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Planning your pace for Seismic Challenge

One of the big differences between ALC and Seismic Challenge is that, because the latter takes place in October, there's much less daylight. Here are some very important numbers for you:
Oct. 17 sunrise in San Francisco: 7:19 a.m.
Oct. 17 sunset in San Francisco: 6:30 p.m.

Each day of the ride is about 107 to 108 miles long, and there are six stops along each day's route -- four rest stops, one lunch stop, and one water stop. You need to budget your time so that you can finish each day's route before darkness arrives and the route is closed.

What does this mean? Let's assume that you spend 15 minutes at each rest stop, an hour at lunch, and 10 minutes at the water stop. That takes away 2:10 of your day right there. And because much of our route this year is urban, it's not unreasonable to assume that you'll lose another 15 minutes at traffic signals. (Don't let your bike computer be your guide on pacing, because most computers stop registering average speed when you stop at a traffic signal.)

I'll assume a ride-out time of 7:30 a.m. (although that's strictly a guess on my part and is not official), which gives you 11 hours to finish the route. Subtract the rest time and wait time, and you're down to 8:35. This means that your average in-motion speed for the whole day would need to be about 12.6 mph. That's not extremely fast, but it might be faster than you're expecting, especially given the fairly hilly terrain that's especially prevalent on Day 1.

What if you're not a 12.6 mph rider? You can reduce your off-the-bike time. If you spend just 10 minutes at each stop, half an hour at lunch, and skip the water stop entirely, your off-bike time comes to 1:25, giving you 9:35, which would require your pace to average about 11.3 mph. That's roughly in the middle of the Cat-2 training pace.

And if you're unlucky enough to have a flat or other mechanical problem, that's more time that comes out of your pool.

That's why it's extremely important that you carefully manage your time throughout the riding day. For those of you on our South Bay ride this weekend, we'll run a little experiment in that direction. Our route sheet will have rest stop "closing times" for each stop throughout the day, roughly corresponding to the times you'd see on a day-long ride in October. We won't actually "close" the route throughout the day, but the times will give you an indication of how well you're progressing through the route -- and give you an early heads-up if you'll need to change anything before next month's event.

Photo: Rest Stop 1 on Day 2 of ALC8.

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