I still remember when she appeared for her first NPR, standing over her bike as the riders appeared one after another, gradually crowding the deck of the Manhattan Beach Pier. “Hi,” I said. “What’s your name?”
“Hey, Juliana. Welcome to the Pier Ride. Where are you from?” She had that not-from-around-here accent that we Americans automatically label British, even though it could be Irish, South African, Ozzie, or Lithuanian.
Jules was of the VeggieMite variety. “I’m from Australia,” she said with a nice smile. And we were all smitten.
“Things kind of pick up once we hit this little up ramp on a street called Pershing. You might want to be towards the front in case it’s fast, so even though you drop back you won’t come off.”
“Okay!” she said.
A true troupe of gentlemen
With several new acquaintances watching out for her, the moment we hit Pershing it was every last soul for himself. The last time I saw her she was rocketing backwards at Warp 12. Like a hungry pack of marauding wolves, the peloton raced away. I saw her a couple of times on the Parkway with a small grupetto or by herself, banging it out against the wind. I would have dropped back to help, but, well, no, actually I wouldn’t have. And didn’t.
Welcome to Americuh. Fuck, yeah!
It was unfortunate that she, a triathlete, had shown up in the middle of race season when the NPR pace was high and the testosterone was discharging at full spigot. After the fireworks, though, she rejoined the group on Vista del Mar, and you never saw so many elbows get thrown and wheels get bumped as the guys who had just dropped her now fought to ride beside or behind her.
Junkyard eventually won the spot of honor when he was introduced as “The dude who designs all the kits for Garmin and SpiderTech.”
Before long we were all quaffing coffee at the Center of the Known Universe, and the great impression she’d made on the Pier amplified itself ten thousand fold.
Getting down to business
Far from being put off by the NPR beatdown, she continued to show up and stick it out, often getting spit out the back early on, sometimes hanging in until the end. She had guts and determination, but more importantly, she had other fish to fry: Jules hadn’t come to Los Angeles to ride around in circles with a bunch of prostate-weakened geezers, she’d come to train so that she could race.
Before her stint in California was up, she nailed 16th overall at the Ironman World Championships 70.3 in Vegas, and smashed in the door for a silver medal in her division in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. We’re absolutely certain that it was all because of those mornings on the Parkway…um, right.
More than just another bone-crushing pair of legs
Jules won people over wherever she went. With the LA County lifeguards, with the runners, with the swimmers, and of course with the bikers, she was a hit for her friendly demeanor, her unassuming good nature, and her uncommon presence of mind that would have been impressive in anyone, much less a 24 year-old on her first solo visit to the Golden State.
When her three-month sojourn in Southern California ended, she finished things up in that most California of ways: Getting to witness an arrest and detention at LAX. Americuh! Hell yeah!
Hope you come back soon, kid. ‘Cause you’re family now, Jules!