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Ride report: Portola Valley (11/21/2009)

Go, riders!

Sure, it was probably in the upper 30s when you woke up early this morning. But when the sun came out, things warmed up in a hurry. And even though the official temperature at the end of our ride was only 54 degrees, it certainly felt a whole lot warmer. The 20 intrepid riders on today's 29-mile training ride were treated to some fantastic late-autumn weather, and speeds were way up.

In fact, everyone on today's ride was riding at a Cat-3 pace (12-15 mph) or greater! And today's climbing was no slouch, either: On a mile-for-mile basis, there was about as much climbing today as you'll find on several days of the ride in June. And also just like June, some of that climbing was long and gradual, and some of it was short but attention-getting.

Everyone has their own style for dealing with each type of climbing, but the best advice I ever got for climbing -- and cycling in general -- comes from longtime ALCer Doreen Gonzales (ALC9 will be her 17th AIDS ride!), who said at the beginning of ALC6 that you always should ride in your "happy gear." What's your happy gear? For me, that's the point where I'm not overexerting myself, nor am I madly pedaling and bouncing my hips up and down. In technical terms, that usually translates for me to a cadence of about 80-90 rpm, even when climbing, but you can skip the technical part and just focus on when your body is telling you that it's happy.

Another way that today was similar to June was in how quickly the temperature warmed up. Even in June, it's not unusual for us to begin our ride in temperatures below 50 degrees. What's different in June, however, is that on some days the temperature can get very hot, easily exceeding 90 degrees. That's why it's important to dress in layers, so you can remove, add, and remove clothing as conditions dictate throughout a long day in the saddle. For me, that usually includes leg warmers and arm warmers (although I wore a long-sleeve jersey today since I knew it wouldn't get all that warm) plus a light windbreaker that I can fold up tightly.

When to wear leg warmers? The experts disagree. Some say in temperatures up to 60 degrees; others say up to 70 degrees. Again, it's mainly a matter of personal preference and need; in my case, I had knee trouble a few seasons ago, so I usually want to keep them warm. I have two sets of leg warmers: one thicker (which I used today) and one lighter.

And here's some practical advice: Wear sunscreen. No, really. Even in winter. And reapply it often! As I write this, I'm nursing the tender early stages of a slight sunburn on my face and ears. Even though I put on sunscreen before we rode out, it was beginning to wear off by the end of the ride, and I didn't reapply any during the ride. Wrong! Especially if you're fair-skinned like me, sunburn can happen at any time of the year, particularly on the longer rides that we'll be doing in the weeks to come.

A quick shopping tip: There's an ALC9 info meeting at Sports Basement in Sunnyvale on Tuesday, Dec. 1, which also happens to be World AIDS Day. They'll be showing the standard ALC video and signing up new folks, but here's the big draw for those of us already signed up: The increasingly rare 20% discount on everything in the store will be in effect that night. (That's more than the usual 15% ALC discount.) You can RSVP for the event here.

What's next for us? I'm taking the holiday weekend off, but I'll be back two weeks from today with a 33-mile ride to Saratoga and just a little bit beyond. We'll go through the extremely scenic (but possibly chilly) Stevens Canyon and tackle the significant 0.7-mile climb up Mount Eden. We'll have a rest stop in Saratoga and then head part of the way to Los Gatos before heading back. Details and RSVP are here.

Looking ahead to January, the Cat-3 Distance Training rides begin on January 16 January 9. This is a set of 10 rides, to be held every other Saturday, that start at about 40 miles and slowly build to a finale of 200 kilometers (125 miles) in a single day in mid-May. Everybody who was on today's ride easily qualifies for these rides, which will run at a typical pace of 12-15 mph. These rides will start showing up in the official ALC calendar in the next few weeks ... save the dates.

Also beginning in January are the Sunnyvale Cat-2 rides, facilitated by Randy Files and his group of leaders (many of whom you'll recognize from the Mountain View rides). These rides will take place every Sunday for about 18 weeks beginning in January and will slowly increase from about 25 miles to 100 miles. More details on these rides soon as well.

Have a happy holiday week, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

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