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Ride report: Altamont Pass Double Metric (5/19/2012)

Photo by Terri Meier
Go, riders!

Our group of 17 riders wasn't large, but it was intrepid ... and successful. Every rider completed every mile that they intended to ride (two rode 108 miles, and 15 rode 125 miles), and everyone finished at least two and a half hours before sunset. This closed our Mountain View training season in grand style and showed that all of you have taken your many training lessons to heart.

Of course, the weather helped things, too. In our five years of doing the Altamont Pass ride, this was by far the most favorable weather of any: not too hot, and not too windy.

One lesson that I think most of us took to heart was to pace ourselves. I saw people cycling somewhere below 100% of their peak performance, and this was a very good thing. In June, you just can't go all-out for seven days in a row. I even heard several of you refer specifically to riding in your "happy gear," a strategy that I frequently encourage and one that I learned from legendary ALC rider Doreen Gonzales.

The second pacing-related lesson comes from riding in groups. On the event in June, there will always be someone riding faster than you, someone riding slower than you, and someone riding at about the same speed as you. Your choice is to decide which type of cyclist you want to ride with.

I got a vigorous lesson  in this subject around Livermore when I opened up for a few miles and blasted my way up (and down) Altamont Pass. I was making great time, and I felt momentarily happy that I was riding so strongly, but I soon came to my senses and realized that such a pace for me was unsustainable over the rest of the day. For most of the remainder of the day, I made a point of sticking with other riders of various paces, and this helped me complete the ride happy.

A couple of other points to remember:

-- Nutrition and hydration are vital. Depending on your body, you burned anywhere from 2,500 to 6,000 calories on this ride. You can't replenish all of that while on the bike, but you need to maintain a steady stream of food that nourishes but doesn't give you an upset stomach. That balance can be tough to maintain in endurance cycling.

-- Sun protection is also vital. Even though I faithfully used lip balm all day (the same kind that I've used on past ALC rides), I still have slightly chapped lips this morning. That little spritzer bottle that many of you saw me using throughout the day? It's spray-on sunscreen poured into a tiny 2-ounce bottle so that I don't need to carry an entire big plastic bottle with me all day.

Now that you've completed a 200-kilometer ride, you're part of the worldwide randonneuring community.  Randonneuring is a sport that's more than 100 years old and is devoted to cycling extreme distances. In the United States, Randonneurs USA (of which I'm a member) is the primary organization, and they have local groups in Santa Cruz and San Francisco. The Santa Cruz group is running their next 200km ride on July 7, and they've got a 300km ride (which I've done once) on August 11.

RUSA has a series of arcane rules about check-ins ("controls") and time limits, but the riding itself is almost exactly like what you've experienced on ALC training rides: detailed route sheets, minimal vehicle support, rest stops at stores and restaurants, a mix of faster and slower riders, and a strong sense of community. If you're considering taking some steps into the next level of endurance cycling, give one of the local randonneuring events a try.

This ends our Distance Training rides for 2012. It's been quite a season! We started with unusually favorable weather, we had several weeks of crap in the middle, and we ended with perfect conditions for Gilroy and Altamont Pass. Only a few of us made it through all 10 rides and 772 miles due to weather, health, or other commitments (and it took us three tries to finally do that Pacifica ride!), but dozens of us were part of the community that spontaneously formed. We had our moments of success and our moments of failure, and we all learned many lessons that will help us on the event in June and in our future cycling pursuits.

I'd like to give special thanks to Terri Meier, who gave us outstanding SAG service on most of this season's rides. As she said yesterday, SAG vehicles provide a huge psychological boost even when they're not needed to haul people off the route. Knowing that "rescue" is available is a big mental factor in allowing us to attempt and complete such long rides in the middle of nowhere, and Terri and the other SAG drivers played a big part in making that happen. Be sure to say hi to Terri in Rest Stop 3 on the event!

And, of course, I'd also like to again thank Per Knudsgaard, Bob McDiarmid, and the rest of the "Secret Jersey Group" for their amazing behind-the-scenes work to create the Ride With Chris jersey. I look forward to seeing a sea of green on Day 6!

What's next? ALC11, of course! But after that, what's next? My training rides for Double Bay Double 2 will probably begin in late July. I'm looking at about seven Saturdays in a row that will top out at about 75 or 80 miles. These rides will be different from my ALC training rides in that they will focus more on large amounts of climbing but which isn't stupidly steep -- the kind of riding that characterizes the DBD route. For example, we'll ride up Kings Mountain (and probably even Tunitas Creek again), but we won't do Metcalf, Westridge, or Joaquin.

Registration for DBD2 is about half full already, and I look forward to riding with many of you on September 29-30. DBD2 is shaping up to be another amazing weekend to benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation; watch ridewithchris.org and the DBD Facebook page for information on training rides and the rest of the event.

Thanks for being part of our Distance Training community for the past five months, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.