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Saturday's ride is OFF

8:30 update: RIDE CANCELLED. Heavy rain arrived earlier than predicted. Sorry!

We will ride the Rainy Alternate route today.

Although conditions are surprisingly pleasant this morning, there is little doubt that the rain and wind will be here later today. Therefore, it will be good to stay close to Mountain View so we can end our ride when things turn ugly.

Reminder: We will do the full Pacifica ride tomorrow; if you haven't already done so, please let me know if you plan to attend.

Saturday's ride status

We will be attempting to ride the Rainy Alternate route. Check back here by 7 a.m. Saturday for a final call on the status of Saturday's ride.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, my best guess is that the bulk of the storm will arrive late enough that we will be able to at least begin the ride and complete the first 24-mile section.

Remember: We will do the full 79-mile Pacifica ride on Sunday, and we'll have a SAG vehicle on the route. Because the route is mostly an out-an-back, you can make it shorter in many ways. An easy version would be to turn around at the Sawyer Camp Trail entrance for a 51-mile total.

Distance Training #6: Rainy alternate (3/31/2012)

Date: Saturday, March 31
Meet time: 8:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 9:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 24/44/58/82


Rescheduled from March 24.

Because of the continued likelihood of rain and wind on Saturday, we will ride an alternate route that gives us many opportunities to bail out and return to Mountain View if conditions worsen.

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Distance Training #10: Altamont Pass (5/19/2012)

Date: Saturday, May 19
Meet time: 5:00 a.m.
Ride-out time: 5:56 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 2 - rolling hills
Miles: 125

If you are an intermediate or advanced rider who already has completed at least one century ride at a pace of at least 12 mph this season, you are invited to ride in the Fifth Annual Altamont Pass Double Metric, where we ride 200 kilometers (125 miles) in one day.

The terrain on this route is not extremely difficult -- total climbing is only about 2,800 feet -- but potentially strong afternoon headwinds and very hot temperatures have sometimes combined in the past to make this ride more challenging than it looks. There are no stupidly big hills on the entire route!

From our meeting point in downtown Mountain View, we start by crossing the Dumbarton Bridge and passing through Newark and Fremont on our way up Niles Canyon to Sunol. Next, we'll head through Pleasanton and Livermore on our way to the Summit Garage at top of the original Altamont Pass along the historic Lincoln Highway.

Then, we'll retrace our route back to Pleasanton and then head up and over the Dublin Grade into Castro Valley. After that, we'll take city streets through Hayward and follow Mission Blvd. into the Mission San Jose district of Fremont. Finally, we'll pass through Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale on our way back to Mountain View.

We ride out at the crack of dawn. You'll have about 14 hours (including stops) to complete this route. Ride leaders will be encouraging riders to make steady progress throughout the day and not linger at rest stops, so that everyone can be back in Mountain View before sunset.

This is an epic ride, but it is very doable, and your ride leaders and volunteer roadies will be on hand to help you succeed. But please, for your own health and safety and the safety of other riders, do not sign up for this ride if you will not have completed at least one other 100-mile ride before May 19.

The meeting point is next to some condominiums, so please keep noise to a minimum when arriving at this very early hour. The police station next door will notice if we become loud. Restrooms will not be available, not even at the police station, so take care of your needs before you arrive.

RSVP now RSVPs are strongly encouraged for this ride so that you can be kept informed as the date approaches.

Distance Training #9: Gilroy (5/5/2012)

Date: Saturday, May 5
Meet time: 6:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 7:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 113


Today's ride is just a little bit longer and a little bit more hilly than Day 2, the longest day of AIDS/LifeCycle. But if you've been on our Gilroy ride in past seasons, you know that the winds can sometimes play tricks on us and make the day either easier or much more difficult. This year, we have an all-new route that offers even more amazing scenery while (we hope) reducing the chances of strong afternoon headwinds.

We'll start with a flat, direct route past the San Jose airport and through the heart of downtown San Jose, which should be interesting and not too stressful early on a Saturday morning. After a direct route to Morgan Hill on Monterey Highway, we'll head east and climb partway to Gilroy Hot Springs before riding the very remote and very scenic CaƱada Road (the route used by the Tierra Bella rides) and heading into Gilroy for our lunch stop. After that, we'll return north around the Chesbro and Calero reservoirs on our way back to San Jose. We finish through Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale.

Total climbing on this ride is about 3,100 feet.

Our meeting place is near houses and condominiums, so please respect our neighbors and keep early-morning noise to a minimum.

RSVP now RSVPs are requested but not required.

