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

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ALC12 Distance Training rides: General info

Welcome to the ALC12 Distance Training rides in Mountain View!

Here is some basic information about our rides, including locations, logistics, and other things that you should know before you ride with us. When you RSVP to one of our rides, you'll get a link to this page plus additional information specific to that ride.

Location: We meet in the city parking lot across the street from the Tied House restaurant, at the intersection of Villa and Franklin streets in downtown Mountain View (map). Parking on weekends is free and unlimited. The facilitator's vehicle is usually parked in the back of the lot, and you should see a table with a sign-in sheet, some light refreshments, and other items.

Restrooms: No restrooms are available at our meeting location. The police station across the street has restrooms, but their availability is not guaranteed. Several coffeehouses along nearby Castro Street (two blocks away) are open early, and a Safeway and 24-hour Jack in the Box are on Shoreline Blvd. between Highway 101 and downtown. Starbucks is available just north of the Shoreline exit off 101 and at the south end of Castro Street in downtown.

Meeting time: Please plan to arrive before the scheduled meeting time so that you have time to unpack your bicycle, change any clothing, and take care of any other matters. We begin pre-ride activities promptly at the meeting time, and we always ride out promptly at the scheduled ride-out time.

Transit access: The Mountain View Caltrain and VTA light rail station is in downtown, about four blocks from our meeting location. The first southbound train from San Francisco arrives at 9:29 a.m., which gets you to our meeting location in time for at least the first five rides of our season. When our meeting times become earlier than 9:30, you won't be able to use southbound Caltrain. Sorry!

Safety speech: All riders must be physically present and attentive during the mandatory safety speech for each ride, which begins 10 minutes before scheduled ride-out time. If you arrive during or after the safety speech, you will not be able to officially ride with us that day, and any riding that you choose to do will be on your own. Safety is our top priority. Please take a couple of minutes to review the AIDS/LifeCycle Code of Conduct at this link. In a group such as ours, in which riders of many different experience levels will be participating, it's vital that we all follow the same rules so that we know what to expect of each other. It's essential that every rider observe all stop signs and traffic signals without exception.

Route sheets: When you RSVP, you will get a link to the preliminary route sheet for your ride. Please study it in advance, especially if you are unfamiliar with part of the route. This will help reduce the chances of taking a wrong turn during the ride, and we don't want you to ride any bonus miles. The preliminary route sheet can change due to last-minute road work or other activities, so be sure to pick up a printed route sheet when you check in on ride morning. Even if you have loaded the route into a GPS device, the route sheet is important because it contains phone numbers for the ride leaders and support volunteers who will be on the road with you. (And GPS devices can fail, too!)

The route: Our route is not marked with pavement arrows or signs. You will need to refer to the route sheet often during the ride in order to avoid making a wrong turn, and to note important safety information and other occurrences along the route. We strongly recommend that you use a map holder, binder clips, or some other technique so that you can safely refer to the route sheet while you are riding. Do not rely on ride leaders or other riders to direct you. We often will be on roads that are used by other cyclists, and they might not be going to the same place that you're going.

Rain policy: All of our rides are "heavy rain cancels." There is no hard and fixed rule about what constitutes "heavy" rain, but in general, we will not ride if standing water is accumulating over a significant part of our route. This means that we usually do ride in sprinkles and light showers, although we might ride an alternate route in some cases where road conditions could be hazardous, particularly in steep, remote areas. If a ride is cancelled, a notice will be posted at ridewithchris.org as soon as possible (usually not until the morning of the ride), and at least one ride leader will be at the meeting location. Keep in mind that weather conditions can vary widely across the Bay Area, so rain in one location might not mean rain in another.

Rider support: Most of our rides have at least one SAG (Support And Gear) vehicle on the route. SAG vehicles usually have basic supplies such as tubes and a floor pump, plus small amounts of water and food for cyclists who run out between scheduled stops. Do not rely on the SAG vehicles to feed you. In case of mechanical failure or other circumstances that might prevent you from finishing a ride, a SAG driver sometimes can return you to Mountain View or some other intermediate point. However, this service is not guaranteed, and you are ultimately responsible for finding transportation if you are unable to complete a ride. Our SAG drivers are volunteers who are not reimbursed for their expenses; if you can do so, please consider making a small donation to them to help cover the cost of their fuel and other supplies.

Sign out: You must sign out at the end of every ride that you begin. Usually, you do this by signing the sign-out sheet at the end of the ride. But if you leave the route at some other point, you must notify a ride leader; the facilitator's day is not done until every rider has been accounted for. The easiest way to notify us that you have left the route is to send a text message to the facilitator (the number is on the route sheet). A text message is preferred over email because most ride leaders do not check email while riding. Be sure to include your full name in the text message because we probably can't identify you by just a phone number.

Have fun! Yes, we have a lot of rules and guidelines. These are for your safety and the safety of the other participants and those around us. But don't forget to have fun on the ride and remember the reasons why you ride. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle!

ALC12 Distance Training #2: Los Gatos (1/12/2013)

Date: Saturday, January 12
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 45

Description:

This ride starts with a gentle route to Saratoga (no Mount Eden) and across Highway 9 into our first rest stop at Los Gatos. Next, we'll climb Shannon Road eastbound and Kennedy Road westbound -- the "easier" direction of each, but still a little steep in places. Then, we'll wind our way through some side streets into the exclusive neighborhoods of Monte Sereno and Saratoga, where some low-traffic and beautiful rolling hills await us. We'll end with a bit more climbing in the Rancho San Antonio area and over to the Loyola golf course.

Total climbing on this ride is about 2,500 feet.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station.

Please RSVP even if you're not sure you're attending. We use the RSVPs to plan support (including free bagels!), and if the weather might cause problems, it's important that we be able to reach you. Also, join our Facebook group to get additional updates, conversation, and perhaps a recipe or two.


Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

ALC12 Distance Training #1: Cañada College (1/5/2013)

Date: Saturday, January 5
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 40

Description:

Entering our sixth season in 2013, the AIDS/LifeCycle Distance Training rides have become a Peninsula and South Bay institution. These rides start in January each year and culminate in mid-May with the Altamont Pass Double Metric.

Our season kicks off with an all-new destination for the Mountain View rides: the scenic campus of Cañada College, with spectacular views 750 feet above the bay. Of course, that means we'll have to do some climbing to get there, and today's route is the moderately challenging Farm Hill Boulevard. It's not a long hill, but it's very inconsistent -- some gentle parts, some intermediate descents, and a couple of really steep parts. (Cross-training is perfectly OK!) And when you arrive on campus and think you're at the top, think again: There's one final push before you reach the glorious views at the top.

We'll then descend to Cañada Road and play around in the hills a little bit before taking our rest stop of the day at Roberts Market in Woodside. After that, the rest of the ride is comparatively tame ... but we will visit the Los Altos Hills quarry site and ride around the Loyola golf course just to wrap things up with a little more climbing.

There's only about 2,500 feet of total climbing on this ride, so it's not exceedingly difficult. And our friendly and experienced ride leaders will be on hand to offer help, advice, and occasionally a song or two. Because the Distance Training rides are for intermediate and advanced cyclists, we assume that you already have basic knowledge and ability in cycling, and you should have completed a ride of at least 25 miles with at least a few hills sometime in the past month or so.

This ride is Caltrain- and VTA-friendly. The first southbound train of the day leaves SF at 8:15 and arrives in Mountain View at 9:29. We're about four blocks from the station.

Please RSVP even if you're not sure you're attending. We use the RSVPs to plan support (including free bagels!), and if the weather might cause problems, it's important that we be able to reach you. Also, join our Facebook group to get additional updates, conversation, and perhaps a recipe or two.


Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Distance Training 2013 (updated February 12)

The sixth season of Distance Training rides begins Saturday, January 5 in Mountain View. These are challenging rides for intermediate and advanced cyclists, with a focus on increasing distance to and beyond the longest days of AIDS/LifeCycle. For many riders, ALC is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge, and the Distance Training rides are a great opportunity for you to get experience spending long hours in the saddle ... and dealing with all of the issues that come up for you on such long rides.

Here's a quick preview of what I'm planning for this season. Because so many of you liked the selection of longer rides last season, I've kept the second half the same as last year. But I've also got a set of new and "interesting" rides for the first half!

As always, the routes and descriptions are subject to change, but this will give you a good idea of what to expect. Distances are approximate. All rides meet across the street from the Tied House on Villa Street in downtown Mountain View. All of the climbing stats are approximate and reflect what you will expect to see from Strava and other GPS devices. (Numbers from Ride With GPS tend to be a bit larger.)

New this season, I have 11 ride dates scheduled but only 10 rides. Given the predictions of a wet winter, I've pre-built an allowance for one rain-out during the season. If we don't ride on a particular Saturday, we'll just do that ride on our next scheduled meeting date. And if we get near the end of the season without any rain-outs, I'll add a special mystery ride to the schedule. (There are now enough other training rides in the South Bay and on the Peninsula that you will have plenty of options to ride on our off weeks, so I won't worry about trying to reschedule our rides into our off weeks.) Due to this year's Tour of California, I've rescheduled our Altamont Pass ride back to May 4. This means that our rain-out cushion is gone; we'll deal with any rain-outs as they arise, should they arise.

At least the first five rides will be Caltrain-friendly, which means a meet time of 9:30 a.m. and a ride-out of 10 a.m. After that, we'll probably need to go earlier in order to guarantee enough daylight time.

1. January 5: Cañada College, 40 miles. New destination! We'll visit the scenic campus of Cañada College, in the foothills with sweeping views of the bay. The climb to the college up Farm Hill Blvd. is challenging because the grade is very inconsistent -- everything from gentle hills to steep sections and even a couple of intermediate descents. After that, we'll go through Woodside, around the backside of Portola Valley, and through the Los Altos quarry. About 2,500 feet of climbing.

2. January 12: Los Gatos, 45 miles. Modified route! We'll take the gentle route to Saratoga (no Mount Eden), over to Los Gatos, and then up Shannon and back on Kennedy (the reverse of what we've done in past seasons; this is the slightly easier direction). On the way back, we'll take Sobey and Chester to pass through some exclusive neighborhoods. We'll finish with Rancho San Antonio and, yes, the Loyola golf course. About 2,400 feet of climbing.

3. January 26: South Bay loop, 50 miles. New destination! We mostly take a break from climbing and head across the Dumbarton Bridge, through Newark and Fremont, and up into the Mission San Jose district. We'll return on multi-use paths alongside Highway 237. Only about 600 feet of climbing.

4. February 9: Parrott Drive, 61 miles. New destination! Parrott Drive in San Mateo is one of those routes that doesn't get much love. After this ride, you'll probably feel strongly one way or the other about that! We begin with a gentle route along Alameda de las Pulgas into Belmont. After that, it's up and over the short but steep section of Alameda and across San Mateo. Then comes Parrott. Officially, it's only 0.8 mile at a 7.9% average grade. But that's deceiving, because it's got several intermediate steep descents. (This means, however, that you've got plenty of opportunities to rest on the way up.) There are even a couple of stop signs where you can (and must!) pause to catch your breath. After Parrott, we'll head down to Cañada Road for an easy run in the hills, and we'll end by doing the gentle climb up and down Alpine Road (with no Joaquin!) and the somewhat less gentle climb up La Cresta in Los Altos Hills. About 3,600 feet of climbing.

5. February 23: Coyote Valley Plus, 71 miles. Modified route! We've gone to south San Jose in past seasons, and we'll do it again -- through Saratoga and Los Gatos, around Camden and up Almaden Expwy. and over to Bailey Road. But there's a "plus" this year: We'll begin our day by heading out of Stevens Canyon to Saratoga via Redwood Gulch, the single most difficult climb of our rides this season. This climb is officially 1.4 miles at 9.4%, but it has some easier sections and some very steep sections. Cross-training is perfectly OK! The reward is a glorious 4-mile descent on Highway 9 into Saratoga ... and no other steep climbs the rest of the day. About 3,400 feet of climbing.

6. March 9: Pacifica, 77 miles. It took us three attempts to get this ride done on a rain-free day last year, so it's back this year. Our scenic but hilly route takes us along Cañada Road, I-280, and Skyline on our way down to the coast (amazing views!) into Pacifica. Of course, this means we have to climb back up from the coast, and we'll do that via Sharp Park Drive, which is somewhat steep but not stupidly so. This ride includes, as we've done in the past, some of the freeway-legal segments of I-280 and closely approximates Day 1 of the ride in terms of both climbing and distance. About 5,100 feet of climbing.

7. March 23: Palomares/Calaveras, 88 miles. We'll head across the bottom of the bay on a flat route to Milpitas, and then make our way up Mission Blvd. to Niles Canyon and tackle the 4.4-mile northbound Palomares climb (the "easier" direction). After a lunch stop in Castro Valley, we'll head across the Dublin Grade (again in the easier direction) and then down Foothill Blvd. into Sunol, where we'll do, yes, the "easier" southbound climb of Calaveras Road. About 4,100 feet of climbing.

8. April 6: South Bay Century, 100 miles. This is a giant loop around the South Bay, starting in the Palo Alto hills, across the Dumbarton Bridge, along the eastern edge of San Jose, around Evergreen College, and then up and over Silver Creek Valley Road, which includes one of the most thrilling urban descents anywhere in the Bay Area. After that, it's a mostly urban return through San Jose, Los Gatos, and Saratoga, which gives tired riders several chances to rest and refuel. About 3,000 feet of climbing.

9. April 20: Gilroy, 113 miles. We'll take a flat, direct route through downtown San Jose (which should be quite scenic and not very stressful at 7:30 on a Saturday morning) and down Monterey Highway into Morgan Hill. But then we'll climb the eastern foothills and go part of the way to Gilroy Hot Springs before riding along Cañada Road (a different Cañada than on the Peninsula), stopping for lunch in Gilroy, and then riding northbound around the western reservoirs on the way back ... which should help reduce the ferocity of any possible afternoon headwinds. About 3,400 feet of climbing.

10. May 4: Altamont Pass, 125 miles. The sixth annual Altamont Pass Double Metric! Everything you've heard is probably true: This is an epic ride that has a little bit of everything the Bay Area has to offer, yet it is usually very doable by any ALCer who can maintain the pace that's needed to complete the route within the 14 available hours of daylight. There are no stupidly ridiculous hills on the route; in fact, thanks to the prevailing winds, the descent from the original Altamont Pass on the historic Lincoln Highway often is more challenging than the climb! The final 40 miles of the ride are mostly urban and include a long haul through Hayward, Union City, and Fremont down Mission Blvd. About 2,800 feet of climbing, and plenty of stories that you'll tell in the years to come.

11. May 18: Celebration Ride! Details and distance are still tba, but I'll put together a special ride that's challenging but not stupidly so. Coastside is a likely destination.

Rides 1-4 run at an official pace of 10-12 mph. Beginning with Ride 5, the pace increases to 12-15 mph. Faster riders are always welcome, but be sure you know how to read a route sheet so you can navigate on your own.

When RSVPs are open, the rides will be posted both here and in the official ALC training ride calendar.

I look forward to riding with you on the 2013 Distance Training rides.

Photo: 2012 Altamont Pass Double Metric, by Terri Meier.

