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Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #2.5 (1/30/2010)

Go, riders!

Life sometimes throws us surprises, and today we had a whole giant heaping big bunch of surprise. On the plus side, we had beautiful sunny skies and seasonably warm temperatures, despite the forecasts of scattered showers. On the minus side, however, we had several incidents during today's ride, and many of the 24 of us who rode today (myself included) have some interesting stories from the road.

Most importantly, we had a crash early in the ride. One rider went down in a solo incident along McClellan Road in front of the school at about mile 7. Fortunately, some nasty bruises and pain appear to be the extent of the injuries, and the rider got a ride home. Also fortunately, because the incident occurred on a popular cycling route, other non-ALC riders were on hand to stay with our rider until help arrived.

The second failure of the day turned out to be mine. As I rode in to Rest Stop 2 in Los Gatos, I noticed that my rear wheel was sticking somewhat seriously. I hadn't noticed anything before, so I'm guessing it happened right there or in the small pothole that I had hit just a little bit earlier on Blossom Hill Road. At first, it looked like my rear wheel had somehow gone seriously out of alignment, but after a few minutes, we discovered something much more serious: One of the spokes had essentially drilled right through the wheel, ripping a hole out the other side!

Needless to say, this made my bicycle unsafe to ride so much as another 6 inches, let alone the 4 miles to the nearest light rail station. I was able to get a ride back to Mountain View, but this was the first time in my five years of ALC training rides, both as a rider and a leader, that mechanical failure prevented me from finishing a ride. Yes, that's somewhat disappointing, but I'm also quite lucky that nothing serious happened while I was riding, and that it occurred in an urban area where I had a relatively easy way back home.

That said, I'll apologize to everyone for not having a SAG (Support And Gear) vehicle on today's ride. I usually try to have one, but because today's ride was rescheduled from last week, many of our usual suspects weren't available. And, wouldn't you know it, the one day that we really, really needed a SAG vehicle, we didn't have one. I can't promise one on every ride, but I'll be redoubling my efforts to get as many rides covered as I can. (Ride leaders: Anyone want to switch from ride to SAG on an upcoming ride, like next week? Let me know.)

Other things happened today as well. We had several flats, most likely because of the wet pavement and (apparently) a lack of recent street-cleaning due to the storms, leading to lots of glass along the shoulders and in bike lanes. And a few folks ended up riding bonus miles after missing a turn. If you're not already doing so, please take a few minutes when possible to study the route sheet before every ride -- along with a map if possible. I'll always send out route sheets in advance, but other rides might not make this information available in advance, so do the best that you can. These rides are plenty long without bonus miles!

The most common thing that happened today, however, was that the ride was simply just too long for a few folks. Between the storms and other life events, it's been a tough season for a lot of us to get into training. Many of us decided to chop a few miles out of the middle and take a shortcut to Rest Stop 2. I commend you for doing so, because that means you were listening to your body and acting appropriately. (I also commend you for letting a ride leader know you were doing this, because we always need to know whenever someone goes off the designated route.)

Don't be discouraged; it's still only January. (OK, not for much longer.) Also, don't forget the Sunday Cat-2 training rides that run every week out of Sunnyvale. You'll find many of the same smiling faces from our rides, and the distances are a little bit shorter (but usually have a few more hills than we do). Tomorrow morning's ride is 25 miles; if you're reading this on Saturday night, it's not too late to RSVP. (If the bike shop somehow gets my wheel rebuilt in the next two hours, I hope to be there.)

A few folks apparently didn't eat enough, and they ran into trouble during the ride. The body can bicycle on stored energy only for about two hours before you run the risk of bonking; you need to eat and drink properly at rest stops to provide enough fuel to make it through the longer rides. And you need to have a good breakfast before riding ... those bagels before the ride aren't just decorative; they are, just like air pumps and tire irons, a tool for you to use, especially if you're showing up on an empty stomach.

There's information about nutrition and hydration on the ALC website; check it out, either for the first time or as a refresher. Better yet, there's a free workshop coming up this Thursday night in San Francisco. "Nutrition for Endurance Cycling" will be presented by the same professional nutritionist who teaches training ride leaders, and you might be surprised at some of what you'll learn. You'll never look at a muffin the same way again. The workshop takes place 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday at the main office of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation on Market Street; details and RSVP are here.

ALC World HQ also wants me to remind you about the refer-a-friend promotion to get more folks signed up for ALC9. Through the end of February, it's a chance for one of you to possibly win a new Cannondale Synapse road bike. Find out more here.

What's next? Weather permitting, we have an interesting and challenging ride scheduled for next Saturday, as I try to get us back on our schedule of riding every other Saturday. It's only a little bit longer (50 miles) and has only a little more climbing (about 2,000 feet), but it's much more challenging. Why? The first half of the ride is nearly flat, and all of the climbing is packed into the second half of the ride -- including some climbs steeper than what we did today. The purpose? To help train you to pace yourself through the easy parts of the ride so that you're not all worn out when you reach the difficult parts. I've offered a version of this ride the past two years, and every time, there's at least one normally strong rider who rides all-out on the flat part but has difficulty in the hills. This year, we're tackling a hill that, as far as I know, never has been part of any ALC training ride: Westridge Drive in Portola Valley. (Experienced cyclists might be familiar with this one.) It's got a climb that's very similar to Quadbuster, so it will be good exposure for first-year riders ... and a good refresher for the rest of us. Details and RSVP are here. If we get rained out next Saturday, we'll try to ride on Saturday, Feb. 13 instead.

Thanks to everyone for staying in good spirits in today's challenging circumstances, and I look forward to riding again with you soon. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

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