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Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #5

Go, riders!

After three weeks of rain, many of us probably didn't recognize the sun as it shone upon our group of 32 riders yesterday. The actual temperature might have been a bit cool, but the sun warmed us up on our 76-mile ride to Coyote Valley.

This was a lot like a medium-length day on the ride in June. Lots of little hills, nothing too obnoxious, a mix of city and rural riding. The challenge for the next few weeks is for you to increase your consecutive days of riding. It's one thing to do a long ride like this one, but it's another thing entirely to do it all over again the very next day ... and the day after that. That's why Day 3 of the ride often is so difficult for many riders -- although it's a shorter day (and even shorter now that it used to be, thanks to the route change in King City), very few riders have done three consecutive long training rides. It really does make a difference. Around late April or early May, I try to take a day off so that I can ride on a Friday or Monday in addition to both weekend days.

One difference between yesterday and an actual day on the ride is that you'll usually have many more scheduled rest stops during the ride. The gap of 23 miles between rest stops 2 and 3 yesterday was big enough to get a couple of folks talking, but even that was a little bit of training for the ride.

In June, rest stops are usually about 10 to 15 miles apart, but there are a couple of notable exceptions. Using last year's route, there's a 23.6-mile gap on Day 4, there are gaps of 23.0 and 20.3 miles on Day 2, and there's even a 20-mile gap on Day 1. When you're between rest stops, you're always allowed to take a rest anywhere you choose, although the ALC folks urge us to use only actual restrooms. Especially in the agricultural land that we pass through, farmers in the past have complained about riders using fields as toilets, and that could jeopardize our permission to use those routes in the future. Yes, I know ... when you gotta go, you gotta go. It's a touchy subject, so I'll just tell you what the official line is, and you can make your own decisions from there.

Toward the end of yesterday's ride, I saw a lot of unhappy legs. That's not entirely unexpected, since this was the longest ride of the season so far for most of us. Your task is to be aware of what's happening to you, and then take appropriate action to mitigate any problems. In the case of legs, that means doing stretching exercises at every rest stop (and even between rest stops if necessary) -- being able to identify which muscles are giving you the trouble, and then using exercises that focus on those muscles.

That gets into the big take-away point about yesterday's ride and all of the other long rides to come. It's no longer just about pushing pedals over and over again for five hours or more. While on your bike, you now have a lot of management to do -- a mental task that's at least as important as your physical activity.

While on a long ride, you have to manage your body as I mentioned above. But you also have to manage your nutrition -- eating properly and in appropriate quantities for your body and your pace. You have to manage your hydration, taking in enough liquid (and electrolyte replacement, if you're not getting that from any other source), but not too much liquid. You have to manage your pace so that you have enough energy to get you through the entire ride. And you have to manage your mind -- dealing with any thoughts that come up that would have the potential to distract you. All of these factors are crucial in making the transformation from casual recreational cyclist into long-distance endurance cyclist. Who knew that riding was such hard work?

What's next? Our next two Cat-3 Distance Training rides are, in my opinion, the most challenging of all, even though they're not the longest. On March 21, we're going to the coast at San Gregorio via a climb up Old La Honda Road. This year, due to popular request (really!), I've added a new optional loop that travels down the coast from San Gregorio (along a few miles of our traditional Day 1 route) to Pescadero. In total, the ride is 81 miles with about 5,400 feet of climbing; without the Pescadero loop, that reduces to about 65 miles and 3,600 feet of climbing. Either way, this is a challenging ride that requires strong climbing and descending skills. Your rewards are some amazing scenery and the accomplishment of doing more climbing in one day than on any single day of ALC. Details and RSVP are here. (After the ride, many of us will be gathering for celebration at a Mexican restaurant near the meeting point. Details will be sent in the Rider's Briefing that you get when your RSVP. Please remember to RSVP for these rides -- and any other ALC training rides. That helps us plan resources accordingly.) Looking ahead: In four weeks, we'll ride up to San Francisco and back, a ride of about 90 miles and 3,900 feet of climbing.

Finally, a giant thanks from all of us to Susan, who was our SAG driver yesterday and will do so again on our ride to San Gregorio. Even though nobody needed her transportation services this time, it's always reassuring to have a vehicle on the road for us, and it brought a smile to my face when I'd round a curve or crest a hill and see Susan standing there, cheering us on. You are awesome!

Day 1 is just 12 weeks from today. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

P.S.: I was an idiot and left my camera in the car yesterday. These photos were taken by forementioned awesome SAG driver Susan.

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