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ALC8 Day 1 reflections

You won't be seeing many, if any, more of these long posts until I get back home at the end of the week. No way I'm typing all this stuff on an old cellphone! I'll be sticking to short messages and crappy cellphone pics.

Those who know me well know that I very rarely can say that I'm actually happy. Today, I am happy. I successfully completed Day 1 of ALC8, and my pace was only 0.1 mph slower than last year's pace ... and I can sort-of justify the difference because the tailwinds didn't pick up until late in the day this year, and because I deliberately took my time climbing out of San Francisco.

This makes me happy because I was somewhat uncertain whether I could complete even one day of the ride this year, let alone seven. My recovery from my late-March illness has been very slow, and my late-season training (when I should have been at my best) left much to be desired. So today I actually did exactly what I had been saying I wouldn't do, and after about the first 20 miles, I "rode it like I meant it," not dilly-dallying too long at the rest stops, and getting in to camp nearly 90 minutes earlier than I did last year. (Of course, it's a ride, not a race, etc. etc.) And the good news is that I'm not especially sore or anything like that, and I feel like I can make a good effort at riding most or all of the week.

But I'm also happy because today I felt a sense of community that, while always present on the ride, has often eluded me in the past. I saw many familiar faces, and the camaraderie from the folks I trained with was amazing. And I didn't see anything that put me in a foul mood -- no nasty riding (at least nothing really nasty), and nobody copping attitude with anyone else. In a way, I wish I could be in camp tonight for the evening announcements (starting in about 10 minutes), but choosing to stay at home tonight is definitely the right thing for me this year -- the extra sleep (and the better climate control) tonight and in my hotel rooms the rest of the week should help me stay somewhat healthy.

So I look forward to seeing everyone bright and early tomorrow morning. My ride leaves Mountain View at 5 a.m., which should get me back to camp in plenty of time to make the 6:30 a.m. ride-out. 108 miles tomorrow! Let's hope the wind is at our backs and is nice and strong.

Welcome to Santa Cruz

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Just 6 miles to go

Rest stop 3

Mile 61

Mile 42, lunch

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Mile 19, rest stop 1

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Yipes! Be glad Day 5 isn't today!

This just in from the National Weather Service:
... Strong thunderstorms with isolated flash flooding possible this afternoon and evening across the mountains... Antelope Valley... and Cuyama Valley...

Residual moisture combined with daytime heating will result in rapid destabilization of the atmosphere... leading to another round of afternoon and evening thunderstorms across the mountains... Antelope Valley... and Cuyama Valley.

A few of these thunderstorms will likely be strong... with the potential for small hail... wind gusts to 50 mph... and dangerous cloud to ground lightning.

Much of our Day 5 route is through the Cuyama Valley.

It's official now

Registration complete, and the bike is tagged and sequestered at the Cow Palace until tomorrow morning. No turning back now.

First line of the day: bike checkin

Day 0: Orientation day

Today is a full day of activities at the Cow Palace in preparation for tomorrow's 6:30 a.m. ride-out.

Put bike in Bike Parking, watch safety video, check in and get orientation packet, buy this year's event jersey (no free $5k jersey for me, alas, unless $600 magically shows up in the next two hours), put rider number on bicycle. (No line for tent assignment because I already took care of that online, even though I'm not really staying in a tent.) In past years, this has taken several hours -- most of it spent waiting in long lines -- but we're told that this year should have fewer and shorter lines.

Don't forget to add plenty of time for socializing, etc.

Tip for first-year riders: Bring a water bottle, sunscreen, something to snack on, and possibly a jacket or sweater. Lines often run outside the buildings, there's no water readily available, it might be windy, and the on-site food vendor will charge you a small fortune. And don't forget to bring an extra $60 (cash or plastic) to buy the event jersey, which is different from the $5k jersey and which none of us will see until today.

Picture test

Yes, that is a live peacock in the middle of the road, taken north of Pescadero earlier this year on my test ride of Stage Road for our wet-fated San Gregorio training ride.

