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My year in cycling

It's been a year of many changes in my cycling world, not the least of which were my move back to the Bay Area, my purchase of a real road bike, and my first-ever double metric centuries. But after four and a half years of rather intense cycling, some peaks and valleys are becoming more pronounced, and I need to give increased consideration to riding smartly as opposed to just riding.

First, the numbers. Here's my monthly mileage for the past few years; 2006 was the first year that I rode in ALC.


So I racked up more miles this year than last, but much of the increase came from the very wacky month of June. How wacky was it? I started the month with ALC7, and then I came back and bought the new bicycle -- which immediately got me eager to go out and try everything again. Plus, thanks to a medical issue, I spent the second half of the month on the steroid prednisone, which put my body into super-hyper-overdrive ... an experience I hope not to repeat anytime soon. The result was that, for my first time ever, I racked up more than 1,000 miles in a single month. But I feel like there should be an asterisk next to that drug-assisted number.

That said, I also attained a long-held goal of mine: I rode 200 kilometers (125 miles) in a single day, and I did it not once, but twice. After leading the longest-ever ALC training ride in early May, I became a member of Randonneurs USA and rode in the Chualar 200k event in August. (I finished third-from-last, but just like ALC, it's a ride, not a race.) Extreme long-distance cycling is a fascinating sport that takes the mind-set of ALC to the next level, and it's something I'm hoping to continue pursuing, if only at the sport's "entry" level of "only" 200k. (Don't look for me on any of those 1,200-kilometer rides!)

Of more direct relevance to those who are reading to get insights into training for ALC, I put in significantly fewer miles before this year's ride than I did last year, particularly during the weeks immediately before the ride. And this year's ALC was actually easier for me, with my average speed during the ride slightly faster than in 2007. There's an important lesson here: Do not overtrain for ALC. Yes, you need to get experience in riding consecutive long-mileage days, but you also need to make sure that you don't wear yourself out before Day 1.

Looking ahead, there are two big challenges.

First is boredom. As I've noted here before, I've bicycled almost every reasonable nearby route, and those that I haven't are generally more difficult than I enjoy. And when I get home from work at night, do I really want to put on all the gear (so much gear for bicycling these days!) just for yet another 15-mile spin up Foothill Expressway? I've found that much more of my riding is now "destination" riding -- on weekends or at special events -- and less of it is just because I want to go out and have fun for an hour or so. That's a trend I need to reverse.

Second is age. The statistics say we lose a little bit of our aerobic capacity every year past age 35, even though cycling can help mitigate that. And the body just doesn't want to burn away fat like it used to. Bicycling is a great way to stay fit into one's later years (just ask our ALCers who are in their 70s and even their 80s!), but I'm probably reaching the point where I will start to see my performance decrease, rather than increase, over time. Switching to a road bike has given me a temporary speed boost, but I attribute most of that to equipment and not to me.

But enough melancholy stuff. We're just a week and a half away from the beginning of this season's Cat-3 Distance Training rides, and I've been extremely pleased by the "buzz" I've been hearing about the rides. I've got some interesting new routes planned, and I'm looking forward to riding with many of you as we get ready for ALC8.

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