Upcoming rides I'm leading:
Saturday, November 19: Three Sisters and Wetlands Park, 36 miles

Show blog entries about: Upcoming rides | Ride reports | My own training

2012 Altamont Pass Double Metric FAQ

Last updated May 16
What is a double metric century?
Who should ride the Altamont Pass Double Metric?
Is qualification required?
Is pre-registration required?
Must I be registered for AIDS/LifeCycle?
What happens on ride morning?
Can I use the toilet at the nearby police station?
What's the weather going to be like?
Will we ride if it's raining?
What's the route?
Is the route marked?
Will we encounter other events along the route?
How much does the ride cost?
How fast do I need to ride?
Can I really ride just 12 mph?
Can I bring bicycle lighting and complete the route after sunset?
What happens if I'm not riding fast enough?
Do I have to ride the entire 200-kilometer route? Can I take a short cut?
What types of SAG service will be available?
Are hotels available near the meeting location?
Got more questions? Email me. Items of general interest will be added to this list.

What is a double metric century?
A double metric century is 200 kilometers, or approximately 125 miles, of bicycling in a single day.

Who should ride the Altamont Pass Double Metric?
This ride is designed for AIDS/LifeCycle riders who desire an extreme challenge to mark the culmination of their training season. The longest day on AIDS/LifeCycle is only about 109 miles, so you do not need to do this ride to be ready for the event. However, many riders have found that taking part in the double metric helps make the longest days of ALC seem a little bit easier.

Is qualification required?
You should have completed at least a 100-mile ride before May 19. Otherwise, the jump in mileage might be too much, and you might not be able to complete the ride, or you might injure yourself just a few weeks before AIDS/LifeCycle 11. You don't need to tell us what century you've done, but please honestly assess your abilities.

Is pre-registration required?
No; but we'd really appreciate it if you did. This will let us give an accurate roster to the SAG drivers so that they can identify or locate you if necessary during the day. To RSVP, use this link to send email.

Must I be registered for AIDS/LifeCycle?
No; this ride is open to everyone who can ride fast enough and who agrees to ride according to our rules. If you're not yet part of ALC, perhaps this ride will persuade you to register for next year's event!

What happens on ride morning?
Our meeting location is next to condominiums (and a police station), so please be quiet and respectful when arriving. You should plan to arrive at the meeting place in downtown Mountain View by 5 a.m. so that you have plenty of time to unload your bicycle and sign in. At sign-in, you will receive a frame number for you to affix to your bicycle frame, and a helmet number for you to put on the left side of your helmet. (This is separate from your ALC rider number.) The frame number will be important throughout the day for SAG drivers and other riders to identify cyclists who are part of this ride. Warm-up exercises and the route briefing begin at about 5:30 a.m. All riders must be already signed in, present, and attentive at 5:45 a.m. for a mandatory safety speech. Ride-out is at official sunrise, 5:56 a.m.

Can I use the toilet at the nearby police station?
Sorry, no; the police station isn't open for public access that early in the morning. Please take care of your restroom needs before arriving, and make sure your water bottles are full and ready to go.

What's the weather going to be like?
In short, could be just about anything. Past years of this event have seen temperatures above 100 degrees, but in 2011 we had a chilly, windy day with midday temperatures only in the 50s with a brief but strong evening rain shower, and in 2010 we had a pleasant day in the 50s and 60s. The historical temperature data for Livermore on May 19 shows an average high of 78 degrees and a record high of 97. The latest forecasts for this year suggest partly cloudy skies, seasonal temperatures, and light winds ... in other words, just about perfect!

Will we ride if it's raining?
Probably yes. We will cancel the ride only if there is steady, heavy rain on ride day or if there is a likelihood of thunderstorms or other severe weather.

What's the route?
You will receive a route sheet on the morning of the ride. We expect that the route will be mostly unchanged from last year. This year's preliminary route is here. Last-minute changes are possible due to road work and other unforeseen events.