Why is this photo here? Because I'm testing my ability to post cellphone pictures directly into this blog, so you can see samples of life on the road next week. Thing is, I posted this photo about three hours ago, and nothing happened. Then it just sort of magically showed up ... along with all of the other (since-deleted) test postings that I did.

So it looks like I can post cellphone pics, as long as you don't mind waiting a little bit to see them. I'm also able to post email text and SMS messages, and I'll have a link where you can send text messages directly to my cellphone on the road (although I'll be checking messages only infrequently, like once a day).

No voice postings this year, though. Sorry!

Coping with your Queen Bitch From Hell Day

Because ALC is such an intense experience, it brings out the best of our emotions -- and sometimes the worst, too. It's not at all uncommon for your mood to turn really, really foul at some unexpected point during the ride; left unchecked, such a mood can spoil your day as well as that of others unfortunate enough to encounter you. Because this afternoon has turned into somewhat of a Queen Bitch From Hell Day for me, this seems like a good time to remind you to be aware of your emotions next week.

A bad mood sometimes can be caused by improper and/or insufficient nutrition and can be a sign that you're headed toward a bonk. That's relatively easy to fix. But there are other times when you just happen to react way out of proportion to something, especially if things haven't been going so great for you.

How do you get out of Queen Bitch mode and rejoin the rest of civilized society? The answer is different for everyone; some examples include meditation, taking a time out, eating, napping, physical activity, asking for help, conversation, and lots of others. A piece of ALC lore is that if you encounter a Queen Bitch, the proper response is to make cat-pawing motions with your hands and slowly say, "I'm a kitty, you're a kitty" -- the notion being that you can't possibly stay upset when someone does that to you. I don't know about you, but if someone did that to me while I was angry, I'd probably not react very well at all!

The most important thing is to recognize when you're headed off the cliff of bad temper ... and hopefully do something about it before you fall over the edge. Just like driving while angry, cycling while angry can pose safety risks not only to you but to others around you (both cyclists and cars). You owe it to yourself and to everyone else on the ride to always be aware of your emotional state and to take appropriate steps, when needed, to make yourself whole again.


As we learned repeatedly during this training season, medium-term weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable during California's strange springtime. But if you've been following the AccuWeather forecast for our ride next week, you've seen this somewhat scary prognostication for Day 5 in Solvang:
High: 68 °F RealFeel®: 66 °F
Mostly cloudy with a couple of showers and a thunderstorm


I'm doing my best not to get overly excited over a forecast that's still 10 days out, and you probably shouldn't, either. But in my three previous ALCs, I've never had to deal with any precipitation worse than the usual light drizzle and thick fog that we get along Skyline Blvd. at the beginning of Day 1.

Remember that, even if it's raining, ALC continues. It would take truly severe weather or some other emergency to get us off the road, and that's never happened before -- although riders apparently were delayed due to fire during one ride long ago.

The most important thing now is to be prepared to pack your rain gear if the forecast holds. This might affect how much stuff you put in your luggage, since extra clothing takes extra room. The single most important item for me is a pair of shoe covers -- if it rains, unprotected shoes could become so wet that they would not dry out overnight, and that would be yucky.

Perhaps it is a good thing after all that many of us experienced that dreadful San Gregorio ride earlier this season!

Why we ride

When we say that AIDS services in California are threatened, we're not kidding. Here's what the San Francisco AIDS Foundation says:
The governor’s tentative plan to remove all general fund support to the state Office of AIDS would jeopardize more than $150 million in federal matching funds that the state receives through grants from the Ryan White Program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, 35,000 California residents would lose access to their HIV medications because the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) would cease to exist.

“This is the worst possible time to take support away from the most vulnerable Californians,” said Judith Auerbach, Ph.D., vice president for Science and Public Policy at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Balancing the budget on the backs of those at greatest risk threatens to reverse all progress made against the HIV/AIDS epidemic over the past two decades.”

This is why I'm being so persistent about getting last-minute donations for this year's ride. People's lives are at stake here. Please help as much as you can. Thank you!

Awake at 11 p.m.?

