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The best SAG service ever!

Just delivered to my front door, and ooohhhhh so good. Thanks a million, Cindy!

ALC8 Day on the Ride SF

This was the ride where I was going to try to be a more mellow rider to see if doing so would be more fun. Sure enough, my pace was certainly mellow, but that was largely out of necessity and not by choice. Not only was this year's new-ish route somewhat challenging, I clearly was coming down with something that, as I write this a day later, has me laid up with a low-grade fever, an overwhelming desire to sleep (but only for an hour at a time), and other random symptoms of swine flu.

The calendar said that meet time was 5:30 a.m. So true to form, I arrived at the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park at about 5:20 a.m. and found almost nobody there -- in fact, I was able to park directly in front of the building. You'd think that after so many years of this, I would realize that there's no need to be there so stupidly early. (I woke up at 3 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep, so it's not like I was doing anything else useful.)

We finally got going around 7:30 a.m., about half an hour late, so already my plan was somewhat in doubt. The closing time for Rest Stop 1, 21 miles into the ride, was only 10:30 a.m., so even if I rode at a generous pace, I still would have to get in and out of the rest stop. And sure enough, as I've written about here many times, it's often difficult to get in and out of an ALC rest stop, especially early in the day. The line for a portapotty was about 10 minutes long (not at all bad by ALC standards), so I didn't leave until right around 10 a.m. (Fortunately, I didn't hear anyone shouting a 30-minute warning as they do on the ride, so maybe they kept it open a bit later in light of the delayed ride-out.)

Then came the hills. White's Hill, Nicasio Valley Road, and (new this year) Lucas Valley Road -- all places that I'd been before, so it wasn't really unexpected, but it was taking a toll on me -- more than it should. But since I was hanging back with the other riders, I found plenty of other folks who were riding a pace that suited me just fine, and I wasn't feeling much of a desire to pass hardly anyone. (I also took even more photo stops than usual.)

Once we got into San Rafael, there were a few miles that were new to me -- a rarity in the Bay Area. The miles through downtown San Rafael were slow and frustrating, but there were a few more steady climbs to increase the elevation gain. After that, it was back into San Anselmo for the stop-sign-overload ride back into Sausalito.

My pace for the day was a moderate 11.8 mph, and a lot of that was because I just didn't feel like passing anyone on the hills, opting instead to stay behind and offer encouragement when needed. I felt pleased at the end of the ride -- although I was saddened to hear of a crash, a vehicle break-in, and a failed bicycle frame.

Saturday's ride was challenging, with about 4,700 feet of climbing. That's about as much climbing as on Day 1 of the ride, although on that day it's spread out over about 80 miles of distance. No other day of the ride has as much climbing, so if you survived Day on the Ride, you'll do just fine in June.

But I was unusually tired after the ride, and all day long I had been consuming (and, um, unloading) far more water and Powerade than usual. And I was coughing a bit more than usual. As the day wore on, I began to sense that something wasn't quite right. As soon as I got home, it hit me quite suddenly: a case of the shivers. My temperature had shot up to 1.8 degrees above its normal (as registered by the thermometer that normally has me at about 97.5 degrees), and I was hugely tired. I was asleep by 6:30 p.m., but I could only sleep for 60 to 90 minutes at a time all night long, and I was in this half-awake, half-asleep state all night long. Once this morning arrived, I was able to go to the grocery store for drugs and comfort food, but doing so only made my temperature shoot up another degree or so. So it was back to sleep for a while.

As of this afternoon, though, things don't seem to be getting any worse. My temperature is still about a degree too high, and I don't really feel like doing much of anything, but I did muster enough energy to finally put a new rear tire on my bike and clean the chain. (That seemed to test the limits of what I can do today, alas.)

So it's plenty of rest for me -- I hope that I'll be able to stay home tomorrow -- and then a short ride or two later in the week to get ready for our big 113-mile trip to Gilroy next Saturday.