Is the route marked?
No; there are no pavement arrows, signs, or other markings. There are approximately 65 turns on the route, so you will need to refer to your route sheet frequently during the ride; consider a map holder or binder clips. On some parts of the route, you will see pavement arrows of various colors and styles; these are for other events to other destinations, and you should not follow them.

Will we encounter other events along the route?
The Rowell Ranch annual rodeo will be taking place along Dublin Canyon Road. Expect heavy traffic near the summit, including cars attempting to parallel-park along the road. There is no street festival in downtown Mountain View on ride day this year.

How much does the ride cost?
It's free! Our six rest stops are all at coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores, so you will need to buy or bring your own food and liquid. If you use any of the nonperishable supplies from a SAG vehicle, such as extra tubes, please consider making a small donation to the driver to help cover the replacement cost of these items. The SAG drivers also pay for gas, food, and water and are not reimbursed by ALC, so you are encouraged to help cover their costs if you are able to do so.

How fast do I need to ride?
This ride is designed for riders who can maintain an average speed of at least 12 mph on flat to rolling terrain. We love all cyclists, but the 12 mph pace is necessary to complete the route before sunset.

Can I really ride just 12 mph?
Yes! There will certainly be riders who are faster than 12 mph, but if you ride a steady 12 mph pace and do not take too long at rest stops, you can finish this ride in 14 hours or less. There will always be at least one ride leader at the back of the group, so you are guaranteed to never be the slowest rider. Here's some math: If you take half an hour at five of the six rest stops and give yourself an hour for lunch at one rest stop, and if you assume that you'll spend 15 minutes waiting at traffic signals and stop signs, then you need to average 12.2 mph to finish before sunset. Plan on going a little faster on flat terrain and a little slower uphill.

Can I bring bicycle lighting and complete the route after sunset?
Sorry, no. AIDS/LifeCycle rules require at least one ride leader to be behind the last rider at all times, so you can't finish on your own. This is for your own safety!

What happens if I'm not riding fast enough?
Each of the six rest stops will have an official closing time noted on the route sheet, timed to allow you to complete the ride within the 14 hours of daylight on ride day. This is to help you gauge your progress throughout the day and keep you on track to return to Mountain View before sunset at 8:14  p.m. If you are in a rest stop at its closing time, you will need to resume riding immediately, or you can choose to end your ride there. In some cases, a SAG vehicle might be able to jump you to the next rest stop and allow you to resume riding, but this service is available only if SAG vehicles are not otherwise occupied with more important tasks.

Do I have to ride the entire 200-kilometer route? Can I take a short cut?
There is no official "short route" for this year's ride. However, there are several places along the route where you can skip ahead from 5 to 37 miles, and several BART and VTA light rail stations are on or near the route. If you decide to shorten your ride or leave the route, you must let a ride leader know, either in person or by leaving voicemail or a text message on a ride leader's cellphone. Phone numbers will be on the route sheet that you receive on ride morning. Also, if you skip far ahead of other riders, you will be out of the coverage area of SAG vehicles, so you will not be able to receive support. The SAG vehicles need to be available on the official route, so if you leave the route, you'll be on your own.

What types of SAG service will be available?
We will have several volunteer SAG drivers stationed along the route and at rest stops. Most will have basic supplies like water, ice, light snacks, and some basic bicycle equipment such as a floor pump and extra tubes. In some cases, the SAG vehicle can transport you to a nearby location if you are unable to continue riding. Please note, however, that the SAG vehicles are not a personal taxi service, and if you decide to stop riding, it is your responsibility to get transportation for you and your bicycle back to Mountain View or some other location. Please respect and thank our volunteer SAG drivers who are helping make your ride a success.

Are hotels available near the meeting location?
If you are coming from far outside Mountain View, you might want to consider getting a hotel for the night before the ride, so that you can arrive on time. Several hotels are available in a variety of price ranges within five minutes of the meeting location; any of the online booking services can steer you in the proper direction.

Ride report: Distance Training #8 (4/21/2012)

Go, riders!

