get water from a passing vehicle. Make sure that you stock up sufficiently at every rest stop, especially when it's hot. Check your route sheet to see how many miles there are to the next rest stop -- the distance can be as little as 8 miles or as much as 25 miles.

Here's a quick request from our SAG drivers that applies on ALC as well. When giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down signal to a support vehicle, be sure to stick your arm out far enough so that your thumb is easily visible from the roadway. Holding it close to your body doesn't work. Your support crew thanks you!

And when it's hot, you might want to inflate your tires just a little bit less than you normally do. I learned that lesson yesterday! While we were returning through Livermore at about mile 66, my rear tire exploded rather suddenly and spectacularly while I was on Concannon Blvd. Fortunately, I was not going very fast, so I was able to stop safely. But the tire had exploded so much that it ripped the beading right open. SAG driver Cindy took me to a bicycle shop, where the repairman took one look at the tire and said, "Yeah, you're done." Half an hour and $64 later, I was back on the road with a new tire.

Particularly if you use your brakes while descending, be extra careful in hot weather. The brakes can heat up your rims, and this can increase the chances of your tire exploding from the heat or simply popping off the rim -- either of which can be very dangerous if you're traveling at high speed.

All through this season, I've talked about how AIDS/LifeCycle is as much a mental challenge as a physical challenge. I've also talked about riding Every Friendly Inch of the ride and how some folks single-mindedly pursue that goal. I got a valuable lesson in that yesterday, and it bears sharing with you.

By the time I reached Santa Clara yesterday, I was not a happy camper. My speed had dropped below Cat-3 pace, I was the last rider on the route, and I was in one of those modes where I'd pedal for a few seconds, coast for a few seconds, and repeat. It was only 9 miles to the end, and I probably could have made it back, albeit very slowly, with some pain, and perhaps with some risk to my well-being. However, the SAG vehicle was in the parking lot and waiting. I did something I'd never done before -- I ended my ride early and got into the SAG vehicle for the ride back to Mountain View.

The world did not end. Nobody pointed and laughed and said, "Ha ha, Chris can't make it." (At least I hope nobody did!) And I didn't erupt into a fit of crying or whining. And this morning, I was back on my bicycle at 6 a.m. sharp to ride to Sunnyvale to help out with today's Cat-2 ride. As I mentioned above, I was just fine after a little bit of warming up.

No matter what goal you set for yourself on the ride, do not become singularly consumed by the pursuit of that goal. Listen to your body, and do the right thing for you, even if it's not necessarily what you planned. Nobody will think less of you -- not other riders, not the roadies, not your donors. If you don't keep yourself whole, you can't ride for whatever reasons you're riding.

And with that, we wrap up this season of the Cat-3 Distance Training rides. It's been my privilege to ride with you the past five months, and I've been honored and pleased to see how far so many of you progressed in your training. The spirit of AIDS/LifeCycle is inside each of us, and your determination is the embodiment of that spirit. When we ride out from the Cow Palace two weeks from today, I hope that each of you will have a safe and successful ride, and I look forward to seeing you on the road, at the rest stops, in camp, and at the closing ceremonies in Los Angeles. (I'll be the one that you're shouting "On your left!" to.)

Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

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