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Ride report: Distance Training #3 (2/11/2012)

Go, riders!

Quite frankly, I am impressed. Today's route wasn't just challenging; it was very challenging, and our group of 40 riders handled it with grace. Not everyone rode every mile, but that was never the intent. Instead, many of us found our limit and then reacted appropriately. And knowing one's limit is a very powerful thing; it's something you can revisit later, it's a measuring gauge for yourself, and it's a powerful lesson in managing your body and mind on endurance events.

Of course, big thanks also go to today's SAG team of Chris, James, and Diana, who were there when we needed them and made the day ever so brighter. The good news is that we only needed to transport one cyclist in a SAG vehicle, and that was because they had chain issues.

How 'bout that Westridge? There's nothing like that on the event in June, although the infamous Quadbuster of Day 3 comes close. Quadbuster is a little bit longer but a little bit less steep. (Also, you'll hit Quadbuster after riding about 190 miles on the previous two days, so today's 25 flat miles was a simulation of that.)

How 'bout that Joaquin? There's nothing even remotely like that on the event in June! In fact, there's nothing even remotely like that on the rest of our Distance Training rides. So, why the blazes did we go up Joaquin today? Well, first, it's quite the scenic ride, isn't it? (And for those of you who love big descents, that was quite the descent.) But also, for some of us -- including some of us who don't normally test our limits on these rides -- that was our limit.

Whether you made it all the way up without stopping, took one or two (or six) breaks on the way up, walked part or all of the way, or skipped it altogether, you now have a benchmark of your ability as it stands at this point in your training. If you turned the corner and your head filled with dread when you saw the incline, that's not unlike where your head can go during the event in June. All sorts of things can happen, and when they do, you need to take a quick and honest assessment of where you're at and how you plan to deal with it. This isn't only for your benefit; it's for the benefit and safety of the 2,500 other riders around you. If you press forward in a degraded mental state, you're more likely to do stupid things, and that could endanger both you and others. Never be afraid to give the thumbs-down signal if you've truly gone off into Queen B*tch land and can't get back.

As our season progresses, I'll talk more about riding EFI (for Every Friendly Inch, of course), the pressure that some feel to do so, what happens when you can't (even through no fault of your own), and why ALC isn't really about EFI anyway.

There was only one thing I saw today that somewhat displeased me, and I saw it more than once. Out in the middle of nowhere, I saw a few folks fail to stop completely at stop signs. Yes, some of the stop signs seemed inconveniently or illogically placed. But rules are rules, and the full-stop rule is one that ALC takes very seriously. In past years, we have received many complaints in towns where our route has many stop signs. Even out in the middle of nowhere in the Salinas Valley, we encounter stop signs. Unless law enforcement is there to wave us through, we stop every time, and we always make a full stop. And if you think nobody saw you, so it doesn't matter ... well, I saw you from afar, but I just as easily could have been a local resident itching to complain about ALC. Please, please, please -- for your own safety and the future of ALC, always come to a full ALC stop at every stop sign, everywhere, without exception.

What's next? From now until May, our distance increases quickly -- about 10 miles every ride. Our next ride is on February 25 and it's 59 miles. This ride is a rather simple route up the Peninsula to the Crystal Springs area. It's certainly hilly -- it has about as much climbing as we did today, but it's spread fairly well over the entire route. There's only one somewhat nasty hill: Alameda de las Pulgas westbound from Belmont. But we never get much about 500 feet in elevation all day, so it should feel much more mellow than today's ride. Details and RSVP are here.

Thanks for a great ride today, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.