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Taking the night off

Normally you'd be reading my ride report by now. But I'm exercising Birthday Privilege and giving myself the night off to enjoy a good dinner with good friends. I'll write the report tomorrow when it's raining and there's nothing better to do.

In brief: We had 25 riders (wow!), and the hills were certainly a challenge for many of us.

Saturday weather looking good (updated Friday)

Saratoga GapAlthough another most-needed storm is moving in, the latest forecasts now agree that Saturday will be a wonderful day for cycling, with temperatures possibly approaching 70 degrees and any rain not arriving until late in the evening.

Our ride this weekend is a challenging ride, and I'll certainly be taking the climb up Highway 9 very, very slow, probably even stopping a couple of times along the way. If you're worried about not being fast enough on the climb, don't worry -- I'll be behind you.

That said, however, don't try to do this ride unless you have experience on winding descents. You need to know how to control your speed and feather your brakes; the descent has several hairpin curves, and you can't take them at full speed. Last time I offered this ride more than two years ago, one rider was injured when he lost control on a curve and went off the road and into a fence. Especially if you're planning on the 48-mile ride and the descent of Old La Honda Road, don't expect a wide-open, speedy descent.

Don't let that scare you away, though; details and RSVP are here.

Photo credit: Saratoga Gap, by Jun Seita, Flickr

An interesting postscript

Apparently there was an M3.2 earthquake in Sunol at 11:01 a.m. today -- right about when our riders were starting to arrive. I don't think anyone noticed.

It begs the more interesting question -- what happens if you're riding when a moderate or major quake occurs? It's a point I've never really thought much about.

Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #4

Go, riders!

Yay, we beat the rain! I did a sufficient job of putting the Fear of Weather into all of you, and our group of 33 riders completed our 63-mile ride to Sunol and back by 3 p.m. Special congratulations to the riders who completed their first-ever metric century today.

Today's ride crossed a significant threshold. Up until now, we've been doing rides that casual cyclists usually don't really think all that much about doing on a whim. But when we pass the 60-mile mark, we're getting into serious endurance cycling territory. And when that happens, things start to change. I'm sure many of you noticed that today.

First and most significant is the need for proper nutrition -- not just during the ride, but before and after it as well. Depending on your body, you might have burned more than 2,000 calories on today's ride. You can't let that all go without replacing most of it, or your metabolism will start to go into starvation mode and start hanging on to every fat calorie it can get its hands on. Be sure to have a small recovery meal as soon as possible after a long ride, and follow it up a couple of hours later with another balanced meal.

Last month, ALC hosted an outstanding presentation on nutrition for endurance cycling, and you can find many of the notes from that presentation here. The workshop is being repeated next Thursday night in San Francisco; it's free, and details and RSVP are here.

Second on the list of things that probably changed today was that you realized you might not be able to ride "all-out" the whole day on such a long ride. If you started out strong and weren't so strong by the end, that's a good sign that you should look at your pacing. The goal is to find a pace that you can essentially maintain forever, so that any distance won't be a problem for you. This often means forcing yourself to hold back a bit at the start of a day, and perhaps taking those first few hills a little bit more easily than you're capable of doing. Don't be intimidated by faster riders; everyone has their own pace, and you're doing your ride, not anyone else's.

Another big change was that your mind probably started telling you different things today. As always, I can't even begin to guess what's going on inside everybody's mind, but take a couple of minutes and think about what you thought about during today's ride. For me, the big change of mind today was a shift from "Oh no, not another ride" to "Oh wow, I actually did this ride, and I don't feel like crap after doing it." As our rides get significantly longer from this point forward, that's an important shift to make.

A few notes from the road:

-- I saw a rider run a red light today. Bad! It was at the type of red light that officers love to stake out and issue $300-plus tickets to unsuspecting cyclists, too: a T intersection where the way forward is clear. (This happens often on Foothill Expressway in Los Altos, for example.) But the law in California is clear, even if we don't agree with it: Even if there's no limit line painted on the shoulder or bike lane, cyclists are required to stop at all red lights. Why? Traffic that's turning into the lane might not correctly land in the lane they're aiming for, and they might go into the bike lane instead. You wouldn't want to be there if that happened.

