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ALC12 Distance Training #10: Altamont Pass (5/4/2013)

Date: Saturday, May 4
Meet time: 5:30 a.m.
Ride-out time: 6:09 a.m.
Meeting place: Behind the Mountain View police station, 1030 W. Evelyn Ave. (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 Sixth 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 (one block away from our usual meeting point), 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 13.5 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 4.

Restrooms will not be available at the meeting location, not even at the police station, so take care of your needs before you arrive.

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

Ride report: ALC12 Distance Training #7 (3/23/2013)

Go, riders!

Well, that was certainly an interesting day, wasn't it? When rides start getting this long, it's almost guaranteed that something unexpected will happen. Our group of 22 intrepid riders had more than a few surprises today!

First on the list was the sudden (and, as far as I can tell, completely unannounced) start of road work on both sides of the Dumbarton Bridge access road. The milled-down pavement wasn't much fun, and the east end of the bridge in particular was no fun at all (Caution sign? We don't need no steenkin' caution sign) -- the big bump on the road caused two flat tires early in the day. I've got a query in to Caltrans to find out what I can about the project; two of our next three rides are scheduled to use the bridge, and if the whole frontage road gets torn up, I'll obviously need to change our routes.

Then there was the closure of Niles Canyon. Some of us waited up to half an hour at the entrance to the canyon to find out when we'd be allowed in after this morning's fatal head-on collision. I had quickly put together a backup plan that would have sent us up Mission Blvd. into Hayward -- but, just as I was starting to announce it to the group, the good-natured Fremont police officer on duty yelled, "Open!" and we were able to ride up the canyon ... and we even were given a bit of a head start ahead of the cars.

This type of incident, while rare, can happen on the event in June as well, so in a way, it was good for our training. Parts of our route can be temporarily shut down, especially when there's a serious incident. Hundreds upon hundreds of riders can back up quickly, and when the all-clear is given, it's just like another mass start in the middle of the day, with all of the associated crowding and danger. I've noticed over the years that event staff generally get a little looser with rest stop closing times when such holds occur, so don't stress out if this should happen to you during the event.

As if that weren't enough, we ran smack into the middle of a giant event at the fairgrounds in Pleasanton, complete with very heavy traffic and (as far as I can recall) the very first nasty, evil, Phelps-esque anti-gay protester I'd ever seen on a training ride. (Didn't see him? He was at the corner of Valley and Bernal just before Rest Stop 2 with his giant sign.) Although he clearly wasn't there because of us, I'm still trying to figure out why he targeted a hot rod and custom car show in Pleasanton.

If one is in a bad frame of mind at the time, encountering such a thing on a ride could be very disconcerting. I hope it didn't put anyone in a bad mood today; the bigger lesson to take away is all sorts of things could happen during the event to foul your mind-set -- poor weather, traffic, physical issues, and so on. During the event, it's very important that you let such things affect your mental state as little as possible, because once your mood has turned sour, it can be very difficult to rectify.

And then it got downright warm, much warmer than predicted, with temperatures in Pleasanton into the mid-70s. As the temperature goes up, it's important to take in enough fluids, including electrolyte replacement. In June, it's possible for afternoon temperatures to hit the 90s on some days (although this hasn't happened in recent years), so it's not a bad idea to do at least some riding in the heat before then to find out how your body reacts.

Then, as we descended into Milpitas, the winds came up, the skies turned hazy, and the temperature dropped ... almost as if rain was approaching (which it wasn't, of course). I started to mentally prepare myself for dealing with nasty headwinds all along the Tasman Drive slog through San Jose and Santa Clara. But fortunately, at least when I got there, the winds started to die down the closer we got to Sunnyvale, and by the time I reached Central Expressway, they weren't much of an issue anymore for the final 6 miles back into Mountain View.

Whew! Despite all of these challenges, everyone made it back to Mountain View under their own power. Super SAG driver Charles was helpful throughout the day, but he didn't need to bring anyone back, and that's always nice.