Ride report: Double Bay Double 2 (9/29-30/2012)

The second Double Bay Double is in the history books, and we had a weekend that provided challenging cycling, great company, an important cause, and countless displays of the human condition at its best.

Our group of 21 riders and 18 volunteers worked together over 210 miles and more than 9,000 feet of climbing to raise more than $17,000 for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation ... and because everyone gave freely of their time and money, there was no event overhead to the foundation, meaning that every dollar we raised is on its way to providing important services.

Day 1: 110 miles, Mountain View to Marina

Again this year, we gathered before sunrise in downtown Mountain View and were quickly on our way in the morning overcast. Our first challenge of the day was Old La Honda Road, and we were greeted at the base by the first of many pleasant surprises: friends taking photos and offering cupcakes. As we climbed up Old La Honda, we gained first-hand experience in temperature inversion, as the temperature at the top was about 20 degrees warmer than at the bottom.

After a quick rest stop at the Skywood Trading Post, we began the long descent down Highway 84 to La Honda. Many of us had shed clothing layers in the warmth at 1,758 feet above sea level, and we soon got a rude surprise as the temperature just as quickly dropped those same 20 degrees as we descended.

At La Honda, we took a left turn onto Pescadero Road to travel a part of the route that was new this year: both sides of Haskins Hill. Although this meant that we had a second significant climb, we were also able to avoid the repeated rolling hills along Highway 1 near San Gregorio. Plus, the route via Pescadero Road was about 2 miles shorter than going to San Gregorio, which was important from a route-planning standpoint; because we had to detour around the west side of Old La Honda Road this year, the route was already a bit longer than advertised. Also, the traffic on Cloverdale Road was much lighter than on Highway 1, and the route seemed generally a bit more pleasant.

When we emerged on the coast at Gazos Creek, we had a well-stocked (and themed!) rest stop waiting for us, and that energized the group for the run down Highway 1 through Davenport and into Santa Cruz. (We discovered a bit too late that without cellphone service at Gazos Creek, we couldn't update the live rider-tracking website in real time.) The tailwinds were light at best this year, keeping many riders' speeds down a bit but still providing a relatively comfortable 25 miles of cycling.

Santa Cruz, Capitola, and Aptos are tough to bicycle through: Lots of weekend traffic, much of it from out of the area and not familiar with the streets. We used a new route this year, mostly hugging the coastline all the way, and for me it worked out much better (although a couple of miles longer) than last year. The only report of trouble I heard was from a misbehaving local cyclist, not motorist, who almost caused an incident with one of our riders.

The next leg of the trip into Watsonville was mostly uneventful, but again without the strong tailwinds that propelled many riders last year. Our new route through Watsonville was somewhat improved, but the extra half-mile on busy Freedom Blvd. had a couple of dicey spots. The jury is still out on whether that was a fair price to pay for getting to the low-stress Clifford Avenue to get through much of the city.

The day's final segment around Elkhorn Slough isn't extremely hilly, but the repeated small rollers and occasional steep pitches certainly were attention-getting after about 95 miles. This year, however, we avoided bonus miles (as far as I know) by carefully describing the route out of Watsonville and showing lots of photos at Day 0. As I entered Castroville on the short segment of the Highway 156 freeway, I noticed that the mileage on the route sheet was suddenly off by about half a mile. Upon review that evening, I discovered that our route in Ride With GPS had a bug in it (which I've already fixed) that caused some undocumented loops around that point. My apologies for the error ... but the good news was that the route was half a mile shorter!

The first riders arrived in Marina at 3:14 p.m., and they continued to arrive in ones and twos until 6:20. The original plans for a "group dinner" morphed into a rolling wave of diners descending upon a local Italian restaurant ... which was probably for the better, given their extremely limited seating. Our lodging at the Comfort Inn seemed to be a step above last year's "official hotel" of the nearby Motel 6, and I had a moment of pleasure seeing the hotel lobby essentially taken over by cyclists.

But as I prepared to go to bed around 9 p.m., there were ominous signs outside. The fog had rolled in from the coast, and it was already so thick that it was practically misting in the parking lot. This, of course, is normal for the coast ... but it was quite different from the prediction of a clear, mild night.

Day 2: 100 miles, Marina to Mountain View

As usually happens to me during an event, I was awake way too early. When I looked outside the window just after 4 a.m., the fog was even thicker than it had been the night before. I checked the weather observations from around the area, and they showed visibility less than a quarter-mile everywhere along the first 50 miles of our route!

We started gathering in the Comfort Inn parking lot at about 6:30 in the sub-50-degree temperatures, and I started letting volunteers know that we would probably need to escort riders along a 5-mile section of San Juan Grade Road. This road, while just gently rolling in the run-up to the actual climb, is rural, straight, and shoulderless, and it carries a decent amount of traffic -- a combination that would be dangerous in thick fog.

So it was with some trepidation that we hit the road at 7:00 for the normally easy ride into Salinas. This is part of the ALC Day 2 route, and it's usually characterized by a generous tailwind. But that didn't happen this time; instead, a brisk headwind developed out of the east, and I was exerting myself just a bit too much as I tried to keep up with most of the riders who were following behind me.

This, however, turned out to be a very good thing indeed. The wind quickly blew all of the fog out to sea, and by the time we reached Salinas, skies had become quite sunny and bright. We wouldn't need to escort the riders, and our faster cyclists quickly took off and were on their way back north. (Has the National Weather Service ever been so wrong about so many things in so short a time?)

After an amazingly well-stocked rest stop in Salinas, we began the trek toward San Juan Grade. Now under sunny skies, temperatures began to rise quickly, and more layers of clothing were coming off. The ascent of San Juan Grade usually provides the most scenic imagery of the event, and in the light wind, it wasn't all that difficult for most riders. The descent, on the other hand, is still the same patched-over 80-year-old pavement that's annoyed cyclists for years. This was my first time there on my new bike, and it seemed not quite as bad as in the past. Another cyclist, also on a new bike, made a similar observation.

At San Juan Bautista, the nature of our riding changed dramatically. We went from quiet backroads to the very busy, high-speed hustle and bustle of Highway 156 toward Hollister. Even early on a Sunday morning, the highway was packed with cars and a surprising number of large trucks. The shoulder was nice, smooth, and (mostly) wide, but it was still quite a change.

After curving to the left onto the Hollister bypass, I again had my favorite moment of the ride: the part of Highway 156 that rolls through mostly-barren golden hills with mountains visible in just about every direction. More than any other, this three-mile segment is always where I feel like I've gone somewhere far away from my usual travels. Even the heavy traffic didn't bother me one bit as I actually slowed down a bit to take in every scenic moment.

The ride on Highway 25 into Gilroy is notorious for extreme headwinds, but most of us had no such problem this time. Winds were light, and the biggest annoyance was the mystery Caltrans employee(s) who blocked the entire shoulder with a portable message sign. I dismounted and carefully walked around the sign, doing my best to rearrange the traffic cones to make something resembling a cycle path without venturing into the nasty rumble strips. Highway 25 isn't totally alien to cyclists, so Caltrans should have known better.

Gilroy is where things started getting serious. Temperatures were starting to heat up, and the humidity was falling dramatically -- from 82% in the morning to only 17% in the afternoon. Any last excess layers of clothing were quickly shed at our new rest stop at the Garlic Farm, and our volunteers were hard at work getting more ice.

We headed into and through Gilroy after the rest stop (instead of before, as we did last year), and a small route change allowed us to avoid a nasty section of Highway 152 in town. But then the climbing began as we headed northwest into the hills. The climbing up to around around the Uvas Reservoir isn't steep or long at all. But after more than 160 miles of cycling, many cyclists were feeling every last foot of elevation gain. And with temperatures officially into the 90s by then -- which meant an on-the-pavement temperature well into the triple digits -- the difficulty level of the ride suddenly increased for many of us.

