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Saturday, November 19: Three Sisters and Wetlands Park, 36 miles

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Help, I'm turning into a cyclist


Today's 80-mile ride from Daly City BART to Pleasanton BART was an experiment for me. I knew going into the ride that the route contained several hills for about 3,850 feet of climbing, including a particularly nasty climb that I'd never done before. (I knew this because today was Day 1 of Seismic Challenge 3.0 and, while I didn't officially do the ride or the whole 105-mile route today due to logistics, I did make the route sheet for them.)

Regular readers of this blog might recall that hills -- especially steep ones -- often put me in a mood most foul and leave me hating the world, the ride, and myself, often all at the same time. Since I started tracking my calorie expenditures about a month ago, I've come to the conclusion that I've been taking in far too few calories for the distance and pace that I usually ride. So I started experimenting with some high-calorie powdered mixes, and I used one today, apparently to great advantage, since even the toughest climb I'd done in a long time didn't ruin my day.

If my heart rate monitor is to be believed, I burned 7,781 calories on today's ride, counting the off-the-bike time I spent at rest stops. In return, I took in about 2,150 calories, about 1,250 of which were in liquid form -- a bottle of Odwalla strawberry-banana juice, plus three water bottles mixed with Perpetuem. The most substantial actual food I ate during the whole ride was a solitary blueberry bagel, although I had a good breakfast before riding and a big sandwich (with, shhhh, curly fries ... don't tell anyone) immediately afterward.

And I think it served me well. The instructions for Perpetuem warn that mixtures can go bad after a few hours, so there's a strong motivation to consume the liquid regularly, which I did -- at the rate of about one bottle (300 calories, in the proportions that I used) for every two hours on the bike. At the end of my 80 miles, I was riding strong, and I don't think it was entirely due to the moderate tailwind that was pushing me into Pleasanton.

Perhaps I could get the same effect by eating more actual food while riding, but attempts to do so in the past have often left me with an upset stomach and reaching for the Pepto-Bismol. I took in about 350 calories per hour of riding, which might be just a wee bit low for my weight but probably a lot closer than I've come in the past.

This merits continued investigation, since anything that keeps me happy on difficult rides is probably good for my cycling psyche!

And a final postscript: Giant, big thanks to everyone in the Seismic Challenge family who welcomed me into their "home" today. As a non-fundraising faux rider, just the route sheet creator, I didn't want to interlope into the big day for everyone else -- the riders who by all measures did an awesome job of fundraising, the roadies who made this difficult route a success for everyone, and the foundation staff who brought it all together. You're the real heroes of the day and the weekend.

Photo: Climbing Hayward Ave. (center foreground), looking west toward the San Mateo Bridge.