Just how much climbing was there on today's ride? Good question! I had predicted about 4,100 feet based on last year's ride along a similar but not identical route. But looking at the numbers reported in Strava so far tonight from our riders, I see a wide range: 4285, 4373, 3860, 3635, 3632, 3373, and 3861. (Ride with GPS claimed 4,610 feet.) We can't all be correct, so what is it?

Sadly, nobody knows for sure. But here is a very nerdy explanation from Strava about elevation correction and GPS devices. The takeaway is that elevation estimates are always just that: estimates. (This is also why ALC doesn't publish official elevation statistics about the event; everyone would get something different anyway.) Get a sense for how your own GPS device deals with elevation, compare your stats to the published numbers (mine or anyone else's), and learn how to translate among the different data sources.

Which leads us to our next ride: our first of three century-plus rides this year! Our route is the same as last year (pending, of course, any word from Caltrans about the Dumbarton Bridge), and it covers bits and pieces of many of our earlier rides with a few new bits thrown in for variety. We'll use a route down the east side of San Jose that hugs the edge of the foothills and, therefore, is somewhat rolling, and we'll experience one of the more interesting climbs (but not stupidly steep) and descents on the south side of the city.

It's a long ride with a healthy dose of urban mileage, so your pace might be a bit less than what you'd normally get out on the open road. But you'll also have about 11 hours of daylight to complete the route, so it shouldn't be a problem for anyone who finished today's ride. This is a classic ride, and it's an ideal first century, too, because you're never too far from civilization if you need it. Find out more and RSVP here.

Our century ride is important for another reason, too. It's time to start thinking about our 6th annual Altamont Pass Double Metric on Saturday, May 4. Unlike my other rides, this one has a prerequisite: Everyone must pre-qualify by completing a ride of at least 100 miles this season before ride day. I'm offering two qualification rides on our calendar: our century in two weeks, and our 113-mile Gilroy ride on April 20. To qualify, you can ride any 100-mile route that you wish, and it can be either with a group or by yourself. (We have this requirement to help ensure that, if you begin the double metric, you've got a reasonable chance of being able to complete it.)

Altamont Pass registration is going to open very soon, probably within the next week. And, as I've mentioned before, those who register early will be able to get a free commemorative T-shirt. So watch this space for details!

We're just a little more than two months away from the event. By completing today's ride, which was at least as difficult as most of the days on the event, you're making excellent progress. Congratulations to all, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

ALC12 Distance Training #9: Gilroy (4/20/2013)

Date: Saturday, April 20
Meet time: 6:00 a.m.
Ride-out time: 6:30 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 just a little bit more hilly than Day 2, the longest day of AIDS/LifeCycle.

We'll start with a flat, direct route on Central Expressway all the way to the end, then 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 on mostly familiar roads through Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Sunnyvale.

Total climbing on this ride is about 3,100 feet, most of it rolling but with a couple of short but slightly steep climbs. This ride includes a 31-mile segment with no food, water, or services. Stock up before leaving Morgan Hill. You'll have about 13 hours of daylight to complete this ride, so don't linger at rest stops.

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

Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Ride report: ALC12 Distance Training #6 (3/9/2013)

Go, riders!

In the grand scheme of things, it's probably bad that our late-winter weather is so fabulously fabulous. But for our group of 23 intrepid cyclists Saturday, conditions were picture-perfect for our challenging 77-mile ride to Pacifica and back. Special thanks to super SAG driver Andrew for keeping track of us and bringing back the one rider who wisely chose to end their ride early after having some pain.

And challenging it was! No doubt about it, this ride had a lot of climbing. Most of it wasn't all that steep or long, but it was persistent ... just like much of the terrain along the California coast where we'll be riding in less than three months. Between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, Highway 1 rarely rises to more than a couple hundred feet in altitude, but it drops down to sea level and climbs back up over and over and over again, seemingly at the outlet of every tiny creek.

