First of all, for those of you who are interested, you may download a copy of the daily newsletter that was given to the cyclists each morning before our ride. It includes information about the day's route and some other stuff to give you more of the feeling of what this event was like to participate in. Pedals and Pumps newsletters is a 1MB PDF file including the newsletters of all seven days of the event.
About the last week of March, my boss asks me into his office. There's a restructuring, he tells me. I'm affected. The first thought that comes to my mind is that I'll be reporting to someone different. I say nothing, looking quizically. "Next Thursday is your last day." Now this all makes sense. Some severance pay, too? Great, I'm looking forward to some time off.
A few days later, I'm having lunch with Loren to tell him about being laid-off. As I walk up Columbus Ave, I notice signs for the AIDS/LifeCycle 2002 event. "Now that I've got free time, I should sign up for the bike ride," I quip. Loren is not only a good friend, but also an amazing triathlete. He and I both know that some exercise would be good for me, so he tells me that I really should do it. Perhaps my final accomplishment at work is to register for the bike ride: 600 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
The ride takes place in about five weeks and I am in the worst shape of my life. The website recommends a minimum nine week training program. I buy a bike trainer so I can ride indoors and a heart rate monitor so that I can track my progress. I read the Lance Armstrong Performance Program and buy a copy of the Triathlete's Training Bible. Most importantly, I get outside and on my bike.
At first, a 20 mile ride is slow and painful - I can't quite make it up the hill to get home. I also go jogging to help get my cardio-vascular endurance improved more quickly. I realize that I am in worse shape than I had thought. The good news is that I can train full-time during the week. I'm up to 30 miles by the end of the first week, 40 miles the next week, and by week 4 can go about 50 miles in less than 4 hours. All my training rides are between 30 and 50 miles, about 4 rides a week. I only went on one group ride, and even then, I managed to lose the group and ride by myself.
May 13th arrives. Nearly 700 cyclists meet at USF at 5am this Monday morning. We'd registered the day before and left our bikes overnight. Our luggage was thrown on a truck, there was a brief opening ceremony, and just after sunrise at 6:30am the group of us rolled out together. It was good to get going as the morning was rather chilly. Several news helicopters captured our departure in the first time event.
One hundred and twenty miles. Only once before had I ever even biked 100 miles in a day. I really had no idea if I could made it. Through Golden Gate Park and down Great Highway we biked, then up Skyline to San Bruno. Seventeen miles, our first rest stop. I'm doing fine. Down to El Camino, south a few miles and then up Trousdale back to Skyline. This hill is just way too steep: I bike the entire way up, but stop twice to prevent my aorta from bursting. More than a few folks walk their bikes up Trousdale. South on Skyline to Highway 92, up to the ridge, then not down, but up Skyline to almost 2500 ft at Highway 84. Mile 40 of day one is the highest point in the entire ride, we've climbed about 3500 vertical feet total so far and only 80 miles to go today.
The ocean, and more importantly the lunch stop, are about 18 miles away and it appears to be all down hill from here to Pescadero. Sadly, the entire length is into a still headwind. Yes, sometimes you do have to pedal to go down hill. At lunch, I'm not feeling so great. I've completed only half of the day's distance, but have already gone further than any of my training rides. I take a long lunch. The sandwich is good, but the pasta tastes like vinegar. It is sunny, but a cool breeze is blowing in from the ocean. Looking back, I'd have to say this was the most difficult part of the week for me. Hesitantly, I got back on my bike for the long stretch south on Highway 1.
I warmed up quickly, and with the benefit of a tail wind felt much better. The stretch of Highway 1 leading up to Santa Cruz is mostly flat and follows a beautiful coastline. We biked through the town of Santa Cruz and along its boardwalk. The biking through town is a bit slower, but I generally enjoy it because the distractions make the miles go by more quickly. Leaving the ocean behind for now, we head inland and I check my bike computer: 100 miles. At this point, I know I am going to make it - not just the remaining twenty miles for today, but the entire length of the trip to L.A.
Place your mouse over the photos for a quick description.