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Ron and I went on our third bike ride in as many weeks, in a move that Industry Figure Chris Ravenscroft characterized as “just stupid.”
Why would he be so vehemently opposed? Jealousy, you’re probably thinking, but you’d be wrong. He had some crazy objection to going on a 50-mile bike ride, with 1,600 feet of climbing, on the hottest day of the year, in what anyone would have to admit is a desert.
“But Chris,” I explained, soothingly, “I’m going to try to show up at Ron’s house by 6:00am; we’ll do most of the ride in the cool of the morning. And plus, Sunday’s probably going to be even hotter, so this won’t actually be the hottest day of the year, just the hottest day so far.”
With his ‘heat’ objection so neatly disposed of, you’d think that he’d have been cowed, but again, you would’ve been mistaken: he brought up some other paltry concern, something to do with it nevertheless being just crazy hot — yeah, I didn’t get it, either.
When I walked out of my house, at 5:30am, the air was already ominously muggy — in a desert, too! Hmm.
I managed to get to Ron’s by about 6:30am, and we tottered off at 6:50am. I hadn’t taken any chances with dinner the night before; I had had a meal of bread and olive oil, a small piece of steak, mushrooms, fruit salad, some wine, and a small scoop of ice cream, and told my body to pick whichever it needed for the big ride; I’d done my job as provider. No breakfast, except for a Clif Bar, just like the first ride that had gone so well. And I was well hydrated; I’d downed about 9 cups of water as soon as I’d gotten up, and again just told my body to keep however much it felt that it could use.
At first, I didn’t feel all that great. Perhaps 6 cups of water would have been better than 9. But by the time we’d done about 10 miles, I was in the groove. Ron and I traded first place periodically, as we had last week, and the first 15 or 20 miles were just lovely. But about the time we joined Agoura Rd. at mile 25 or so, Ron was starting to fade. It was weird, actually: he’d been doing great, so far, and it really had been much easier than either of the two earlier rides.
We arrived at the 32-mile mark, the little park at the bottom of Lost Hills near work, without incident, and Ron and I downed some apples that Ron’s wife Georgia had bagged up for us, and split a bag of Skittles. Ron also had a Snickers energy bar, which he said was delicious.
The next 10 miles were going to be basically an uphill slog, as we gained 700 feet. And slog it was, because by the time we left the park, 10:10am, Mr. Sun had found us, and was pummeling us with his X-ray and infrared vision. An old guy, his voice already quavering a little, who looked like a somewhat-thinner Wilford Brimley passed us as we were getting onto Agoura Rd. for the return trip, and before we’d done much more than pass the police station, he had crested the hill. He was going at least twice as fast as we were.
We zipped into a bike shop so that I could pick up a spare inner tube, and also grabbed some recovery powder for after the ride. We were underway again by 11:00am, and Ron speculated that we could be at the intersection of Kanan and Lindero by 11:45. I laughed: “No way, we’ll be there way before then!”
There was another reason, apart from sheer hubris, to try to get home fast; there was a huge temperature differential. Ron’s iPhone reported that where we were, it was 98 degrees; back at Ron’s house, it was 80. That’s a difference you can feel in your bones.
Off we went up the hill. I was feeling great at this point; Kanan just keeps going up, but I kept going up with it. I stopped just short of where I thought the Lindero waypoint was, in some convenient shade. As far as I was concerned, it was right around the corner, and up a small hill. Ron caught up, and we waited around a little bit more so that he could have a rest, too. It was 11:27. As Ron put it, “We’ll make it by 11:30, no problem.” Ha!
We got back on our bikes, and Ron took off at good clip. But wait a minute…where’s all my energy? No, it’s gone. Darn rests! You never, ever know how you’re going to come out of them. Let’s see: I had refilled some, but not all, of my water bottles at the park. Fool! Yeah, I hadn’t wanted to dilute the Cytomax that I had left in one of my big bottles. Rats, I was down to just one small water bottle of water. But wait…I still had a packet of Cytomax in my jersey pocket. Perfect, more energy and better electrolyte replacement while I was going up the last of these hills. All that was really left was the push to the Westlake Blvd. waypoint at mile 42 or so, the literal high point of the trip.