We now can say at least one thing about this training season: We've trained in just about every type of weather that it's possible to have during the event in June. Saturday's group of 32 intrepid cyclists set out on a 100-mile journey that became far, far tougher than planned due to the sudden heat wave that hit the area.

Many finished the entire route, some did not, and others didn't plan to do so anyway, but everyone got some helpful -- if brutal -- lessons on riding in extreme heat. The official high in San Jose on Saturday was "only" 91 degrees, but it was certainly a lot warmer along much of our route, and the hours of direct exposure to the sun reminded us that heat can be a very dangerous risk, both physically and mentally, to the endurance cyclist.

To answer the pressing question: Yes, it can get this hot during the event in June. Not every year, but temperatures in the 90s are a common occurrence, especially on Days 2 and 3. And because so much of the route for these two days is rural with few services except the official ALC stops, there usually won't be an air-conditioned Starbucks where you can seek shelter.

I'm by no means an expert on heat-related health issues, and the Internet is full of "experts" who may or may not have useful advice. But a few things stood out during our ride:

-- Disorientation is a very important warning sign that you must not ignore. Thinking clearly is essential on any ride. When the conditions are especially challenging, this is even more important. If you stop being fully aware of your surroundings (if, for example, you fail to notice a stop sign), that's the signal to stop and take a break right now. Not being aware of other traffic or other cyclists can be extremely dangerous.

-- Dehydration can happen more quickly than you might think. Your fluid intake might have been three or four times (or even more) your usual. Water alone isn't sufficient; you were sweating huge quantities of salt that need to be replaced. On the event, I often enjoy the small bags of salted nuts that are available at most rest stops. Electrolyte tablets are another popular option. If your stomach can tolerate electrolyte drinks (the event this year will serve free Gatorade, not Powerade, all week), those also can work.

-- Reduce your pace in the heat. Overexerting your heart can be especially dangerous in oppressive heat. More than ever, it's vital that you find your "happy gear" and pedal at a rate you can sustain comfortably without having to stop every mile or two.

On very hot days in past years, I've often carried a small 2-ounce spray bottle with me and filled it with water. A quick spritz to the face provides much-needed short-term relief, especially when coupled with forward motion. My bottle broke last year (another 99-cent quality purchase!), and I had not yet replaced it this year. I know one thing that's on my shopping list for this week. Instead, I was pouring bottles of water over my head; this produced a similar result, albeit with a bit more mess ... and the salt dripping down from my forehead proceeded to get stuck on my sunglasses.

If you ended your ride earlier than you hoped, then congratulations on making the right call and doing the right thing. There's no honor in injuring yourself just so you can say you finished a ride. And the type of heat that we experienced can affect any cyclist regardless of training or experience, so don't think that stopping early was any type of failure. Quite the opposite!

What's next? If one century ride wasn't enough, we've got two more coming up. On May 5, we're heading to Gilroy and back on a 113-mile ride that's on an almost all-new route this year. We'll visit the eastern foothills on much of the Tierra Bella route, and then we'll head back north around the Chesbro and Calero reservoirs -- where strong afternoon headwinds are less likely than what we've experienced on past Gilroy rides. The climbing in the middle is somewhat challenging, but the rest of the day is somewhat mellow. The first 40 miles are practically flat, and there are essentially only three turns in the first 30 miles. (The route sheet even fits on a single 8.5" by 11" sheet!) Find out more and RSVP here.

Alas, we have no more free bagels this season. Our meet times are now so early -- 6:30 for our next ride -- that the local shops won't be open in time.

And don't forget the fifth annual Altamont Pass Double Metric on May 19. This 125-mile ride has become an ALC tradition, and every year's ride ends up being epic in one way or another. We're on the same weekend as the Jonathan Pon two-day ride, so I'm aware that some of our regulars won't be able to make it, but if you're available, please join us for an incredible day. Details and RSVP are here. Remember that you must ride at least one other century before May 19 to qualify for Altamont Pass; this is to make sure such a big mileage jump won't cause problems for you so close to the event.

