This is it, the final day of the ride!! In total, 64 miles. If I thought the 90 miles of the previous day seemed daunting, nothing compared me for the feeling of 64 more miles today. My body is exhausted, my ankles felt as if they are hanging on with their last threads, I'm trying to motivate myself for another 4:30 am start for the day, and it's cold. As I got on bike and started the route I pushed myself through the stiffness in my muscles and forced myself to pedal.
The beginning of the route was surprisingly gentle compared to what we had experienced and before I knew if we were 15 miles in and approaching the first rest stop! I really couldn't believe the good time we were making and I drew positive energy from it. All along the route were people cheering us on. "Almost there," they would shout among the cowbells and thank you's, pushing us on onward as we got closer to our goal. Then the second rest stop appeared and then lunch, which we skipped to keep our wonderful momentum going. Finally, we reached Malibu and I knew that we were so, so close to home! This is where the ride began to get hard.
Malibu has some large hills. Not as large as what I've already conquered, but at this point in the ride I was so incredibly tired that I could barely make it up to the top. The world around me was beautiful but I could not lift my head to take it in. I just had to pedal, to focus, to put everything I had into my strokes so that my rhythm wouldn't falter. Malibu came with another challenge as well that we hadn't faced before: a dense population. There were pedestrians and motorhomes and, in many cases, no shoulder to ride on for fear of a car door suddenly opening. In fact, there was even a moment when a motor home blocked our shoulder, and right as we were passing into the lane another motorhome jutted out from the other side not even looking to see if there was oncoming traffic. With all of the riders as exhausted as we were this had to be one of the most dangerous routes we had ridden. But I swallowed my nervousness and pedaled onward.
Finally we crossed out of Malibu and headed through beautiful Brentwood for the final 8 miles to the finish line at the VA Center. To my sadness, the entire length of that last stretch was a steady uphill climb with bursts of steepness scattered throughout. I could feel my ankles trying to break and my neck felt like it was caught in a vice from the strain...and then scariest event of the day occurred. We had skipped lunch earlier in the day because we had decided to make a small detour to a burger joint a mile from the finish line. When we reached that point we had to start and stop a lot to figure out where we were going. Stopping is the hardest part on my joints because I have to land on my foot, which strains my ankle. Well, as we made our way to the restaurant something pulled in my knee and I became unable to put pressure on my right leg. Even to walk. I stumbled over to a table and immediately threw ice on my knee and started massaging my quads while being terrified that I would not be able to make it to the finish line. We sat down and took a good 45 minute break as we ate our burgers (which were freaking delicious!) and then I tentatively got back on my bike to attempt the final mile. My knee definitely hurt, but I was so close that I could not let anything stop me from crossing that line. Not even the short steep hill leading right up to the VA Center!
Every pedal stroke at this point hurt, and the hills cause my knee to scream, but as I reached the gates and heard the cowbells and the cheers, and then the balloons and crowds of people...I could barely contain my emotions and somehow found one last ounce of strength to push forward. It wasn't even half a second from my foot hitting the ground that I grabbed Gavin and completely broke down. All of the stress and strain that I had bottled up throughout the ride just flooded out of me and I sobbed. Not the iconic, strong masculine cry either, but a blubbering shaking mess. That didn't matter though; I didn't care that the crowd around me could see me crying, or that there were at least 2 giant cameras pointing at me snapping away, or that I could barely hold my balance; I was surrounded by love and compassion and had successfully completed a 545 mile ride on a bicycle. If you didn't know already, bicycles have always scared me and at January of this I didn't really know how to ride one. If it weren't for all of the encouragement and kind words from my friends online and the unending support of my fellow riders I don't know if I would have been able to make it. No other event I have experienced even comes close to the level of love and compassion that this one contains. We all ride because we want to make the world a better place and because we have all been touched in some way, whether it be friends, family, partners, or personally, by this horrible disease. And so we support each other and when one of us falls there are instantly hands to help us up and push us on. If we could bottle up just a small amount of that kind of love and pass it around the world it would be a much better place. By the end of this ride we have raised a total of over $16.2 million dollars to help in this fight and we have brought joy to every town we passed though. This is why we ride, and thank you, everyone, for helping me to do so.
|Crossing the finish line!!!!!!!!!!!|
|How we all feel.|