Distance Training #8: South Bay Century (4/21/2012)

Date: Saturday, April 21
Meet time: 7:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 8:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 100


This giant loop around the South Bay has a bit of everything. We start with a bit of Peninsula action in the foothills up to Menlo Park. Then, we cross the Dumbarton Bridge and head out to Mission Blvd., where we climb to the Mission San Jose district of Fremont. From there, we head down the east side of San Jose toward Evergreen Valley. Then, get ready for the climb up Silver Creek Valley Road followed by one of the most thrilling urban descents in the entire Bay Area. We'll close by picking up some of our routes from the past to return through Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale.

Total climbing on this ride is about 3,000 feet. Whether this is your first century ever or just your first century of the year, our group of ride leaders and amazing SAG volunteers will be here to help make your day memorable.

RSVP now RSVPs are requested but not required.

Ride report: Distance Training #6 (3/24/2012)

Go, riders!

If you were one of today's six intrepid riders, congratulations! You now know what it's like to ride in the rain. If you skipped the ride, congratulations on staying warm. We rode just under 25 miles, and that seemed to be enough for everyone. Here are your bullet points of the day:

-- You learned what parts of you get cold, get wet, and get dirty. Long-fingered gloves weren't sufficient for many of us, and Terri's much-appreciated hand warmers only kept a bad situation from getting worse. Here is an interesting article with some reader suggestions for wet-weather gloves, including one tip I'd never considered: "Wear latex surgical gloves inside full-finger winter gloves. The latex doesn't breathe, but it does save your hands from getting cold." (That also could make for some amusing scenes when arriving at and departing rest stops!)

-- If you don't have gear that helps minimize the coldness, wetness, and dirtiness, now you know how you can expand your wardrobe. Remember that ALC discount!

-- You also learned what parts of your bike need extra care. If you had fenders, you learned whether they work well for you. Mine worked very well, and it's reasonably priced and quick to install and uninstall.

-- Could this type of weather happen in June? Possibly. Would we ride in such conditions? My guess is that we probably would. One day of the ride was cancelled once, but the rain was much heavier than what we experienced today. And with the increasingly extreme weather, it seems like anything is possible these days.

-- Your bicycle requires TLC after riding in these conditions. Clean it, dry it, and lube it. But no high-pressure car wash hoses! And I was surprised by how much dirty brake goop I had to wipe from my front rims after the ride.

-- The first couple of miles are the most difficult. After that, you tend to forget that it's raining.

-- Warm, toasty rest stops play games with your mind. I suspect that, had we not stopped at Starbucks at Mile 22, many of us could have kept on going and going without much complaint. But after that refreshing pause, it was oh-so-difficult to get going again; it felt just like the first few miles at the beginning of the day.

What's next? We will try again next Saturday to ride to Pacifica. The weather is still looking a little iffy, and if it's raining again, we'll do the rainy alternate yet again. Details and RSVP here. If we get rained out again next weekend, however, we will not be adjusting the schedule for the remaining rides, so try to find time to keep increasing your distance. (If we start having exceptionally bad luck on multiple weekends, I'll revisit this.)

Quick reminders:

-- The Expo is tomorrow. The 40-mile route takes us to Pacifica on some of the same roads we were scheduled to ride today, so it's good practice for next weekend. And don't forget all the other fun stuff at the County Fair building in Golden Gate Park, even if it's raining. Details and RSVP here.

-- Registration for Double Bay Double 2 is open and is almost 40% full already. I'll be talking about DBD2 and will answer your questions Monday night in San Francisco at the Different Spokes San Francisco membership meeting. You don't have to be a member to attend, and everyone gets 20% off that night at Sports Basement Bryant. Here is the info.

-- If you're not already doing so, start making a habit of riding on consecutive days. That's a very important skill for June, and if you can manage at least a couple instances of three days in a row, you'll be way ahead when you get to Quadbuster on Day 3.

That's it for today. Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Today's ride is ON

Good morning, riders! We are going to try to ride our Rainy Alternate route today.

As of 6:20 a.m., the cold front is between San Mateo (where it's raining and 43 degrees) and Mountain View (where it's cloudy and 53 degrees). Although the radar image shows a large area of precipitation just beginning to move onshore around San Francisco and Pacifica, observations indicate that the rainfall is light to moderate, not heavy.

If you're considering attempting the full 58 miles (or even 82 miles) today, here's a hint: Bring a second set of cycling gear (jersey, jacket, socks) with you to Mountain View. We'll be passing close by our parking lot at Mile 24 and Mile 44, and if you're getting wet and miserable, you can change out of some or all of your wet gear.

Of course, if conditions worsen, your ride leaders might decide to close the route, either at one of the two bailout points, or (if there's an immediate threat to safety) at any point along the route. Please pay close attention to our leaders and SAG drivers today.

