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Ride report: Distance Training #9 (5/1/2010)

Go, riders!

With the possible exception of a little wind, our group of 19 intrepid riders could not have asked for finer springtime weather on today's 111-mile ride to Gilroy and back. (Gilroy! We went all the freakin' way to Gilroy! And back! That's quite amazing when you think about it, isn't it?) Special thanks to super SAG drivers Dennis, Al, and Drew for providing outstanding support -- especially Drew, one of our regular riders who couldn't ride today because his bike is in the shop and who offered to come be part of the group anyway.

Today's ride was just a little bit longer than the longest day of AIDS/LifeCycle, and it had about the same amount of climbing, so you can be confident of your ability to handle just about anything on the route next month. Of course, our 108-mile day is immediately followed the next morning by Quadbuster, so it's still very important that you get some experience with consecutive long-mileage training days. Fortunately, the mileage of the event in June has evolved to the point where it's basically long, long, short, long, short, long, short, so when you make it through the first two days, you've had the worst of the consecutive mileage. But don't relax too much -- by a "short" day, I mean "less than 70 miles."

We also got a good sample today of the type of rural roads we'll be riding for much of the event. One of the biggest differences is that you can go miles and miles without a stop sign or a traffic signal. That's nice if you like getting into a groove; that's not so nice if you like frequent short breaks, the type you can get at a signal. Even out in the middle of nowhere, it's OK to stop and take a quick break to stretch, drink, eat, or just take a photo and enjoy the scenery. Just be sure to signal, stop, and move your bicycle completely off the road (into a driveway or side street, for instance).

Also on rural roads, it's very, very important that we always ride single file, just as we do everywhere else. This is one place where ALC rules are more restrictive than the California Vehicle Code, but it's an area that ALC takes very seriously. If we ride two abreast on rural roads and hinder traffic flow, we can lose permission to use those roads, and that could potentially be the end of ALC, so don't let that happen. But even when there's a marked bike lane, ALC rules still require us to ride single file. In a group of our size, there are always riders wanting to pass other riders, and we need to give them the space to do so safely. Word on the street is that this rule will be enforced heavily in June, and penalties could range as high as not being allowed to ride for a day or more. Save the conversations for the rest stops; we've got plenty of them.

As I've mentioned before, the mental challenge of ALC is as important as the physical challenge. For a lot of cyclists, 100 miles is an important threshold ... and it's one that isn't crossed all that often. When you crossed the 100-mile mark today, did your mind start to tell you that the ride was over? That's normal, even though you knew that you had another 11 miles to go. But if you let your mind trick you into thinking you're essentially done, you run the risk of losing efficiency or even your presence of mind to be aware of what's going on around you. This only comes up on Day 2 of ALC, but it's something to be aware of -- particularly if you plan on riding the Altamont Pass Double Metric in just two weeks.

This really is getting into crunch time for our training. Most of us should plan to reach our peak training level sometime in the next two to three weeks and then taper off as we approach June 6. Some trainers recommend that older riders (those, say, over 40) have a little more "down time" before a big event, perhaps as much as two weeks. But "down time" is not completely off the bike. Occasional short rides are still recommended up until one week before the event; most of us will want to be off the bike in the final pre-ALC week. You really want to be eager to ride -- not tired of riding -- on the morning of June 6!

Once June 6 gets here, you'll probably want to start riding in "endurance mode" if you aren't doing so already. Did you shift your riding style today? My sense that was several folks did just that around mid-ride. In training mode, you're always wanting to get through the ride as quickly and efficiently as possible. But in endurance mode, the goal is to find a pace that allows you to keep riding "forever" ... or at least for seven days in a row. I often shift down to one lower gear than I normally use, and I take my climbs very conservatively, going to the granny gear far more often even on ascents that aren't all that steep. You've got about 20,000 feet of climbing in ALC, so there's no point in wearing out your legs and knees by the end of Day 2.

What's next? We've got just one ride left in our Distance Training rides, and it's the crown jewel. On Saturday, May 15, we're running the third annual Altamont Pass Double Metric. This special event is the longest single-day training ride on the nationwide ALC calendar, but it's very doable by everyone who rode with us today. You'll have 14 hours to ride 125 miles, with about as much climbing as we did today. You'll get to see the historic Summit Garage at the top of the original Altamont Pass on the Lincoln Highway, the original transcontinental highway. And like today's ride, you'll have a bit of everything from busy city streets to remote rural roads. Completing a double metric is an accomplishment that very few cyclists ever achieve, and this is one of the most doable double metrics out there. We'll have two SAG vehicles to help us through the day, and riders who finish in less than 12 hours will be able to take advantage of a street festival in downtown Mountain View.

If you're considering riding in the double metric, please RSVP so that we can keep you informed as the ride approaches. There's also an extensive list of frequently asked questions about the ride.

We ride out on Day 1 of ALC9 in just 36 days. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Photos by Dennis Soong

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