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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.

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