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Ride report: Distance Training #5 (3/10/2012)

Go, riders!

Our rides are getting longer ... and getting serious. Our group of 45 intrepid cyclists faced several physical and mental challenges on today's 69-mile route, so we got plenty of practice in dealing with the issues that can arise during the event in June.

First, of course, was the climbing. Metcalf is no slouch of a hill! It's steeper and a bit longer than Quadbuster, although you tackle Quadbuster at the beginning of your third consecutive day in June, so it often feels tougher than if you did it fresh. Just remember to pace yourself and take breaks if necessary; even though some web application might be awarding you faux "medals" for being fastest up the hill, there is no prize in June for being first, second, 500th, or 2,500th into camp. (The last rider every day, however, does get an impressive motorcycle escort into camp!) I always get a bit sad when I hear of an ALCer who does the ride one year and then doesn't come back because they overexerted to the point of injury.

Second today was the wind. I'm not quite sure how we managed to get a headwind going in both directions, but we had unusually bad luck. That said, however, the wind wasn't nearly as bad as it can be in south San Jose, and we'll get another shot at testing our luck in six more weeks when we return to the area for our 100-mile ride. A strong headwind, especially one that's chilly or hot, certainly makes your ride harder, but it also can foul your mood. And from a safety standpoint, wind can make it harder for other riders to hear you call out, so it's important in windy conditions to really use your outside voice.

Also today was the distance. 70 miles is a long way, longer than a couple of days of the event in June, and especially so if today was your longest ride ever. (Congratulations!) As we move quickly into true endurance cycling, a lot of things change from what you might be accustomed to if you traditionally ride shorter distances at faster paces. Pacing yourself becomes vitally important, as do proper nutrition and hydration. Your calorie expenditures start going way up, and you need to replace most of that. How you do that is different for everyone, but now is the time for you to be figuring out what works for you, and how you can follow your plan in June. Remember to ride as much as possible in a "happy gear," and find a pace that you can essentially maintain forever ... because seven days in a row sure can feel like forever.

Today's fourth item on the list was every ... freakin' ... traffic ... light ... on Capitol Avenue. It was getting late in the day, the wind already had you stewing, the traffic was heavy, and then a pedestrian would press the button to cross all four lanes plus the light rail tracks, and you'd have to stop and wait for nearly a whole minute while that one person held everything up. Or you'd reach a major intersection just as the signal turned yellow, and you'd be stuck there through a whole three-minute cycle -- when all you wanted to do at that point was just get back to Mountain View already. Yes, I was there, too!

I'd like to say that I specifically included Capitol Avenue on the route just to annoy you as part of the training, but that honestly wasn't my intent. There is, however, a very important lesson to be learned there: In June, things happen to annoy you. Little things, big things, all kinds of things beyond your control. And if you let them get to you, your ride stops being fun, and your negative energy starts to affect other riders as well -- not just mentally, but also perhaps physically when you start riding more aggressively or less cautiously. And this isn't purely hypothetical! When we leave Santa Cruz on Day 2, we have an even more challenging abundance of signals. In San Luis Obispo on Day 4, we ride through a long, busy commercial district. And along PCH on Day 7, we have extremely heavy traffic and signals.

I've said it before: Don't ride angry. If you start feeling angry, get off the bike for a few minutes. It also might be a signal that your nutrition is out of whack! This isn't just for your own good; it's to keep everyone else safe as well.

What's next? In two weeks, we'll do an 80-mile ride that has more climbing than any other Mountain View ride this season, even the longer ones. (It's almost twice as much climbing as we did today.) Our destination again is somewhere we've never gone on a Mountain View ride -- the ocean at Pacifica -- and our route to and from there is among the rolling hills of the Peninsula. Sure, we have a couple of significant climbs, but most of the elevation gain will come from short and/or rolling hills, so it doesn't feel as bad as it looks. I already test-rode the entire route, and I wasn't grumpy afterward! Another feature of this ride will be a little bit of true freeway cycling on, yes, Interstate 280. (Some parts are legal for bicycles, and we'll be on those parts ... on a wide, smooth shoulder, not in the traffic lanes.) We'll do some of this on Day 1 in June, and typically about 8% of the ALC route involves freeways or expressways, so it's good to deal with freeway anxiety before you're surrounded by 2,500 other riders. Find out more and RSVP here. (And please RSVP if you're planning on coming, so that I can have enough waivers and route sheets. I'd rather have you RSVP and not show up than not RSVP and show up anyway!)

It looks like our run of unusually favorable cycling weather might be coming to a close. This might not be a bad thing! If you've taken advantage of our dry winter by riding more than usual, this might be a perfect opportunity to dial it back a bit. Overtraining for ALC can be a very real problem. If you start to dread getting back on your bicycle, that's a bright red warning signal ... especially this far away from June. Everyone's threshold is different, so I can't give you any specific numbers. But if you track your training, you have a good idea of how much you typically ride in February and March. If you're way over that and aren't having much fun, consider taking it easy for a while, especially if we get the days upon days of rain that some forecasts are predicting. (Incidentally, the long-term AccuWeather guess/forecast for our next ride on the 24th is currently calling for 0.16 inch of rain, a high of only 57 degrees, and winds out of the south at 23 mph gusting to 42 mph. We'll see how many times that forecast changes completely in the next two weeks!)

I have a request to pass along from ALC World HQ. When signing the waiver before each ride, please take a few extra seconds to print your name clearly. There actually is a real person at ALC World HQ who reads every line of every waiver from every training ride (that's hundreds of names every week) and enters your name into their database. This lets them keep track of which rides you've done in case you call your cyclist representative with any questions. And when they can't read names, they have to try to guess (which is never fun), and they get grumpy with the ride facilitators (that's me) for turning in unreadable waivers. So please don't give ALC World HQ a reason to get grumpy with me ... thanks!

Finally, general registration for Double Bay Double 2, set for September 29-30, opens Monday. Find out more at the event website. This is a great post-ALC event that also benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and you'll see many of the same people from our Mountain View training rides.

Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.