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Ride report: South Bay/Peninsula early-bird ride #8 rescheduled

Go, riders!

What a difference a week makes. Last week's bone-chilling rain and snow seemed but a memory today as temperatures soared into the lower 60s for the 14 of us who completed the second attempt at our 46-mile loop around the South Bay. Even without the brisk East Bay tailwinds that usually help push up speeds on this route, each and every rider delivered an impressive pace today that met or exceeded ALC's Cat-3 pace (12-15 mph).

(At right: Approaching the Dumbarton Bridge with, yes, the blimp in the air.)

This was the longest ride of the season for some of us, and I'll bet that, like me, you felt that you had crossed a threshold in terms of distance. For me, 40 miles is about the point where I need to modify my behavior ... which I didn't fully do today, and I was feeling the consequences near the end.

Three hours of riding is too long to go without proper nutrition -- a crunchy marshmallow bar in Milpitas doesn't count. And without venturing too far into the category of too much information, three hours is also too long for me to go without reapplying butt cream.

As our rides get longer, taking care of yourself is more important than ever, because the key to making it all the way to Los Angeles is giving your body the care that it needs and deserves.

As I said earlier, today's pace was certainly brisk to say the least. I need to stress that you should never, ever feel pressured to ride any faster or harder than you want to ride. It's good to test your limits (and, hopefully, expand them), but do not let yourself be intimidated by the sight of riders roaring off into the distance. It happens to all of us!

If you're riding a Cat-2 pace, the Cat-3 riders will be ahead of you. If you're riding a Cat-3 pace, some Cat-4 (15+ mph) riders will leave you behind. And even if you're a Cat-4 rider, there are a few riders who make it all the way to Los Angeles at an average speed of more than 20 mph.

Every training ride always has a ride leader in the sweep position behind the last rider. The TRLs riding sweep expect to ride more slowly than the rest of the pack, and you're never "imposing" on them by riding at whatever pace you need. The sweep is there to help you successfully complete your ride, so don't hesitate to let them know how they can help you. And don't be surprised if the sweep offers you a few tips along the way. They've all been here before, and they've seen many common problems that can be fixed.

What's next? This was the last ride in our South Bay/Peninsula early-bird set of rides. Beginning next month, the training season kicks into high gear, and there are many ways for you to proceed from here. I'll mention just a couple that are relevant to folks who will be doing at least some of their riding on the Peninsula and in the South Bay.

Every Sunday beginning Jan. 18, there will be Cat-2 rides in Sunnyvale, San Francisco, the East Bay, and the North Bay. These will all be approximately the same length every week, so you can switch between locations as you wish. The rides will start at about 20 miles and increase over 20 weeks to about 100 miles.

Every other Saturday
beginning Jan. 10, I'll be leading the Cat-3 Distance Training rides from our location in downtown Mountain View. These rides are for intermediate and advanced riders who want to increase their physical and mental endurance on long-distance rides. This set of 10 rides gradually starts at 40 miles and increases to a mid-May finale of a double metric century: 200 kilometers (125 miles) in a single day. Everyone who rode today is qualified to ride these rides. It's perfectly OK if you're at the lower end of the Cat-3 range; you do not need to be a 15-mph rider to do these rides.

Our first ride is a bit easier than today's ride. It's a 40-mile jaunt through the lowlands, with a long run along the entire length of Foothill Expressway from Cupertino to Menlo Park. There's just one little hill (McClellan), and there are two scheduled rest stops. Details and RSVP are here.

There will also be many other training rides, some as part of every-week series, others as one-time events. Many of the January rides are already listed, and others will show up later this week. You can see them in the official ALC training calendar here. Check back often, because new rides will continue to be listed throughout the training season.

Don't forget the kickoff party for all of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's endurance events, including AIDS/LifeCycle. It's Sunday, January 11, in San Francisco. There will be lots of fun and information -- and, of course, the chance to win one of several new bicycles. RSVPs for this event are required; more info is available here.

And with that, I wrap up our training for 2008. Best wishes for the new year, and may you meet whatever challenges you set for yourself in 2009.

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