I was somewhat nervous about this training ride as I often am. I was nervous for three reasons. The first reason was that travel was conspiring to keep me off the bike and this would be my first bike ride since Redwood Gulch. The second reason was that while I came back from New York on the Thursday before the ride Tom was still there. No private SAG for me. And while there was an official SAG it wouldn't be the same as the emotional support that Tom's presence on the road has for me. Lastly, while in New York I had made my knees cranky. And at more than 5000 feet of climbing this would be the most climbing I had even done on a single ride. The fear comes from not being fast enough or strong enough to complete the training ride. As someone who only started riding last May doing the Distance Training Series is a bit of a stretch. I want to push myself, but I worry about going too hard.
The good news was the weather was amazing. I had managed to duck out of NYC just before a major storm hit. However the weather in California that Saturday was stunning. For the first time on a training ride this year I didn't even need my wind vest (although I did wear my arm and knee warmers all day and I also had a base layer on). It was so nice that it put me in a good mood right away. Also we started an hour earlier than before. The extra hour plus only being 7 miles longer than the last ride made me feel like I didn't have to worry about running out of daylight as much.
It was my first time on a route that I guess is common for many of the Mountain View rides - heading out Foothill Expressway until it becomes Junipero Serra. (The road has been torn up by PG&E so we've kept off of it.) Eventually you make a little jog across Sand Hill and it becomes Alameda de las Pulgas. (It really means "flea street". Who knew?) Normally we would take a route through Mountain View, into Palo Alto, and up Sand Hill and then onto Alameda. I liked this way better. Foothill was mostly slightly downhill so you look down and realize you're cruising at 20 mph with little effort. That's always fun. But it's also a popular route so we got "buzzed" by a huge peloton of cyclists who were not really playing nice. It gives one an appreciation for why some drivers don't like us - and that's frustrating because ALC has taught me to play by the rules.
Eventually we got to Woodside Road and turned left. I hadn't gone this way before - it's another one of those slight climbs. But it was uneventful and we got to Robert's Market. Partly up Woodside friendly TRL Bob, who was sweeping, caught up with me - I ended up riding with the sweeps most of the day. On the cat 2 rides (which have a 10 - 12mph requirement) I'm a middle to front rider but the cat 3 rides (which are 12 - 15mph) are just barely within my reach. Sometimes I feel bad that I'm holding up the sweeps and keeping them from meeting their own training goals. But Chris has kept encouraging me to stick around - I'll do so until told to buzz off, I guess.
After a brief stop at Robert's Market it was time to head up Cañada Road. I do love this road to ride on - especially knowing there are bathrooms hidden on it. (Yay bathrooms!) I made ok time and then hit the Ralston bike path which is a nice little climb. Then down onto Polhemus and up Crystal Springs and onto the Sawyer Creek Trail. None of this was really new since I had done it with my friend Bob (the first time I met him, actually). The new part was that we kept going north, even with a brief stretch on Highway 280. (Yep, it's legal.) Eventually we made it to Pacifica, so we turned the corner and headed down.
Now that's an amazing descent! Not for any technical reasons but because you turn a corner and there is the cute town of Pacifica and the ocean right in front of you. The weather was so awesome and so clear that I just had to stop and take a picture. As usual the friendly sweep was with me, and he actually took a picture of me. I immediately send said picture to Tom, still in NYC, to taunt him with our glorious weather.
At this time I would like to take a detour onto the subject of TRLs and sweeps. On ALC training rides there are always "TRLs", or Training Ride Leaders. They know the way of the secret ALC Kung-Fu and are there to instruct us n00bs on the way to do things. There is always one of them riding as the last person - "sweeping" anyone who has gotten lost or whatnot. If you're riding with them that means you're the caboose - and since Chris' training series attracts some pretty hardcore and fast riders I usually am towards the back. I want to thank all the sweeps who are pretty nice to us slower guys. I especially want to say that Bob, who was sweeping from the start to RS1, and Andrew, who was sweeping from RS1 to lunch, are especially awesome. Andrew has the best energy of any TRL I've met. He is super positive energy and for some reason I always feel in a better mood when he's on a training ride. It's awesome.
Lunch was a quick bite at Subway (yay, BMT) and then time to head out. Before we started Chris had said that Sharp Park Dr. was like climbing Mt. Eden. However what I didn't know, was that he meant climbing Mt. Eden from the "hard" direction. I'd only done it the "easy way". Sharp Park Drive just kicked my ass. I saw numbers on my heart rate monitor that I hadn't seen before. I had to stop pretty often to let it get below 160. It was not steep enough to walk but after all the climbing we had done already it was steep enough. Then there were the rollers on Skyline which I really didn't need at that point. Eventually we came back to Crystal Spring and headed down and to the Starbucks there. I was feeling tired enough that it was time for my secret weapon - the margarita-flavored Shot Bloks. They taste nasty but have extra salt. I was sure I needed it.
The stretch from rest stop 3 to the end wasn't too bad. Somewhere in there I hit 42.1 mph on a descent. Towards the end even the little rollers were getting to me - climbing up a small hill on Alameda de las Pulgas I really started feeling cramps on the back of my legs. But eventually we made it back to town. My favorite part of that stint was turning onto El Monte because from there on out I knew it was all very slightly downhill, which means easy cruising at 15 - 20 mph. Shortly we were home. I was glad I hadn't ridden over but instead had brought the bike on my truck because I was DONE for the day. I dropped the bike off at the shop for an upgrade, grabbed some elicit fast food, and headed home.
I felt good about finishing the ride. It is similar in difficulty to Day 1 of ALC - and I still have 2.5 months of training to go. The only downside is that after resting in my chair at home I started to get leg cramps in my dominant leg. The application of heat helped but I won't have a heating pad on the ride. I need to figure out how to solve this problem soon.