So, armed with part of a small water bottle of Cytomax, I took off again in the 98-degree heat. All right, this was feeling better. Yeah, I must have been close to bonking, back there, but now, things felt good, actually, and getting better! OK, let’s make sure that I can at least make it to the Lindero waypoint by 11:45; it should be right around the corner. But…no, it’s not there, and it’s not there, and Ron’s not there either, and man, when 11:45 came around and I still hadn’t seen Lindero, sailors would’ve had nothing on me.
But ho! At 11:46, suddenly, there’s the Westlake waypoint, and Ron waiting for me. I had blown by the Lindero waypoint without noticing it, probably because I was trying to figure out what to do about the weakness immediately after the break. Chasing ghost roads, now.
Nothing of any consequence was left. A beautiful downhill on Westlake, some rolling hills on Hillcrest, and a short sharp uphill on Hodencamp. I charged off, just enjoying the heck out of things, and came upon some guys on bikes on Hillcrest. They had all the equipment, were at least 20 years younger than I was, and they were clearly putting in an effort, but they badly needed to be passed. I blew past them in a way that would’ve made the Wilford Brimley doppelgänger proud, just effortlessly going much faster, and kept on going, because they also needed to see me receding into the distance.
At this point in the story, Sean said, “I sometimes forget how insanely competitive you are!” This surprised me, because if you forget that, then you’ll never know what I’m going to do next, which is a shame when dealing with someone who is as predictable as the sunrise (“Gotta pass ’em!”).
I arrived at the Hodencamp waypoint, where Ron might’ve expected me to wait for him, to show that I hadn’t missed the turn, but it was important that those guys that I’d passed a while back not think that I had to rest before tackling the hill on Hodencamp, so I just went up it a mile or so, and waited for Ron in the shade of a tree, drinking the last of my water. Man, was it hot.
I had been waiting for a while, and still no Ron. He had said that he was going to call Georgia soon to let her know that we were almost home again, and he might also have tried to call me at Hodencamp. Where was my phone? Ah, I’d left it in the car, great.
But here came Ron, after all, having indeed called Georgia and having tried and failed to reach me. He pulled alongside me, and then executed a perfect fall from a dead stop on his bike, just like they used to do on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. The problem with bicycle shoes that lock in to the pedals is that you really have to remember to unclip the leg that you’re going to be leaning on, and it’s surprisingly easy to unclip your right leg (because you always unclip that one), but then lean to the left, as if to lean on your still-clipped-in left leg, and by the time you realize your mistake, it’s almost always much too late. Pretty much every cyclist I know has done this at one time or another, including Tam Pham and myself, but it’s never much fun when it happens, because it’s quite a bit farther to fall than from the Laugh-In tricycles, and no raincoat.
We had a break, to cool off and to wait for Ron’s adrenaline from the fall to dissipate, and then got home uneventfully about six hours after we’d started:
total ascent: 1,574 feet
distance: 51.9 miles
saddle time: 4:21:38 (not counting breaks)
average speed: 11.8 mph (not counting breaks)
Oh, it was so hot. We mixed up our sport recovery drinks and downed them, along with copious ice water. Ron said later that even so, he was still 3 lbs. lighter after the ride than he had been before the ride.
Afterwards, it turned out that Ron had been coming down with a cold for the whole ride. He had felt a little iffy the night before, but had thought, “Well, maybe it’s an allergy.” But no, by nightfall after the ride he had a pretty good cold going. So, at least we had a reason for his his mystifying fade at mile 25 on Agoura Rd.
I think the sport recovery drink after the ride made a big difference; my legs felt almost normal the next day, whereas usually they’re pretty thrashed. Something to try again on the next ride, though not (if I can help it) in record heat.
“Geez, it’s hot. Man, this was stupid. Ha, I passed those guys! Great ride!”