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Ride report: Distance Training #4 (2/20/2010)

Go, riders!

We finally got a Saturday that was mostly rain-free. Those scattered sprinkles in the afternoon were a little more than what had been predicted, but that didn't stop our intrepid group of 30 riders from making our 60-mile trip up the Peninsula to the Crystal Springs Dam.

And make no mistake about it -- today's ride was a long ride. With the hills, it's roughly comparable in difficulty to the shorter days of the event in June. This is the threshold where many of your preconceptions about cycling might start to change. Your nutrition requirements become more important, your pacing becomes more important, and your mental state becomes extremely important.

Nutrition is a topic we've talked about before, but now it's vital that you properly fuel your body so that it can handle several hours of cycling. Your body's stored energy can power only about two hours of cycling, so you need to eat healthy foods at every rest stop. Don't overeat and try to take it in all at once; find the foods that work for you, grab 'em, and go. Depending on your weight and your pace, you should try to take in anywhere from about 250 to 400 calories per hour. And while we love those graham cracker PB&J sandwiches that are served on the event, don't forget more traditional food and electrolyte replacement as well. Everyone has different needs and preferences, and this is the time for you to figure out what works best for you.

Pacing is important on long rides -- and it's one of the key secrets to happiness on the event in June. As generally stronger riders, many of us can open it up and haul down the road if we want to. But it's a long way to Los Angeles, and there's no point in burning yourself out after 50, 100, or even 400 miles. Today's ride was the opposite of what we did two weeks ago: We had hills early in the ride, and the last part of the ride was comparably easy. But even with today's glorious tailwinds, if you exerted yourself too strongly on the hills, you might not have had as much energy as you'd like for the last part of the ride. Call it a pace that you can do forever, or call it your "happy gear" ... find your optimum endurance pace, and recognize how that might be different from what you consider your training pace. Even though we're on training rides, they're now long enough that they count as endurance events on their own.

And when rides get long, your mind can start to go to all sorts of amazing and scary places you never dreamed possible. This is one of the toughest aspects of training, and it's one of the things that can ruin your June ride if you don't plan for it. When we spend hours on our bicycle, it's easy to zone out and let the mind wander -- but doing so is dangerous, especially when you're around other riders. Try to stay as focused as you can on the riding that you're doing, while still being aware of all of the other pesky messages your mind is sending you while you pedal. Perhaps it's something about your reasons for riding, perhaps it's something about a special person, perhaps it's a memory from long ago, or perhaps it's just a nagging message of self-doubt. You can't shut out these messages, so embrace them, make them yours, understand what they're saying, and integrate that into your ride. Yes, this sounds all touchy-feely, but training your mind for hours on the bike is just as important as training your body.

Today, our ride leaders saw a few instances of rule-breaking, and that disappoints me. Several riders did not come to complete stops, with one foot on the ground, at stop signs. This is one area where ALC rules are more strict than California law. We require one foot on the ground and no forward motion at every stop sign, without exception, even when no other vehicles are present. Law enforcement was handing out tickets to cyclists along CaƱada Road today, and we're lucky that none of our riders were cited. In June, failure to stop can lead to disciplinary action ranging from a warning to being pulled from the ride for a day, and repeat offenders can be ejected from the ride. Moreover, running stop signs makes a bad impression on the dozens of jurisdictions that we pass through, and as I said this morning, we need to stay in their good graces. In June, ALC has roaming safety patrols that are on the lookout for rule-breakers, so don't you be one of them.

Also today, I'm sad to report that we had one injury -- not serious, fortunately. In San Carlos, a rider went down along Alameda de las Pulgas while trying to signal an upcoming stop. No ambulance was needed, but the rider's jacket is more than a little banged up! A reminder that it's OK to just call out your intentions ("slowing!") if you don't feel you can safely remove a hand from your handlebars to make a hand signal. But be sure to use your out-loud voice so that everyone around you can hear it.

What's next? Two weeks from today, we'll head to the East Bay for a picturesque trip around the Calaveras Reservoir and back through Sunol and Niles Canyon. This is a 70-mile ride with only about 2,200 feet of climbing (about 800 feet less than we did today), but there's a devious catch: Almost all of that climbing comes on just one big, glorious climb out of Milpitas. Count on about 2.5 miles of 8% climbing (roughly as steep as Kings Mountain but not as long), but then there's a very short but nasty segment of climbing at grades of up to 20% at the summit. For those of you who did ALC8, it's comparable to the evil Halcyon Road hill south of Pismo Beach. But it's also perfectly OK to walk this short part of the route -- it's over in just a couple of minutes. The reward is a low-traffic, rolling ride around the reservoir with an excellent descent into Sunol, so don't let that one hill keep you from joining us. Details and RSVP are here.

Our meet time next time is an hour earlier, at 8:00 a.m. It's very important that everyone arrive on time so that we can ride out on time and make it back to Mountain View on time, so please make every effort to be here, unpacked, and ready to participate by 8:00. Also, please make sure that you're up to the task of at least a 12 mph pace for several hours.

Special thanks again today to Dennis for his outstanding volunteer SAG service.

Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

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