The Santa Ana River Trail – lessons learned 70 miles at a time

Mid June marked my third full run on the Santa Ana River Trail.

People ask me how the heck I can ride 70 miles in a day as an amateur cyclist. They wonder how I manage to wade through the miles and miles of graffiti-covered underpasses and homeless people in Southern California without getting mugged. Well, I can’t speak for the second issue, because it really isn’t one. When you grow up in the ‘hood, things aren’t sunshine and unicorns. Not everyone is out to jack you either. Just don’t be stupid and ride in the dark. And I wouldn’t suggest going alone either.

As for the first question, I can tell you it hasn’t been easy.

When I went out with three other cyclists in 2009, I was not prepared for a 20-mile ride, let alone 70 miles. Back then, I was still a smoker. That made for a tough time, though you can’t tell it from this video:

The second time came in 2011. I was in better shape then, but it was still difficult. And I still smoked. Sorry for the abundant corniness in this video. My husband produced this one:

The 2017 run felt different. I’m not going to say it was easy, because 70 miles is probably going to be hard no matter how much I train. But it was easier. I’ll credit several things to this:

  • I did several prep rides of around 25 miles or more leading up to the big day. One of the guys we rode with in 2009 mentioned that he prepared for that run by taking several 2-hour rides in the weeks leading up to it. I didn’t really think much about that until this time. Good on you, Lorenzo!
  • Supplements. The only thing I brought previously was fruit and some Clif bars. Seriously. The folks at the bike shop loaded me up with some gels, electrolyte powders and recovery formulas this time. Why is this important? In a nutshell, after a long time on a bike or any other endurance workout, your body depletes itself of something called glycogen. And if you don’t replenish this, you’re in for a bad time. More on that here. Anyway, the first two times out, I didn’t bring any of this stuff because I was dubious. But I’m a believer now. When you’re on mile 50 and you’ve managed to keep any sort of muscle fatigue at bay, you’ll be a believer too. Thanks Cyclery USA!
  • I quit smoking. Hallelujah!
  • Even though not all of my exercise is cycling, I think being healthier overall played a role in making this a better ride.
  • We have some overnight hotel stays during this ride, so because we aren’t in cars, we carry all of our essentials in backpacks. This time, we used rear-tire racks to mount them, rather than wearing them on our backs the entire trip (not this model, but something similar). Remember how much your back hurt after lugging around a backpack all day in high school or college? Now imagine wearing one for seven hours while dragging a 30-pound Trek hybrid across Southern California. Yeah – it’s no bueno. The only downside is you have to get used to having that extra weight on the rear of the bike. A stiff wind will tip over the whole bike if it’s parked and you’re not watching. And pro cyclers will look at you funny, but who cares? They’re probably not going all the way to the beach anyway, so you’ll never see them again.

I’m ready for the next ride!




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