Congratulations and thanks to everyone for another epic day, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Y'all are awesome!


I don't think I can say THANK YOU enough for yesterday's big surprise! It really is a community. I'm just the facilitator; the community happens because of the contributions of each of you.

One of the reasons I keep coming back to ALC is that we're a community where people do nice things for other people. Not because they have to or because there's something in it for themselves, but because it's simply the right thing to do. That's a sentiment that I find lacking in much of the day-to-day world that I inhabit, so I am always grateful when I am reminded what the human spirit is really all about. And when I'm the recipient of such nice things, it truly does make me melt with gratitude.

I'm amazed at all the logistics that went into making this happen ... and at how everyone managed to keep it a complete secret for that whole time.

So again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. If this was your last ride of the season with us, then I'll see you on the event in June. If you'll be with us on our upcoming 113-mile and 125-mile rides, then together we'll write a couple more epic chapters in this year's journey.

Photo by Sunil Jagadish

Anatomy of a failure

My 73-mile training ride on Saturday was a failure. But I finished the entire ride, I did so at a very respectable pace, and nothing truly bad happened along the way. So why do I say this? Because I yet again finished the ride in a most foul mood, disliking just about everything and everyone. This happens to me far more often than I'd like, so here's a self-centered attempt to look at what's happening and what can be done about it.

Because ALC is a challenge for both the body and the mind, your mental training is every bit as important as your physical training. And while everyone's situation and circumstances are different, perhaps my experience might be helpful to you.

Let's look at some of the things that led to my grumpy finish on Saturday:

I started the day grumpy. It just happens. I had been traveling for much of the previous week, and I was running a serious sleep deficit because of that. And I didn't get nearly enough sleep the night before the ride. (That can happen all too easily during the event in June.) On my 5-mile drive to the meeting point, I encountered just enough rude and stupid drivers that I could feel my stress level rising even before I got to the ride.

The event was running late. I waited around for an hour before I actually started riding. By then, I was antsy and too impatient ... I was the first rider out. It wasn't like I had to be anywhere else; I simply didn't want to stand around in the chilly breeze anymore and listen to the safety speech for the 793rd time. (Yes, I know that we have to.)

I didn't have a good breakfast. Another guaranteed way to start the day wrong. Sure, I had something (about 200 calories worth), mostly because I knew I'd been overeating while on vacation. But that's no excuse! By the first rest stop, I was already eating my "emergency" Sport Beans.

The route was, um, interesting. Different training groups often have different ways that they like to ride, and one isn't necessarily better or worse than another. But the scheduled route took us through parts of San Jose that I generally avoid, either by myself or in a group. The combination of very heavy traffic (many of whom seemed to share their particular bad taste in music very loudly at every stoplight) and a lack of safe places to stop for food contributed to a sense of frustration that mounted during the second half of the ride.

The route sheet was, um, interesting. Again, take five training groups, and you'll find at least five different approaches to route sheets. This particular route sheet had a few directions that were not spelled out very well for people who weren't familiar with the route. (And that was one of the reasons I did this ride: It actually went to some places I'd never seen before, which is increasingly rare.) But any failures related to the route sheet were entirely my fault. The route was published online days before the ride, and I should have taken more care to fully understand the route on my own. In fact, I'd even done so at one particularly confusing part of the route, where the directions were to take a "road" that was actually a gated path. Many riders missed this turn, but not me.

Not enough food during the ride. The scheduled route had no food stop for the last 34 miles. And because of the sketchy part of town (and because I was riding alone), I didn't feel safe stopping anywhere that I would need to leave my bike unattended. Around mile 60 I finally found a city park where, at least, I was able to stop and eat the last of my "emergency" food. This got me to the end of the day, but I wasn't very happy about it. Again, however, that this was entirely my fault. As soon as I saw the route sheet in the morning, I should have realized the food situation, and at midday I could have been certain to obtain extra food to bring along and eat later. I failed to do that.