If you are -- like I am right now -- it's time to start doing something about that!

In less than a week, you'll be waking up between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. every day for a week -- probably even earlier on Day 1. It's best to get your body into that routine before the event so that your sleep cycle will be as synchronous as possible. Sleep is one of the most essential commodities on the ride, and it can sometimes be one of the most difficult to obtain, particularly if you're a light and/or difficult sleeper (like me).

Trust me, you can't sleep much past 5 a.m. in camp; there's just too much activity and noise going on around you.

In camp, official quiet time is 9:30 p.m., but things usually don't quiet down until a little bit after that, especially on Night 5 in Lompoc after the talent show and on Night 6 in Ventura after the candlelight vigil. (And remember: On Day 7, we ride out half an hour early, at 6 a.m.)

If you normally wake up around 7 a.m., try waking up half an hour earlier (and going to bed half an hour earlier) every day beginning Tuesday so that, by Saturday, you're awake at 4:30 a.m. This can help ease your adjustment into the alternate reality of ALC.

Photo credit: Dali's Melted Clock Thing, by "doublegrub" at Flickr

My last training ride of the season

I really should be accustomed to radical shifts in the weather during springtime in the Bay Area, but a change of 50 degrees in just one week is stretching my limits. Where just one week ago we were pushing 105 on our brutal double metric century, yesterday the temperature never rose above 55 degrees in Watsonville, the approximate midpoint of our 78-mile ride from Hollister to Freedom and back. Thirteen intrepid riders braved the chilly winds and, yes, even the occasional light drizzle for a challenging yet scenic end to the season for many of us.

My goal for the day was to transition out of intense, heavy-duty training mode and settle more into a riding style that will be able to carry me the entire distance to Los Angeles. I gladly agreed to be the sweep for the day, and because one rider was having serious butt/saddle interface issues, I was able to ride at a much more comfortable pace than I would have done had I been riding solo. But even with that, my average speed for the day was 12.3 mph -- which was above the posted range for this ride.

There were three significant climbs along the route -- two of them on Carr Road in Aromas, a nasty road in poor condition with several short, steep pitches. The good news was that neither I nor the rider I was sweeping had to stop at all in either direction on Carr. And on the long, more gradual climb up Hazel Dell Road, the only reason we stopped was for a photo break. So even with my recent illness -- from which my pesky cough still lingers a bit -- I'm increasingly confident that I can conquer the hills of the ride, even though it might be a bit slower than usual.

Once we reached the summit of Carr on the return, the best part of the day was upon us -- the final 16-mile push, assisted by a very generous tailwind that's very similar to what we experience near the end of Days 2 and 4 of the ride. It's a nice feeling to be coasting along at 21 mph with very little effort, although it was probably the one time of the day that I slightly regretted being the sweep. Because of my upright riding position and my bike's excellent coasting design, this was the only point during the day where I really had to control my speed to stay behind the other rider, who is of slighter build than I and, therefore, didn't get quite the benefit of the wind.

And that wind did all sorts of strange things. When we briefly turned out of the wind, we had challenging crosswinds that had us leaning to one side or the other. And when the wind blew through an open-air farm structure alongside the road, it made a loud, startling eerie sound as if the aliens had just landed.

We rolled back into Hollister after almost eight hours and, after a bit of resting and socializing, it was back into the car for the 70-mile drive back to Mountain View ... a total of 500 miles for the month so far ... and the end to another training season.

Yes, that's it for this year. The next week is completely off the bicycle as I prepare for the ride, try to figure out how to pack everything, and get rested and eager to be back on the bicycle again next Sunday. I've racked up a total of 4,948 miles since last year's ride, so I've certainly put in enough time.

Although this is my fourth ride, I've got a whole lot of new things happening this year:

-- First and most significant, it's my first ALC on a true road bike. The difference is notable, in good ways and not-so-good ways, and it will be interesting to see how various parts of the route feel different. One thing for sure: I'll be controlling my downhill speed even more than before; this puppy could go fast, but I just don't feel any need to do so. Believe it or not, I still haven't exceeded 30 mph on this bike. During ALC in the past, I've usually topped out at around 32 mph, usually on the nice, gentle parts of Highway 1 on the first day -- not on the grand descents where some folks get above 50 mph. If you like such descents, more power to you. I'll be staying as far to the right as safely possible, and I'll try to give you as much room as possible, so please extend the same courtesy to me.

