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Ride report: Distance Training #8 (4/17/2010)


Go, riders!

Our group of 20 cyclists plus awesome SAG driver Gloria could not have asked for finer weather on today's 100-mile loop around the South Bay. From quiet foothill byways to crowded city arterials, we got a good taste of the many different types of riding we'll be doing in June, often all on the same day. Special congratulations to the many riders who completed their first-ever century today.

I've mentioned many times that ALC is a mental challenge as much as a physical one, and this ride drove the point home for me. Today's group was, by and large, a very fast group. Now that's generally a good thing; many of you finished the day at a pace of more than 15 mph, and that's quite an accomplishment, especially over such a long distance with a respectable amount of climbing to boot. And because everyone's mind works in different ways, I can only speak about my own experience. But perhaps your mind said some interesting things to you today as well.

Way back in January (it seems so long ago!) when we began this set of rides, I said that there would probably be a point where most of you would become stronger riders than me. Today was that point. Again, this is generally a good thing; it's a sign that your training has gone extremely well. But every year when this happens (and it always does, sooner or later, because I ride at about the same skill level year-round), I have to confront the reality that, give or take some minor variations, I'm as good a cyclist as I'm going to be. And if I have nothing to distract me while I'm traveling down that train of thought, I start to think: Why bother? Why am I spending my time riding into the wind on Santa Teresa Blvd. yet again? And why am I going to give up my vacation time to spend a week -- plus recovery days -- pedaling my bicycle more than a quarter-million times?

These aren't happy thoughts. Maybe they're not your thoughts, but maybe you've had similar ones, especially as we get into the late stages of the training season. I could dismiss them with images of unicorns and ponies and Rest Stop 4 shows and free ice cream in Santa Barbara, but that would be simplistic. When you registered to ride in AIDS/LifeCycle, whether it's for the first year or the 10th, there were reasons why you made the decision. Focus on those reasons, and keep them in mind as we approach the longest rides of the season, both here in Mountain View and elsewhere on the training ride calendar.

Here's a quick story from an ALC a few years ago. On Day 5, I was climbing a particularly difficult hill on Highway 1 between Santa Maria and Lompoc (a hill that's not part of the route anymore). I wasn't going very fast at all, but I nonetheless was quickly approaching another rider. Being the cheerful type that I am (uh huh), I politely called out, "Good morning! Coming up on your l--"

And then I heard the rider. Chanting softly, almost sotto voce. "This is for you," and a name. "This is for you," and another name. The expression on the rider's face was pained beyond belief, and the rider was struggling to maintain 3 mph on this mile-long climb. "This is for you," and yet another name. I silently and slowly made my way past the rider.

Remember your reasons for riding. They belong to you and nobody else, and they will give you strength in the final weeks of training and on the event in June. And resist the urge to compare yourself to other riders. There always will be riders faster (and slower) than you, and ALC isn't about being "better than," "as good as," or "not as good as" anyone else. Sure, we're riding as a group of 2,000-plus riders, but every rider is an individual story with their own fascinating history. The magic of ALC is how this large group comes together year after year in magical and unpredictable ways. And every one of us is part of that magic.

What's next? We've still got two awesome rides left. In two weeks, on May 1, for those of you not doing the Jonathan Pon two-day ride, we've got a challenging 110-mile ride to Gilroy and back. We'll begin by following the same route south out of San Jose that we did on our recent Coyote Valley ride, but this time we'll keep going around the west side of Uvas Reservoir. Then we'll head back north on the quiet farm roads east of U.S. 101 into Morgan Hill. The biggest challenge on this ride likely will be strong headwinds on the return from Gilroy to San Jose -- but with this year's wacky weather, anything is possible. I've thoughtfully grouped rest stops very close together on that part of the ride; they were very much needed last time we did this route. Details and RSVP are here.

And, don't forget, May 15 is the third annual Altamont Pass Double Metric, our 200-kilometer (125-mile) ride to Livermore and beyond. Total climbing is only as much as we did today, but it's still an epic ride that will be the highlight of your training season. Details and RSVP are here.

Next Saturday is Day on the Ride. This year's route is all-new (and is by yours truly!), a challenging 70-mile route from San Francisco to Redwood City and back with about 4,600 feet of climbing. Preregistration for this ride is required and costs $15, and space is limited; as I write this on Saturday night, only 279 more spots are open. Especially if this is your first year in ALC, I strongly recommend Day on the Ride because it gives you a good idea of what riding in June will be like, from route marking to rest stops to roadie support. But yes, that 5:30 a.m. meet time in San Francisco is darned tough for those of us down here! It's worth it, though.

We're just 50 days away from the beginning of ALC9. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Photos by Bob Katz

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