-- Did a rude motor home almost run you off the road in Niles Canyon? You weren't the only one. The driver was going all over the place, often crossing the white line and veering into what passed for a bike lane. How did that make you feel? We can encounter poor drivers anywhere, including on the ride; while it's important that we deal with the situation at hand, it's equally important that you not let such an incident ruin the rest of your day. Don't bike while angry!

-- Whenever we cross the Dumbarton Bridge, I hear some low-grade grumbling about the condition of the frontage road on the east side of the bridge. Yes, it stinks. But in June, we'll be riding on lots of roads that are in less-than-perfect condition, particularly in rural areas of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties where money for road maintenance appears to be little to none. Nearly all of Day 3 from King City to Paso Robles is on county roads that have been chip-sealed, so the riding is rough ... and tough on the hands, too. The best advice, again, is to "get used to it" and don't let it get you down.

What's next? Our Cat-3 Distance Training rides resume in two weeks with a 76-mile trip to South San Jose. This is a popular ride that covers a wide range of conditions and scenery, and it has just enough climbing (about 2,200 feet) to be a hefty challenge. There's a light-rail bailout option available around mile 40, just in case it's not your best day. Details and RSVP are here.

Next Saturday, however, you're invited to join David Goldsmith and myself for our Double Birthday Ride, a very hilly trip up Highway 9 and along Skyline Blvd. The route is either 48 or 53 miles; 48-mile riders will descend tricky Old La Honda Road, and the 53-mile riders will descend the more speedy but still challenging Highway 84 into Woodside. There's about 4,400 feet of climbing on this ride, including a non-stop 7-mile climb up Highway 9, so it's not for the faint of heart. The good news, however, is that we're running the ride as a Cat-2 ride, which means the official pace will be only 10-12 mph, and I won't be climbing anywhere near that fast. Details and RSVP are here.

And even though we're in a rather long stretch of rainy weather these days, try to find ways to train in between our rides. We assume that you're doing significant rides on our "off" weeks, and you need to maintain your training so that you can cope with the increasing distance in the rides to come. Don't want to ride in the rain? Put on a jacket and go for a hike. Don't want to get muddy? Do three or four power-walking laps around the Great Mall. Training during rainy season can be a challenge, so be creative in finding solutions that work for you.

Thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle, and I look forward to our next ride.

Today's ride is *on*

Good morning, riders!

We are ON for our 63-mile ride to Sunol today.

The forecasts are all over the place on this one. The latest statement from the National Weather Service now says that the rain will start in the North Bay by midday, not late this afternoon as they originally said. However, The Weather Channel and AccuWeather now say there's only a 10% chance of showers in our area throughout the afternoon.

Temperatures should reach the lower 60s, so we won't be cold -- but bring a light jacket anyway just in case the weather pixies haven't told us the truth. The other important advice for today: Do not linger at the rest stops. This is our first ride of the year with three stops, and it's tempting to hang around and socialize, but we really should make every effort to get in and out of our stops and back to Mountain View. I often aim for an overall pace, counting stops, of about 10 mph, and that pace would get us back here around 3 p.m. -- probably only about an hour ahead of the showers.

Wilkie/Miller bridge reopened

> Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 2:03 PM
> Subject: Wilkie Way Bridge is open for business
> We opened up Wilkie Way bridge to the Public today.
> Thanks,
> Steve Banks
> Manager, Maintenance Operations
> Street Sweeping / Traffic Control
> Public Works Operations
> City of Palo Alto

Well done!

