Lake Perris, CA, USA. February 19th, 2022
It’s the first race of the SoCal Interscholastic Cycling League. Two years have passed since the last. I’m in the Feed Zone, where coaches and parents hand bottles and food to riders during the race. I’m the Feed Zone Manager for the season helping those who are handing off provisions by providing education with the aim to increase safety for the kids.
The race begins and a rider approaches the feed zone. As she heads towards a feeder with her arm extended ready to receive, she bobbles the bottle and hits the dirt. Damn. I had one job. I walk over (Feed Zone Rule 10.10: No running in the feed zone) and before I help, she rises above the dust, phoenix, and was like:
“I took my eyes off the bottle, that’s why I dropped it and crashed. I’m never doing that again!”
She chucks the bottle in the cage, throws herself over the saddle, and proceeds to smash the remainder of the course. Yo! I don’t see “grown” folks display an iota of that character. This is the coolest thing I’ve ever witnessed. No cap. And I seent a lot. Peep the Strava.
My spirit is moved. My mind begins to race. My body is next. I was inspired to express this injection of life by committing myself to riding to the remaining races of the season…
The jump-off was Mira Mesa to Vail Lake for the second race on the calendar. I visited and slept at my grandma Paauw’s (Palomar Mountain) on the way. I even had a visitor myself that weekend. Jaime, whom I’ve known from Black Mountain Bicycles and SDSU Cycling, was interested in experiencing his first NICA race. He drove up to watch the High School race on Sunday, camped with me that night, and rode to Wikyo (high point of Palomar) on my way back to Mira Mesa Monday morning. Jaime has been a huge part of this story. He introduced me to the director of East Lake High School/South Bay Composite Mountain Bike Team, Coach Carmen. A couple weeks later, I had the best ride EVER at my first practice as a South Bay Composite coach.
Race three returned to Vail Lake. My brother Robert shared the first half of the ride with me, and after arriving to Vail, others began to share my rides through word of mouth. Coach Jose was the first to greet me at the feed zone. He was my first help back at Lake Perris and is one of the lead coaches at Eastlake HS.
Coach Jose immediately turns to the other coaches and parents and goes, “Hey coaches, ask JD how he got here.” More began to hear, more began to speak, more began to ask, ask about my story, and whether the story (riding) would continue all the way to Castaic Lake. Race number four was in Castaic Lake, about a 350-400-mile trip. I was going to need help if so.
Day one to Castaic, Friday. I leaned on my Western Collegiate Cycling Conference fam. I hit my fellow WCCC Champ, Sam (UCLA), and told him I needed a wheel (draft) as far as he could take me on my way up to LA. Even though I had one of the fastest wheels in the country at my disposal, we ended up side by side, chopping it up all the way to Carlsbad where we departed. Real talk, it carried my spirits up to LA.
My other brother from WCCC, as well as San Diego Bicycle Club, Daniel (UCSD), opened his home in Santa Monica to stay that night. The following morning, Daniel got a few of his friends together and we rode along the coast, climbed into Topanga, and grubbed in Calabasas, before I left for Castaic Lake.
I’m at my first race as a coach and the anxiousness made it easy to forget about the 200 miles I had just ridden. Those were some of the most special days of my life. I was nourished from the experience and was ready for the ride back.
After the race Sunday, I met my Warmshowers host Tiffany in Burbank, and I joined on her commute home. She asked if I wanted to take the short or pretty way. Let’s paint pretty mental montages. Up and through Griffith Park we rode on our way to Hollywood.
Day four, Monday, Hollywood to the Mecca. My life is a movie.