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Training ride report: Arastradero-Alpine loop

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January 16th, 2006 | 06:53 pm
posted by: kniwt in aidslifecycle

After every ride in the Bay Area got rained out on Saturday, I was expecting a large turnout for the only official ride on Sunday's ALC training calendar: a 52-mile jaunt from the East Bay over to part of the infamous Portola loop. So when "only" 15 of us showed up at the Union City BART station, I was mildly disappointed.

But that didn't stop me (and the rest of us) from enjoying crystal-clear skies, light winds, and just a bit of a chill in the winter air as we took off and made our way at slightly more than a Cat-2 pace to the Dumbarton Bridge, where we (unofficially) picked up one more rider who hadn't been able to make it to our start point due to a BART problem.

I end up in front and nearly blow past the first regroup point at Starbucks on Willow Road. We lose two riders there but still have a good group as we work through the streets of Menlo Park, Atherton, and Palo Alto, slowly but surely gaining a few hundred feet in altitude.

Perhaps it's the pressure of the group, or maybe just maybe my improving climbing skills, but I find myself going up Alpine Road in one gear higher than I usually use. Soon enough, we make the turn onto Arastradero Road for a fast, thrilling descent down to Page Mill, where I hit my top speed of the day at 30.1 mph -- a lot for me, and I didn't freak out only because I'm quite familiar with Arastradero, even if I usually do it in the opposite (uphill) direction.

By now, the group is getting fairly spread out, as riders at different points in their training are with us today, and an extended unplanned regroup at the I-280 undercrossing fails to get us all back together. We ride on in several smaller groups to the lunch break in Los Altos Hills, where I enjoy a fantastic turkey sandwich with "herb smear" served on a sweet roll from The Posh Bagel.

After I while, I notice (as do some others) that we're starting to fall victim to the most common of ALC training ride maladies -- spending a long, long, long time at the rest breaks. Since I'm getting antsy -- and since I've got to drive back all the way to Fresno immediately after the ride -- I figure that about 45 minutes is plenty of time for lunch, and I get my stuff and prepare to head out. One other rider joins me, and just as we're getting ready to leave, the sweep arrives with the last rider of the day.

Once we get past the Stanford campus, the trip back is a repeat of the outbound route, so the miles go quickly -- or at least as quickly as they can in the headwinds approaching and across the Dumbarton Bridge. (From the top of the bridge, the two of us don't see any other riders back as far as we can see, so it sounds like there was quite the social event going on back in Los Altos Hills.) There's a wee bit of excitement in Newark as a minivan suddenly decides it doesn't want to stop at the red light it has, just as we're going through the intersection. (It stops in time, quite fortunately.) And then we're back to the BART station at 3:15 p.m. -- which, after loading the car, clothing changes, city streets, and refueling, gets me back to Fresno by about 7 p.m., so I have half a chance of burning off the "road adrenaline" and getting to sleep on time. (Which I do, although I only sleep about 5.5 hours, alas.)

My computer shows an average speed for the day of 13.9 mph -- more than a bit out of range for a cat-2 ride, especially considering the numerous traffic signals where the clock didn't stop. The hills, such as they were, just weren't as intimidating as I was expecting, which I'll take as a good sign. And my general lack of aches and pains during the drive home is also a good sign.

My next challenge, however, is coming up this Saturday, when I'm leading a century ride here in Fresno, for the Fresno Cycling Club. Saturday's 52-mile ride was the longest ride I've done since my December century, so I'll be testing my limits. Next official ALC training event for me will likely be the Lagunitas trip that's set for the 29th.

Here's a small (8 pictures) gallery from Sunday's ride.

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