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Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #3 (2/6/2010)

Go, riders!

Again this week, I didn't think we were going to ride. And again, I was proven wrong. Although scattered rain fell across the Bay Area all day long, our intrepid group of nine riders somehow managed to avoid almost all of the precipitation and even enjoyed some intermittent warm, sunny skies. And although we had a bit of attrition on today's ride (only five of us finished the full 50 miles), every one of you is to be commended for taking the chance and for listening to your body and doing what was right for you.

Also, extra-special thanks are again due for our super SAG driver, Al. Even though he didn't have a lot of incidents to take care of (not a single flat on today's entire ride!), his presence throughout the day was a welcome sight on more than one of those nasty hills that your facilitator jammed into the second half of the ride.

Yeah, and what was the deal with all those hills, anyway? Today's ride was an attempt to simulate what happens to many riders on Day 3 of the event in June. We ride nearly 200 miles on the first two days, but most riders don't have much trouble with that because most of us include two consecutive long-mileage days at least once as part of our training. But very few of us have the opportunity or the time to attempt three long days in a row before June. So when Day 3 begins with Quadbuster, more than a few riders don't know what hit them.

Today, you were treated to about 25 miles of nearly flat terrain (made just a little more difficult than usual today because of the wet pavement) followed by a few miles of very gentle climbing, and then whoomp! it's time to climb Westridge. And sure enough, in the words of one rider today, "Westridge hurts." It's a fairly good simulation of Quadbuster, perhaps just a little bit shorter, but still quite a workout. I took a few breaks on the way up, some folks walked part of it, and some just bore down and went for the whole enchilada. Any one of those strategies is perfectly OK, not just on a training ride but also on the event in June. It's not a race, and there's no special certificate for riding Every Friendly Inch of the route. Your health and safety always come first ... always try to practice the philosophy of "no permanent damage."

And as if Westridge wasn't enough, then there were more hills ... and then even more hills. Fortunately, there are very few parts of the route from San Francisco to Los Angeles that have so much climbing in such a short distance -- the new Day 5 route between Buellton and Lompoc probably comes closest. (I found that part of the route surprisingly difficult, although others might disagree.)

Again, today's lesson: When you encounter easy terrain in June, don't necessarily consider it to be permission to crank up the dial to 11 and go all-out. You can if you want, but remember that ALC is an endurance event, not a quick sprint. Ride at a pace that's comfortable for you ... and one that you can maintain essentially forever, given proper nutrition and hydration. That's one of the biggest secrets to happiness on the ride.

What's next? We're back on schedule now, so it's two weeks until our next ride. On Saturday, Feb. 20, we increase the mileage to 60, and we head up the Peninsula to the Crystal Springs Reservoir. Although there's about 50% more more climbing than we did today, I think the overall ride is a bit easier. There's only one big hill on this ride: the climb up Polhemus, followed by the steep descent on Ralston. (Check your brakes before the ride!) The second half of the ride is entirely in populated areas (but still a bit hilly), so bailouts will be easier for anyone who needs them. Details and RSVP are here.

One important note: Beginning with our next ride, the meet times start getting earlier with almost every ride. We're half an hour earlier (at 9 a.m.) next time, which means that the southbound Caltrain no longer runs early enough for our rides. (Sorry about that!) Get used to the earlier times ... by ride #10, our meet time will be a truly insane 5:15 a.m.

Thank you for riding today, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

P.S.: If you skipped today's ride and want to try it on your own sometime, here is the route sheet, and here is a custom-drawn map that might help you avoid making any wrong turns on this complex route.

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