If you wondering whether today was really as hilly as it felt, I get about 4,700 feet of climbing over 68 miles, using the same scale that we use for our Mountain View rides. That's a lot!

An experiment

Saturday morning, I'll be waking up around 3:30 a.m. to make my way to chilly San Francisco for this year's Day on the Ride. Given that I've come to generally dislike cycling in Marin County, why would I bother? Because I want to try something different -- something that might have a big impact on how I approach the ride this June.

Those of you who ride with me know that I'm a wonderfully average rider. When I'm not sweeping a ride, I tend to be in the middle when it comes to pacing, and I almost never "hammer" it. But when it comes to rest stops, I try to get in and out very quickly. A few years ago when I was less sure of myself and really did have speed issues, this was a wise strategy that helped me complete Every Friendly Inch of ALC. But now, unless I've got a bus to catch, there's really little need for such a strategy.

During ALC, I consistently reached camp in the first half of riders -- sometimes even the first third or first quarter, gauging by the number of bicycles in Bike Parking when I arrived. Sure, this got me some nice perks like little or no line at the shower truck, but I've missed out on a lot of fun things along the way. Also, by consistently riding with cyclists who generally outclass me when it comes to skill and speed (particularly on descents), I ended up not enjoying myself nearly so much, constantly enduring the calls of "On your left!" all day long while passing very few people myself.

This year's Day on the Ride is only 67 miles, down from 78 miles last year and 100 miles a few years ago. Yet, if the ALC calendar is to be believed, there's still a 10-hour time limit on the ride. That's a lot of time! And, hence, my experiment.

I'm hoping to take a very casual approach to this ride. I don't plan to be bunched up at the front of the pack waiting to be the first person out of Golden Gate Park. I plan to take my time on Camino Alto and White's Hill, and I might even hang around the lunch stop for a while and, gasp, try to be social. And who knows when I'll get back to San Francisco -- maybe 2 p.m., maybe 3, or maybe even later.

Then again, I might decide an hour into the ride to just take off and be done as quickly as possible with the 387 stop signs and 9,000 cyclists of Marin's narrow streets. That's the experiment: I want to see whether I can (or want to) have a leisurely large-group ride. We'll know in a little more than 24 hours.

Photo credit: Day on the Ride 2008, by Jamison, at Flickr

Two indispensable items

In the giant list of everything that you're supposed to bring with you on your bike while doing the ride, I've got two items that often get overlooked but make the ride much better for me. One of them you probably know about; the other, possibly not.

Lip balm -- preferably with sunscreen -- is extremely important. Even during our last few training rides, the rides are now long enough that you can do serious damage to your lips if you don't protect them from the sun and the wind. As with all such items (including sunscreen), you are expected to bring your own on the ride. Although the medical tent might have some available, it's only for emergency use ... and they often run out or start rationing anyway as the week progresses.

The item you might not have thought about is a tiny water mister. This tiny bottle (see how it's only a little larger than the lip balm) can make you feel immeasurably better on hot days -- and it can make you a lot of instant best friends when you walk around Mission San Miguel with a cool spray of mist in your wake. It really only makes sense when the temperature is above about 85 degrees or so, but we have enough of that on Days 2 and 3 (and, this year, maybe Day 5) that this dollar-store item is a wise investment.

I've certainly gotten the strange looks when I've pulled the mister out of my jersey pocket (or perhaps I just get strange looks anyway), but then folks go "wow."

Just remember: If you mist yourself heavily, your sunscreen might wash off. Remember to reapply it!

It can happen without warning

On the part of Highway 9 that we rode Saturday afternoon, a tragic incident occurred the next day. KCBS radio reports:
24-year-old Ashley Jackson of the Alto Velo cycling team was riding in the bike lane on Highway 9 toward Los Gatos with her boyfriend and cycling coach, Dave Nelson, when Nelson said they were both hit from behind by a late-model, silver, 4-door BMW 7 Series sedan. "I can't even speak the words of what this person did," said Nelson. "You can ruin someone's life by one action and not even care to stop."