Looking toward Saturday

The forecasts seem to be converging on agreement: Rain will be moving into the area late Saturday. The only question is over the timing -- whether we can finish our 63-mile ride in time. As of tonight, it's looking favorable for us, so I'm going ahead with the advertised route at the advertised time. (Don't forget -- we meet one hour earlier this week!)

If you're a little skittish over doing a metric century, or if you're just worried about the weather, there's an unofficial bailout point on the ride. At about mile 52, you can hop on VTA light rail all the way back to Mountain View. It's a very slow trip (you might be able to bike it faster ... really!), and there's a transfer involved, but the option is available if you just can't go another mile or if the weather turns really bad. Bring $1.75 cash for the fare.

So sign up and join us this Saturday! Ride info and RSVP are available here.

Storm closure: Mtn. View/Palo Alto (updated Wednesday)

From the South Bay Cycling mailing list:
The bike/ped bridge connecting Wilkie Way and Miller Avenue is quite completely blocked by a fallen tree. Because the tree is a privately owned tree, the city of Palo Alto has no intention of removing the tree; actual removal will happen whenever the tree's owner decides to remove it.

From the looks of things on Wednesday afternoon (cellphone pic by me), this path could be out of service for quite some time, especially given the budget situation. Part of the fencing along the creek has been destroyed, and I'm certain that the city can't reopen the path until there's no risk of cyclists or pedestrians falling into the water.

Folks who ride our Mountain View training rides will recognize this location as a frequently visited spot. If this doesn't get fixed soon, I might have to reroute some upcoming rides. The safest detour, although significantly longer, involves taking Middlefield Road to and from Palo Alto.

If you're riding northbound by yourself, however, El Camino Real between Monroe and Arastradero/Charleston isn't really all that bad outside rush hours. (Southbound on El Camino Real, however, would involve a left turn across three lanes of traffic and probably isn't a good idea.)

Geek corner: Why don't posted mileages agree?

Dear Geek Corner: I looked up the Bikely description of a recent ride you posted, and it said the ride was 46 miles long. But when I printed your route sheet, it said the ride was 48 miles. What gives? Signed, Lance.

Dear Lance: Good question! One of the really neat things about Bikely is that you can draw a route by saying "follow the road," which tells Bikely to automatically follow the path of the road as described in the Google Maps data that the program uses.

But there's a problem with this. The map data doesn't exactly correspond to the actual roads. This happens because the map data is, by its nature, sampled at certain intervals, so minor fluctuations in a path are missed. This becomes noticeable when a road is especially curvy; for example, the east side of Old La Honda Road shows up as 3.0 miles in Bikely, but it's really about 3.3 to 3.4 miles.

When I make my route sheets, I try to get the actual on-the-ground distance as accurate as possible, usually by pre-riding the route myself. The difference is usually somewhere in the range of 1% to 2% over an entire route, but that's still enough to mean a difference of 2 miles in a 100-mile route. And I'm sure you'll agree that an error of 2 miles on a route sheet can make your day really frustrating, so I try to keep that from happening.

Of course, this all depends on your bike computer being properly configured with the circumference for the tires you're using, and even pesky little things like your tire pressure affect the circumference and, therefore, how far your computer thinks you've traveled. It's a very inexact science.

Saratoga Gap double birthday ride (2/28/2009)

Meet time: 8:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 9:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Three blocks west of the Mountain View Caltrain and VTA station, in the overflow parking lot at the corner of Evelyn Avenue and Franklin Street. (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Rain cancels
Category: 2 - medium pace (10-12 mph)
Terrain: 4 - steep hills, long climbs
Miles: 48 or 53

Today is my birthday. When I proposed this ride to the other ride leaders, I quickly learned that today is also David Goldsmith's birthday. So we're going to mark the occasion together with a challenging climb to the top of the coastal mountains.

From our usual starting point in downtown Mountain View, we'll take a gentle route (i.e., no Mount Eden) into Saratoga. But from there, get ready: We'll climb more than 7 miles up Highway 9 to the summit at Saratoga Gap, elevation 2,650 feet. Once we're there, we'll ride north along Skyline Drive for some great views and great hills.