None of those hills are all that impressive by themselves -- in fact, most of them barely even register on the official elevation chart -- but taken together, they often take their toll and wear you down. Fortunately, most of us are so excited on Day 1 that the pure adrenaline helps us get through this challenging day, which has more climbing than any other day of the event. (A healthy tailwind often helps, too.)

Saturday's ride was a rather close approximation of the technical difficulty of Day 1. Use your performance on this training ride to gauge the areas where you'll want to devote special attention during the rest of the training season -- nutrition, bike fit, pacing, heart rate, or anything else that gave you difficulty.

Bicycling on Interstate 280 was a first-time experience for some of us. I don't take us on I-280 just because it's there; instead, our route to Los Angeles is about 8% freeways and expressways. (The actual amount varies slightly from year to year.) And these are fast, rural freeways, where there's no shortage of semi-trailers thundering down the right lane at very high speeds just a few feet from you. That's why the ALC freeway rules are so important, especially the rule about never touching the white shoulder stripe for any reason (except a very rare emergency) while riding.

On the event, we usually don't have to deal with crossing freeway off-ramps and on-ramps; we usually take every exit and then re-enter the freeway. (There are a couple of exceptions along the coast on Day 6 where the exits have almost no traffic.)

For many of us, freeway cycling isn't much fun. (I happen to think it's kinda cool myself, when done safely.) But like it or not, it's part of the event, so it's best to make your peace with it before you're surrounded by 2,500 other cyclists, not to mention those 70-mph trucks. There aren't many places to practice around here: On the Peninsula, only two segments of I-280 are bike-legal; in Marin County, there's a short part of I-580 near San Quentin. All of Highway 17 from Los Gatos to Scotts Valley is, believe it or not, bike-legal (that's the law in California), but nobody in their right mind would attempt it. (For the record, I rode the last two miles downhill into Los Gatos once, more than 15 years ago. It was quite the hair-raising experience that I'll never repeat, especially now that traffic is so much heavier.)

(Update: Tony reminds me that a short part of Highway 24 between the Caldecott Tunnel and Orinda is also bike-legal but very rarely used, although the tunnel itself is not open to cyclists.)

As our rides become longer, pacing becomes more important. Saturday, the segment from Rest Stop 2 to Rest Stop 3 took a lot out of many of us, myself included. Although that segment had only one significant climb, all the rollers along Skyline Blvd. can be annoying, especially that far into the ride.

Fortunately, however, that segment also had several extended descents. I know that I'm unlike most cyclists in that I don't necessarily try to power through the downhills and reach hypersonic speed. But I often use the descents as on-the-bike rest time to get my heart rate back down and give my poor quads a break. Plus, I get some extra time to savor the scenery!

Seriously, especially if you're a first-year ALCer, it's very important that you not ride beyond your ability on the unfamiliar descents in June. It's possible to exceed 50 mph on more than a few of the descents, but many of them have tricks and gotchas, and you need every possible microsecond of reaction time in case something goes wrong -- not just from you, but even from another cyclist around you. I know my pleas in this area usually go unheard, but I'll still make the case for being a cautious descender on unfamiliar roads when surrounded by cyclists of unknown ability and lack of predictability. (If you'd like a data point, my all-time top speed on a bicycle is only 32.9 mph, and that was reached on Day 1 of ALC11 last year, somewhere along Highway 1 between San Gregorio and Santa Cruz.)

Long rides also highlight any bike-fit issues that you might still have. In short, if your bike is making you hurt now, you need to get it looked at before June because seven days in a row will only make it hurt more ... and it might possibly even injure you. Knees, quads, hands, feet, neck, back, whatever -- you might finish a ride tired and even a bit sore, but sharp pain or partial loss of motion is a definite warning sign that you need to heed.