-- I'm wearing a Camelbak for the first year. This should help keep me more hydrated (and less raspy-throated).

-- I'm doing a total Princess Tour this year. In fact, I'm even coming back home on the first night of the ride. In hindsight, this turns out to have been a wise choice, because I hope to use the relative calm of the hotels to get as much rest as possible every night to help me finish the ride.

-- And, of course, there's the all-new Day 5 route, which will help make the ride feel different.

-- I'm coming home directly after the ride, on Saturday night, in a van with six other folks. But, alas, this is also the first year that there won't be anyone greeting and congratulating me at or near the finish line. (There's still time to change that!)

-- Finally, there's the big question of just how many folks will be riding this year. The staff is planning on about 2,200 riders, about 300 fewer than last year, but with the challenging economy, who knows what the actual count will be. I like the slightly smaller events (the ride was "only" 1,800 riders the first year I did it), but I'm sad that the smaller ride probably means less money going to our beneficiaries.

Last year, my ride was my most successful in terms of riding and overall health ... but it was also the least fun. I had not one, but two Queen Bitch From Hell days, and by the end of the week I had pretty much retreated into my usual shell -- to the point where I didn't even bother to stay around for closing ceremonies. This year, my mission is different: to focus more on why we're riding, taking advantage of the various activities along the way, and obsessing less about beating "last year's pace" on each day of the ride.

We ride for reasons that are intensely serious and personal. In this last week before the ride, take a couple of minutes to contemplate your goals, and consider how your performance on the ride will help support you in meeting those goals -- and support others in meeting their goals as well.

Photo by Bill Munk

For my friends in San Francisco and Los Angeles

Here is the information you need to know if you're planning to attend opening ceremonies on Sunday, May 31, in San Francisco or closing ceremonies on Saturday, June 6, in Los Angeles.

Both events are free, although the venues charge for parking in their lots.

If you can make it to either event, I'd love to see you there. Come see what a community of more than 2,500 dedicated individuals looks like ... in both the "before" and "after" versions.

Photo credit: ALC7 closing ceremonies, by "heartinthesoil" at Flickr.

Plan now to fight the post-ride blahs

It's an inescapable fact of AIDS/LifeCycle: Our seven days on the road are an all-consuming escape from reality that tests our physical and mental limits in ways we never thought possible. We see humanity at its best, and we grow accustomed to it.

Then we have to return to the real world.

Especially for first-year riders (and for the rest of us, too), that return to reality can be an incredible letdown. The effects, not surprisingly, can be both mental and physical -- depression, weight gain, irritability, just to name a few.

Part of the preparation for ALC is taking steps before the event to mitigate those aftereffects. Plan activities with friends. Schedule some light physical activity. Set aside some time for yourself, doing some activity that you've had to curtail due to all those training hours. Have this in place before you begin the ride so that you won't have to arrange it in a hurry when you get back.

Yes, we take the lessons of ALC into our world, but the days immediately after the ride can be a very vulnerable time for us. Realize it, embrace it, and conquer it.

Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #10

Go, riders!

For most of us, this has been our biggest training weekend before the beginning of ALC8. For two days, we've basically done nothing but sleep and ride. And this year, we've had to cope with triple-digit temperatures both days! Special congratulations are in order to everyone who rode this weekend, including the 26 intrepid riders who took part in the second annual Altamont Pass Double Metric Century -- the longest single-day training ride on the nationwide ALC calendar.

Waking up at 5 a.m. or earlier definitely tests one's determination. And doing it two days in a row is even more challenging. Now, imagine doing that seven days in a row -- that's your life in another two weeks. The first day is full of excitement and anticipation. The second day ... well, that can be tough. The third day ... yipes, can't we just stay in bed?