Nelson said it appears the car's right mirror clipped Jackon and knocked her to the ground. "The car comes flying through, by me, grazes me with the broken mirror, hits me with his broken mirror, kind of shocks you, wondering what he's doing. At that point, I have to turn around and see my girlfriend laying in the road. She's crumpled up and hit by this car." Jackson was knocked unconscious, with a broken collarbone and a serious brain injury.

The Mercury News adds, just in case anyone was wondering:
The two were cycling together, he said, single-file in the bike lane, with helmets on.

Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #8

Go, riders!

The longest day of AIDS/LifeCycle is Day 2, from Santa Cruz to King City. It's about 108 miles, the day starts off cool and foggy, things really get hot toward the end, and while most of the hills are rolling, there are a couple of attention-getters along the way. Sounds just like Saturday's 100-mile century loop around the South Bay! Congratulations to the 29 riders who were part of this event, and extra special thanks to SAG driver Susan for another day of outstanding service. Special congratulations go to the riders who completed their first-ever century.

By this point, just about everyone has mastered basic riding techniques, and you're all mostly following the safety rules. (I did see someone roll through a red light, though. Don't do that!) Again this time, I'll take a few minutes to talk about all of the various management tasks that you have to do while riding. Getting to Los Angeles is not as simple as pedaling over and over and over again!

Saturday's ride was our first ride that had rest stop closing times -- and they never became an issue for anyone, which was good. In fact, some of you joked about how generous the time limits were. The good news is that these are roughly the same time limits you'll have on most days of the ride in June.

But here's the other news: We had only four stops. A long day on the ride can have as many as six official stops -- four rest stops, a lunch stop, and a water stop -- and two or three unofficial stops, such as Paradise Pit in Santa Barbara on Day 6. That can be nine stops in one day. If you were to spend just 30 minutes at each stop, that would be 4.5 hours off your bike out of the 12.5-hour time limit that you'll have on most days. And 30 minutes at a stop isn't all that unreasonable, even if you're a "fast" rest stop person, because much of that time you'll be waiting in lines ... for the toilet, for food and water, etc. So you could be spending as much as one-third of your day not riding! All of a sudden, the 12-hour time limit becomes just eight hours on the bike, and you start watching the clock to make sure you don't miss a closing time.

That's why time management is such an important factor. You know roughly how fast a rider you are. Based on that, you can budget time for off-the-bike activities, and then you need to stick to that budget. If you're a slower rider, try to get in and out of rest stops more quickly. Doing so can allow you to reach camp earlier than riders who are faster than you.

But also remember that the fun stops along the way are a key part of the ride. Don't become so focused on reaching camp that you forget to have fun along the way! The challenge for you is to find the proper balance between completing the ride and enjoying the week. It's not easy.

Another thing that can happen on very long rides is that you might not always be thinking clearly or be as attentive as you should be. I saw it happen yesterday -- a rider in a residential neighborhood didn't even notice a stop sign and went right through it. This wasn't intentional at all on the rider's part; rather, the rider's mind had just gone somewhere else for a few seconds. It's very easy to get yourself into a "zone" where you're extremely focused on the task of riding, and you can lose sight of the world around you. Not only can this lead to things like not seeing a stop sign; it can keep you from having fun and interacting with other riders.

I've seen it on the ride -- a cyclist pulls into a rest stop nearly in a daze and sort-of sleepwalks from bike parking to the toilet to the water line. (I think I might have been that cyclist a couple of times.) Sometimes that's a sign that there's a nutrition or hydration issue; other times, it's a sign that someone has retreated into their own private world. Either way, there's a danger there. If you're not paying attention to your body, you can put yourself at risk of injury; also, however, you can become a risk to other cyclists because you might be more likely to do something unsafe or unexpected. (Ever see anyone bonk and just decide to suddenly stop right in the middle of the bike lane? That's what I'm talking about.)

