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Ride report: Altamont Pass Double Metric (5/15/2010)


Go, riders!

Weather really does make a difference. The short-but-interesting history of the Altamont Pass Double Metric is full of horror stories about 100-degree temperatures and riders turning blue and getting sick in other unpleasant ways. But we had none of that yesterday; with temperatures about 30 degrees cooler than in past years -- and with winds that were surprisingly favorable most of the day -- our intrepid group of 32 riders (plus super SAG drivers Dennis and Gloria) tackled this 200-kilometer challenge in amazing form. An uncharacteristic south wind in the morning magically turned into a north wind just as we reached Hayward and began to head back toward San Jose. And low clouds stayed around longer than usual, keeping us cool and pleasant almost all the way to Livermore.

Day 1 of ALC9 is just three weeks from today, and this ride offered several experiences and lessons that can be very helpful as we get ready for the main event.

Although the longest day of ALC is "only" about 108 miles, the late stages of yesterday's ride was a preview of how your body might start to respond by Day 3 or Day 4 of the ride. Did you have difficulty with the pesky overpasses and tiny hills of Central Expressway in the last 6 miles? Did you feel as if your climbing muscles had already retired for the day, even though there really wasn't all that much climbing on the route? That's not unusual. It's a clear signal to conserve your leg muscles: Don't crank hard up hills, even short ones. Your knees will thank you in the end.

Proper nutrition becomes a huge challenge on such long rides. Depending on your build and your pace, yesterday's ride burned anywhere from 3,500 to 8,000 calories or more. If you're at the upper end of that range, you just can't take in that many calories while riding, and the lack of energy can be potentially debilitating late in the ride. Most nutritionists recommend a steady rate of caloric intake during a long ride, so that your body knows what to expect. The giant meal comes after the ride.

But even if you're taking in a steady amount of calories, the variety of rest stops on long rides often tempts you to take in all sorts of foods you'd never normally eat in combination with one another. Add in the physical stress of riding, and all the ingredients are there for an upset stomach. This can be a problem in June, where every rest stop is full of tantalizing treats. Sure, those graham cracker and PB&J snacks can be yummy, but if you've never had one before, rural Monterey County is not the best place to find out that your stomach doesn't like them. In June, I try to stick mostly to food that I know, and in moderate quantities. But I also carry a few pink bismuth (aka Pepto-Bismol) tables with me just in case.

Then there are the mental issues. As I mentioned yesterday morning, long rides can cause the mind to do really strange things, and it's all too easy to lose your rationality -- and not even be aware of it. Two years ago on the first Altamont Pass ride, this happened to me in the heat. I was having mechanical issues with my bike, and a SAG driver recognized my distress and offered to take me into the next rest stop. Thanks to the heat, I wasn't thinking clearly, and I got more than a little surly with the SAG driver, who left me to my own fate. Nothing bad happened, but there's an important lesson there: Outside observers, such as support crew members, often can spot when something strange is happening to a rider, even if you can't. Their suggestions are probably the best ones to take, even if you might not think so at the time.

And in June, if a roadie determines that you've gone into a condition where it's not safe for you to continue riding, they have immediate and absolute authority to stop you from riding and transport you to camp or another location. This can happen on the road, at a rest stop, or in camp. There is no appeal, and if you don't cooperate, you can be removed from the ride. Your health and safety -- and the health and safety of everyone around you -- are that important.

So, yes, we had some mind issues on yesterday's ride. For those who experienced them, I hope that the appropriate lessons have been learned: Your decision-making skills might be impaired, others probably can realize this better than you can, and the support crew really does care about you and wants you to end the day healthy and whole.

What's next? We still have two weekends of potential training left before the ride. For most of us, we don't want to end our training quite yet. You probably want to go on at least one more long ride -- say, of about 80 miles or more -- and several shorter rides, perhaps quick after-work spins during the week. Memorial Day weekend is probably the last chance to do any serious riding, although some trainers suggest that older riders might want to start tapering off a little before then. Many ALCers, including me, stay completely off the bike during the week before the ride; there's no training benefit to be had during that time, and doing so helps build the excitement and eagerness of getting ready to ride. Face it: We've done so many rides now that getting up and out for some of them has become a wee bit of drudgery. Day 1 is a time for excitement, not just "another ride."

This concludes our season of Mountain View training rides. We've had an amazing year, and I've been privileged to watch so many of you train beyond your wildest dreams and meet or exceed goals that seemed impossible just a few months ago. We've mostly dodged the weather during a most uncooperative winter, and we've navigated the many life changes that seem to happen way too often in this challenging economy. Your participation in AIDS/LifeCycle is a testament to the human spirit, and it is my honor to have served you for this training season.

Now, we can have some fun together! I'll see you on the road beginning June 6. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

1 comment:

Ajit said...

Thanks Chris for organizing these training ride. The amount of time that you devote to create these routes and educate riders on your blogs are very commendable. I personally, for sure, have gotten confidence to ride long distances. Good luck to all of us riding the ALC9!!