That's why it was so nice to see friendly faces at Rest Stop 4, new this year at the Uvas Reservoir. Julie and Amar of AIDS/LifeCycle graciously offered to come down from San Francisco (and bring their tent!) and staff this rest stop for us pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

I left the rest stop and headed back onto Uvas Road in good spirits, but the conditions quickly got the best of me. Soon, I was stopping every 2 or 3 miles, often taking in some Sport Beans, Clif Bloks, and/or salt pills. And drinking water, lots of water. This is where I had difficulty last year, and the weather wasn't nearly as bad. Also, I slowed my pace significantly and deliberately. I was at least a couple of hours ahead of closing time, and there was no rush at all. In short, I shifted from "ride strong" mode into "just ride" mode -- a self-preservation move.

After about 12 miles, I tried to take a drink from my 70-ounce Camelbak and found that it was empty, although it had just been filled at the last rest stop. (I later discovered that it wasn't really empty, but some of the ice in it just hadn't melted yet.) Fortunately, I also had a water bottle full of mixed Perpetuem, but it had become an overheated, poor-tasting mess by that point.

We had been alerted that members of the South Bay Blaze group were setting up an unofficial rest stop for us somewhere near the beginning of the San Jose metro area. So I was surprised -- and more than a little grateful -- to see them a little bit sooner than expected, just before the end of McKean Road, set up in a school parking lot, complete with tent, water, ice, and snacks. It's definitely not an exaggeration to say that, without this extra rest stop, some riders might not have been able to complete the day.

After that, we were back into the Silicon Valley traffic and (for most of us) familiar territory. So even though temperatures were still insanely hot for the last day of September, things were looking up because the end of the ride was now a much more tangible thing. After a final rest stop in Los Gatos, the run into Saratoga and through Cupertino and Sunnyvale began to feel like a celebratory ride ... even though the thermometer at Saratoga High School reported 98 degrees even at 3:40 p.m.

I was riding faster now, but I was still taking frequent breaks, and I was often pouring some of my water-bottle water over my head and onto my face. Even though the water was toasty-hot by then, it provided a precious couple of minutes of cooling once I got back in motion.

As we got closer to Mountain View, temperatures began to moderate ever so slightly, and the final 3 miles from Loyola Corners were the usual all-downhill relaxing ride that has become familiar from so many training rides. I rolled across the finish line at 4:57 p.m. -- almost a full hour behind last year for essentially the same route -- but I had survived, and I had conquered.

There were still six other riders on the route, and the last two crossed the line at 6:11 p.m. Again, the careful plans for a celebration dinner sort of fizzled, but some folks went to Fiesta del Mar Too as planned.

Observations

Of our 21 riders who began the event, two did not finish for various reasons, and one other rider was briefly hospitalized after the event for dehydration, but everyone seems to have recovered. There were no crashes or accidents during the event, and that's always a good thing.

We had no major mechanical issues, only the usual assortment of squeaks, flats (the roads seemed unusually full of broken glass this year), and even one instance of chain lube that was melting due to the extreme heat. As is often the case with such things, our bike techs provided a most useful service (especially when I got a flat -- my first-ever flat on any charity event -- just 7 miles from the end and was too heat-stressed to do much of anything on my own), and I am certain that had we not had the bike techs, we would have had serious issues that required them. That's the way such things usually work.

I still have two event jerseys available: one L and one XL. They're $70 each; let me know if you'd like one. Also, if you didn't get the event T-shirt, let me know. I still have several S, M, and XL; my apologies for running out of Ls.

As the ride director, I cannot say enough good things about our determined riders and our amazing volunteers. More than once, I stood back and just took in everything that was happening around me, and I marveled at how everybody knew what to do to make it all come together. Yes, I was the facilitator, but it is each of you who embody the spirit and vision of DBD and turn it into reality.

One measure of that determination: People are already asking me about DBD3. I'll work on that later, probably starting in early 2013. For now, I'm taking a brief break off the bike (perhaps only a week or so) followed by a very low-intensity month. Then, when November arrives, I'll begin my seventh year as an AIDS/LifeCycle training ride leader, and I'll start working on our plans for the sixth year of the Distance Training rides in Mountain View, culminating in my next big event: the Altamont Pass Double Metric next May.

My fundraising page for ALC12 is open for business, although I'm determined to keep it low-key until at least sometime after the first of the year. (Year-round fundraising wears everybody out, you and me alike.) But if you never got around to donating to my DBD2 page, you can now go to my ALC12 page and help the same great cause: the important work of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Thanks again to everyone who made DBD2 a success. Thanks also go again to Different Spokes San Francisco for providing the legal framework without which DBD would not be possible, and to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation for allowing DBD to be part of their Greater Than One endurance events program and handling all of the fundraising for us. Also this year, DSSF provided generous financial support for T-shirts and many of the SAG and rest stop supplies.

When I created this event in 2011, I had a sense of what I wanted it to feel like. Again this year, each of you made it an extraordinary weekend that exceeded even my best hopes. To each of you, thank you.

(Photos by DBD2 participants and friends)

DBD2 training ride #8: Pacifica (9/15/2012)

Date: Saturday, September 15
Meet time: 8:00 a.m.
Ride-out time: 8:30 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 2 moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 79

Description:

We'll wrap up this season's Mountain View training rides with a challenging ride up the Peninsula that has "lumpy" terrain very similar to that which you'll experience on the event.

You'll be treated to amazing views on our final descent to the coast, you'll enjoy the change of pace as you ride through Pacifica, and you'll be challenged by the moderately steep climb up Sharp Park Road back to Skyline. Our helpful ride leaders and SAG driver will be on hand to help you succeed with grace and style.

Strava reports about 5,100 feet of climbing for this route.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD2 training ride #7: Saratoga Gap (9/8/2012)

Date: Saturday, September 8
Meet time: 8:30 a.m.
Note the earlier time!
Ride-out time: 9:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 4 - steep hills, long climbs
Miles: 75

Description:

Due to a street festival in Mountain View, you will not be able to access our meeting location from Castro Street. Use Shoreline Blvd. to Villa Street.

Today, we'll head to Saratoga and climb all the way up Highway 9 to Saratoga Gap, a 7.4-mile climb that gains almost 2,100 feet. Of course, we don't stop there. After that, we'll ride along the crests of the Peninsula range along Skyline Blvd. and then descend the amazingly scenic west side of Alpine Road down to La Honda, where we pick up Highway 84 for a 7-mile climb back to the summit. But wait, there's more! After we return to Woodside, we'll head up Cañada Road to do the little climb and descent on Edgewood Road. And there's still more! We'll finish by revisiting La Cresta Drive in Los Altos Hills and, yes, one final trip around the Los Altos Golf & Country Club.

Total climbing for this ride is about 6,400 feet. You will need to pace yourself accordingly to make it through the entire route, but completing this ride will give you a deep sense of accomplishment and build confidence for your upcoming big event.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD2 training ride #6: Tunitas Creek (9/1/2012)

Date: Saturday, September 1
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 4 - steep hills, long climbs
Miles: 69

Description:
Tunitas Creek Road is one of the signature climbs of the Peninsula coastside, climbing about 2,000 feet over 9 miles with the steepest parts in the middle. That's where we're going today. But since we're starting in Mountain View, we first have to get to Tunitas Creek ... and that means climbing over the Peninsula range just to get there. We'll do that by climbing Old La Honda Road, a 3.3-mile climb that gains about 1,300 feet, and then descending Highway 84 to San Gregorio. And if that's not enough climbing, we've got a tiny little surprise waiting for you in the last few miles.