Safety reminder: Even though it's legal to ride side-by-side in a marked bike lane in California, it's against ALC rules. Why? Because we need to keep a clear path for faster cyclists to pass. You know what it feels like when you're riding up Foothill Expressway and two non-ALCers are riding side by side and you can't get past them without going into the traffic lane? That's what we try to prevent on the event. More than once, an ALC cyclist has been seriously injured when they veered into traffic to pass and a car came up behind them. Don't let that happen to you! Take care of the socializing at the rest stops and in camp. You'll need something to talk about while in line for the portapotty anyway.

And a housekeeping note: After the ride, one of our route sheets was found on the floor in the bathroom at the Mountain View Police Department. Remember to clean up after yourself so that we don't lose access to this facility.

What's next? The mileage continues to build. In two weeks, we'll ride 88 miles on a day that is about as difficult as Day 6, although the climbing is structured a little differently. We'll head over to the East Bay to climb three of the region's signature hills: Palomares Road, the Dublin Grade, and Calaveras Road. They're each long climbs, but none of them are especially steep. (The middle part of the Palomares climb is a bit challenging, but it's short-lived.) Those three climbs alone get us the bulk of the day's climbing. We meet another half-hour earlier, at 8 a.m. Find out more and RSVP here.

Remember to save the date on May 4: That's our 6th annual Altamont Pass Double Metric, the world's longest one-day ALC training ride. Signups open soon, and those who sign up early will be able to get a free commemorative T-shirt, a perfect conversation-starter when you wear it in camp this June.

Thanks for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

Photo by Andrew Bennett

ALC12 Distance Training #8: South Bay Century (4/6/2013)

Date: Saturday, April 6
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 3,400 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.

Click here to RSVP
RSVPs are requested but not required.

Ride report: 2013 Reedley Lions Blossom Bike Ride (3/2/2013)

It was, in a way, returning to where it (almost) all began.

On March 3, 2005, less than a year after returning to cycling, I made the short early-morning drive from my home in Fresno down to the small town of Reedley for their annual 100km Blossom Bike Ride. I can't find anyplace where I wrote about that day (which might be a good thing), but the numbers on my spreadsheet tell the story: My pace for the day was 12.2 mph, and I distinctly recall it being a very challenging ride -- challenging enough that I never went back for another attempt.

So, last week, when I started looking at places I could ride on one of our "off" weekends from the Distance Training rides, I jumped just a little bit when I saw that the Blossom Ride was indeed this Saturday. At 100k with about 2,300 feet of climbing, it was right in the range of my average Saturday rides for this time of year. I quickly reserved a spot and booked a room, eager to revisit a previous scene and eager to ride something other than another trip up and down Foothill Expressway.

Traditionally, I've tried to go easy before 100k rides. That didn't happen this time. Thursday, I celebrated my birthday by climbing Los Trancos Road for the first time without having to walk part of the way. Friday afternoon, I stopped in Fresno on the way to Reedley and knocked out a quick (and by quick, I mean quick: 16.9 mph pace) 40 miles in my old stomping ground. So when I checked into my motel room in Reedley, I was ready to rest.

Alas, rest was short-lived. I inexplicably woke up at about 2 a.m. after less than five hours of sleep, and  I managed nothing more than to drift in and out of consciousness for the rest of the night. (Being located right next to a major highway with semi-trailers braking on the approach to town certainly didn't help, nor did the impossibly firm mattress. And this from someone who normally likes a firm mattress!)

With a 7 a.m. check-in time and a 7:30 a.m. mass start, I did not have the luxury of sleeping in, even if I thought I could stay well ahead of rest stop closures. So at about 6:20, I abandoned any hope of actually sleeping, and I got ready for the quick 1-mile ride to the starting point at Reedley College, across the absolutely horrible four-lane highway bridge into town.

I arrived just before 7:00 and found long check-in lines, grouped by initial letter of last name. And none of them were moving. A random person on the PA system said that they were waiting for "one thing" before opening for the day.

