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Ride report: Distance Training #7 (4/3/2010)

Go, riders!

Despite the ominous forecasts earlier this week, our group of 25 awesome riders was treated to a near-perfect day of January cycling. Only one problem: It's April. Temperatures didn't rise out of the upper 40s and lower 50s until near the end of the ride, when the sun finally came out for a while. Before that, we dealt with chilly winds, a challenging route, wet pavement, and poorly maintained shoulders that kept our super SAG driver Taryl more than busy today. Think about it ... you rode all the way to San Francisco and back today! That's quite an accomplishment.

No doubt about it -- today's route was challenging. In fact, it was very similar in difficulty to Day 1 of the ride, which is technically the hardest day. Historically, Day 1 is a little bit shorter than this ride, but it has a little bit more climbing, so you should take pride in knowing that you can already handle the most difficult route that ALC will give you. Of course, the next challenge is learning to tackle back-to-back(-to-back) long rides, and as your Monthly Spin newsletter pointed out this week, you should be working on that sooner rather than later. (Didn't get a Monthly Spin email? Check your spam folder, or contact your cyclist representative.)

We also had the opportunity to deal with a lot of other things that happen in June. The wet pavement along Skyline Blvd. was especially problematic; we had several flats and at least two blowouts. And the shoulders looked like they hadn't been swept since the waning days of the Eisenhower administration; gravel and shards of glass were seemingly everywhere. The combination made for a wet, sticky mess that quickly worked its way into tires, causing all sorts of woe. If you're not doing so already, consider using puncture-resistant tires.

Two brands that I've used are Specialized Armadillos and Continental Ultra Gatorskins (which I use now). They cost a bit more than standard tires (use your ALC discount!), but they can save you all sorts of grief and time on the road ... and if you're running behind schedule and fighting an upcoming rest stop closure time in June, those minutes saved could possibly mean the difference between being able to ride on and having to get on the sweep bus.

Our numerous freeway adventures seemed to go trouble-free today, and that's good. In June, we typically spend somewhere between 5% and 10% of the entire ride on freeways, so it's very helpful to be comfortable with riding in those conditions. If we're on a freeway for an extended distance In June, we usually exit at every offramp and then re-enter on the other side of the interchange; this keeps us from having to deal with merging traffic. That, of course, wasn't possible in the ugly cloverleaf at the junction of Skyline Blvd. and Hwy. 1; that's part of our traditional Day 1 route, and the interchange is usually well staffed with roadies to guide our way through the high-speed traffic.

And since this was again the longest ride ever for many of us, you might have noticed your mind behaving in different ways. Every extra hour in the saddle now is a new threshold, and it's just about impossible to predict how you are going to react. For me, I had a strange feeling around mile 72 -- I could barely remember the climb out of San Francisco that I had done less than two hours earlier. It was almost as if I was in San Francisco one minute and then back in Redwood City the next. I can't ascribe any special significance to this, but even for me, this was something unusual, and it took me a few minutes to think about the details of that part of the ride. The danger, of course, is that if I were to focus too intently on where I had been instead of where I was at that moment, I could have become distracted. So if something unusual happened in your mind today, whatever it was, be acutely aware of it, and think about how you can respond to it.

Finally, don't forget to eat and drink. Today's ride took a lot out of us; the reports I've seen of calories burned range anywhere from 3,500 to more than 8,000. If you don't carefully replace most or all of those calories, your body will not be kind to you. You need energy to recover, especially if you're riding the next day. And if you underconsume, you can send your body into a starvation response. With rides this long, we're quickly moving into the phase of training where, if you're trying to lose weight, you should put that goal on hold until after the event in June.

In my opinion, today's ride was the most challenging day of our Distance Training rides. Our three remaining rides are certainly longer, but they don't have nearly as much climbing. The focus for the rest of our training season is specifically on endurance and discovering what individual issues arise when we move into extreme-athlete territory.

In two weeks, on Saturday, April 17, we do our first century ride of the season. This 100-mile route will form a giant circle around San Jose, and except for one significant climb and descent in south San Jose, most of the hills are short and/or rolling. The wide variety of cycling conditions will give us another preview of life on the event in June, and we'll visit a few places that aren't on the usual circuit of club or social rides. Details and RSVP are here.

And registration for our third annual Altamont Pass Double Metric is now open! On Saturday, May 15, we'll ride 200 kilometers (125 miles) in one day. Find out more about this memorable event here.

Today's been a long day; your ride leaders were up as early as 5 a.m., and I'm just wrapping things up here at about 11 p.m. Our volunteer leaders (and SAG drivers!) put in these hours because they're devoted to the mission of AIDS/LifeCycle, and I offer thanks to all of the volunteers who helped make today's ride possible. Of course, we do all of this to make your preparation for the event in June as complete as possible, so your participation is the reason we're here. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.


Ajit said...

Thanks Chris for organizing the ride yesterday. Special Thanks to other volunteers and Taryl!! This was my longest ride to date and did help boost my morale to ride in the June event. From your experience, what advice do you have for some of us who are fairly new to long distance riding on the topics below:
a. How do we avoid cramps on long rides?

b. There was someone on yesterday's ride who had cramps on the Skyline climb. In the event a person has cramps, what should one do?

c. In terms of food intake, is there any specific types of food that one should consume to sustain these long distance rides?

Please advice.

Thanks again,

Ajit Sharma

Chris Thomas said...

Ajit: You're welcome!

You ask questions that probably have different answers for everybody, so just take these replies as guidelines, and find what works best for you.

Cramps: Here is a collection of recommendations from people on what works for them. Fortunately, cramps are one of the few things that I generally don't have to deal with, so I haven't really thought much about this. On a really hot day last summer, though, I had some serious leg cramps, and I made my way post-haste to the massage therapist at the end of our ride.

Food: The key here is to have a balance of carbohydrates, electrolytes, protein, and fat. Everybody's balance is different, and different people can process different amounts and types of food while cycling. On long training rides, I often have liquid "smoothie"-type drinks, such as Odwalla, coupled with deli-style sandwiches at meal breaks. On ALC itself, I've often gone for small packages of salted nuts, mostly because they usually go down well for me and they contain all-important sodium while not being very bulky.

Here is a collection of reader comments on long-distance nutrition. These are keyed to one-shot events of 200km or more, but they generally also apply to events such as ALC.

I hope this helps, and thank you for riding!