The 2017 Grinchmas Ride was a small affair. It was so small that at 5:30 AM at the Center of the Known Universe I wasn’t entirely sure but that it wouldn’t be me, possibly accompanied by myself, and perhaps I for company.
By liftoff three other riders showed up, Kristie, Steve Utter, and Evens Stievenart. Evens, he of the 24-hour cycling world record and two-time victor at the 24 Hours of LeMans, had texted the night before.
“Are you really riding at 5:30 on Christmas?”
“Yes. Best ride of the year.”
“I might join you.”
“A lot of people ‘might,'” I taunted
There was a brief text-pause. “I will be there,” he said.
Evens is in terrible shape. He’s been off the bike for two months and has been doing nothing but eating. So it seemed like it would be especially good for a leisurely pedal up the coast, especially with Pablo as pace protection and Manslaughter with his torn calf, so disabled he can barely walk.
Manslaughter texted in his regrets, and Pablo must have simply rolled over in bed.
That meant four of us. Thank goodness Evens was just getting back into shape, because normally he is fearsome company on a bike.
As we left CotKU in the pitch black, Kristie stripped off her armwarmers. “I’m too toasty already,” she said. It was barely fifty degrees, but I didn’t say anything, figuring that later on she would freeze to death but keep freezing rather than stop the ride to put the armwarmers back on.
By Pedal Stroke #4 it became clear that Evens’s rebuild program started at 250 watts, which probably doesn’t seem like much until you figure that I’m real old, real slow, and we were going to be doing it for four hours. The temperature continued to drop and the pace stayed steady, as in steadily miserable. We got to Trancas, had a quick coffee, talked to some foreign exchange students from Oman, and got back on our bikes.
The Oman students were so friendly and so obviously enjoying California. They were students at CSU Northridge. I hoped they were having a good experience here, and that people were treating them well, that America was being welcoming despite all the hatred towards foreigners that has been issuing out of the White House and Congress of late.
We had had a headwind on the way out, so were lucky to also get a headwind on the way back. To keep things interesting, as if being slowly ground into gristle for several hours isn’t interesting enough, Evens made a point of keeping his power steady on the punchy rollers going back; Zuma, Latigo, and Pepperdine’s double bump before dropping down to Cross Creek.
We reached the Santa Monica Pier in tatters, but I had to pretend that I was fine, and Evens kept the same miserable tempo all the way back to Manhattan Beach. The moment he turned off to go home our speed dropped to 10 mph, my shoulders slumped, and I wanted to get off my bike and cry.
My only relief the entire four hours had been a brief stop for a flat tire, the coffee at Trancas, and a miracle banana donated by Kristie without which I would still be on the bike path at Playa del Rey.
Back home there was an astounding feast awaiting. My wife had whipped up biscuits made from scratch, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, sausage, pan-fried potatoes, and cup after cup of freshly brewed hot coffee. Oh, and two kinds of homemade jam and one of marmalade. We opened presents and then she rolled out the most amazing chocolate birthday cake I have ever eaten in my life. I took a break from my no-sugar diet to enjoy a slice of chocolate heaven.
My legs finally seized up and I went to bed. Dinner was only two hours away and a massive homemade pan of mole tacos cooked up by my daughter awaited. Tomorrow, diet. Maybe.
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