At 7:10, we still weren't moving. Random PA person took to the microphone again, this time to tell us that the route sheets and maps had not arrived but that we'd be OK to ride anyway because route arrows were on the pavement all along our route. Ouch! Route arrows are nice, but it's also important to know how far to the next turn and -- more importantly -- how far to the next rest stop, especially in this rural area where there are practically no other services available. (Not a Starbucks to be seen.) Fortunately, I'd checked the route online before I left, so I generally knew where I was going. (This year's route was generally in the reverse direction from when I did it in 2005, although there were some other changes.)

By 7:25 I had checked in and received my green armband (but no route sheet), so I ambled around and waited a couple of minutes for riders to make their way to the start, although many dozens were still in line. Seeing no mass movement, I rode to the end of the parking lot, where a city police officer was simply letting people go and start the ride whenever they wanted. So I was off!

The first part of the ride was completely flat. And even though the roads were different from my normal Fresno routes, once you've seen one piece of Fresno County agriculture, you've pretty much seen it all. I started early enough that most of the giant pacelines of racers didn't catch up to me until several miles into the ride. A couple of small hills about 15 miles in added a little variety, but soon enough I was at the first rest stop. Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, I was able to shed my light jacket at this point.

The climbing then began in earnest, with the short but surprisingly steep hill over the top and down into Wonder Valley (which I'd done once before on my own in that direction). More flat to rolling hills through Wonder Valley, and then we were at the edge of the Sierra ... which meant the serious climbing was about to start.

Google Street View photo.
(I wasn't about to risk getting shot by taking a picture.)
But before that, we had to deal with the Nazi dogs. As we approached mile 26, a rider near me said, "I wonder if the Nazi dogs are out today." I remembered from 2005 that this part of the route was home to a notoriously colorful local character whose collection of wildlife sometimes caused problems.

Yes, Bill Gaede (grandfather to notorious singing twins Prussian Blue) still lives there, even after being shot during a home invasion last year. And the white truck with the swastika on its side was still there Saturday, just like in this photo from Google Street View.

We simply pedaled right on through, trying to look mostly straight ahead, and nothing happened. Dogs were heard but not seen (unlike several other spots along the route, where dogs were running loose).

But then the climb began. It's only 2.9 miles at 6.9%, so it wasn't overly difficult, but it was longer than most of the climbs I do around here. I think I could have made it without stopping, but about two-thirds of the way up, I reached into my back jersey pocket to retrieve a cough drop, and a used shot-block wrapper fell out onto the road. Unlike some cyclists, I wasn't about to litter, so I had to stop to go back and retrieve my garbage. Soon enough, I was at the top -- which, at 1,923 feet, was the highest elevation of the day. The rest of the ride would be mostly downhill or flat, but I remembered enough from the past to know that there would be more than a couple of intermediate surprises along the way.

Indeed, this part of the ride in the Sierra foothills was my favorite part of the day. Roads with little traffic, places that I normally didn't ride while living in Fresno, and just enough other cyclists so that I didn't feel completely alone. (But I saw surprisingly few SAG vehicles during this part of the ride; I'm guessing they were back with the bulk of the other riders who got the late start.) By mile 38, I was about 1,000 feet lower and at the second rest stop: all the essentials in the parking lot of a country store, but nothing overly grand.

Then it was time for the final descent back into the Central Valley. I left with a group from Central Sierra Cyclists, but they were off into the distance within the first mile. By doing the route in reverse from my previous ride, I had the benefit of a longer, more gradual descent that didn't require me to ride the brakes all the way down. Sand Creek Road was a lot longer than I remembered; without a route sheet, I didn't know how much farther I would be on the winding road before I hit the flat road grid of the Valley. Finally, after more than 8 miles, there was an orange route arrow directing me to turn left.

