Friday, August 28, 2009
LiveSTRONG 09: It Is Finished
All's Well That Ends Well.
I climbed the rest of the hill, leaving the Devil behind me. At the top of the hill is Landis Store, where they have an all day party with a live band and chicken soup. Now, it wouldn't seem like a good thing to have chicken soup on a day in the mid-to-high 80s, with high humidity, but that's exactly why it works. When you're cramping up like I was, that warm, salty broth hits the system like a bullet train, and everything just melts away.
I looked for Kurt at the top of the hill and saw him standing near the bike racks...bleeding. What the hell? There was a family with cowbells and triangles cheering on the riders and Kurt decided he wanted to toss them BUTNZ. When he went to throw the BUTNZ across his body, he misjudged his momentum and went down in a heap. He was sore on the shoulder where he hit first, and his knee and elbow were scraped up pretty badly.
"Rub some dirt on it. You'll be fine," I said. I didn't need to. Kurt is a former Marine who served in Iraq, The guy is plenty tough already.
So, we mounted back up and laughed as we passed a sign that said It's All Downhill From Here. Yeah. Until the next hill. Granted, the hills are smaller, but they're no less steep and they come with surprising frequency. Kurt and I were both feeling it at this point, and the heat was beginning to take its toll. It was time to dig deep.
When I found myself needing to go there, the best thing I can do is to think about people that are supporting me and those who have gone before me. I found myself thinking about Terri Doyle, a friend who passed away earlier this year, but not before taking cancer through a Irish-scrapper-style ass-whupping. I thought a lot about the people who had given to my ride, those who are a part of Team Fish. I thought about the names of the loved ones you sent me, the stories behind them and just what they meant to you...and to us. I thought of mothers and fathers, daughters and sons and sisters and brothers and friends, of those who are still with us fighting and the dear saints departed. Your willingness to share their memory with me and to trust me to ride in their honor was a source of strength, especially through the end of the ride, the hardest part of the day.
In some ways, this part of the ride is very much like having Cancer. You have periods of frantic activity, where all you can focus on is the one task immediately in front of you. It's followed by longer periods of what can best be described as the doldrums. It would be easy to lose focus, or to have your mind wander, but then someone or something snaps you back, and you remember why you are riding, why you are here, and why you simply, above all, must not ever, EVER QUIT.
So we pedalled on. Kurt and I, heading for the next stop, a firehouse that was, by all reports from the last two years, kind of lame. It always makes me think of Donny Carnes, the son of a dear friend of mine, who died in a car crash in his sophomore year. Donny was a firefighter, and never would have settled for a lame rest stop at his firehouse. This year was a pleasant surprise, and I couldn't help but smile for Donny. There was music, a massage table, lots of food (SALT!) and the world's largest, coldest, most delicious grapes EVAR! There was a little girl serving the riders and I gave her one of my BUTNZ! You would have thought I gave her a pony, the way her face lit up. There was also a mom and her two sons way in the back, cutting up oranges. I mde my way back there and gave them BUTNZ and the reaction was the same. Kids love BUTNZ!
"Thanks so much for supporting us," I said.
She said, "No, thank you for riding for all of us."
My mantra fro the last 20 miles became "The harder I pedal, the sooner this is over." I was hurting. I didn't care. I just wanted to finish. When you get that close, you start thinking about the finish, and it was surprisingly emotional for me; I knew it was going to be a tough finish for me.
The last miles ticked away in a series of rolling hills. Kurt told me to go ahead as we approached the finish, and I zipped up my jersey (hey! I'm a professional--you have to be able to read the sponsor, right?) and rolled into the chutes. As I approached the finish, I heard my announcer buddy say, "Now finishing: Rob Duffield, Survivor. Hey--THE LOUNGE! I LOVE IT!"
I shouted up to him: "TEAM FISH! CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?"
"TEAM FISH!" he said.