The first few miles of each day can be especially challenging, no matter the terrain, because your body and mind often still aren't in the right frame of mind for long-distance cycling. That was certainly the case for me today when I set out on a second-day ride. But after about an hour, I was back into my groove and doing just fine. Remembering that can give you the added oomph to get you going in the morning.

Then there's the heat. Temperatures in Dublin Canyon and through parts of Fremont were recorded at 102 degrees yesterday, and we felt every one of those degrees. Many of us learned that heat makes us do all sorts of strange things: We start drinking huge amounts and not peeing hardly at all; we often don't feel like eating when we really need to be eating; and we can become silly, grumpy, and/or just plain loopy.

Remember how your body responded to yesterday's heat; that's an important lesson for you to take forward into the ride, where temperatures on Days 2 and 3 could very well be that hot. Be aware of when you're approaching the threshold of safety, and take proactive steps to make sure you don't cross over into threatening your health. As I've said before, that's important not only for your own sake; it's important for every other rider on the road that you stay conscious and aware of your surroundings so that you can react properly and safely.

Super-size giant thanks go to our SAG drivers and water-stop crew: Cindy, Diana, Dennis, and Taryl. Without them, many of us could not have completed the ride. Here's something important to remember, though: On ALC, water, ice, and other such services are generally available only at scheduled rest stops and occasional water stops (they're all marked on your route sheet every day). Unless there's a true emergency, you won't be able to get water from a passing vehicle. Make sure that you stock up sufficiently at every rest stop, especially when it's hot. Check your route sheet to see how many miles there are to the next rest stop -- the distance can be as little as 8 miles or as much as 25 miles.

Here's a quick request from our SAG drivers that applies on ALC as well. When giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down signal to a support vehicle, be sure to stick your arm out far enough so that your thumb is easily visible from the roadway. Holding it close to your body doesn't work. Your support crew thanks you!

And when it's hot, you might want to inflate your tires just a little bit less than you normally do. I learned that lesson yesterday! While we were returning through Livermore at about mile 66, my rear tire exploded rather suddenly and spectacularly while I was on Concannon Blvd. Fortunately, I was not going very fast, so I was able to stop safely. But the tire had exploded so much that it ripped the beading right open. SAG driver Cindy took me to a bicycle shop, where the repairman took one look at the tire and said, "Yeah, you're done." Half an hour and $64 later, I was back on the road with a new tire.

Particularly if you use your brakes while descending, be extra careful in hot weather. The brakes can heat up your rims, and this can increase the chances of your tire exploding from the heat or simply popping off the rim -- either of which can be very dangerous if you're traveling at high speed.

All through this season, I've talked about how AIDS/LifeCycle is as much a mental challenge as a physical challenge. I've also talked about riding Every Friendly Inch of the ride and how some folks single-mindedly pursue that goal. I got a valuable lesson in that yesterday, and it bears sharing with you.

By the time I reached Santa Clara yesterday, I was not a happy camper. My speed had dropped below Cat-3 pace, I was the last rider on the route, and I was in one of those modes where I'd pedal for a few seconds, coast for a few seconds, and repeat. It was only 9 miles to the end, and I probably could have made it back, albeit very slowly, with some pain, and perhaps with some risk to my well-being. However, the SAG vehicle was in the parking lot and waiting. I did something I'd never done before -- I ended my ride early and got into the SAG vehicle for the ride back to Mountain View.

The world did not end. Nobody pointed and laughed and said, "Ha ha, Chris can't make it." (At least I hope nobody did!) And I didn't erupt into a fit of crying or whining. And this morning, I was back on my bicycle at 6 a.m. sharp to ride to Sunnyvale to help out with today's Cat-2 ride. As I mentioned above, I was just fine after a little bit of warming up.

No matter what goal you set for yourself on the ride, do not become singularly consumed by the pursuit of that goal. Listen to your body, and do the right thing for you, even if it's not necessarily what you planned. Nobody will think less of you -- not other riders, not the roadies, not your donors. If you don't keep yourself whole, you can't ride for whatever reasons you're riding.

