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Training ride report: East Bay Four Canyons

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January 9th, 2006 | 07:20 pm
posted by: kniwt in aidslifecycle

My alarm woke me up at 4:45 a.m. Saturday (gak!) so I could make the trip from Fresno over to Union City for a 43-mile AIDS/LifeCycle training ride. If only this one had been as simple as the others so far ...

Fortunately, a tiny bit of rain moved across the Valley overnight, clearing the dense fog enough that visibility on the drive wasn't a problem. But I misjudged the distance to Union City, and an unplanned need to answer the call of nature in Morgan Hill ended up putting me vastly behind schedule, and by 9 a.m. I was still in San Jose, on my way to a supposed 9 a.m. meet time in Union City -- and the mandatory 9:25 a.m. safety speech. Uh-oh!

I start weighing the options: I've driven all this way; I could just drive up the Peninsula instead and do a ride of similar length and difficulty. But for reasons I still don't fully understand, I press on toward Union City. I fly into the BART station at exactly 9:28 a.m. -- and I see a few riders standing around, not doing anything in particular. I put on my best face and walk over to them. "Am I too late?" I ask.

Well, no. The ride leaders have canceled the ride due to rain, and they're long gone. Rain? What rain? Sure, the clouds are a little dark, but I've not seen any rain since about Los Banos. But they said it was raining heavily up around Walnut Creek. That didn't matter to the eight of us -- we wanted to ride. And, much to the leaders' credit, they'd left a small pile of route sheets. So we were going to ride anyway. And since it was no longer an official ALC ride, there was no mandatory safety speech -- so I had not missed the speech and, therefore, I was OK to ride.

Only one other problem -- nobody else seemed to be overly familiar with the route. The good news was that I'd done most of the planned route before, in bits and pieces if not all at once. So, in a most unplanned turn of events, I go boldly forward and lead the pack of riders out of the BART station.

About halfway up Niles Canyon Road (Hwy. 84), we hit the first bit of scattered light showers, but nothing to cause any of us regrets. I do find early on, however, that maintaining 14-15 mph on the flats isn't going to work -- although this was posted as a category 2 ride (10-12 mph average speed, excluding long stops), today's group is tending toward the lower end of that range. But that's quite OK for me, because it gives me a chance to take the ride at an easier pace than I had been expecting -- and, thus, not wear out on the waning side of my recent bout of sniffles. And I was quite happy that the slight ascent up Niles Canyon didn't really bother me any at all.

When we reach Sunol, it turns out to be a very good thing indeed that I'd done this part of the route before, because the route sheet gave an incorrect turn to reach Foothill Blvd. And as I explain the terrain of the next 10 miles to the group, I appear to rather inadvertantly settle into the role of unofficial ride leader. With that, we head up to Pleasanton for a very enjoyable lunch break at Togo's, where the sun has come out, it's quite warm, and we eat outside.

After another stretch up Foothill/San Ramon (including the extremely heavy traffic and poor lane configuration around the I-580 interchange), we lose one rider, who's continuing off-route to head home to Walnut Creek. The remaining seven of us turn left onto Bollinger Canyon Road, and into the big climb of the day that continues up Norris Canyon Road. Here's where I start to come up short -- on the steep climbs, a few riders overtake me, reminding me that I've been somewhat remiss in hill work the past several weeks. Then there's the blazing, steep descent down Norris Canyon -- a bit more steep than I'd like, and I do my darndest to keep my speed to 25 mph and under. Oddly enough, nobody goes past me (except for the riders who were already ahead).

As we approach Hayward, the skies darken considerably, and some more persistent light drizzle starts to fall. And as we wind our way through a maze of streets and traffic signals into downtown, the group becomes spread out. At about mile 31, the Hayward BART station, the two of us in front pause to wait for everyone to catch up. Nobody takes the bailout, despite the showers -- "we'd never live it down if we did!" one rider exclaims.

At this point, I'm new to the planned route as well, which continues to twist through Hayward's side streets to avoid a busy, nasty five-way intersection. But, as one rider notes, I've got the plastic-covered map holder keeping my map dry, so I continue to lead, and I manage to catch all the relevant turns far enough in advance to signal everyone else what to do. Finally, we make our way back to Mission Blvd., and we head down the home stretch into Union City.

And then I look ahead. Just down the road a mile or two, I can see the wall of rain that's falling, turning everything into a sea of wet. I don't say anything; I'm not sure if the other riders see it. My anxiety is rising, but then -- phew! -- we reach our turnoff at Decoto Road, before the rain hits. But the roads are freshly wet, and there's no telling whether the skies might be about to open up again. I pick up the pace a bit, and I make it back into the BART station before the rain starts, with a couple riders in tow. The rest of the pack shows up just a couple of minutes later.

We've cycled just over 43 miles in about five hours, and my ride time is 3:27, for an average speed of 12.2 mph -- but that's a little bit misleading, because I stopped the clock on several shorter regroup breaks of a minute or two.

I met a couple of familiar ALC faces, and I met several new friendly faces as well. A hearty thank you to everyone who braved the conditions to ride!

As for me, I went up to San Francisco and slept quite soundly Saturday night at my favorite convenient crash pad in the Duboce Triangle, and then I woke up late on Sunday (9 a.m.!) and ended up doing a shorter-than-planned 20-mile loop around the city. After that, it was off to the massively huge official ALC kickoff party, more familiar faces, more new faces, more speechifying, but alas, no winning a new bike in the giant nearly $12,000 giveaway. What a day, and what a weekend!

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from: kniwt
date: January 10th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC)

Yes, I'm an ALC newbie -- but never in my life have I (over-)prepared like this for anything else. I lived vicariously through a good friend's ride in ALC4 last year, went out on an official ALC training ride to see what it was like, and I kept setting all these milestones that, if I would accomplish them, I'd go ahead and sign up for the ride. I must've spent hours and hours reading the accumulated posts at the ALC forum, plus every last page of helpful advice at the ALC website.

I'm aware of the risk of overpreparing and overanalyzing the fun right out of the event, but I'm hoping that all my up-front work/worry will instead leave me free to be "in the moment" during the ride -- which, I'll be the first to admit, is something I rarely do enough of.

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