Use the rest of the training season to get intimately familiar with how your body responds under the stress of a full day on the bike. Fine-tune your time-management skills, and practice pacing yourself so that you can maintain the same pace "forever" -- or, at least, long enough to get you through seven days without injury.

For our next ride in two weeks, we're adding another hour of riding time and keeping the total climbing about the same. Our 113-mile ride will go all the way to Gilroy and back. An added challenge on this ride will be the possibility of strong headwinds on the return from Gilroy to San Jose, so the difficulty might go up a notch or two. Details and RSVP are here.

And next Saturday is Day on the Ride in San Francisco. This year's route is 67 or 42 miles; the longer route includes some challenging hills in central Marin County. Pre-registration is required and limited (and costs $15); details are here.

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

Ride to the Calaveras Reservoir

Here's another pointer to an excellent training ride that's coming up this weekend. On Sunday, Randy Files will lead his Sunnyvale Cat-2 group into the East Bay and up the hills into the area around Calaveras Reservoir. It's a somewhat challenging 80-mile ride, but if you're up for the challenge the day after doing our century, it should be a very scenic (and warm) ride.

I've offered Calaveras rides in previous years, but it's just not on the agenda this time around, so this is probably your only chance this season to get an official ALC training ride to that destination. (And Randy will even have a SAG vehicle!) Unlike my rides, however, Randy is leading the group up Calaveras in the easier direction (from north to south), meaning that you'll have a steep, brake-burning descent into Milpitas.

Cat-3 riders are always welcome on Randy's ride, but you can also use the opportunity to ride at the slower Cat-2 pace if you wish. Details and RSVP are here.

Hot weather is on the way

Looks like this Saturday's ride could see the hottest temperatures so far this year.

We'll be riding through south San Jose, where temps generally are a few degrees warmer than in Mountain View, and early forecasts suggest that we'll be seeing the mid-80s during the day while we ride through that part of town.

In hot weather, it's vitally important that you drink enough water and replenish your electrolytes. Not enough water, and you could face dehydration. But too much water, and you could face hyponatremia, which is equally dangerous. So yes, like so many other things, here is another important area that you must manage while riding.

Use this weekend's ride to observe how your body reacts to the heat, and use these lessons to adjust your nutrition and fluid intake so that you'll do even better in June when it's 95 degrees as we ride into Paso Robles at the end of Day 3.

And if you haven't RSVP'd for Saturday's ride yet, find out more here.

The joy of riding somewhere different

Now that we're in the final weeks of training season, you might be feeling the blahs about the training rides you're doing. It's not uncommon!

Part of that might be because we tend to ride the same small set of routes over and over again. This is especially true for folks who ride out of San Francisco, where nearly every training ride begins with the exact same 11-mile trip across the Golden Gate, through Sausalito, and up the Marin Bike Path ... and ends with those same 11 miles. Even the world's most beautiful bridge can get boring after a while.

But even down here where we have more options, we still often ride the same places -- Foothill Expressway, the Stanford loop, along CaƱada Road, up Mount Eden and (if your ride leader is particularly demanding) Pierce. It is at times like those that, for me, the training rides become mostly about getting the training and not very much about "having fun." And we're all in this to have fun, too, yes?

I remember the years before I got involved with ALC, back in the 1990s when I was living in the Bay Area. I'd just go ride somewhere. Quite often it was somewhere different. I used to have copies of both regional Krebs maps taped to my bedroom wall, and I'd take out a highlighter and mark every route the first time I did it. Over the course of about four years, those maps got very, very colorful, and many of the routes weren't places that we'd ever go on a training ride. And without the pressure of an upcoming ride to Los Angeles, I didn't do very many long rides. But I did lots of mid-length rides, and I saw some interesting places. (What's really scary is that, thanks to Google, my first-ever century ride report -- from July 1992! -- has been preserved for eternity.)