Total climbing for this ride is about 6,000 feet. You will need to pace yourself accordingly to make it through the entire route, but completing this ride will give you a deep sense of accomplishment and build confidence for your upcoming big event.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD2 training ride #5: New Almaden (8/25/2012)

Date: Saturday, August 25
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - some steep climbs
Miles: 60

Description:
We take a week off from the giant climbs and spend some time on repeated smaller climbs of the type we'll be seeing on the event in September. We start with a familiar route through Stevens Canyon and up and over Mount Eden into Saratoga and onward to Los Gatos. Then it's up and over Shannon Road and into south San Jose for a quick run along Almaden Expressway. We'll return by doing the Kennedy Road climb into Los Gatos, revisiting the Sobey/Chester rollers from two weeks ago, and finishing with an easy return (no surprise last-minute hills this week) into Mountain View.

This ride has about 3,100 feet of climbing. Be sure to bring plenty of water and electrolyte replacement, especially if it's hot.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

Los Altos Hells (9/3/2012)

Date: Monday, September 3
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 4 - very steep hills
Miles: 28

Description:
The cyclists flock to tiny little Los Altos Hills. But most of them stick to the same old tired routes that we've done so many times -- Foothill, El Monte, Elena, Purissima -- that we can practically do them with our eyes shut. (But, kids, please don't try this at home.)

This is not one of those rides.

Your friendly ride leader has chosen seven climbs in Los Altos Hills that all have grades of at least 10%: Highlands, Mora, Quinnhill, Viscaino south, La Barranca, Altamont, and Viscaino north. He's done them all before, but never all on just one ride. None of the hills are longer than half a mile, so you can always cross-train them. And there's an easy ride back to Mountain View from almost anywhere on the route, so you can call it a day after you've conquered just one, two, three, four, five, or six of the hills.

The entire ride is only about 28 miles and has only about 2,400 feet of climbing. (Other than the seven hells, the route is merely mellow to moderate.) No food stop is planned on this ride, although we go near downtown Los Altos just before the halfway point. No SAG or sweep coverage is anticipated, so be ready to challenge yourself.

(Note: This is NOT part of the DBD2 training ride series. There are no hills this steep on Double Bay Double.)

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

Ride report: DBD2 training ride #1 (7/21/2012)

Go, riders!

Our series of eight DBD2 training rides kicked off in Mountain View this morning with 18 riders (that's a lot for a summer series), and we were greeted by sunny skies, light winds, and temperatures that ranged from warm to downright hot.

For those of you who did the Distance Training rides, the temperature change from winter to summer is one of the big differences between training for AIDS/LifeCycle and for DBD. Another big difference is that we're now training for a route that, mile for mile, is a bit more hilly than ALC. And finally, reading a route sheet and navigating the territory are two skills that you usually don't need for ALC but which are essential for DBD.

First, the weather. One of the most common questions about DBD is "What's the weather like?" There is, alas, no easy answer. Long-term averages suggest that Day 1 is generally cool to mild with a moderate tailwind to help us down the coast, with fog and perhaps scattered light drizzle common in late September. That's pretty close to what we experienced last year on DBD1. But the averages for Day 2 suggest a warm to hot day that's dry and has moderate to strong headwinds for part of the day. That's not even close to what we had last year; instead, we had cool temperatures, light winds, and even a few light showers between Morgan Hill and San Jose. The only thing about the weather on the event that seems likely is that we will experience many different microclimates. That's why it will be important -- just like it was in the winter and spring -- to dress in layers and be prepared for almost anything.

Hills. Yes, hills. We had quite a few today, but I hope you noticed that none of them were too stupidly difficult. That's also a good approximation of what you'll experience on the event in September. Much of the nearly 6,000 feet in climbing will come along Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz, where ALCers will be very familiar with the never-ending undulations of the coastal highway. The biggest climb of Day 1 is Old La Honda Road, about 3.4 miles at 7% grade, so even that isn't too bad. But after more than 100 miles of countless small hills, even little hills can start to seem annoying. And because DBD uses a different route south of Santa Cruz than does ALC, we've got a series of small hills right around mile 95 of Day 1. The moral is to pace yourself throughout the day; it's better to start conservatively and finish strong.

And then there's the route sheet. When I say that DBD is a "randonneuring-style" event, this is one of the big things that I mean. Our route isn't visibly marked with arrows, signs, or anything else, so it's vital that you use your route sheet to get from beginning to end. In fact, having fun with navigation and wayfinding is one of the most interesting parts of the event. One way that we help you with this is by publishing the event route in advance, probably one to two weeks ahead of time. This will give you an opportunity to study the route and focus on any areas where you might not yet be familiar with the surroundings. Likewise, all of my training ride routes are published in advance. You can see the routes in Ride With GPS after I publish them on the training ride calendar, and the actual route sheets for each training ride are usually available two or three days before the ride. Again, remember that navigation is as much a part of this event as is pedaling! Your goal is to ride as few "bonus miles" as possible ... hopefully zero.

What's next? We're dark next week for the annual DSSF picnic. But we're back in two weeks on Saturday, August 4 with a 45-mile ride that again goes up the Peninsula but to some different locations. We'll travel to the end of the pavement on Alpine Road, and we'll visit a few more hidden gems in Los Altos Hills. You can find out more and RSVP here or on the DBD Facebook page. (Be sure to Like our page!)

And if you haven't registered for DBD2 yet, go ahead and do it now. There are only 22 cyclist spots left, and I know several folks who have been putting it off. Registration is only $35, and the fundraising minimum is only $300. And because DBD is entirely volunteer-driven, every fundraising dollar that you raise goes directly to the programs and services of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation with no event overhead.

Thanks for riding with us today!

DBD2 training ride #4: Kings Mountain (8/18/2012)

Date: Saturday, August 18
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 4 - long climbs
Miles: 55

Description:
Kings Mountain is one of the signature climbs of the Peninsula, topping out at an elevation of 2,421 feet. (That's just a little bit less than Mt. Tam!) It's a long but mostly consistent climb of about 7%, so it's not stupidly steep. But you definitely need to pace yourself to have enough energy to make it to the top with grace and aplomb. After reaching the summit, we'll head back into Woodside on the Highway 84 descent.

But are we done? Of course not! After traveling around the backside of the Portola loop, we'll make our way into Los Altos Hills where we'll do a bit more climbing (Elena, Stonebrook, Magdalena) before we finally head back to Mountain View.

This ride has about 4,000 feet of climbing. Be sure to bring plenty of water and electrolyte replacement, especially if it's hot.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD2 training ride #3: Stevens Canyon (8/11/2012)

Date: Saturday, August 11
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep hills
Miles: 50

Description:
This week, we head up Stevens Canyon to the end of the paved road -- a gradual but persistent climb that takes us to an elevation of 1,125 feet. Next, we'll climb Mount Eden (but not Pierce!) and head into Saratoga for our first rest stop. Then it's over to Los Gatos and back into our second rest stop, which will be at the same location. (A savvy cyclist can figure out an easy short cut.) We finish with an out-and-back climb of Prospect Road to the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve. After that, it's mostly an easy return back to Mountain View ... except for our little run past Rancho San Antonio.

Total climbing on this ride is about 3,000 feet.

(If you're in or near San Francisco and want a closer option, consider attending today's DSSF Jersey Ride instead.)

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

Ride report: RUSA Moss Beach 200k (7/7/2012)

I faithfully send my $20 dues to Randonneurs USA every year, but I rarely participate in their events. More often than not, they conflict with some aspect of my training schedule. And the "entry-level" brevet is a full 200 kilometers, which of course is the ultimate challenge -- not the first step -- in my annual Distance Training rides.

