I can’t believe its already Halloween. 2016 was a year of personal growth — both in my career and in my waistline. I had my first jury trial! And what a success that was! It was a great result for my client and a wonderful adventure for me. But all the time and attention needed to win took away from cycling in a big way. I couldn’t participate in ALC 2016. I stopped riding (and exercising altogether) from July until nearly September. And my cycling skills have diminished.
The question for me — and for you, too, if you’re like most riders — is how do I get myself back into shape? Here are a set of tips I think will help. (Check out my 2013 advice on the same subject.) Try them out and I will, too. If you have successes or failures, please send me a note or comment and I will report on your progress in the blog! And remember, take small, achievable steps and you’ll be cycling with the big boys come June!
First, make sure you’re not undermining your training. Avoid staying out late, avoid drinking too much, avoid playing massive amounts of video games (my guilty pleasure). For me, one of the things that keeps me off the road are when I’m hung over or merely tired from a long night out. Another is spending too much time in front of the computer so that I have to drive to work. So, instead, reprioritize cycling in your daily routine.
Second, make sure you have a group of friends to support, encourage, and cajole you into cycling. If you don’t have a cycling partner — or even if you do — make a personal commitment to join at least two training rides each month. There are rides scheduled all over California and even some around the country. Check the schedule each Monday, RSVP early, then put it in your calendar! Then find a buddy to email, “Hey, I want to ride three bears on Saturday, you in?” That will go a long way toward your goal.
Third, do cycling-related things each day. Ever wondered how those magical gears work? Ever thought, hm, I think my bike should be cleaner. Well, now is the time to learn how to clean your bike and learn how it works! Got that covered? Then read a cycling blog — or better yet, contribute an article to a cycling blog! Thinking about cycling will help to encourage you back into the saddle.
Fourth, get excited! Remember that year you laid down $5K on a shiny new bike? You couldn’t stop riding, right? You can’t afford another expensive bike, but maybe a new kit, new cages, or a tune up from you friendly local bike shop will inspire you. If not, then remember why we ride. We’re doing this to help others. And we’re doing this for fitness. If philanthropy isn’t enough, then maybe libido is. Find what works for you.
Fifth, eat a cycling-friendly diet. With overly-busy schedules often comes fast-food or high-calorie based diets. Prepare healthy food in advance with a balanced mix of nutrients. Please don’t follow a fad diet. Instead, eat healthy and in accord with any medical restrictions. Spend a little time getting to know how many calories are right for your body type, and start reading labels. As you increase your miles, you can increase your calories.
Sixth, get on that damned bike. Even if you can only do one ride a week, don’t let a single week go by with at least some riding. The best way to get cycling-fit is to cycle. Do go to the gym, but don’t rely on weights and spin classes. Time in the saddle is the best way to prepare for the ride.
I hope these tips help. Please let me know how your training is going!
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Life has been amazing, but also distracting me from cycling. I think my next post has to be about time management.
I can’t wait to ride and to train our riders. This year we’ll have 9 TRLs in Sacramento. Amazing!! This is going to open up some great opportunities for rides at different levels and paces, and new exciting local start up points.
If you have been thinking about doing the AIDS/LifeCycle, this is your year. Contact me and let’s talk.
Here are some photos to show our commitment to the ride.
I have been a training ride leader for three years in a row now. Each year our group out here in the sticks gets a bit larger and more cohesive. I am proud to say that we have 60 riders on our list and about 20 regular riders. And each year I am awed by the commitment and effort our riders put out to help others while improving their own lives. So far this training season, our core riders have put in over 10,000 miles to prepare for the AIDS/LifeCycle. 12 of us rode in the ALC NorCal Day on the Ride yesterday.
This was no easy ride. 67 miles with 5000 feet of climbing. Fortunately for our regulars, even though this ride began in a foreign jurisdiction (the East Bay), we were on familiar roads for a good ⅓ of the time. Watching the riders pull in to rest stops, I could see the confidence that only regular training provides. Each of the riders was out on the road each week, even though that means giving up weekends, getting to bed early on Friday night (and often on Saturday night, too), and fitting weekday training in to the schedule somehow.
Why, in Thor’s holy name would anyone put themselves through this? Victor Phillips said it best yesterday: “Its the people.”