After being in ALC for many years, we can lose this sense of discovery and adventure ... and fun.

So today, with no group ride planned, I just took off and started riding. I had a general goal of riding part of next Saturday's training ride route, but I took a roundabout way on city streets -- and through downtown San Jose -- to get there. These are places that just aren't appropriate for a group of 30 to 40 riders on a training ride, but I deeply enjoyed seeing sights that I hadn't seen on a bicycle in quite some time. Even the "new" parts of next weekend's training ride route were fun -- especially the flock of wild turkeys that was trying to cross Silver Creek Valley Blvd.

But as soon as I got on Santa Teresa Blvd. through south San Jose, I was struck with a massive case of the blahs. Not this street again! It's not the most exciting or scenic street, and the quality of the riding is usually OK, but it feels like we always go up Santa Teresa every time we're returning from the south. Across Blossom Hill, up through the residential maze of Monte Sereno, and down Quito Road -- all perfectly beautiful, but I just couldn't feel any love for any of it today. The hills were downright drudgery.

The realities of our training rides are such that we unavoidably use many of the same roads over and over again -- often because we have safety in mind and don't want to put other riders in conditions that might be OK for one rider but not OK for 40 riders.

If you're feeling the training-ride blahs, here's some advice: Just go ride somewhere. Don't even try to "train"; just go ride somewhere. If you don't have a good sense of direction and/or knowledge of area roads, take a map with you. (The VTA bike map is perfect for this.) Go somewhere you've never bicycled before, even if it's just a maze of residential streets. Don't worry about trying to keep a particular pace. Experience the world around you. If you want a group ride, consider going to a training ride that starts somewhere unfamiliar to you.

If you're a first-year ALCer, you're just a few weeks away from hundreds of miles of bicycling you've never seen before. But if you're a returning ALCer, you've already seen most of it (except for the 60 new miles this year on Day 5), you know where all the "secret" attractions are, and you probably even remember every false summit and every glorious downhill. If you approach the ride as drudgery, you'll be shortchanging yourself. Even in miles you've seen once before, twice before, or even 12 or more times before, seek the joy and excitement.

But also ... just go ride somewhere.

Paso Robles: Vine Street reconstruction, finally

Work has begun in Paso Robles on one of the worst stretches of pavement along the ALC route: South Vine Street leaving the city and heading toward Highway 46.

As reported last month in the Paso Robles Press:
Commuters utilizing South Vine Street to travel around the Westside of Paso Robles can expect some major improvements come 2010.

On Wednesday, officials, a slew of bicycle riders and other members of the public gathered at the Courtyard by Marriot to celebrate the groundbreaking for a project to widen and rehabilitate a roughly two-mile stretch of South Vine Street from First Street to the Highway 46 West interchange.

Rockwood General Contractors will complete the roughly $2.7 million grant-funded project, likely beginning next week, to construct Class II bike lanes to and resurface South Vine Street, a section of road described by city officials as both narrow and severely deteriorated.

... South Vine Street was originally slated to be closed from First Street to Wilmar Place for an estimated four to six months beginning this month, but the Paso Robles City Council re-considered the closure and opted to keep the road open and extend rehabilitation to the Highway 46 West right-of-way instead of ending at Wilmar Place.

As the story explains, there is really no other viable route southbound out of Paso Robles, so we don't really have any other options. But as my pictures from today show, the road is in absolutely horrible shape (note that, in the bottom photo, that's an actual traffic lane, not a shoulder), made even worse by the beginning of the construction -- which certainly will have progressed by the time we roll through in seven weeks.

This will be an area where extreme caution is advised.

Thank you!

I'm sitting here outside a Starbucks in Paso Robles, getting ready for today's ride, and I just received the donation that has put me over $3,000. Hooray! And hooray to all of you for making it happen.