And with that, we wrap up this season of the Cat-3 Distance Training rides. It's been my privilege to ride with you the past five months, and I've been honored and pleased to see how far so many of you progressed in your training. The spirit of AIDS/LifeCycle is inside each of us, and your determination is the embodiment of that spirit. When we ride out from the Cow Palace two weeks from today, I hope that each of you will have a safe and successful ride, and I look forward to seeing you on the road, at the rest stops, in camp, and at the closing ceremonies in Los Angeles. (I'll be the one that you're shouting "On your left!" to.)

Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

We're working to help you complete Saturday's ride

There have been a couple of positive developments in our planning for the Altamont Pass Double Metric that's running this Saturday.

We now will have two SAG vehicles roaming the route. Each vehicle should be stocked with ice, water, salty snacks, spare tubes, and other miscellaneous items. Also, we'll have an extra water and ice stop (starting at 11 a.m.) somewhere on the east side of Livermore between miles 60 and 62, right in the middle of the longest segment without an official rest stop.

Amazing special thanks to Cindy, Diana, Dennis, and Taryl who are giving freely of their time, energy, and supplies to help make this ride a success.

If you haven't RSVP'd for the ride yet, please do, so that I can get a good idea of how many riders we'll have. And remember, you can ride an 84-mile option ... and there's even an unofficial 49-mile loop that you can do if that's all you're feeling like. (A quick look at the route map will show you the 84-mile option, and you'll be able to see how to make the 49-mile loop as well.)

And this just in: If you finish the ride before 6 p.m., a street festival will be taking place along Castro Street in downtown Mountain View, and you'll be able to partake of the various goods on offer there.

Altamont Pass Double Metric preview (updated Thursday night)

The weather is looking great for this Saturday's second annual running of the Altamont Pass Double Metric Century.

If you've never done this ride before, you're in for a treat as we venture into parts of the East Bay that we almost never reach by bicycle from Mountain View. If you're a returning rider, I've made some minor changes this year that should make the ride even more fun:

-- The climb up Norris Canyon has been removed! Instead, we'll head back to Hayward via the Dublin Grade, which is certainly no slouch of a climb but isn't nearly as dastardly as Norris Canyon.
-- This change also brings the total distance of the ride almost exactly to 125 miles, not the 130 miles that we ended up riding last year. Those extra miles can make a difference!
-- Our ride-out time is half an hour earlier so that we can take maximum advantage of daylight.
-- Just to be a little nasty, I've added the short climb to Ohlone College right around mile 100 of the ride. The flipside is that doing so keeps us on nicer roads and avoids the construction mess on Driscoll Road that is still there a year later.

Temperatures in the East Bay are looking somewhat warm but not as stupidly hot as they were last year. The current forecasts suggest that Livermore will be somewhere around 93 degrees when we pass through at midday. This means that proper hydration and electrolyte replacement will be absolutely essential.

And again this year, if you want to ride but don't feel like doing the full 200km, there's an 84-mile option that skips the Livermore and Altamont Pass portions.

Please plan to arrive at the meeting point in Mountain View no later than 5:15 a.m. I want us to ride out on time at precisely 6 a.m. so that those who need maximum daylight will have it. And the police station next door is not open that early, so we won't have any restrooms available -- take care of your needs at a gas station or 24-hour restaurant before you arrive.

This is a fascinating ride that gives you fantastic preparation for the longest day of ALC, and it's also a gentle introduction to the world of randonneuring -- long-distance, non-competitive, endurance cycling. (I am member #5074 of Randonneurs USA.) Join us!

Details (including a route map) and RSVP are here.

Photo: Descending Altamont Pass during the 2008 ride

All eyes on Santa Barbara

As the Jesusita Fire continues to burn largely out of control, the evacuation area in Santa Barbara continues to expand, and it now covers a significant part of our traditional Day 6 route, including our lunch stop at Tuckers Grove Park.

In the map below (updated Friday morning), our usual route is marked in red, and the shaded areas represent the evacuation warning zone and the mandatory evacuation zone. You can see the latest version of the live map here.

