ALC 10 was a very rough event for me. Having participated in AIDS/LifeCycle twice prior, I expected this one to be a walk in the park. There were ups and downs – in elevation, of course, but also in mood and weather – this was a cold one! The combination of low temperatures, my inability to let a certain someone ride at his pace instead of mine, and a bit of over-exertion made this year perhaps the most challenging yet.
My hubris began to show within 2 days. By the end of Day 2 – 108 flat miles from Santa Cruz to King City – my right knee was beginning to feel pained. Not sore, I’ve-been-riding-a-bike-for-two-days-and-I’m-tired pain, but honest to goodness hurt.
[Selection of photos at the end of the post, after the break]
Foolishly, I ignored the pain, assuming it would fade, or at least stay mild. I figured that since I’d completed every inch last year (albeit with a few sore spots), my body was more than capable of doing the same this year – it’s not like I skipped training this y
ear, after all. Unfortunately, as I woke up on Day 3, I knew something might be wrong. Still, I ignored the pain, bypassed the Sports Medicine tent, and set out again. Those first 8 miles were painful. And slow. Painfully slow, even. I would not have made it to Rest Stop 1 had there not been a handful of cheery ladies handing out coffee and donuts by the side of the road.
Normally, I avoid caffeine during the event. The camp coffee is often complained about, and I like to avoid coming down with caffeine headaches in the middle of a long day’s bike ride, so I cut that habit two weeks prior. Nevertheless, I broke my rule, for the sake of giving my body a break and a much needed boost to glide those next couple of miles. Shortly after Rest Stop 1 is the hill ominously known as “Quadbuster” – not nearly as bad as it sounds, if you’ve done your hill training (and I had). While hills are normally a strong point of mine (to the occasional chagrin of other riders), this year, this time, it was slow and painful.
The rest of the ~66 mile day followed that theme – slow and painful. I likely would have simply bussed from the first stop if I hadn’t been hell bent on getting to Bradley, CA, to support the local school’s annual BBQ fundraiser (they make bank off of us hungry cyclists!). The trip to camp after lunch is a measly 28 miles, so I pushed off again after, again, ignoring my aching knees.
In the end, I paid for it. I ultimately missed about 3 days worth of riding (all of days 4 and 6, and most of day 5). And riding on day 7 was nearly as punishing as pushing myself those miles on day 3 (but I’ll be damned if I did all that training and skipped the final stretch!).
Lesson learned: Listen to your body, and seek help sooner rather than later.