Every time I’m out on the road I’m inspired (often to tears) by the effort I see. People raising money for total strangers, doing the work that should be a basic human right because our government will not. Cutting the dead-wood from their own lives, shedding extra pounds, improving cardio-vascular health, and generally getting the fuck out of their cars to see the world in technicolor.
I’m thinking about the directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. I’m thinking about the AIDS/LifeCycle staff. Paid positions, it is true, but when you see these people at work, you can’t help but see how much more than a job it is for them.
I’m thinking about the hoards of volunteers that make the ride possible. The wonderful and sexy Bears at Rest Stop 2. The incongruous ladies who seem so demure putting up with the raucous, loud, and sometimes inappropriate frivolity. The men who drove up from LA just to support our single-day ride. The volunteers who may have wanted to be on their bikes, but elected to make sure that there was a smiling face next to the snacks all afternoon.
I’m thinking about the riders who raised $3,000 or much more for the privilege of representing ME and all my friends out on the road. The queens in their tiaras (you know who you are). The grumpy hungry ones. The straight guys who are there because they lost a loved one — a son or brother — not even knowing they were gay when it hit them. The riders from outside the Bay Area and LA — local, like her in Sacramento, and foreign, like NY, Chicago, and even Canada — some of whom are top fundraisers. And all our lovely women — gay and straight — who love us as much as we do them.
Thank you. Thank you for making my live so meaningful and worth living. Thank you for caring whether we can get needles to those who might die if they cannot get them. Thank you for raising money so that our impoverished brothers and sisters can get the medication they need. Thank you for making the world a brighter and happier place, leaving the dour and cold laissez-faire attutude behind us.
If you’re with us, then we have a bright future indeed — challenges notwithstanding.
As we progress in our training each week, we add miles and begin incorporating hill climbing into the mix. More miles, more elevation, an easy progression right? For the most part it’s true. We build our muscles and endurance. We learn about the importance of proper nutrition and hydration. We learn about proper equipment and bike fit. We learn about technique and safety.
And then finally, there comes the day when it’s time to cross that 100 mile marker.
If you’re doing 80 mile rides what’s another 20 miles, right? Well, it’s another 20 miles. For me, my first century was an exercise in mind over legs. On May 17, 2014 I tackled my first ALC century training ride. We started in Davis (California), rode over to Winters, up to Monticello Dam and then dropped back down to Winters, back to Davis and finally a tailwind run out to Woodland and back to Davis for a total of 101.5 miles.
I started strong and felt pretty good for most of the ride. After lunch in Winters on the return trip I started to fade as we approached Davis. I knew the last 10 miles were going to be into a strong headwind and I didn’t feel like I had it in me. I told TRL and sweep, Craig Roecker I was going to bail on the last 20 miles and head over to the finish line, skipping the Woodland leg. He smartly pointed out the fact we would have a tailwind on the run over to Woodland and a rest stop to recuperate for the final push into the headwind. So I gave myself a mental kick in the butt and took Craig’s sage advice. After a frozen double espresso chocolate from the heavens, I was able to face that final 10 miles with a strong headwind and complete my first century. I’m so happy Craig didn’t let my inner self talk me out of completing the ride.
You can do it. Even if it takes all day, well… it will take all day, but you CAN do it!
— Curtis Paullins
For more technical information please check out the following article 12 Common Century Ride Mistakes by Ryan Wood at Active.com. This is a great resource on the pitfalls to avoid.
Ramping Up Too Fast
Training at the Same Intensity
Training Too Hard
Not Testing and Perfecting
Not Eating Enough During the Event
Not Eating Regularly During the Event
Just like many things in cycling, everyone has an opinion about safety. Opinions don’t save lives, but making wise choices about how and when we ride can. If absolute safety is your goal, then stay home (though that’s not particularly safe and not particularly healthy, as it turns out). But if cycling for fitness, adventure, and fun are your goals, then you probably have to interact with auto traffic at some point. Remaining visible, staying out of the path of on-coming traffic, knowing what’s around you, and sharing the road wisely are your best bets for getting home injury-free.
Wear your Helmet. Helmets are not just for interactions with motor vehicles. Wet or slick pavement, gravel, flats, other cyclists, pedestrians, potholes, and other unforeseen conditions can cause you to fall. Even a relatively minor fall can cause you to hit you head on the pavement. And the only thing which can help avoid concussion is a barrier. We call that barrier a helmet.