But the stars aligned this week, and Santa Cruz Randonneurs happened to be presenting a 200km event on a date that worked for me. Just one problem, though: The route was hilly. Up and down Highway 1 with a diversion into La Honda to climb Haskins Hill, which I'd tackled for the first time only a few weeks ago. But emboldened by my performance on a partial Climb to Kaiser last weekend, I hit the road to Santa Cruz at 4:30 a.m. Saturday ... although I had, perhaps unwisely, done a hilly 40-mile ride just the previous afternoon.

One thing is different about brevets right away: The starting location and the ending location often aren't the same place. In Santa Cruz, the difference isn't all that huge -- less than 2 miles -- but it adds another layer of logistical complexity. Some folks park near the start and then ride back at the end of the day, but for me, when my ride is done, it's done. So I parked at the finish instead -- as several other riders were doing when I arrived -- and did the short ride on the just-barely-light-enough-to-ride streets of Santa Cruz to the lighthouse.

Check-in consists of signing a waiver and receiving one's brevet card: the important document that you must carry with you the entire day and fill out at the checkpoints, or controls, in order to receive credit for completing the event. At each control, you do something like get a timestamped store receipt or answer a question about the location. This is how you prove to the organizers that you actually rode the entire route. (There are, of course, ways to circumvent this, but that wouldn't be very sporting now, would it. And at least one other rider would notice and say something.) I carefully put my brevet card in a plastic bag and placed it in my Camelbak.

There's another aspect to the route: the cut-off times. RUSA has specific time limits on its rides, and they're elapsed time limits. This means that the clock is running no matter what you're doing, be it riding, eating, resting, or anything else. And even if the actual route is slightly longer, there's also no extra time. (Today's route was actually 207km.) There's also no allowance for terrain; for a 200km event, the limit is always 13.5 hours, regardless of how hilly it is. My last official RUSA 200km brevet was in 2008, and my time was 11:14. (True randonneurs will say that it's about finishing and camaraderie, not about the time ... just like ALC is a ride and not a race. But the times of every RUSA finisher are dutifully recorded and are usually online for all to see for eternity.)

After a brief safety speech, our group of about 30 randonneurs was on the road at precisely 6 a.m. Much to our pleasure, there was no fog, there was no wind, and temperatures were in the lower 50s.

The route was almost entirely old hat for me. ALC, of course, goes down Highway 1, and I've been up Highway 1 both on my own and as part of other RUSA events. It's a "lumpy" route without big hills but which quickly builds up the climbing stats. The front group of serious, time-focused riders quickly headed off into the distance, leaving the rest of us to jockey for position. Some of us would fly forward on descents; others would recover time on the short climbs. There was a lot of back-and-forth and, much to my surprise, no significant pacelining (which RUSA does not prohibit, as long as the paceline consists only of riders on that event).

Alas, my stomach was not a happy stomach this morning. Some combination of the early hour and the previous night's Chinese take-out had left my stomach in a confused state where I took a pink bismuth before the ride. I started to think that a toilet might be good idea, and as I approached the Gazos Creek turnoff at mile 25, I had planned to use the portapotty that was at the mini-mart when we used it as a rest stop on DBD1 last autumn. But today, it was gone ... and the Gazos Grill next door appeared to be out of business. (This could give me some additional grief in planning the route for DBD2.)

So I pressed forward another 8 miles into Pescadero, where my store receipt indicates a time of 8:10, well ahead of the 9:36 cutoff time. We got there by taking Gazos Creek and Cloverdale roads, which are certainly a lower-traffic alternative to Highway 1 ... but one with a couple of rather steep pitches that were mercifully brief. On my previous visit to Pescadero, I had found a porta-potty behind a local church, and making prompt use of it today, I was no longer in quite as much gastric displeasure.

Next came the northbound ride up Stage Road to Pescadero and beyond to rejoin Highway 1: three nasty hills. I took them as gingerly as I could, knowing that there was plenty more climbing to come later in the day. By now, our group had become so dispersed that I saw only a couple of other riders, a couple of whom I passed, and another couple of whom flew right by me on the descent as if I was standing still. (Strava reports that I set a personal record on my descent into San Gregorio, but that I'm still ranked number 1,612 out of 1,745.)

The return to Highway 1 heralded the beginning of the mostly-flat section of the ride, through Half Moon Bay, up to the turnaround point at Moss Beach, and back. The north wind was still mercifully light, but the fog had rolled in, making for a chilly, moist mix. I thought this was the part of the ride where I would be the happiest, but I turned out to be wrong. The lumpy part of the route had at least given me short breaks where I could coast down hills; the flat route offered few such rests. When I arrived at mile 58 in Moss Beach, I still was doing mostly OK; my receipt time was 10:10 compared to the cutoff time of 12:12.

But with so many miles behind me already, what did I buy in the store? A sandwich? A snack? Nope. A gallon jug of water. And that was it. (It was cheaper than buying a chilled bottle, and I was able to share it with the few other riders who were also there.) I was drinking my Perpetuem, and I had a Clif Bar, but I was clearly running a heavy calorie deficit. I was focused on having a lunch of Subway comfort food when I returned through Half Moon Bay, and I was forgetting to eat enough before that.

Now, our route went south. But there still wasn't much wind, so there was hardly any benefit to be had. And it was still chilly and foggy. This was the new part of the route for me, between Half Moon Bay and Moss Beach, and it was, to put it mildly, singularly unexciting. Traffic was heavy, there was little scenery to be seen, and there were just enough traffic signals to disrupt one's pace. As I rolled into the shopping center in Half Moon Bay, it had happened again: I had become grumpy.

At the Subway, there was already a short line. Then, a family of three walked in the front door just as I was about to do so, and the thought of waiting for three more people's sandwiches to be prepared made me even grumpier. Then, when they couldn't decide what to order, I began a slow boil. The event clock was running! After nine minutes in line, I finally got my sandwich (only a six-inch sub, since I didn't want to run the risk of further antagonizing my stomach), and the Sandwich Artist™ skipped me ahead of the family, who were still trying to figure out what kind of sauce they wanted on Little Billy's Kid-Meal Extravaganza. I took my sandwich outside and ate, but I wasn't happy at all. And the various colorful characters of Half Moon Bay weren't helping my mood much, either.

I finally got back on the road. But I hadn't used the restroom at Subway because I didn't want to leave my bicycle unattended, so I made it only about 5 miles before I stopped at a beach parking lot. And while it still wasn't sunny, the temperature had finally risen to the point that I started to shed some of my clothing: the base layer and the arm warmers under my bright-green, RUSA-friendly jacket. Cooling down a bit, and having some more Clif Bloks, seemed to improve my mood somewhat, and I tackled the big climb up Highway 1 to the Stage Road turnoff.

As soon as I got just one mile inland, the sun came out. As I continued inland along Highway 84, things began to get noticeably warm. By the time I reached the third control in La Honda, I was sweating profusely, and I finally removed my jacket. (What? I couldn't have been bothered to stop by the roadside for just a minute to remove it earlier?) With a receipt time of 12:23 and no more scheduled controls, I did the math and realized that I had seven full hours to complete the final 44 miles of the route, so I gave myself permission to stop stressing about being a dreaded DNFer. But I still wasn't practicing proper nutrition; my entire purchase was one can of V-8 juice, with the rest of my second Perpetuem bottle on the side.

I started to think about my next time goal of the day: beating my previous 200km time of 11:14. That would be almost five hours for 44 miles, which seemed doable enough. What about 10 hours? That might be a little more difficult. But at La Honda, I had a seismic shift in thinking: Today's ride was no longer just about finishing; it was about finishing strongly. The mood shift was subtle but significant.

