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Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #6

Go, riders!

How do you make the most difficult of all the Cat-3 Distance Training rides even more difficult? Simple ... just add in healthy servings of wind, cold, and rain. Lots of rain. The weather forecasts for today were wrong, wrong, wrong, and the storm that was supposed to arrive tonight instead arrived during the day, hitting not just our group of 31 riders but also affecting other ALC training rides throughout the area. Worse yet, the storm arrived at just about the halfway point of our ride while we were near the coast, so we couldn't even gain any advantage by turning back early. (Photo: What happens when you try to take a picture in the rain.)

Completing the full 81 miles and 5,400 feet of climbing today is a huge accomplishment. Today we did more climbing than on any single day of AIDS/LifeCycle, and we rode the distance of an average day of the ride as well. Our total climbing was similar to that of Day on the Ride at the end of April, so we are well on our way to being ready for June!

Of course, many of us did not do the entire route today. There is no shame at all in that, especially on a day like today. But this brings up one of the most difficult aspects of the ride in June: the sweep, and deciding when to stop riding for a day and get in the sweep vehicle instead. Sometimes, the decision is easy: Your bicycle has suffered a serious mechanical failure, and you just can't go on. Other times, it's not so easy: You want to go on, but your body is saying no.

Remember that there is no special prize for riding EFI (Every "Friendly" Inch) of AIDS/LifeCycle. Everyone who rides out on Day 1 has raised at least $3,000 to fight HIV and AIDS, and that's what matters. But many riders have a personal goal of riding EFI, and when something happens to throw that into jeopardy, emotions can very quickly get hot and heavy. The act of getting into a sweep vehicle can be very emotionally draining for some. You can end up in the sweep vehicle because you have decided to stop riding, or because someone on the ALC staff has observed you and decided that you need to stop riding. (And if an ALC staff member makes this decision, it's final. Don't argue the point, or you could get kicked off the ride.)

Part of your training is to become more aware of what your body is telling you, and another part is to become more aware of your limits and possibly expand them. But if your body is telling you that you shouldn't be riding anymore today, then the sweep is for you -- and you are to be commended for listening to your body and not putting yourself (and those around you) at undue risk. Today, many of us decided that 61 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing was enough -- and there's nothing at all wrong with that. (And again this week, super special thanks to SAG driver Susan. Today's conditions made her job extraordinarily difficult, and she handled everyone's needs with grace and aplomb.)

One thing I noticed today was that I heard a lot of people talking about food ... or, more precisely, about how they were aware that they weren't properly eating. In June, proper nutrition practically comes to you, with meals carefully planned by ALC staff. On training rides, however, it's not quite as simple. There are no set menus, and sometimes (like today) we travel to places where home-cooked, nutritionally balanced meals are merely a dream.

My strategy on training rides is to take care of my basic nutritional and caloric needs with easy-to-find products such as fruit drinks, nuts, bagels, energy bars, and electrolyte gels. When I deviate from that plan -- such as when I tried to have a sandwich in San Gregorio today -- my stomach quickly let me know that it was not happy. I can't pretend to say what works for you, but you should identify items that work for you and are easy to find. The good news is that none of our other Cat-3 Distance Training rides have rest stops that are remote as were today's.

We got a taste of a few miles of the Day 1 route along Highway 1, thus dispelling any notions that the highway along the coast is flat. Those 5 miles of Highway 1 are, I believe, among the most hilly that we do along the entire coast on Day 1 -- and it always seems more difficult because it comes right after lunch at San Gregorio State Beach. Today was unusual, though, in that we had to deal with a headwind out of the south. In June, we are virtually guaranteed favorable tailwinds on Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz.

Three brief announcements from the folks at ALC World HQ:

-- Don't forget the Cyclist Expo and Roadie Training next Saturday, March 28 in San Francisco. Two training rides of 25 and 42 miles will be offered at the expo, and this is a great chance to ride in a larger group than we usually have down here.

-- The ALC travel planner has information on everything you need to know about travel before and after the event, including where to stay in Los Angeles and several ways to get your bicycle back to the Bay Area.

-- The medical waiver is now available in your Participant Center. Everyone needs to supply their medical information, and if you do it online now, that's one fewer line you need to stand in on Day 0. And be as detailed as possible; if an emergency were to occur during the ride, this information could save your life.

What's next for us? In two weeks, on Saturday, April 4, we'll be riding all the way up to San Francisco and back on an 89-mile ride. We'll ride a long stretch of the traditional Day 1 route along Skyline Blvd., and we'll even ride a little bit on Interstate 280 -- yes, just like we do on Day 1, and yes, it's legal in the place where we'll do it. It's another somewhat hilly ride -- about 3,900 feet by my count -- but that seems like nothing after today, right? Details and RSVP are here. And our meet time next time will be at the oh-so-early hour of 7 a.m. sharp. Please try to arrive before then so that we can do the ride briefing, exercises, and safety speech and roll out on time at 7:30 a.m.

Congratulations again to everyone for being part of today's ride, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

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