I went faster than I should have. I maintained a fairly aggressive pace for the entire first half of the ride, helped in part by favorable winds. But I also allowed my inner competitive self to seize control, and that's one of the worst things you can do to yourself in ALC -- which is, as we're fond of reminding you, a ride and not a race. When I saw another rider come up behind me in the first few miles, I got even faster. Then I left the first rest stop on my own, and that was the last time I saw another rider until lunch ... and that was only because those other riders had missed a turn along the route. And I started having a most unhealthy thought: I "had" to stay in front, or else I wouldn't be "good enough" for me. That's exceedingly dangerous thinking, but it's the type of thinking that can take root when one's day is not going well and nutrition is somewhat lacking. My level of fitness suggests a certain riding pace, and I've been exceeding that pace far too much lately. That's fine for 15 or 20 miles, but not for more than 70 ... and certainly not for seven days in a row.

The headwinds got me down. At the halfway point, the helpful tailwinds of the morning became the annoying headwinds of the afternoon. For miles and miles. And there's not a damn thing I can do about them, in any situation. They're there, and they have to be accepted and dealt with. But I still let them get to me.

With all this other crap going on, my mind wandered into bad places. Why am I doing this? Can't I just get on a bus? Should I even bother with another ride tomorrow? Everyone knows I can do this, so why do I have to do it again? Can't I just go off-route and take a less scary way back? (I did go off-route at one point, although it was a subconscious choice at best. Turns out that doing so helped me miss one of the most sketchy parts of the route.) I was reminded yet again that these toxic thoughts lurk inside me, they're just waiting for the right moment to spew forth, and a bad day can do just that. That's why it's so important for me to keep the external factors as problem-free as possible.

As I rolled in to the finish, I knew I was grumpy, which at least was the beginning of dealing with it. Rather than just throw the bike into the vehicle and drive home to stew in solitude, I stayed at the finish for another two hours, eating, drinking, and welcoming back the next several riders. And I soon discovered that I'd made the right call: At one point while standing in the parking lot, I became unusually light-headed, so I sat in the vehicle for a couple of minutes and then promptly went into Starbucks for a bottle of orange juice.

The bottom line was that I didn't go home grumpy, which was a vast improvement over my condition just two hours prior. And while I've certainly been able to identify a whole boatload of ways in which the day went wrong for me, it's not the first time that it's happened. Fortunately for me, my rides during ALCs in June usually don't leave me grumpy; the adrenaline and goodwill of the event manage to keep me in mostly high spirits. (Well, except for those riders who passed me on the right on a freeway because I wasn't fast enough for you ... you know who you are.)

You probably could ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles without feeling happy about it, but that wouldn't be any fun at all ... and it might even be hazardous to the other riders around you, not to mention to your own health and safety. Even on the most challenging training rides, if you're finishing grumpy, take a few minutes to explore the reasons why. Doing so might offer some interesting insight into how you can make your seven days in June the best days possible.

Ride report: Distance Training #7 (4/7/2012)

Go, riders!

After weeks and weeks of crappy weather, we finally had near-perfect conditions for our group of 36 intrepid cyclists to tackle today's challenging 90-mile ride into the East Bay hills. (And special thanks to SAG drivers Terri and Andrew!) But as many of us learned (or already knew), cutting back on training in recent weeks had consequences.

Some of us decided from the outset today to ride something less than 90 miles. I salute those of you who made such a decision because that means you're tuned in well enough to your training to know where you are and how far you should stretch yourself. There are still eight weeks to go until the event, so there's plenty of time to build back to where you want to be, whether your goal is to ride Every Friendly Inch or every inch that you can.

Many of us who went for the full 90 miles started to feel it toward the end ... especially along Calaveras Road, where that "2.8-mile climb" certainly seemed to be more like 10 miles. (Most of it was rollers, really!) I was not immune; I took my own nutrition and clothing break along Calaveras when temperatures finally got too warm for my arm warmers. And although the last 15 miles of the route were nearly flat, the headwinds certainly didn't help, and every little overpass seemed to feel like a hill. That's not unusual toward the end of a "longest ride ever," whether of all time or just this season. Where miles 80 to 90 might have felt challenging today, remember that not too long ago it was miles 50 to 60 that seemed challenging!

