A Special Celebration at the 41st Reseda to the Sea
As I climb up and up toward the high point of the day — Eagle Rock in Topanga State Park, California, — I remember back to the previous weeks and days when I had visions of breaking my bicycle chain due to the tremendous force I knew I would be applying to the pedals on these steep pitches, or that I would burn up the last remaining calories in my system, reach zero speed, and tip over, exhausted, onto the sandstone bedrock.
Though I began training in January 2021, two months before this ride which was on March 7, I wouldn’t know until two weeks prior whether I felt certain I could make it, and even then, I wouldn’t know until I approached the snaking curves just before Eagle Rock whether my confidence was justified.
Now I see that none of those terrifying scenarios will come to pass. I am more and more ecstatic, feeling that I am going to make it.
I arrive at Eagle Rock. I put a foot on the ground, fish out my phone from my pack, and send off a text:
I’m at the high point of the day!
I’m loving you!
I look forward to coasting through the few remaining miles. I feel liberated enough to daydream of the finish line where old friends would greet me with a beer or something stronger. I will confirm my resolve to give up competitive cycling and only swing my leg over the saddle for a joyride.
After 80 years of life — the last sixty-five fueled by driving aggressiveness — I feel I am at last ready for a break, ready for rest and relaxation.
Several miles earlier, descending from Hub Junction toward the Palisades Highlands, I was craving that relaxation, but had to maintain an intense focus on the road beneath my wheel and a steely grip on the brakes, and endure the bone-rattling ride my VVA-26 Semi-Custom Dirt Road Bicycle that I designed and built in 1985 (before shocks existed) was giving me on that stony, steep slope.
I continue to resist the well-meaning advice of friends who suggest I ride a modern bike set up with full suspension, 1×12 gearing and disc brakes. But I am in denial that I would perform any better. My ego also demands that I ride my own creation, the one that has taken me all over these mountains and often draws curiosity from young riders. One of my training partners, whose doubts about my success today exceeded my own, went even further and encouraged me to ride an electric bike for my swan song.
Today many people are hiking along the route — masked strangers — and many wish me a happy birthday. One of my good friends ahead of me is conspiring with them to create this comedy. Someone wishes me another twenty happy years! Yikes, I have a hard time imagining myself one hundred years old.
I actually turned 80 at 1:15 p.m. on this day, on this ride, as I was grinding up Paseo Miramar toward Eagle Rock. Half my lifetime ago I dreamed up this event, the first mountain bike race in Southern California: Reseda to the Sea. The route is 24 miles with 4,200 feet of elevation gain. I inaugurated it in 1980 as a race and it continued as a race for a few years until the park rangers realized what we were doing and demanded a permit application and insurance coverage. I desisted from organizing it as a race and simply presented it as a leisurely jaunt to the growing number of riders who discovered the new sport, and preferred remote dirt roads to traffic-ridden paved roads. Naturally, some riders continued to aim quite seriously for a personal record!
While I have ridden this event many times, not every year due to living far away, this year I was blessed to be able to prepare in the Southern California sunshine. I didn’t want to go through another low-mileage winter in the cold, dreary north and then suffer the agony of regaining the level of fitness required to manage the many miles and hard climbing. And not only to regain fitness, but also to be able to sit on the bike for many hours without saddle-soreness.
I know my body well, its capabilities and limitations. For this event I developed a preparation schedule (I don’t call it a training schedule — that’s too serious for what I’m doing now). I rode three days a week with varying mileage, but allowing for customizing along the way, with opportunities for single track, dirt roads, paved roads and even an occasional rest day on an e-bike.
At Eagle Rock, I contemplated my future, a time of leisurely meanderings and no competition. Unless — who knows? I could arrange to overwinter in the south again next year….
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