You then have a choice. The 48-mile riders, led by me (why would that be?), will descend Old La Honda Road. The 53-mile riders, led by David (why would that be?), will descend Highway 84 via Woodside. At the bottom of the hill, both groups will meet up again and continue into Menlo Park for an easy ride back to Mountain View.

There's more than 4,000 feet of climbing in this ride, but it's not very steep, mostly in the 5% to 6% range. And your leaders will be taking the climbs nice and slow. After all, it's a ride of 48 or 53 miles -- not that those numbers are significant to me and David in any way whatsoever.

Route sheets for this ride are here: 48-mile route, 53-mile route.

Be sure to check the Training section of the ALC website for information on how to prepare for a training ride and what you must and should bring.

Leaders: Chris Thomas, David Goldsmith, TJ Zmucki

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #3

Go, riders!

When a break in the weather opened up, we seized the moment. Our group of 36 riders took advantage of the time between two storms to head out on a 50-mile ride that offered a little bit of everything: speed, hills, flat tires, and more than a few wrong turns.

Yes, let's talk about the wrong turns first and get the bad stuff out of the way. Quite a few folks ended up riding "bonus miles" today -- anywhere from just a couple city miles to quite a few hilly miles. Whenever this happens, I personally feel more than a bit responsible, because that means two things: the route sheet wasn't detailed enough for everyone to follow, and I didn't do an adequate job during the pre-ride briefing. So let me apologize if you ended up someplace you weren't supposed to go -- and I particularly feel sorry for the few folks who ended up on busy El Camino Real in Menlo Park.

That said, I can offer a couple of observations. First and most important, if you think you've made a wrong turn and don't see any other riders, never hesitate to call a ride leader and ask for assistance. If you end up on a road that doesn't feel like it's a reasonable bicycle route -- and if I haven't warned about it in the briefing -- chances are that you're in the wrong place. And if you're unfamiliar with an area we'll be riding in, take a couple of minutes ahead of the ride to check a map of the route. The ride descriptions on my blog always have a map window attached to them, and you can zoom in and out and scroll around and have all sorts of fun with the map. Today's route went to some places we rarely go on our training rides, and I think that caught a few folks off guard. So again, my apologies. I know my route sheets have developed a reputation for being accurate, and it hurts just a little bit inside when I come up short in that department.

OK, enough about that. Now it's only good news for the rest of-- What? Flat tires, you say? Oh yeah, that too.

We had another load of flat tires today, enough to send two riders out of the ride early. I didn't take a detailed survey today, but I know of at least seven. Some of those no doubt came from the nasty pile of glass that was in the shoulder on Central Expressway, and many of the others were once again consequences of riding on wet pavement. When the pavement is wet, our tires pick up all sorts of little nasties from the surface of the pavement, and those little nasties can cause pinch flats. One common piece of advice, as given here by Bicycling magazine, is to inflate your tires to about 10 psi less than normal in wet conditions. Of course, today's early-morning wet conditions gave way to sunny and dry weather later on, so there's no hard and fast rule.

It is worth noting, though, that many mornings of the ride in June start out chilly, damp, and even foggy, and the road surface can be wet even if it hasn't rained. Every year I see lots of riders with flats in the first few miles of many days. If it happens to you, just take it in stride -- it happens to all of us sooner or later, and eventually we all have one of those multi-flat days that makes us just say, "Awww, the heck with it, I'm going home."

Although a lot of you went quite fast during the first 20 miles today, this route was not designed for speed. We didn't put 25 nearly-flat miles at the beginning of the ride just to serve up what sometimes are incorrectly called "junk miles." Although the ride in June has lots of climbing, it also has lots of flat miles, sometimes seemingly without end. Part of the secret to success in June is learning how to deal with those miles as part of your overall ride.

