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Ride report: Distance Training #9 (5/5/2012)

Go, riders!

When we learned this week that Day 2 of ALC11 will be about 109 miles long, some of us -- especially first-year ALCers -- might have wondered whether we were up to the task. Many of us put those doubts to rest Saturday as our group of 34 intrepid cyclists conquered a 113-mile route that was actually just a little bit tougher than the Day 2 route. For some of us, it was our first century ever; for others, it was our longest ride ever. And for an extra bonus, we got treated to some exceptional scenery along the way.

Oh yes, and there was the wind. As we continued to head south toward Morgan Hill in the morning and the tailwinds picked up, perhaps you felt an impending sense of dread that we would soon be paying for our good fortune. (I know I did!) But almost as if my magic, as soon as we turned into the hills toward Gilroy Hot Springs, the wind died down to almost nothing, coming back only when we returned to the valley floor.

And on the return from Gilroy, yes, there was some wind, but it was nowhere near as bad as we had experienced on previous years' Gilroy rides when we traveled north along Monterey Highway. We had just enough twists and turns in the route to provide some occasional relief ... and those last 10 mostly-downhill miles made for a satisfying end to the day.

From gauging the faces of riders crossing the finish line in Mountain View, it looked like most of us ended the day in high spirits. I know I did, and that's not always the case for me on very long rides. I made a special effort to keep my nutrition and pacing in check, and I think it worked. Even in the morning, when we had the benefit of a strong tailwind, I resisted the urge to ride all-out (according to Strava, many of you were faster than me from San Jose to Morgan Hill).

But more important, I made a determined effort to increase my calorie intake beyond what I've typically consumed on such rides. I made a point of eating at every rest stop, I added nutrition beans or blocks in each case, and I went through three bottles of my energy drink. That steady intake of moderate calories can make your day much more successful.

Speaking of "every rest stop," another important thing to remember is that, either on a training ride or on the event, you are not limited to the "official" rest stops. Yesterday, I took a bonus rest stop just past Saratoga; although it cost me a few minutes, it also gave me the final boost that I needed to finish the ride strong. On past ALCs, I've often found that, as the week progresses, I take breaks more frequently, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you're carrying a camera, it's a great opportunity to pull off the road (safely, of course) and take pictures of the event. (And, if you don't want to admit even to yourself that you're taking a rest break, you can always say, "Oh, I'm taking a photo break.")

What's next? It's the big one ... the fifth annual Altamont Pass Double Metric. It's only about one more hour of cycling than yesterday's ride! Better yet, the total climbing is less than yesterday, and the one significant climb isn't nearly as steep as Gilroy Hot Springs. It's a grand tour of everything that the Bay Area has to offer, from the Dumbarton Bridge to East Bay wine country to the windswept original Altamont Pass to the busy urban bikeways of Hayward. Make no mistake, it's a difficult ride -- I've finished every mile only two of the four times that I've done it (and one of those was, shall we say, problematic) -- but we will have our usual excellent volunteer support.

I know that some of you are concerned about the distance and want to ride a shorter route. Although there's no official "short route," there's an easy if unofficial way to reduce the ride to about 88 miles. You don't get to see Altamont Pass, but you still can get a challenging ride. If you look at the route, notice how you can stay on Foothill Road and quickly jump from about mile 34 to mile 75. Taking the unofficial route might put you out of range of the support vehicles (unless the rest of the group catches up with you later, which could happen), so you'd need to be self-sufficient, but this is an option if 125 miles won't work for you for whatever reason.

Our start time is stupidly, stupidly early. We meet at 5 a.m. because there are more pre-ride activities: handing out frame and helmet numbers, for instance. We ride out precisely at 5:56 a.m., legal sunrise. The route closes at 8:14 p.m., legal sunset. You'll have plenty of time. And because much of the ride is in urban areas, there is no shortage of places to stop for food and water.

I hope you can join us for Altamont Pass. Please RSVP as soon as possible because I need to make sure we have enough support vehicles and supplies to cover the expected number of riders.

Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Photo by Tim Huang