You can find lots of websites that buy in to the false assumption that helmets are only to protect you from auto accidents. These sites allude to research showing that helmet-less cyclists are safer because cars avoid them more. (See, e.g., What’s wrong with bicycle helmets?) But all the “safe cycling” skills such sites tout will not protect your head when it hits the pavement. Research shows that helmets are extremely effective in preventing head injury when that happens. Be smart and make the right choice.
You may also have seen smug depictions of cycling in Holland. There, according to the commentator, cyclists are carefree and can ride safely without helmets. But, as explained, auto traffic is not the only reason to wear helmets. A collision on a well-segregated bike trail can be just as deadly. Besides, even in Holland if you riding many miles (30 or more), you are, eventually, going to have to leave the safe confines of a bike trail to hit the open road — if for no other reason than you can travel to more places.
Stay as far to the Right as is Safely Possible. (I’m guessing in the UK you should ride “as far to the left as is safely possible”.) Automobiles are used to their privileged position on the road. A cyclist unnecessarily in the flow of traffic is likely to fuel tempers and cause unsafe driving. As a single cyclist, you can help that by being courteous and staying to the right. Where possible, remain in the shoulder or bike lane. Keep an eye out for gravel and other hazards so you can signal before moving over to avoid them.
A group of cyclists is no different. Just because the group has more people, doesn’t mean that motorists will understand. Instead, a peloton of cyclists using the center of the lane for miles, especially on a busy roadway, is unlikely to be able to keep up with traffic and is likely to piss drivers off. You may have seen articles like “why we ride abreast” and memes ostensibly showing that riders taking a whole lane is better for drivers (who supposedly can more-readily pass). These arguments do not take the whole picture into account.
Riding out in the lane (more toward the left) means that you may have to cross the yellow line into oncoming traffic to avoid obstacles. Riding several abreast and in tightly-knit packs is rude to and dangerous for other cyclists. Also, riding in tightly knit packs makes it easier for motorists to pass only if there happens to be a passing lane and clear traffic on the other side. The fastest cyclists cannot achieve the speeds of the slowest cars, so those memes about passing pelotons are BS.
Take the Lane When Needed, but Only When it is Safe to do so. Sometimes you simply need to be out in the lane. When there is no shoulder. When crossing a bridge, When descending at speed. When passing. In California — and despite the presence of bicycle lanes — bicycles are considered vehicles. So, unless signs say otherwise, a bike is entitled to take the entire lane of traffic. Don’t let a driver tell you otherwise.
If you need to take the lane, be definitive. Look behind you to make sure that you have room. Use a hand signal to indicate your path of travel. (Point to the lane and gesture.) Call out to cyclists behind you to indicate what you are avoiding: Car right! Car door! Gravel! Cyclist up! Then move over to a safe place in the lane — sometimes the safest place is the center of the lane. When moving back, look ahead to see if the lane is clear. Look to your left to make sure there are no cyclists behind you. Then smoothly merge into the bike lane.
Always Signal Your Intentions. That means calling out before you pass: On your left! Pointing out road hazards or calling them out. Looking behind you when passing and signaling to the riders behind you that you will be passing. Using hand signals to indicate right turns and left turns. Using hand signals to indicate a potential stop and calling out: Stopping!
Don’t be Afraid to Call Out LOUDLY. If you see a motorist doing something dangerous, I want you to scream at him or her. Don’t swear, but call out something useful like: “Watch out!” or “This is a bike lane!” or just, “HEY!” If the driver cannot see you, adding the dimension of hearing increased the chances the driver will notice you and either stop his or her dangerous behavior, or slow so you don’t get hit. And I’d rather field accusations of being a jerk rather than a hospital bed.
Keep a Buffer Zone Between you and Other Riders. The ALC rules require you to keep one bike length between you and the rider in front of you. As you become more experienced, you will learn that sometimes you need less (when stopping at a stop light, for instance) or more (when descending at speed). If you find that the person behind you is uncomfortably close, slow to let them pass and then you have control over the buffer zone again. Or ask them to move back a bit.
Even the peloton sites recommend “protecting your front wheel.” Thats because your front wheel is far more unstable. If you tap someone’s rear wheel with your front, you may wobble uncontrollably, while they barely notice. The question is: how do you protect your front wheel if you’re in a pack? Cyclists who have expressly agreed to ride in a peloton should know how to do that. But for the purposes of the AIDS/LifeCycle, for beginners, and for endurance cycling, one bike length is sufficient.
