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Ride report: Distance Training #1 (1/14/2012)

Go, riders!

This is the first ride report for the 2012 ALC11 Distance Training rides. These reports capture my first impressions soon after each ride, and they will be posted here after every ride, and I'll also email a copy to every rider whose email address I can decipher from either an RSVP or a sign-in sheet. (If you don't get an email copy, it's not because I don't like you!) This online version usually will have a few photos as well, sometimes by me but also often by some of your other riders and ride leaders. One thing to note is that I write only about things that I experience or hear from others. In our large groups, it's possible -- and even likely -- that other things might happen. Always please feel free to share your ride experiences with me, especially if there's anything we can do to make your training more successful.

Today's season opener had a whopping 53 riders -- that's the most ever for a first ride out of Mountain View. And with only a couple of exceptions, everyone completed the 42-mile route and did so in great time! Being this strong so early in the season is a good sign and points toward a successful season. But please try to keep your training fun: Go on rides from other locations, meet other riders, and test your limits gently. If training stops being fun, then you've probably gone too far, and you should dial it back a notch or two. I want you to be excited when we ride out on Day 1 ... which is just, yes, 22 weeks from tomorrow. (Egads!)

At "only" 42 miles, today's ride was about as long and as difficult as the shortest day of AIDS/LifeCycle. On rides of this distance, many of us can afford to ride "all out" and complete the route near the top range of our usual paces. But as our training rides get longer and we get closer to June, many of us will want to revise that strategy. A key secret to AIDS/LifeCycle success is pacing yourself. There's no prize for getting into camp first, second, 100th, or 2,400th, and everyone has the same 12.5-hour time limit for most days of the event. On our third training ride, coming up in early February, we'll see the importance of pacing yourself when we simulate the stresses of a multi-day event. And as our training rides reach and exceed 100 miles, you'll want to set a consistent pace that you could essentially keep "forever." This pace will be different for everyone, and I encourage you to start working now to discover what your magic pace should be.

Before today's ride, I made a big deal about safety and our rules of the road. This isn't just idle chatter from me to fill time while the last couple of riders sign in; it truly is a big deal for all the reasons that I mentioned. A couple of things I noticed while riding today:
  • A few folks, mostly first-year riders, didn't always call out "On your left" or "Car back." These are very important because this is the type of communication that our riders expect from one another. In particular, "Car back" should echo up a line of riders from person to person. Even if someone near you already has called it out, you should do so as well.

  • We don't do pacelining on ALC, either on training rides or on the event. This isn't because we dislike faster riders; it's because our group of riders is so large and contains riders of so many skill levels that pacelines can become a hazard. A good guideline is that if you're deriving any aerodynamic benefit from the rider in front of you, then you're probably following too closely. This is also important because we often need to make sudden stops or movements on the event, and we need time to react to what happens in front of us.

  • We always ride single-file in ALC, even in marked bike lanes where California law allows us to ride side by side. This is because we always need to leave a clear path for faster cyclists to pass us. If you've been stuck behind side-by-side riders on Foothill Expressway, you know why this is important!

A few folks took some wrong turns today and got to ride some "bonus miles." Reading a route sheet is generally not a skill that you need for June, but it is one that you need for training rides since our training routes are not visibly marked. For our Mountain View rides, the routes are always published in advance, so please take a few minutes to study the route, especially if parts are unfamiliar to you. Although we often ride on popular cycling routes, we often make turns at unexpected places and might not be following other riders who aren't part of our group. If you're not familiar with part of a route, please don't hesitate to ask a ride leader to ride with you through that part of the route. Our Mountain View rides usually have an abundance of ride leaders, and we're here to help you and prevent disappointment and frustration.

Finally, mostly for all the new riders this year, a couple of words about me. This is my sixth consecutive year as an ALC ride leader and also my sixth year doing the ride. (I skipped the ride last year, and I missed it so much that I ended up driving to the first four days of the ride and handing out food and water!) I resumed bicycling in June 2004 after being off the bike for many years, and since then I've racked up (as of today's ride) 45,721 miles. Like all your other ride leaders, I'm an unpaid volunteer, and I actually have other things that keep me busy when I'm not on my bike. Each of us brings a unique story to AIDS/LifeCycle, and I invite you to share your stories with me or any of the other leaders; they're a source of inspiration to us all.

Our next ride is in two weeks, on January 28. We'll go to Los Gatos and tackle some attention-getting hills, but the total climbing is only about 10% more than what we did today. You can find out more and RSVP here. The weather forecast is looking a little iffy, but remember that we cancel rides only in heavy rain. I strongly recommend getting some experience riding in the rain because, with the increasingly weird weather of recent years, I wouldn't be at all surprised if we start seeing more rain during the event in June. And in June, we ride rain or shine unless things become so truly awful as to pose a safety hazard (as they once did a few years ago).

Thanks for riding, I hope to see you again soon, and thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.