My goal for 2014 was the same for 2013: don’t get shelled on the SPY Holiday Ride.
2013 was therefore a colossal failure. 2014? A complete success. I’m looking forward to 264 days of happy reflection on yesterday’s signal accomplishment, and am already thinking about a goal for 2015, something like “clean my chain.”
What is the SPY Holiday Ride? Despite the misleading title, it is not a holiday of a bike ride. It is, rather, a miserable, awful, pain-filled shitcake of a beatdown held throughout the year on national federal holidays. The ride began as a way for folks to enjoy their national holiday through the fun and camaraderie of a ride through North County San Diego, with a little competitive fun thrown in along the way. What it quickly became is a shark tank filled with the gnarliest, toughest, fastest, most ruthless riders in Southern California. The only people who show up on this thing are the ones who want to hurt or be hurt.
Surfer Dan and I left the South Bay at 5:15 AM. We reached Encinitas way ahead of schedule, which was awesome because Brent Garrigus at Ride Cyclery was just putting out the hot coffee, bagels, and schmeer. It was freezing cold. “How you feeling?” Brent asked.
“Great. I just have one goal.”
“Don’t get dropped.”
Everyone has one
Unless you’re one of a handful of freaks — or David LeDuc — everyone has a ride, or a portion of a ride, that they fantasize about not getting dropped on. Maybe it’s the local Saturday hammerfest, or maybe it’s the local big climb, or maybe it’s the training crit with the “fast riders.” Sometimes, it’s just keeping up with Ol’ Rickety, the nemesis who somehow always manages to crack you at just the last minute.
For me, the monument has been the SPY Holiday Ride. Each time the pattern has been the same: Get up awfully early. Make the drive down to North County. Roll out at 8:00 AM. Get dropped 20 minutes into the ride when we hit the Dieguinos climb. Regroup a couple of miles later, where the real athletes are all waiting, bored and filled with contempt at those of us drizzling snot from our upper lip into our mouths. Ride together with the reduced group, then get dropped on Del Dios Highway. Join the re-group, which is now only 40 or 50 out of the original two hundred or more riders. Get horribly dropped coming back up the Three Witches. Hop in with a flailpetto and get dropped again doing the reverse side of Dieguinos. Catch on the downhill and struggle in on the flats.
Then, stop at the Bier Garden, drown my woes in alcohol, and have a designated driver ferry me home, where I sink into a deep and profound depression combined with a throbbing ache in my legs that doesn’t go away until about four days later.
If you think about it, it’s pretty easy to figure out why you suck at the one ride you want to excel at. For me, the SPY Holiday Ride breaks down like this:
- The good riders are faster than I am.
- When the axe comes down and it’s butchering time, I prefer to play with my Barbie & Ken kitchen set.
- Thurlow, Tinstman, Stinger, Zink, Fiedler, MMX, Pomeranz, Boy Brian, etc.
However, these past several months I’ve been perfecting my SPY Holiday Ride strategy. First, I’ve been eating lots of fresh, home-baked bread and slathering it with butter. Second, I’ve upped my beer game considerably. In addition to the case of beer provided by G-JiT, the case of beer from Gussy, the two four-packs from Kenny, the monthly beer subscription from MMX, the six-packs from Little Miss Pottymouth a/k/a Foxy Moxie, and the low, low price of $3.99 per whangus-sized bottle of Port Brewing’s Wipeout IPA sold around the corner at Von’s, I’ve been assiduously practicing my beer technique.
Just as importantly, I’ve been resting, yes, resting. That, plus a bike fit and lots of emphasis on getting my cadence up from the high 70’s to 110 – 120 has meant that I’m able to spin out most of the hangover juice by mid-day, leaving plenty of capacity for more bread/butter/beer (the three B’s of cycling fitness) when it’s time for dinner.
I’ve had inklings that this rest + spin + beer combo is working much better than 2013’s infamous kimchi fart diet. For example, on the Thanksgiving holiday ride, I almost didn’t get dropped several times. “Almost didn’t get dropped” may not sound like much, but when you’re old, droopy, and slow, you measure success in micro-intervals. For example, “almost didn’t get dropped” means that with more fitness and speed I would have hung on, as opposed to “shat out the back,” which means that the only way I would have hung on was with a third leg, an extra lung, and a two-stroke. Prior SPY holiday rides were always in the “shat out the back” category.
How the war was won
Having firmly visualized success, set my goal in a loud Facebook posting, and guzzled a couple of pitchers of fromargs made from cheapest tequila on New Year’s Eve, I was pleasantly surprised on the Dieguinos climb to find that after depilating my beard and retching out the remains of the fromargs, I had not been dropped. It was later pointed out to me that this was one of the slowest holiday rides ever. This did not diminish by even an iota the pleasure I got from being a waiter instead of a waitee, and looking snobbishly at the poor schmoes who came up gasping and gagging and looking just like I had a few minutes before … only they hadn’t seen me!
On the climb to Lake Hodges I continued not to be dropped. On the return up Del Dios I didn’t get dropped some more. When we made the turn up Fairbanks Ranch I kept not getting dropped, which is more than all but about fifteen other riders could say, including certain South Bay riders who had made the drive south to show their stuff. Tri-Dork’s remains littered the roadside, along with the Wily Greek and Peyton, who was poured into a plastic sack and brought home in a hearse.
On the final of the Three Witches I came brutally unhitched, but just as the dwindling group of eleven riders was set to pedal away, Zink also came unhitched. I glommed onto the Cadillac Draft, he caught his breath and towed me back up. Then, as we pounded up the back-ass of San Dieguinos, I came unhitched again. Just as Thurlow, Tinstman, Cobley, Sam, Pomeranz, and Boy Brian seemed set to leave for good, the Three Musketeers of Stinger, Zink, and Fiedler came roaring by. I struggled on, and they madly hit the descent to close the 100-yard gap. At just the wrong moment, Thurlow’s front wheel blew out, and how Tinstman and Sam, who were on his wheel, didn’t go down I will never know.
Thurlow managed to keep the bike upright until he slowed it from 40+ to about 20 while railing down the twenty percent grade. The tire then came off the rim and got caught in the brakes, throwing him over the bars. He was skinned and bloody, but nothing was broken. It was such a horrifically fast and crazy and scary fall that we stood around in shock, amazed that the only casualty had been Thurlow, whose kit looked like it had been washed with an industrial shredder filled with blood. A sag call was made and shortly thereafter we finished the ride.
Back at the shop Zink, who had won the Del Dios KOM and gotten a case of Lost Abbey BWR Ale as his prime, gave a bottle each to me and Dan for our solid riding. I thanked him and quickly stuffed the bottles into my duffle. Maybe one day he’ll find out that Surfer Dan doesn’t drink.