King City: Detour is still mandatory

Back in December, I wrote about the ongoing construction project on First Street in King City, our traditional route out of town at the beginning of Day 3.

Since then, verified by a visit to the construction site tonight, there appears to have been very little work at all done on the new bridge and street, and it is clear that the road will not be open by June.

That's why we took the strange route across the river on the sandy pedestrian path last year, and it's why we'll be doing so again this year. I actually don't mind, since it makes the day about 10 miles shorter and cuts out a demoralizing stretch of gradual climbing that made Quadbuster even tougher.

Today's ride is *on*

Although skies still are overcast, the rain appears to have moved off to the east, and there's nothing sitting out in the ocean waiting to move ashore. So it looks like we will ride today! See you at the Arastradero nature preserve at 9 a.m.

You need to train in the heat

Now that I've been away from Fresno for a year, my body has become less accustomed to the ridiculously hot temperatures of the Central Valley. I was reminded of this today when I went out for a ride in a "mere" 82 degrees.

Your body works different in the heat. You need to prepare for this.

Why? Hot temperatures are very likely during ALC every year, and temperatures above 90 degrees are not at all uncommon. Your body reacts to the heat in a way that's unique to you, but common things include a much greater demand for fluid and electrolytes -- and the very real risk of heat stroke.

Short of taking a trainer into a sauna for a few hours, there's no real way to experience hot-weather cycling other than by actually doing it. To that end, I highly recommend that you find at least one or two "hot-weather" training rides in the next few weeks. The usual suspects for hot weather around here are the Livermore area, Gilroy/Morgan Hill, and Napa County. For Cat-3 Distance Training riders, we've got rides coming up that go to both Gilroy and Livermore; sure enough, last year's Livermore ride had temperatures above 100 degrees.

Being unprepared for heat can really ruin your week on the ride. Find out now what it's like, and learn how to deal with the heat. Here is a story by a desert commuter who regularly cycles in 120-degree temperatures.

Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #7

Go, riders!

What a difference two weeks makes. We could not have asked for finer weather for today's 89-mile ride to San Francisco and back. (OK, perhaps it was just a wee bit chilly when we started out -- the number of jackets hauled back from mid-ride to Mountain View is ample testament of that.)

Our group of 26 riders tackled today's hilly route with grace and aplomb, and that's quite an accomplishment because today was comparable to the most difficult days of the ride in June. And extra special thanks go to today's SAG drivers, Dennis and Taryl, who provided invaluable help and made today seem even more like an actual day on the ride. (And there was at least one independent rider who had a copy of our route sheet for today but was riding the route in reverse, starting in San Francisco.)

As for the actual mechanics of riding, there really isn't much for me to say. We've got our safety rules down pat (keep up the good work!), everyone paced themselves well, and most everyone's equipment was in good shape and well maintained. (We had one tire fail near the end of the ride, causing a rider to be sagged back to Mountain View, but that can happen to anyone.) So I'll use my time tonight to talk about a couple of the "management" tasks that you should be doing now.

First and foremost, today's ride was long enough that you might have noticed things you didn't notice before. If anything about your bike, your clothing, or your food bothered you today, you need to take action now to have it looked at, adjust it, stop doing it, or fix it. Even the smallest annoyances can become serious or even dangerous when magnified over seven consecutive days.

Here's an example: The sore spot in my tender manly area tonight (TMI, huh) is a strong indication that either I need to stop wearing this particular pair of pants, or perhaps my seat might not be properly adjusted. (I think it's the former and not the latter, since I did longer rides on this bike last summer without incident.) Other things that might cause trouble are gloves that don't work for you, the angle of your cleats, and specific food or drinks that upset your stomach.

Sure, after a long ride like this, you probably should feel a bit worn out. But you shouldn't really hurt. Part of your training is learning to identify the difference between the two and acting appropriately.