The rest of the ride was almost completely flat. And although we somehow managed to travel both south, west, and north on our way back to Reedley, the day of riding hard started to take its toll on me. I wasn't in pain, and I'm sure I was nowhere near as fatigued as I had been eight years ago, but riding hard through the hills had left me more than a little tired. I stopped for one photo break (see top), at which point about half a dozen riders magically appeared out of nowhere and went on past me. The road was somewhat boring at this point, the auto and truck traffic had increased considerably, and there were no bike lanes, so it wasn't the most pleasant riding I've done. I was ready for it to be over, enough so that I was relishing the little "beep" of my Garmin after every mile completed.

Again, without a route sheet, I wasn't quite sure where we were going. The route took us onto comparatively busy Highway 63, which had a freshly paved surface but no shoulder or bike lane. After several miles without seeing any other cyclists, I began to wonder whether I had missed a turn ... and I started trying to reconstruct my mental road map of the area so that I could make it back to Reedley on my own if I had gone drastically off course. Finally, there was one solitary "straight-ahead" orange arrow on the road at one intersection, although it seemed that we were going farther south than was necessary to get back to Reedley.

Part of the uncertainty was that I didn't know how far it was until the end. I knew that it was officially a "63-mile" ride, but experience on other events has shown me that it could be as few as 63 or as many as 70. And the only visual landmark I recognized was the Reedley water tower, which seemed much farther away than it should be.

And then we were heading north again ... right toward an orange sign that proclaimed, "Pavement Ends." What!? Sure enough, there was a rural intersection that was being completely rebuilt, presumably due to the incessant beating it was taking from heavy agricultural vehicles. (Did I mention the surprisingly poor quality of many rural Fresno County roads?) Fortunately, the packed dirt surface lasted only about 100 feet ... but again, it would have been nice to have a route sheet that warned me of this!

So yes, I was still ready for it to be over. The route merged with the 40-mile route, so there were a few more riders. I reached Mile 63, and I started to see a housing subdivision on the left side. Although the water tower was still far away, I had reached Reedley. An officer stopped traffic and motioned us through a left turn ... and there we were, back at Reedley College and done with the ride.

I didn't know whether there was a rider check-in, so I rode through the lot. But I didn't see anyone directing us to check in, and I didn't see any tent or station for that purpose, so I kept on riding and skipped the complimentary post-ride lunch. Instead, I rode the mile back across the Kings River to my motel, had a quick microwaved lunch I'd bought the night before, showered, and hit the road back to Mountain View.

When I got back home about three hours later, I uploaded my stats and got the good news: My pace for the day was 15.4 mph! That's more than 26% faster than eight years ago, despite my rapidly advancing age! But Strava also informs me that, of the riders who uploaded their results, I placed 32nd out of 52 in terms of total elapsed time, including stops. What annoys me is that all six of the "top" riders skipped the redundant south-west-north part of the route near the end and did only 57 miles, but they got credit in Strava for the whole thing.

Indeed, this was my first non-ALC group cycling event since last summer. I tend to forget that such events often attract a large number of cyclists who believe more in "it's a race, not a ride" than the opposite ... especially in the Central Valley, where the racing culture is very strong. More power to them and their annoyingly sleek cyclists' bodies, but I've grown increasingly spoiled by the ALC (and, to a similar extent, Randonneurs USA) attitude of endurance cycling for "pleasure."

After 55,820 miles (as of Saturday) of this since June 2004, it's increasingly important that I remember the "pleasure" part of the equation. When it stops being fun, it's time to stop. And since I don't want to stop, I need to keep it fun.

One day later, my lower back is very unhappy, either from climbing too hard, from all that driving, or from that unfamiliar bed. I knocked out a quick 22 miles today, but I didn't feel like doing any serious climbing at all, and I was quite ready to be done. With 1,472 miles already this year (compared to 1,396 miles at this point in last year's record-breaking year), I think I've earned a couple days' rest before tackling our 77-mile ride to Pacifica next Saturday. Because it will be fun, dammit. I insist.