It was Martin Luther King Day. I had the day off work. Even though Geoff and I did a 13.2 mile ride with almost 2,400 feet of gain just two days prior, I wanted to try to do the entire upper section of the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) bike path on my road bike today–39.1 miles–by myself.
At the parking lot behind the Hall of Records in San Bernardino, there was only one other car there before me. I started getting ready just as the other guy was ready to go. Good, I thought, I want to be alone…
The guy rides up to me and says “mind if I follow you and try to keep up?” He’s got a $2,000 Fuji, I’ve got a $282 C.A.R.B. (cheap-ass road bike). “I’m pretty slow,” I said, “but sure.”
Five minutes later I’m all situated and we take off. As we slowly started off, we exchanged pleasantries and introduced ourselves. He’s 70, retired. He doesn’t look or act 70. Not even close.
He likes to play a little game: he says he’s going to try to catch some people in front of us, and off we go. After a minute or two, I hear a “clunk”…something has fallen out of my backpack. So I stop, turn around, pick up my stuff, then turn back towards him and spend a few tough minutes cranking like hell to catch up. As if that wasn’t bad enough–it happened twice! At a coupe points I almost just turned around and went back to the car, but I stuck with it. And I vowed to buy a better cycling backpack online as soon as I got home.
He tells me how there was a 20-something year old wunderkid out on the SART recently that he hooked up with; the kid was really strong and had a really expensive bike, but my new friend was able to keep up with the kid and was really proud of that. So at about mile 5 I make a move out front, taking the lead on a mile-plus long straightaway, crank it up at least a couple notches, and tuck down tight on my aerobars.
He struggled to keep up for about a minute, then I dropped him. Ended up stopping and waiting for him a couple miles down the trail.
My new friend hates climbing. I’m a mountain biker and live to climb, so my challenge to myself was to try to climb the few and far between steeps on this section of the SART in the big ring. This plan worked great until about 14 miles along, when I had to shift for the first time. It was a killer hill and I waited at the top for about 2-3 minutes for him to catch up.
We made it to the 19 mile turnaround in Corona in 1:19. That’s half the time it took me last time, when I was on a bulky MTB following behind someone on a recumbent trike.
About a half hour later, cruising along on a straightaway and chatting, he told me that on that one big climb around mile 14 he felt sharp pain in his left arm, under the armpit. This is a guy who worked 40 years in the medical field and is VERY in tune with his body. He was very concerned about this.
I let my new friend set the pace for about two thirds of the ride, in no real hurry to get back. A couple times I took the lead and cranked it up one notch, not even tucking down on the aerobars or anything. He kept up with me for a while, then dropped with some huffing and puffing. Each time I slowed until he caught up, and he complained that his inner thighs were hurting like never before. At one point I slowed until he caught up and said he’d meet me at the picnic table about a mile up. I waited for him for a few minutes and he arrived, complaining even more about the pain between his legs.
“I’ve slowed you down enough,” he said. “You go ahead.”
We shook hands, and I said “I’m sure I’ll see you again out here.”
Despite going slower than originally planned because of my new sidekick, not to mention having to turn around twice to pick up things that fell out of my backpack, I had a very good day out on the river trail. Finally on my own, in the zone, feeling no pain, I was able to totally let loose. Maybe it was frustration; maybe it was the ~34 mile “warm up ride”; but I flew past a whole “team” of road racers wearing matching uniforms that undoubtedly cost more than my bike. It was surreal.
I arrived back at the parking too quickly so kept going up to the end of the trail, turned around, rode down past the parking lot again, and then turned around about .6 mile past the parking lot then turned around and went back to the car. Why? I wanted to get at least 40 miles on the GPS, and ended up with 40.3, this being the second longest ride I’ve ever done.
Pulling in to the parking lot (2:38 moving time for 40.3 miles!, I saw my new friend over by his truck, kind of hunched over, a woman cyclist talking to him. I rode over to check on him.
“I’m really dizzy” he says. “This usually only last a few seconds, but it’s not stopping.”
“You might be dehydrated,” I say.
I tell him to sit down and drink something. He gets in his truck and drinks some liquid.
“I’m going to go load up then I’ll come right back and check on you.”
A few minutes later, right as I’m done situating myself and am about to walk over and check on him, he drives up, rolls down the window, tells me he’s feeling much better, thanks me profusely, and we say we’ll probably see each other again out there.
I just wanted to go have a nice quiet 40 miles by myself. I keep asking myself, did you almost kill a man today? Then I keep telling myself, hey man, you were minding your own fucking business, it was his idea to follow along…
Trail drama. I miss my mountain bike already.