Haskins Hill was the next challenge. While it was tough -- and seemingly never-ending -- it really didn't bother me all that much, perhaps because it was similar to the hills I'd just tackled near Fresno the weekend before. The return trip down Cloverdale and Gazos Creek roads was over quickly enough, and I was back at Highway 1, where I stopped at the Gazos Creek mini-mart for another bottle of water and a giant bag of salted peanuts. The restroom inside the mini-mart was still "out of order" (although I didn't ask; I think that's just a ploy to keep non-customers from using it).

And then something nice happened. The wind picked up. And not just a little bit; it picked way up, almost as strong as it had been on ALC11 Day 1 just one month ago. I started to fly (at least by my standards) down Highway 1, exceeding 30 mph on several occasions. Except for a quick toilet break at Greyhound Rock (the site of ALC's Rest Stop 3), I did the final 25 miles non-stop ... and I did so even just a little bit faster than I did on ALC11.

I was way, way ahead of my 10-hour goal. Was 9.5 hours doable? Now that was going to be close. Alas, as soon as I hit the Santa Cruz weekend traffic, it was not to be. I waited at red lights, and at the left turn from Mission onto King, I actually had to dismount and walk across the street because traffic was so heavy that I wouldn't have been able to safely negotiate the left turn at a non-signalized intersection. And after I rolled in to the finish line, I stopped to turn off my Strava recording ... but my phone started to act slow and wonky, and I lost another minute in just doing that and hoping that I hadn't lost my recording of the ride. After I walked my bike into the finish area in the organizers' back yard, I received my official time: 3:33 p.m., for an elapsed time of nine hours and 33 minutes. (And it was a nice touch that Lois, who earlier had completed the worker's ride, was wearing her ALC11 victory shirt as she greeted us.)

My signed brevet card now goes off to France and the offices of the Audax Club Parisien, which will certify my results, affix a numbered sticker to the card, and record it in their giant book of all official brevet results worldwide since 1921. I should receive my official card back in the mail sometime around ... wait for it ... December.

My pace for the day? A surprisingly strong 15.6 mph, on very hilly terrain.

So, what did I learn from this experience?

-- I still haven't got this on-the-bike nutrition thing down right. I had enough food both before and after the ride that I didn't end the day grumpy, but I had a serious dip in the middle of the day that was just a hair shy of bonking. The time pressure was of my own making, of course, but even using pricey high-tech sports nutrition wasn't enough.

-- The hilly terrain didn't bother me nearly as much as I expected. I don't really want to think that I'm "good" at hills now (especially the descents), but at least they're tolerable. This is a good sign for DBD.

-- I could probably do another 300km brevet if I wanted. (I did so once, in 2010, and it was generally a very trying day.) The key would be to pace myself. Unfortunately ... or fortunately ... this year's Santa Cruz 300km event conflicts with a DBD2 training ride.

-- On both of my previous RUSA events, I was firmly near the back of the pack at the finish. This time, I was firmly in the middle. That's probably about as good as I'll ever get, and I think I'm OK with that.

On the morning after, as I write this, I'm feeling mostly OK, although my legs still tingle a bit. I haven't decided for sure whether to go out for a short ride today, but I'll probably do so ... even if it's only a trip to the bike shop to get my rear shifter cable readjusted after last weekend's replacement.

If you completed my Altamont Pass Double Metric, you can do a 200km brevet. It's an experience that I highly recommend: It exposes you to another group of non-ALC endurance riders (with some overlap, of course!), the rules have a small added layer of formality that's an interesting change of pace, and you might even get to see some new scenery. San Francisco Randonneurs has three 200km events coming up this fall. A $20 annual membership in Randonneurs USA qualifies you to buy a fancy medal for each event that you complete, and it gets you "American Randonneur," a very informative quarterly magazine that keeps you in the mind-set of endurance riding year-round.

But for me, it's now time to shift into the DBD2 training season, where we reset at 40 miles and build from there. The ride is less than three months away!

DBD2 training ride #2: Alpine Road (8/4/2012)

Date: Saturday, August 4
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep hills
Miles: 45

Description:
There's a lot of climbing in this ride, but almost all of it is short-lived ... just like most of the climbing that you'll encounter on the event in September.

After a very brief warm-up leaving Mountain View, we get right into it with a clockwise trip around the Loyola Corners golf course, followed by the short climb to the top of Barley Hill. Then we'll do a little more climbing in the Los Altos Hills before we eventually emerge at the intersection of Altamont and Page Mill, where we'll descend to the Arastradero nature preserve. After a quick rest stop in Portola Valley, we'll tackle our significant climb of the day: the 3.3-mile ride to the end of Alpine Road (followed by the corresponding descent, of course). We'll travel the backside of the Portola loop into Menlo Park for our second rest stop.

We could have chosen to take a direct route back from there, but nooooo. Instead, we'll return to Los Altos Hills for the often-overlooked 0.8-mile climb of La Cresta Drive, and only then will we wind our way back to Foothill Expressway for the easy return into Mountain View.

This is a moderately challenging ride, but it's very doable. We'll have a SAG vehicle on the route. Strava reports about 3,300 feet of climbing for this ride.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

Click here to RSVP now
RSVPs are recommended but not required.

DBD2 training ride #1: Woodside (7/21/2012)

Date: Saturday, July 21
Meet time: 9:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - moderate pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep hills
Miles: 40

Description:
The training season for DBD2 is officially under way! We begin by going "only" as far as Woodside, but we've got a somewhat hilly route to get there. We'll start by visiting the quarry in Los Altos Hills and climbing Elena Road behind Foothill College. Then it's a familiar route through the Arastradero nature preserve, around the backside of the Portola loop, and into Woodside for our rest stop.

After that, we'll head partway up Cañada Road and then take Jefferson Avenue back to the valley floor -- which, incidentally, involves a 0.7-mile climb before we can descend. We close with an easy route along Alameda de las Pulgas, Junipero Serra Blvd., and Foothill Expressway back into Mountain View.

Strava reports about 2,250 feet of climbing for this ride.

This ride is Caltrain-friendly; the first southbound train from San Francisco arrives in Mountain View at 9:29 a.m.

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Ride report: Climb to (Half) Kaiser, 6/30/2012

Photo credit: John Walker/The Fresno Bee
While the Climb to Kaiser is best known as a grueling 155-mile ride, there are also somewhat mellower options for mere mortals like myself. I've done the 70-mile metric(-plus) version several times, and I did the century ride once before, way back in 2005. After my recent cycling successes, I decided to return to Fresno this weekend to tackle "most" of the century route, including the 7.6-mile, 2,600-foot climb up old Tollhouse Road. This would be the ride that takes me past 50,000 total miles of cycling since I began training on June 1, 2004.

Why "most" of the century? On this year's ride, the century route continued an additional 6 miles past the top of Tollhouse and into Shaver Lake for lunch ... along very busy, winding, and narrow Highway 168. Add to that an extra 1,000 feet of climbing, and I had decided long before arriving that I was going to skip that out-and-back and do a still-robust ride of only about 85 miles. (As I learned during the day, many of the other century riders chose likewise.)

The day did not start smoothly, however. I left my hotel at 4:50 a.m. and drove the 6 miles to the starting point in Clovis. After I got there, I realized that I had left my Camelbak in my room! I quickly drove back and retrieved it, but by then I had just missed the 5:30 a.m. mass start -- and the associated police escort that provided free passage through all the traffic signals in Clovis.

I quickly got moving on my own. The police escorts must have been efficient; although I rode out at 5:36, they were completely gone by the time I got to every signal except for the very last one at mile 7. A couple of miles into the ride, as I was making a turn, I noticed another cyclist coming into the route from the other direction. He had his event number on, and he said, "We're so late!" I followed him for a couple of miles and to the next turn.