Look for another change on Day 3

For the past three years, ALC has used North River Road to travel between San Miguel and Paso Robles. That might not be possible this year.

A major pipeline project is under way along North River Road and has closed part of the road. According to the latest update from the contractor, "North River Road is closed from the Hwy. 46 overpass, north to the Paso Robles city limits," and work is not expected to be complete until June.

Fortunately, there's another way into Paso Robles. That way is U.S. 101, which is an expressway but not a freeway for nearly all of the 5 miles between the two towns. This part of 101 is in fairly good shape, unlike the part just before San Miguel. This, in fact, was the route used during ALC4.

Me? I never did like North River Road. The pavement was in poor condition, there were tight, narrow curves that were hazardous in traffic, and there was always a little stretch where the wind suddenly shifted from a nice tailwind to a butt-ugly headwind. This is one change that, if true, I'm actually looking forward to.

As always, my rantings are pure speculation and have no official imprimatur from ALC.

Photo: Entering North River Road in San Miguel during ALC7

So I haven't said anything for a few days ...

... ever since I came down with that nasty case of whatever it was. In the end, I was sidelined for seven days, with a fever that reached nearly 104 degrees at one point, followed by a day of hypothermia-esque conditions where I couldn't get much above 96. Even now, 10 days later, I'm still coughing a bit more than usual, and the store-brand NyQuil that I've been taking at night has been leaving me with a nasty hangover in the mornings. Nothing like this has happened to me in more than 20 years, and I don't wish it on anyone.

But all was not lost. On Sunday, I got on my bike for a mostly flat 27-mile ride around Mountain View. And today, I managed 30 mildly hilly miles up to Woodside and back. My speed is quite a ways down from where it had been, and the hills certainly feel more challenging than they did, too. The good news, however, is that I did not need to take any breaks during today's ride, so there's still a little hint of "endurance" sitting inside me.

That's the big question, though. We start riding to Los Angeles in just 26 days. The last seven or so of those days are off-the-bike days in preparation for the ride. That leaves me less than three weeks to get ready. Aieeeeee! (Not to mention that I'm supposedly helping lead a 200-kilometer ride a week from Saturday.)

I'm beginning to mentally prepare for the possibility of not riding Every Friendly Inch this year. As much as I've counseled that such a thing is perfectly OK, it's tough to accept that for oneself. On the other hand, I might be able to train my way back to near my previous level, and my condition might be just fine come May 31. My biggest enemy right now is time -- truly long rides just aren't possible during the week, and I'm in the same position as many others that this challenging economic and employment climate doesn't allow for casual days off for long rides. I have my weekends cut out for me -- and I still have to be super-careful, because if I go back at this too intensely, I run the risk of becoming sick again.

Every season seems to have its challenges. This season seems to be overflowing with them.

Saturday's ride is *cancelled*

I've taken the unusual step of cancelling our ride nearly 24 hours in advance. I've done this for a couple of very important reasons:

-- First and foremost is safety. With rain expected to continue throughout the night on Friday, there is too much risk of unsafe conditions on the narrow rural roads in southern Santa Clara County that we would use on this ride. If the rain were to resume while we were down there, we could have been facing as much as 55 miles of rainy, chilly riding -- which doesn't do anyone any good this late in the training season.

-- Second is consideration for your time. Because the ride had such an early meeting time, it's not fair to ask people to wake up at 4 a.m. on Saturday to check on ride status. By making this call now, you can make alternate plans for Saturday -- and if the weather does hold up for at least part of the day, then it will be possible for you to get in a shorter ride elsewhere during the day.

If you really feel like you must do this ride Saturday, then you're welcome to print a route sheet and ride unofficially on your own. It's entirely possible that you might have an OK day. But if you do attempt the ride, such a decision is completely on your own, and AIDS/LifeCycle neither encourages, sanctions, nor supports such a ride.

My apologies to everyone who really wanted to do this ride. Let's look ahead to the 16th, when we're still on target to ride our double metric century.