The second big thing to start thinking about is time management. Even faster riders need to plan their days on the bike! There's so much to do during the ride that it's easy to lose track of time. And if you lose track too much, you run the risk of missing a rest stop closing time, at which point you're done for the day, no matter how fast a rider you are. If you want to spend time on any of the official or unofficial activities during each day of the ride, you need to keep a careful eye on the clock.

And now that our training rides have become long, sunset becomes a real concern and our time-limiting factor. We want to make sure that everyone -- riders and leaders alike -- gets back to Mountain View before sunset; we don't require riders to have lights on their bikes, and returning after dark is unnecessarily dangerous. So, for our last three rides of the season, each of which is more than 100 miles, we'll have suggested "depart by" times for each of the rest stops. But don't stress out too much over this (in fact, don't stress out over it at all) -- the time cutoffs are roughly comparable to a mid-range Cat-2 pace, which you're all far above, and are designed solely to get us all back before dark.

Our next Cat-3 Distance Training ride is set for April 18, and it's our first century of the season! We have a new 101-mile route this year that combines pieces of routes we've done before and adds some new and exciting miles on the east side of San Jose, including one hill that will get you very much in the mood for Quadbuster. Details and RSVP here.

Two other fun rides are coming up in the next week. On Friday at 9 a.m. (weather permitting -- rain looks possible at the moment), I'll be leading a 33-mile ride from Palo Alto into the hills and all the way up Alpine Road. Come play hooky with us; details and RSVP here. And on Saturday, I'll be helping David Goldsmith lead the first-ever Evil Twins preview ride, which starts in Paso Robles (three hours south of Mountain View on U.S. 101) and takes us along the beginning of the Day 4 route. Details and RSVP here.

Here are this week's announcements from ALC World HQ:

1. If you're not doing anything next Wednesday night, come join ALC staff and other South Bay and Peninsula riders for a meet 'n' greet at Sports Basement in Sunnyvale. Details and RSVP here.

2. Don't forget to fill out your medical information form online in your Participant Center. That will be one fewer line to stand in on registration day!

3. Day on the Ride is coming soon! On Saturday, April 25, head up to San Francisco for a 42-mile or 67-mile ride structured just like an actual day on the ride. The event costs $15 and is limited to 600 riders, so register soon here.

That's it for tonight. Thanks to all of you for a fantastic day, and see you next time. Thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Just how much climbing IS that?

Now that we're getting near the end of training season, we're starting to see some training rides with a lot of climbing in them. But how much is "a lot"? The answer can vary widely depending on what mapping software you use.

If you're like me, you've looked at some rides in the San Francisco training series and thought, "Good grief, all that climbing! Why do they do so much?" For example, the Alpine Dam training ride is advertised as 7,644 feet of climbing, and the Marshall Wall ride is advertised as a whopping 8,293 feet.

But here's the secret: The folks who put together the San Francisco rides use a different piece of mapping software than I do, and the numbers are vastly different whenever substantial climbing comes into play. I mapped these same two rides using Bikely (which is what I used for all of the rides that I lead), and the difference was startling: Alpine Dam was 5,002 feet, and Marshall Wall was 5,381 feet.

In other words, our recent San Gregorio and Pescadero ride had more climbing than the Marshall Wall ride!

This doesn't diminish the difficulty of the San Francisco rides in any way whatsoever -- those hills are very challenging. But what it means is that the training you've been getting on the Peninsula is indeed quite comparable to what's on offer in the San Francisco series.

(Photo credit: Climbing the Marshall Wall, by "babageik" on Flickr)

Wind and fog and ...

At this hour, winds in Pacifica are sustained at 38 mph and gusting to 52 mph. If that were to continue on Saturday, this would be really, really bad for us.

But fortunately, this does not appear to be the case, so don't let today's (or tomorrow's) wind and fog scare you. The forecast for Saturday calls for light afternoon winds and little or no fog. Nonetheless, temperatures at the coast will probably be no warmer than the mid-50s, so a jacket and leg/knee warmers are recommended.