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AIDS/LifeCycle 11 Day 7

It's over, and my ride was a greater success than I could have possibly imagined.

I rode surprisingly strong today and rolled into a relatively empty VA Center in Los Angeles at the stupidly early time of 10:43 a.m.

How and why? Nothing special; just by skipping one of the three stops and by beating much of the weekend vehicular traffic mess through Malibu.

Just like yesterday, it was a day for pure riding. Although I began my ride 10 minutes after the official route opening, there weren't many riders on the road, and I quickly was either by myself or in scattered small groups. After making short order of Rest Stop 1, we were even more spread out.

But I stopped, quite a bit in shock, when I saw Ginger Brewlay and Team Ventura's "Mom and Dad" standing by the side of the road just after Rest Stop 1! They were a total surprise and most appreciated. After skipping Rest Stop 2, I was essentially by myself. And after a hasty lunch, I saw just a few other ALCers the rest of the way.

But I saw plenty of other riders because Pacific Coast Highway is an extremely popular cycling spot. It was strange to be back in the world of riders doing pacelines, not calling out, and not obeying laws. I smiled just a bit inside when a Los Angeles County sheriff's vehicle had three cyclists pulled over, apparently for running a red light.

After I woke up and discovered that my quads weren't bothering me nearly as much as they had on previous mornings (perhaps due to the wonderful massage I received yesterday in Santa Barbara), I was focused on riding strongly. A couple of the hills gave me pause, simply because I was feeling all climbed out by this point. But other than that, the 62 miles of the final day of ALC11 were over almost as soon as they began.

And as I got near the end, something interesting happened. After I took a self-picture at the Los Angeles city limit sign (which, sadly, is slightly marred by a blurry spot on the camera lens), I almost immediately checked out emotionally from the event. It was, for all practical purposes, done for me. As I rode the final 5 miles up the hill through Santa Monica, I was getting scattered cheers from the few bystanders who had arrived so early, and I was smiling in return and thanking them, but I was on autopilot.

When I rolled into the VA Center in past years, my emotions have been all over the map. I've been jubilant, I've been in tears, I've been relieved that it was over. Today, strangely, I didn't feel much of anything at all. I rode through the almost-empty welcoming line into bike parking, got my triumphant photo taken by a helpful volunteer, walked around for a few minutes, and then got a ride from Adam to his hotel room and a nice, warm shower. And then I drove home.

What a strange way to end such an incredible week! I'm not sure what exactly happened this morning. I knew that I had to be rested to return to work early Monday, and part of me decided that trying to drive back tomorrow would have simply left me stressed out and not in good shape to work on Monday.

Another part of me had probably gone into emotional overload and had simply shut down after seven days of so much intensity and so many people. I felt bad for missing many of you on Saturday afternoon, but I also realized that I'd be seeing almost all of you again real soon anyway ... and doing so after we've all had time to recover and can have more proper chats about our experiences.

And it turns out to have been a very wise decision indeed to come home tonight. Sitting at my front door, rather unexpectedly, was a Saturday FedEx delivery from my employer. I won't go into the details, but I'll note that it was good news, it was unexpected, and it really should not have been sitting exposed at my front door! Who knows what would have happened had I not returned until tomorrow and never known that something was supposed to be there. As I said earlier in the week, everything happens for a reason.

Now for the statistics. On every previous ALC that I did, I always brought along a reference card showing my day-by-day pace for each year. This year, however, I specifically didn't do that because I didn't want to feel the pressure of competing against my previous years.

Of course, as you know by now from reading this, that wasn't a concern. Here are my stats from six years of ALC, in average miles per hour by day:
ALC5ALC6ALC7ALC8ALC9ALC11
Day 113.312.8*13.513.314.116.4
Day 214.514.014.114.215.216.2
Day 313.211.913.612.813.816.1
Day 413.612.713.312.314.015.3
Day 512.011.012.111.4+12.8+14.5
Day 613.113.212.99.7^14.015.7
Day 713.312.313.213.914.215.9

Notes:
* = Longer, more difficult route along upper Skyline to Hwy. 84
+ = Longer, more difficult route via Solvang
^ = Route truncated at 15 miles due to heavy rain


I am going to allow myself a moment or two of happiness over those stats! But I'll also quickly point out that I was on a new bike this year, which made a difference ... and this year's winds were generally very favorable, which also helped. But the overall trend shows that, although I might not make quantum leaps in performance from one year to the next, the seven-year trend (counting the year that I skipped ALC) is quite favorable and perhaps even satisfactory.

Of course, I don't do all this just so I can gloat over numbers. I do it because we're all working together to provide services and treatment to those affected by HIV and AIDS. Thanks to my donors for helping me reach my $5,000 goal this year, and thanks to all the donors for taking us above $12.6 million for ALC11. Your support saves lives.

What's next? We need to be very careful about the post-ride blues that often hit. Be sure to schedule activities that make you comfortable, with people you like. And take some time off the bicycle (and get it serviced, especially after all that rain and mud), but get back on it again soon and remember the feelings you had while riding this week.

And of course, I'll be back in late July with the Double Bay Double 2 training ride series. Watch for details soon.

It's late for me now, so I'll wrap this one up. I'll do a separate epilogue tomorrow or Monday, hitting some of my overall themes for the week and some final impressions and helpful tips that I can take forward into next year's ride.

Again, giant thanks to everyone who was part of my quasi-interactive conversation this week. It was a new experience for me, and it made the week much different than it had been before ... and much different than I expected. It's wonderful living in the future, isn't it.

P.S.: My story of the bungled Halfway to L.A. photo has a surprise happy ending! Unknown to me at the time, super ride leader Paul's mother took a cellphone picture of me at the same time the mystery rider was taking the lost pictures with my own camera. When I woke up at 2 a.m. today for no particular reason, the photo was waiting in my email inbox after she heard of my plight. What a pleasant surprise!