San Diego

You have my heart. It’s pretty incredible how a geographical location can own something so personal. I also think an appreciation for something doesn’t truly happen until you no longer have it. I have the military to thank for that. To thank for taking me away from a place that needed appreciation. And in many ways, it’s been a blessing to our family. Not everyone can just pick up and move across the country. Not everyone has healthcare. {ugh, not looking forward to the dentist on Friday.} Not everyone has a loving husband who sacrifices for our country, for me, so we can retire in ten years. 

When we left sunny So Cal, I had a “good riddance” attitude. A positive outlook on the future and our new life that we got to create in our new city. I was sick of the flakiness. Of the routine. Of hills. Of riding. I couldn’t get out of the funk, and a forced move seemed like the perfect way to hit refresh on life. 

And in many ways, it was. I have an amazing job that I love. Kyle works hard {arguably harder and longer than ever} but is enjoying what he’s doing. We found an awesome cycling community in Chicago. We have new routes, new riding partners, and new bikes! We got to adopt kitties! But we also have snow, wind, and cold. Short days with endless grey skies. The toll of the long winter was starting to pull at my heart. My freckles were hibernating! A trip back to San Diego is just what I needed. 

After helping to organize cycling camp for the past five {?!} years, I knew it would be fun to “crash” my old team camp. Noko was missing her Rachel time and has a new love for road bikes. And flights were cheap. Perfect storm. I spent 3 weeks cramming for the riding. I did the Festive 500 over the break to get some much needed miles in my legs. Trainer work, gym work and a whole lotta praying the fitness I gained through cross season would somehow propel me up the mountains. 

Thursday was spent reconnecting and organizing. A Pizza Port stop with the Osth’s, J squared and Erin was a must. Friday I “paid my dues” and did a Costco run with my old boss, JT. I think we got outta there in record time. We arrived at the rental, unpacked, and headed out for a short ride before sunset. And by short, I mean 24 miles with 2200ft climbing. Sleeping Indian road was feeling much easier at this point than in years past. Was this a fluke? I fully expected to be pushed up all hills and to be off the back all weekend. Was this too good to be true? I haven’t seen a hill since May. There is no way. After two hours in the pool/hot tub and 3 “recovery” beers later, we were sleeping by 9 in preparation for Saturday. 

Los Gatos. A very scary climb. 1 mile with an average gradient of 15%?! Parts with up to 27%?! I swore off that hill last year. After three years of progressively slower times and more walking than ever, I said never again. Never again. And now we are doing it, again?! Anxiety was rising. 

Climbing up De Luz, I was feeling oddly good. I watched Erin put the hammer down, but I knew better. I knew what lurked in the miles ahead and I climbed safe. But my safe still included others! This was a good sign, right?

Next the rollers hit. I’d forgotten what descending felt like. What the wind in my face felt like, wind created from downhill speed, not the weather pattern. Wiping the smile from my face was impossible. In fact, my face hurt by the end of the ride. I was smiling wider than ever.

Smiling while going up. While racing down. I was eating, drinking, and trying not to get too far ahead of myself. Was the fitness I was feeling too good to be true? We hit the climb. Stand. Low cadence. Just make it. I unclipped on the steeps of the lower half. Regrouped in the middle, flat {only 12%} section and got back on. And I made it. The second half. I fucking did it. 

So we begged JT for a harder ride the night prior. 50 miles didn’t seem epic enough for camp. So more miles and Los Gatos were added, and more elevation and a hard way home was drawn up. And yeah, we weren’t let down. Crazy punchy hills. And roller coaster steep descents. I got my PR up and out of the Canyon and into Fallbrook. Not only did I not bonk, I survived. I thrived. Saturday evening included pool time, beers, and a delicious dinner prepared by our new in-house chef and teammate, Noko.

Sunday was crit drills and a skills day. {Which also included 50 miles and 2k climbing getting to the practice place.} I got to help with the cornering practice and worked with the girls on their sprints. Then we raced. Had a blast mixing it up with the guys, new and old. The way home included an amazing descent filled with attacks and race like tactics. I QOM’d that sucker. It’s nice to know my descending skills haven’t left me yet. Another fun dinner at Noko’s with friends and too much wine. Not that we were complaining!

Monday I rode the coast. I got on my bike at 7am and off it at 4pm. There were lots of stops. Lots of tea. Lots of hugs and old friends. A stop for the best hot chocolate ever. And a ride out to my favorite place. Cabrillo National Monument has always had a special place in my heart. The tidepools hill is where I learned to ride a road bike. Where I learned to battle with others. To battle with myself. It’s where I got engaged and where I spent my 30th birthday doing 30 repeats. I’ve gone up and down that gorgeous hill hundreds of times. But Monday, it meant something more. I cried, almost like a boyfriend breakup cry. Down and up. I missed this place. The ocean. That winding, perfect road to nowhere. {Or for the movie fans out there, to Viper’s house in Top Gun.} Noko booked me a massage with our favorite woman. My body was screaming for her wonderful hands. And an appreciation has never been so heartfelt. 

Today I woke up ready for one more punishment. Why not a trip around my favorite loop with my favorite ride partners? This trip around the Great Western Loop was special. It was fast. The weather was absolutely perfect. The arm and knee warmers were off. The sun was shining. And my legs came through. One more time again. And surprisingly, it was one of my best times around the loop. With Jim, Vince, and Noko. Beside, in front, and behind me. 

250 miles. 17,000 ft climbing. Endless summer sunshine. The best of friends. The greatest roads in So Cal. I am one lucky girl. 

This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the blessing from my husband and the understanding of my boss. Without my best friend, Noko. Without the love from my old shop and team, Moment Bicycles. Without the amazing bike “rental” from Lynne. Thank you, thank you. And yes, I did find the appreciation again for America’s Finest City. 

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