When we went through Palo Alto, we encountered eight stop signs and three traffic signals in a very short distance. How did that make you feel? Were you getting frustrated by the time you reached the end of downtown? Were you thinking about maybe just possibly not coming to a full and complete stop at the sixth or seventh stop sign? It's a natural reaction. Sure, that's life on a bicycle in Palo Alto, but that's also what we experience while riding through Pismo Beach in June. And ALC in Pismo Beach has developed a somewhat bad reputation in past years because of riders who don't follow the rules. Especially if you're a faster rider, but even if you're not, take the frequent stops in stride and don't let them affect your mood. Remember, the future of ALC depends on all of us following all of the rules.

And as you were nearing the 40-mile mark of the ride, how were you feeling about all of the hills? If you're familiar with the area, you no doubt knew that you were just a few easy miles away from Mountain View, but no, we still had lots of climbing to do. What was your mind saying to you? Were you looking forward to the challenge? Or were you cursing me for putting in all of those "unnecessary" hills? There are no right or wrong answers, but you should think about how your mind worked during today's ride. The emotions and thoughts you had today are similar to those that you'll have in June, and now is a good time to work on training your mind as well as your body.

Although we're talking mainly about the mind here, there is one important point: If your mood during a ride starts turning really sour, that's a possible indication that your nutrition is out of whack. If you start hating everyone and everything while you're riding (it's happened to me), stop and have some calories, from an energy drink, an energy bar, some gel, or whatever else you might be carrying with you. When you ride while mad, you can pose a safety risk not only to yourself, but also to other riders. We're here to get all of us to Los Angeles safely, as a group, and that depends on each of us.

What's next? In two weeks, on Saturday the 21st, we'll do our first metric century (100-kilometer ride) of the season with a ride to the quaint East Bay community of Sunol. Even though the ride is longer, there's less climbing than we did today. And there are far fewer turns, too! Details and RSVP are here. And note that our meeting times get earlier starting with the next ride. On the 21st, we meet at 8:30 a.m., so this means that our San Francisco riders can no longer take the train to the ride. (The trains don't run that early on Saturdays.)

And save the date: In three weeks, on Saturday the 28th, I'm running a special bonus ride, a climb all the way up to the top of Highway 9 (elevation 2,650 feet) with a cruise along Skyline Drive to Sky Londa. You can do the ride as either a 48-mile route or a 53-mile route, in honor of the two birthday boys who will be leading the ride, myself and David Goldsmith. I'll have details and an RSVP link up soon.

Finally, please make sure you're taking part in other training rides, especially on the weekends that I don't have a ride scheduled. And make sure that you're doing at least one long ride every weekend -- at least as long as our last ride -- so that you'll be ready to deal with the increased miles, which now go up by 10 to 15 miles every ride. A new set of Cat-3 rides is running out of San Francisco, and the organizers of those rides have been super kind and have scheduled their rides to not conflict with ours. So if you're looking for more Cat-3 fun, consider heading up to San Francisco. Details are in the official ALC calendar.

Thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle, and I look forward to riding with you again soon.

Today's ride is *on*

Good morning, riders!

Looks like today is going to be a great day for cycling ... in fact, probably the best day for the next several days. The Weather Channel admits that there's a chance a rain -- a whopping 4% chance at ride-out time, increasing to 10% by the end of the ride. So let's get out there and ride!

Bring a jacket and leg/knee warmers; we won't be getting out of the 50s today, and there probably won't be much sun.

Prop. 8 ruling might come during the ride

Today's edition of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the California Supreme Court will hear arguments March 5 on whether to invalidate Proposition 8, which ended official recognition of same-sex marriage in the state. What is of particular interest for us is that the high court has 90 days from the time of the hearing in which to issue its ruling.

Assuming that the court is likely to use the full time allotted to it, this means that the court's ruling would be handed down during the first week in June -- while we're somewhere between SF and LA.

Whichever way the ruling goes, this could make things ... um, interesting for us.