Always Look Where you are Going. Before you merge into traffic, look behind you to your left. Before you merge back into bike traffic, look behind you to your right. When cornering, look where your bike is going, not where it is right now. Make sure you know the quality of the road surface for the next 100 to 1000 feet. If things look rough, call out and slow down. If the road is going to narrow, stay behind traffic rather than moving up to a light next to the cars.
Stop at all Stop Signs and Stop Lights. The ALC rules are that you must stop at all stop signs and stop lights. That means you must put one foot on the ground and cease all forward motion. On training rides and on the AIDS/LifeCycle, you must ride that way. However, there may be times when you can fudge this rule. But when you’re wearing an ALC jersey, you’re representing your fellow riders. So ride sensibly, predictably, and remain alert. And REPRESENT!
Wear Bright Colors, use Lights, and Don’t be Sheepish. Drivers can only avoid you if they can see you. If you’re TOO far to the right, a driver might enter the shoulder because he or she could not see you. If you’re wearing black on a cold, rainy day, you might blend in with black pavement. If you’re riding at night with a feeble light, you might be lulled into a false sense that drivers can see you. Don’t be fooled. Drivers don’t want you to be there, so you have to be present on your bike so that they remember to share the road.
These are only some tips and explanations for the AIDS/LifeCycle code of safety. There are many more and I’m sure you have other examples. Please message me or leave your thoughts in the comments.
Every year I write a new blog entry hoping to encourage others to join the cause. I cycle, and specifically ride in the AIDS/LifeCycle, because of the good I know is possible. Last year, riders, roadies, and donors together raised over $15,000,000 to support HIV and AIDS charities which are magnets to young people throughout the state and the country as a whole. The services provided are invaluable to keeping people alive and helping end transmission. So I ride to support the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
I also ride because when I am out there on my bike, I am the face of the LGBT community to rural Californians, to passing traffic on the 101, and to the world via news coverage of the event. 3000+ people doing anything at the same time makes an impact, but when we’re getting together looking all festive and raising money for a great cause, its hard for the most homophobic curmudgeon to ignore us.
Believe it or not, some people probably don’t know a single gay person. So this is as true today as when Harvey Milk said it:
Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.
We live in a changed world, it is true. But it is not so changed that United States politicians cannot seek to kill us where we live, strip us of our rights, and to call for a war against us. (These news stories are only hours old.) So I ride to be out and proud.
I ride because cycling is the funnest, most adventurous form of fitness you can do. You have this awesome piece of technology between your legs. You get to ride 30, 50, or 100 miles in places city folk never even get to by car. At an average of 15 miles per hour, you get to really see what you’re riding by. You get to improve your cardiovascular health without ruining your legs. So I ride for fitness and adventure.
Finally I ride for my sanity. I am an attorney fighting for the civil rights of California employees. It is not an easy job. I love arguing about fact and law, but so many attorneys cannot leave it there. If your coworkers said half the things that opposing counsel say to me regularly, you’d probably quit and find a new job. I pride myself on scrupulous honesty and openness. So having my motives questioned is particularly irksome for me. But when I ride, all that goes away; I become one with my bike. And I often piece together legal arguments that there is no way I’d have come up with if I had remained at my desk! So I ride to support my career and for my sanity.
The only question which remains is: Why do you ride?
And if you don’t ride: What will it take for me to get you out on your bike?
Do you have all of your ducks in a row?
Yes it’s time to think about the logistics of getting to day one from here…
First a shout out to the Volunteers!
At every step of the way please make sure to thank the volunteers and roadies for the work they do supporting the cyclists. Without them we are nothing. As you will hear many times (and its true) “ROADIES ROCK!!!”
Packing and Supplies
Here are some excellent resources on packing such as the ALC Packing List and this Packing Clinic with photo’s and descriptions of not only what, but how to pack. Bear has also posted a packing blog – Packing Slip. If you haven’t yet considered investing in a rolling duffle bag as it can be quite a hike from the gear truck to your campsite.
Medical Information Form
The medical information form is now available in your participant center. You can download a PDF form to fill out and mail or you can complete an online form (advised). Completing the form prior to orientation will greatly speed you through the process.
Choosing a Tent Mate and Tent Assignment
In early April, tent assignment (TA) will be opened (you’ll see a link in your participant center). All tenting assignments including requesting a particular tent mate, grouping, etc, require all participants to be at the $3k minimum level in their fundraising efforts.