Also, it's extremely important today that everyone sign out or otherwise let us know when they're done riding, no matter when that happens ... at 24 miles, 44 miles, or any other time. We need to account for everybody at the end of the day!

See you in Mountain View at 8:30 a.m.

Saturday weather update

It's another wet weekend ahead, but we're going to try to ride anyway.

We will ride a shorter 58-mile route that offers several easy ways to end the ride early and return to downtown Mountain View. (If the weather miraculously holds all day, we can repeat the first leg to reach our original 80-mile goal.)

The latest forecasts suggest that the moderate rain will move north to south during the day on Saturday, so there's a good chance that we'll be able to at least start the ride under acceptable conditions. The route has pre-defined bailouts at Mile 24 and Mile 44, and there are many other ways that you can head back if needed, so you can stop at whatever point the weather becomes too much for you.

If the rain becomes heavy to the point of becoming dangerous for us, your ride leaders might decide to close the route and direct everyone back to downtown Mountain View. Safety is always our top priority, and safety definitely trumps any short-term need or desire for mileage.

Please join us Saturday morning at 8:30 ... and don't forget that we meet one hour earlier than last time!

On Saturday morning, I will post an updated ride status here by 7 a.m. Check before coming to Mountain View.

Distance Training #6B: Pacifica rescheduled (4/1/2012)

Date: Sunday, April 1
Meet time: 8:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 9:00 a.m.
Meeting place: Parking lot at Villa and Franklin streets, Mountain View (across from the Tied House) (map)
City: Mountain View
Rain policy: Heavy rain cancels
Category: 3 - moderate-fast pace (12-15 mph)
Terrain: 3 - rolling hills with some steep climbs
Miles: 79


Rescheduled (again) from March 24 and March 31.

From our starting point in downtown Mountain View, we're heading all the way up the Peninsula and down to the coast at Pacifica. You'll be treated to amazing views on our final descent to the coast, you'll enjoy the change of pace as you ride through Pacifica, and you'll be challenged by the moderately steep climb up Sharp Park Road back to Skyline. We'll also get some experience riding on the bicycle-legal parts of Interstate 280 -- something you need to get used to because there is a non-trivial amount of freeway and expressway cycling between here and Los Angeles. Our helpful ride leaders and SAG drivers will be on hand to help you succeed with grace and style.

Strava reports about 5,100 feet of climbing for this route. The distance and climbing on this ride are very close to what you'll experience on Day 1 of the event in June (and this ride even includes some parts of the Day 1 route), so this is a good opportunity to gauge your progress in getting ready for the big ride. Day 1 usually has the most climbing of any of our seven days.

This ride is offered through Different Spokes San Francisco (you don't have to be a member to attend) and is not an official AIDS/LifeCycle training ride.

RSVPs are requested but not required.

Ride report: Distance Training #5 (3/10/2012)

Go, riders!

Our rides are getting longer ... and getting serious. Our group of 45 intrepid cyclists faced several physical and mental challenges on today's 69-mile route, so we got plenty of practice in dealing with the issues that can arise during the event in June.

First, of course, was the climbing. Metcalf is no slouch of a hill! It's steeper and a bit longer than Quadbuster, although you tackle Quadbuster at the beginning of your third consecutive day in June, so it often feels tougher than if you did it fresh. Just remember to pace yourself and take breaks if necessary; even though some web application might be awarding you faux "medals" for being fastest up the hill, there is no prize in June for being first, second, 500th, or 2,500th into camp. (The last rider every day, however, does get an impressive motorcycle escort into camp!) I always get a bit sad when I hear of an ALCer who does the ride one year and then doesn't come back because they overexerted to the point of injury.

Second today was the wind. I'm not quite sure how we managed to get a headwind going in both directions, but we had unusually bad luck. That said, however, the wind wasn't nearly as bad as it can be in south San Jose, and we'll get another shot at testing our luck in six more weeks when we return to the area for our 100-mile ride. A strong headwind, especially one that's chilly or hot, certainly makes your ride harder, but it also can foul your mood. And from a safety standpoint, wind can make it harder for other riders to hear you call out, so it's important in windy conditions to really use your outside voice.

Also today was the distance. 70 miles is a long way, longer than a couple of days of the event in June, and especially so if today was your longest ride ever. (Congratulations!) As we move quickly into true endurance cycling, a lot of things change from what you might be accustomed to if you traditionally ride shorter distances at faster paces. Pacing yourself becomes vitally important, as do proper nutrition and hydration. Your calorie expenditures start going way up, and you need to replace most of that. How you do that is different for everyone, but now is the time for you to be figuring out what works for you, and how you can follow your plan in June. Remember to ride as much as possible in a "happy gear," and find a pace that you can essentially maintain forever ... because seven days in a row sure can feel like forever.

