My thoughts on how to best approach the ALC event as a recumbent rider is a lot more clear after experiencing this first training ride.
When I finally got to Mill Valley, there were about 25 people waiting there stretching and drinking coffee. Out of 100 participants for this particular training ride, that puts me in the first 1/4 of people to arrive. That's really great news.
There was also lots of space between riders. I was the first 5 people to take off from the starting line. Even after being warned by other riders, these first 4 people took the first wrong turn away from the Golden Gate Bridge. Not sure where they ended up b/c I hadn't seen them the rest of the day.
Immediately, riders would pass by me but it wasn't stressful. On the first hill, I made it to the top without getting passed up. Even on the bridge, people didn't really pass me up. One young rider did who later slowed down probably to get a better look at the trike,
"How do you steer with that thing."
"These handlebars," as I gestured using my fingertips to show him how it worked.
"That's sick." Later that day, another person would compliment with the same phrase.
For the remainder of the bridge ride, I was hanging with the group of 4 in front of me. No one else passed me. It was on the way back that loads of people - at least 10 people came up from behind.
When I reached the starting point, there were a ton of bikes. I think at least half the people were already on site.
Although starting out in the first pack on this ride helped me and so did leaving the destination point to head back to the base, I'm hesitant to start in the front pack on day of the ALC. There will be over. This time there were 100 riders alongside me. On June 9th, there will be over 2,000 riders coming out of San Francisco. The front section will be insane.
To gain some distance over the course of the ride however, I have a couple strategies:
1. Leave early.
I am an early riser and I know most people don't want to start riding out at 6am. I'll sleep early the night before and start riding out from each of the camp sites early to give myself a head start while others are still resting, washing up or eating breakfast. This will buy me some more time if I need to rest later. It'll also give me more time to ride slower when I encounter hills. I'll also gain the benefit of less chaos. I'm guessing that around 9am, there will be a big group of riders leaving the campsites.
2. Take shorter breaks than the others.
Since I'm reclined the whole time, there's definitely less fatigue. I will take advantage of this and get an early start.
3. Don't take a break at the top of the hill.
I noticed people taking breathers after the hills. The hills are a pain in the butt, but it's either flat land or downhill that follows, I'm continuing. This worked for me during the training ride. While everyone took a break after the bridge, I kept going. They eventually caught up to me, but I needed the extra time to at least get a head start and maintain acceptable speed.
1. Take a break when I need it.
Though I'll be taking shorter breaks, I will need to take either the same number of breaks or more especially during hill climbing. I'll have plenty of people to accompany me. During this past training session, I developed a bad cramp on the inside of my thighs right before a big hill climb. It was killer. I knew if I kept going, I'd be in worse shape and regret it later. I took a good 10 minute break which was a great opportunity to check my tire pressure. By the time I was done, my cramp went away and I was ready to continue.
2. The lane's not too narrow.
My biggest concern for the ride is slowing other riders down. It's a single file line and I'm super slow on the climbs. Riders give me plenty of room as they pass me up which is great.
3. Support exists:
There really is support even during these training rides. One of the ride leaders kept his eye on me making sure I was okay. I'd catch up to him occasionally as he'd finish his breaks. For the long haul, I wasn't too far behind him. Another rider shouted,
"Good job rider!" as he saw me struggling up the hill. These few words do keep me going.