The good news is that, if you finished today's 90 miles -- even with a little bit of discomfort or displeasure -- your training is right back on target. But if you didn't, don't worry; there's still plenty of time. You will, however, need to make an extra effort to ride either on your own or with one of the other ride groups, particularly next weekend during our dark week.

As our distances get longer and longer (and, wow, do they ever get longer from here on out), pacing and nutrition become more important than ever. For many riders, these extreme distances are not the time to be doing power sprints or -- in my own bugaboo case -- trying to set records in Strava. In fact, both last weekend and today, I often rode in one or two gears lower than my usual cruising pace. The idea is to stay in one's "happy gear" as much as possible, especially when the terrain is not particularly challenging and there's a strong temptation to hammer. Today, when you reached the first hills in Fremont around mile 18, did you already feel tired? Or did you feel like you were just getting started? Remember that we're training to do this for seven days in a row, so you don't want to go for broke in the first hours or the first days.

As for nutrition, your calorie expenditures are going way, way up, into the thousands. (Everybody is different.) You can't possibly replenish all those calories while riding, but you need to maintain a steady input (probably 250 to 400 calories per hour, depending on your body type) and then work to replenish yourself after the ride. The adage is true: This close to the event is not the time to be aiming for huge weight loss. Besides, as I can attest from several years of bad behavior on my part, such attempts this close to the ride often produce the opposite effect because your body can't properly respond to the stress you're placing on it.

On the safety front, most of us are riding within the rules, and we're setting a good example for the other non-ALC cyclists who are sharing the road with us. I only saw one mildly troubling thing today: On the freeway part of Central Expressway, I saw a couple of cases of riders touching (but not crossing) the white line into a main traffic lane. Remember that, when freeway rules are in effect, even touching the white line is a no-no. Also, it's essential that we ride truly single-file on freeways. Some years ago, the freeway rules prohibited any passing, but that changed in recent years to allow safe passing only when completely inside the white line. When we're not riding single-file, passing safely becomes impossible.

What happens on the event when you get caught breaking a rule? Imagine coming to Bike Parking in the morning, and you're all ready for another day, but your bike isn't there. Instead, a tag has been placed on the pole where your bike is supposed to be. Then you need to visit the ALC field office, plead your case, and maybe you'll get your bike back ... or maybe you'll be suspended from the ride for a day ... or, if it's extremely serious, you could be pulled from the event and forced to find your own transportation back home from camp. That's not a good story to tell your donors, so don't let it happen! The freeway rules are among the most strictly enforced on the event because disobeying them can have such serious consequences. And remember: We're not on just a couple of miles of freeway in June. About 8% of the total route (the exact amount varies from year to year) is on freeways or expressways.

What's next? In just two weeks, it's our first century of the season! The South Bay Century is, in my opinion, considerably easier than today's ride. There's a lot less climbing, and it's more urban, so there are many more short breaks at traffic signals. (Yes, that means your pace probably slows a bit, but those breaks help keep you happy all day long.) But it is 100 miles long, and any century ride really isn't "easy" at all. Last year, we changed the route around east San Jose to be a little less hectic, and it went well, so we'll be using that route again this year. And there's still a light-rail bailout available at mile 71 if you're not quite up to the full distance. Find out more and RSVP here.

We're just six weeks away from the Fifth Annual Altamont Pass Double Metric. Remember that it's a prerequisite for you to ride at least one century ride before Altamont Pass, and our South Bay Century certainly meets that requirement. Why do we have this rule? Because jumping to 125 miles from less than 100 miles is risky, especially so close to the event. And as some of us found today, making a big distance jump all at once can make for an unpleasant day.

Finally, lost and found department: Some yellow outerwear was left with a SAG vehicle but was not reclaimed. If it's yours, let me know, and we can work out getting it back to you.