Then I realized that he'd made a wrong turn, as did I, and he was already out of sight. Fortunately, the streets are laid out in an almost-perfect grid, and I knew the area well enough that I was able to get back on the official route within a couple of miles. But I was all by myself, at the beginning of the ride where in the past I've been able to get some wind benefit from being in the large group of riders.

I left the trappings of the city and got out into the countryside, and still nobody else. Finally, around mile 12, I passed a rider stopped at an intersection. Then a couple miles later, a small paceline finally passed me. But it was clear that the vast majority of riders were way ahead of me. At first, this disappointed me, but then I decided that this was a good thing because that meant that they wouldn't be passing me all day long -- the Kaiser riders are notoriously strong.

As I entered Watts Valley Road, I began to see more signs of event life: an occasional SAG vehicle or motorcycle support, a rider or two. I'd last been out here in October 2010 with a small group from DSSF, and it was my first time here with the new bicycle and with Strava running. And I started overtaking cyclists. One here, another there. And nobody was passing me? I'm not overly fast on climbs, but I was approaching the tail end of the mass-start group.

Rest Stop 1
The first big climb of the day began at mile 24 -- which, by coincidence, was exactly mile 50,000 for me. Wildcat Grade is 3.6 miles with an average grade of only 5.2%, but that's highly misleading: Parts are downhill, parts are gently rolling, and, yes, parts are 16%, especially toward the end. And all the way up to the top, nobody passed me! I wasn't exerting myself all that much because I knew there were big climbs still to come, but I seemed to "fly" (if you can call 6 mph flying) by other riders all the way up the hill. And as I pulled into Rest Stop 1 at the top of the hill, I easily had a couple dozen riders behind me. It's a ride, not a race, etc., but yes, that made me happy.

A long descent, another climb (where, yes, a few folks finally did overtake me), and another short climb later, and I was at Rest Stop 2 at the base of the Tollhouse climb. This is where, in past years, I would have taken the metric route directly back to Fresno, but not today. My spreadsheet says my last climb up Tollhouse was on Sept. 10, 2006, and I distinctly remember that it was quite painful, taking 82 minutes to go from the Tollhouse Market to the top. (This is why I keep such detailed records!)

To get right to the good part: My time on this ride was 68 minutes. And it wasn't painful at all, except for the last half-mile or so where the average grade is 12% and some parts hit 20%. Again, I didn't push hard at all, and I probably could have shaved another couple minutes off my time if I had tried harder. But I was passing cyclists all the way up, including the one couple who said, "You make it look so easy!" I even skipped the water stop a mile from the top because I didn't want an interruption in my elapsed time for the climb (see also "The Strava Effect").

At the top at mile 48, about 4,600 feet up, the official route took the forementioned right turn up Highway 168. I stopped and dismounted and pondered my options. I certainly felt good enough to continue up to Shaver Lake, but I had decided earlier that I would not do so ... and since I had told the ride organizers of my plan, I didn't want to show up at Shaver Lake and use the rest stop services. Also, I knew that I had nothing extra to prove to myself today. Instead, I dismounted and ran quickly across the four-lane highway and picked up the route again at mile 59.

The rest stop issue wasn't an issue at all, because just a quarter-mile farther along the route was the next rest stop at Pine Ridge. I thought I was back in ALC! It was a luau-themed rest stop, complete with a volunteer in grass skirt and coconut bra with a garden hose to cool down overheated riders. (The temperatures weren't that warm yet.) Even better, a massage therapist was there with his table ... and since I had arrived early, I got to be his first client of the day. A few quick minutes, and my lower back was no longer complaining about the Tollhouse climb, and I was ready for the ride back to Fresno.

Since I'd just climbed to 4,600 feet, most of the remainder would be downhill, with an occasional break or two for small hills, but nothing significant at all. And it went quickly! When I reached Pine Ridge, my pace for the day to that point had been only 11.6 mph. But at the end of the day, I was at 14.1 mph, so you do the math.

I took the descents in my usual cautious way, but the new bicycle seems to have allowed me to slightly increase my speed ... I averaged 23 mph on the 10-mile descent (with a couple of uphill interludes) into Auberry. A quick rest stop near Millerton Lake, and as the mercury approached 90 degrees, I hit the final stretch back to Fresno.

As I rounded the last turn, I started to shift, and it wouldn't shift all the way, but I was able to complete the final half-mile without incident. I learned after the ride that my rear shifter cable had just failed (and it's being replaced as I write this). Imagine what would have happened if I had done the extra 11 miles!

My total riding time was 6:05 for just under 86 miles, at about 14.1 mph. When I last did the Tollhouse route seven years ago, I completed 100 miles (which didn't include the Shaver Lake out-and-back anyway, because it wasn't part of the route that year) in 8:34, for a pace of 11.7 mph. This was an appropriately uplifting way to reach 50,000 miles (and to exceed 1,100 miles in a month for my first time ever).

I arrived at the check-in desk and turned around so the staff could record my rider number. Because I had arrived before the scheduled 2 p.m. free dinner, I simply went back to my vehicle and headed back to my motel. Things seemed a bit subdued and a bit "off," I didn't know any of the other riders, and I really wanted a hot shower anyway.

What I did not know until later in the day was that there had been a fatality on the ride in the morning. It happened on a winding, steep, high-speed, high-altitude part of the route that only the full Kaiser riders use and that I hadn't been on. This was a painful reminder to me that descents are one of the most dangerous aspects of our sport ... and that I really don't need to gain five or six seconds on Strava at the risk of injury or death. In fact, the 10-mile, 23-mph decsent into Auberry -- the one that pleased me so much -- is actually the slowest descent ever recorded by anybody in Strava (out of 139 riders) for that segment.

The only other disappointment of the day was how motorists behaved in the higher elevations. Even though I was staying to the right and providing plenty of room to pass, one yahoo with a truck-style air horn attached to his 4x4 felt the need to repeatedly sound it as he stayed behind me and finally passed me more than a little too closely. And just outside Auberry on a reasonably flat stretch of road, another yahoo in a pickup coming in the opposite direction on a wide, two-lane road with a center line felt the need to yell "Idiot!" at me for no apparent reason. I know that cycling has become very popular in the mountainous areas where we are usually just guests -- and I also know that some cyclists behave like idiots as well -- but that's no excuse to lash out at everyone. I lived in Fresno for four years, so I had more than my share of run-ins with the colorful local population ... and it's one of the reasons why I don't go back there more often. The cycling scenery and variety are unmatched anywhere else in California, but it's not worth getting hit or run off the road.

But I'm glad I did my own personal abbreviated half-Kaiser yesterday. I was able to return to a route I'd not done in a long time, and I was able to reaffirm that, yes, I actually have become a better cyclist.

View more of The Fresno Bee's photos of the event here.

Countdown to 50,000

On top of Hoover Dam last month
I've added a new counter to the upper right corner of the blog. That's because I'm closing in on 50,000 miles of cycling since I bought a "proper" bike on June 1, 2004, and officially began training for my first AIDS/LifeCycle ride two years later. (I'm now on my third bike since then.)

When will I hit 50k? What am I going to do for the occasion? That's the type of thing that's almost impossible for me to predict, since I really don't know from one day to the next whether I'll ride or how much. The smart money says it will be in early July. And there just happens to be a 200km RUSA event in Santa Cruz in early July, but I'm not at all certain I want to do it; it's yet another trip mostly up and down Highway 1, and I get enough of that between ALC and DBD.

But maybe I'll think of something special, and maybe I'll be able to not do it by myself. In the meantime, one of the best ways to congratulate me on 50k will be to support my DBD2 ride to benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.