If you haven’t already decided who you would like to tent with and prefer not to be assigned with a stranger (even though no one is a ‘stranger’ on ALC), you should be asking folks from your local training group, team, etc if they have a tent mate and if not, would they like to share a tent?
Once you have a tent mate you can then request each other while completing the TA request. If you are part of a team, the team leader will create and share with the team a group code to be used when completing your TA online. That will assure your team can be near each other in camp. If you are not part of a team, folks that train together from a particular city (for example) can also coordinate and setup a group code.
If you are not at the minimum you will need to go to TA at orientation day and it can not be guaranteed you will be close to your group.
Umm, what? Yes you read that correctly, ‘princessing’. Otherwise the practice of staying at a hotel versus camping. Some choose to princess the entire ride and others will only princess one or two nights as a luxury treat to themselves. Its up to you. If you choose to princess the entire 6 nights, make your hotel reservations early. The rooms in the smaller towns fill up fast. You’ll still ride into bike check each night and then you can grab your gear bag and head off to the hotel. If you have a significant other or friend meeting you then you probably have a ride. Otherwise you will need to find a taxi, Uber, etc into town. If you are only princessing one or two nights make sure your tent mate is aware and it doesn’t hurt to let the gear truck roadies know so no one wonders why there is an extra tent and send out a search crew.
If you do not have a ride home from the finish line you should consider taking advantage of the bike shipping offered by ALC. You can find information (click here) on their website. If you live in California you might consider coordinating with others in your area to rent a truck or van and have one or two people from the group drive the bikes back. If you have enough people it can be cost effective. You should plan on making these arrangements sooner rather than later to avoid last minute stress.
So, the most important task is done, you know how your bike will get home. What about yourself? If you plan to fly, shop early. As with bike shipping, consider coordinating a car pool or passenger van rental to transport your team and luggage back to your hometown. You should plan on making these arrangements sooner rather than later to avoid last minute stress.
You should plan on arriving as early as possible for orientation day. The gates open at 10:00 am, and it will be packed. The first thing you will do on arrival is to check your bike. Take your helmet and water bottles with you (don’t leave them on your bike) to prepare for ride out on Sunday.
From bike check proceed to the first line, the orientation video. After watching the safety video, if you have raised the $3000 minimum, completed your tent assignment, completed your medical info form then you can proceed directly to check in. All cyclists will receive their participant wristbands in their Check-In packet. These wristbands must be worn during the entirety of AIDS/LifeCycle. Cyclists will also receive their helmet and bike frame numbers. These numbers must be displayed on your helmet and on your bike during the entirety of AIDS/LifeCycle. If you completed your tent assignment you will also receive your luggage bag and tent ‘chips’. Remember to attach your luggage bag chips before dropping it off at ride out on Sunday morning.
- If you haven’t met your $3000 minimum you will need to go to Donor Services and either drop off any remaining checks or forms for processing, or you can sign a guarantee (you can also do this online from your participant center.
- If you haven’t confirmed your tent assignment online in your participant center you will then head over to Tent Assignment.
- If you didn’t complete the medical information form online or mail it in, proceed to Medical.
Do you have any incentives to pick up? For example your $5k or $10k jersey? Well head on over to the incentive pick up desk! Finally, you can sign up for next years ALC ride which usually gets you a t-shirt.
Once you have completed all the tasks you are free to mingle with your 2,500 new closest friends for a bit and then head to your hotel, family, friends for dinner and a good nights sleep.
Up and at-em! Plan to arrive at the Cow Palace by 5 or 5:30am. First thing will be to drop your gear bag at the appropriate gear truck (Alphabetical – last year I was truck C for example). Make sure to introduce yourself to your gear truck roadies and thank them for their dedication and hard work! Next up head inside for some breakfast and coffee. It’s a good time to top off your water bottles if you haven’t filled them yet.
Find a seat and get out your tissues, it’s time for the opening ceremonies.
After opening ceremonies ALC will announce that the 2015 course is officially open! Time to put your hard work and training to the test! Hug and kiss your loved ones good bye and head to bike check, pump your tires up, make sure your water bottles are filled and RIDE OUT! (why am I crying as I type this, what are these feels?)
We hope these pointers help you. If I missed anything or you have additional suggestions please leave a comment!
— Curtis Paullins