Thanks for riding today, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Ride report: Distance Training #6B (4/1/2012)

Well, we finally did it. On our third attempt to run this ride, we mustered a group of 11 intrepid riders -- and two awesome SAG volunteers -- to tackle the chilly, windswept, but oh-so-scenic route from Mountain View to Pacifica and back. As luck had it, none of our riders had done the long ALC Expo ride the previous Sunday, so the amazing descent into Pacifica was a pleasant (but chilly and windy) surprise for many of us.

And windswept it was. On the heels of Saturday's storm, a chilly breeze blew from the northwest most of the day, making our ride up the Peninsula significantly more difficult than usual. My choice of the Sawyer Camp Trail turned out to be somewhat fortuitous because the trees and curvy path kept things from becoming too difficult through there. But once we reached the crest of the coastal hills along Skyline Blvd., we all definitely got extra practice in riding into moderate headwinds. Fortunately, the ALC route is structured so that sustained headwinds usually don't occur. (Day 5 had a nasty section of headwinds for a couple of years, but that part of the event was rerouted beginning last year and is far less windy now.) But anything can happen with our increasingly wacky weather, and the strong northerly winds that usually propel us down the coast could turn around and make our ride more challenging.

Then there were all the hills! Actually, there were only a couple of truly significant climbs, including Sharp Park, but the small rollers were incessant almost all day long, yielding a total of between 4,500 and 5,100 feet of climbing, depending on your measurement tool. And our route included 15 miles of the Day 1 route, which was no accident -- this ride was very similar in difficulty to Day 1 of the event. It's by far the most challenging day from a technical standpoint, but you're usually pumped up enough on adrenaline that you won't even notice.

Two of the key things to watch as our rides become very long are pacing and nutrition. Sunday, I often found myself riding one gear lower than I would on a shorter ride. This brought me closer to the proverbial "happy gear" that makes all the difference in endurance cycling.

And your calorie requirements are starting to soar to the point where you can't realistically replenish all of them while riding without facing the risk of an unhappy stomach (or worse). But you need to make sure that you're consistently taking in a moderate amount of calories -- perhaps 200 to 400 per hour, depending on your build and pace -- and heavily weighted toward carbohydrates. There are many ways to get this -- from store food to sports blocks, gels, drinks, and powders -- and everyone will have their own "best" way. If you haven't already figured out what works best for you, do so in the next few weeks.

Remember that Powerade and various mass-produced snacks are used on the event; if you require specific brands or items, you might want to look at how you can carry enough of those with you on each day of the event. (There are many days where you can't just pop into a convenient Subway or Starbucks for your favorite piece of comfort food ... although I usually make a point of doing just that when we pass through Morro Bay on Day 4.)

Avoid the dreaded bonk at all costs. When you lose the ability to make rational decisions, you're already beyond that point. Stop immediately, eat something, drink something, get in the shade if it's hot, and either wait for your body to recover or get on the sweep vehicle to the next rest stop. This isn't just for your safety; it's also for the safety of the riders around you and the motorists with whom we are sharing the road.

And don't be afraid to take "renegade" rest stops if you need them. With 23 miles between yesterday's last rest stop and the end of the ride, some of us were a bit worn out from all the wind and all the climbing. I felt no shame whatsoever in making a short extra stop at the Starbucks in Menlo Park. In June, there are many opportunities to stop by the side of the road and just watch the ride pass by. These are good opportunities for you to pause and reflect ... and to take a quick bite and drink as well. Just because the route sheet says it's 18 miles to the next official stop doesn't mean that you can't take a break before then.

What's next? Despite our recent run of bad luck, there's no letup in our training for the Altamont Pass Double Metric on May 19. Our next ride is this Saturday already, back on schedule, and we're doing 90 miles into the East Bay Hills. There's not as much climbing as there was this week, but the hills are generally longer. There are some unofficial ways that you can chop some distance off the ride, including a light-rail bailout for the final 15 miles. So even if you're a little behind on your training, feel free to join us. Details and RSVP here.

Thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.