Today's fourth item on the list was every ... freakin' ... traffic ... light ... on Capitol Avenue. It was getting late in the day, the wind already had you stewing, the traffic was heavy, and then a pedestrian would press the button to cross all four lanes plus the light rail tracks, and you'd have to stop and wait for nearly a whole minute while that one person held everything up. Or you'd reach a major intersection just as the signal turned yellow, and you'd be stuck there through a whole three-minute cycle -- when all you wanted to do at that point was just get back to Mountain View already. Yes, I was there, too!

I'd like to say that I specifically included Capitol Avenue on the route just to annoy you as part of the training, but that honestly wasn't my intent. There is, however, a very important lesson to be learned there: In June, things happen to annoy you. Little things, big things, all kinds of things beyond your control. And if you let them get to you, your ride stops being fun, and your negative energy starts to affect other riders as well -- not just mentally, but also perhaps physically when you start riding more aggressively or less cautiously. And this isn't purely hypothetical! When we leave Santa Cruz on Day 2, we have an even more challenging abundance of signals. In San Luis Obispo on Day 4, we ride through a long, busy commercial district. And along PCH on Day 7, we have extremely heavy traffic and signals.

I've said it before: Don't ride angry. If you start feeling angry, get off the bike for a few minutes. It also might be a signal that your nutrition is out of whack! This isn't just for your own good; it's to keep everyone else safe as well.

What's next? In two weeks, we'll do an 80-mile ride that has more climbing than any other Mountain View ride this season, even the longer ones. (It's almost twice as much climbing as we did today.) Our destination again is somewhere we've never gone on a Mountain View ride -- the ocean at Pacifica -- and our route to and from there is among the rolling hills of the Peninsula. Sure, we have a couple of significant climbs, but most of the elevation gain will come from short and/or rolling hills, so it doesn't feel as bad as it looks. I already test-rode the entire route, and I wasn't grumpy afterward! Another feature of this ride will be a little bit of true freeway cycling on, yes, Interstate 280. (Some parts are legal for bicycles, and we'll be on those parts ... on a wide, smooth shoulder, not in the traffic lanes.) We'll do some of this on Day 1 in June, and typically about 8% of the ALC route involves freeways or expressways, so it's good to deal with freeway anxiety before you're surrounded by 2,500 other riders. Find out more and RSVP here. (And please RSVP if you're planning on coming, so that I can have enough waivers and route sheets. I'd rather have you RSVP and not show up than not RSVP and show up anyway!)

It looks like our run of unusually favorable cycling weather might be coming to a close. This might not be a bad thing! If you've taken advantage of our dry winter by riding more than usual, this might be a perfect opportunity to dial it back a bit. Overtraining for ALC can be a very real problem. If you start to dread getting back on your bicycle, that's a bright red warning signal ... especially this far away from June. Everyone's threshold is different, so I can't give you any specific numbers. But if you track your training, you have a good idea of how much you typically ride in February and March. If you're way over that and aren't having much fun, consider taking it easy for a while, especially if we get the days upon days of rain that some forecasts are predicting. (Incidentally, the long-term AccuWeather guess/forecast for our next ride on the 24th is currently calling for 0.16 inch of rain, a high of only 57 degrees, and winds out of the south at 23 mph gusting to 42 mph. We'll see how many times that forecast changes completely in the next two weeks!)

I have a request to pass along from ALC World HQ. When signing the waiver before each ride, please take a few extra seconds to print your name clearly. There actually is a real person at ALC World HQ who reads every line of every waiver from every training ride (that's hundreds of names every week) and enters your name into their database. This lets them keep track of which rides you've done in case you call your cyclist representative with any questions. And when they can't read names, they have to try to guess (which is never fun), and they get grumpy with the ride facilitators (that's me) for turning in unreadable waivers. So please don't give ALC World HQ a reason to get grumpy with me ... thanks!

Finally, general registration for Double Bay Double 2, set for September 29-30, opens Monday. Find out more at the event website. This is a great post-ALC event that also benefits the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and you'll see many of the same people from our Mountain View training rides.

Thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Calaveras Road closure

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission reports:
As part of the Calaveras Dam Replacement Project, we will temporarily close Calaveras Road on weekdays just south of Geary Road to the Alameda / Santa Clara County border on two separate occasions. The road closure schedule is as follows:

Closed: April 2, 2012 to June 1, 2012
18 months in late 2013 through 2014 (dates TBD)

These are weekday-only closures and will not affect our training ride through the area on Saturday, April 7.