Paul and I quickly fell in with Andy, a foul-mouthed guy from Plymouth Meeting. He said he was riding for his friend who had died from intestinal cancer. Andy wanted to remember him properly, and he thought the ride would be the ticket. He was skilled rider, and strong on the climbs. He could also curse a blue-streak that would embarrass a Marine. At one point, he said, "I'm not a #$*&ing religous guy" and I replied, I am. He asked why, and I told him my story, and he agreed he could see, maybe, how God was working in my life. It was an interesting moment. Interestingly, when he pulled up next to us, I was wondering how much longer I was going to have to ride with this #$*&ing guy, and when we separated, I honestly wished it would have lasted longer. God does continue His work....
The LiveSTRONG Challenge does bring out both the best and the worst in people (it's a lot like cancer in that way). Readers of this blog might remember how I almost got into a fight with a Prius guy two years ago (STORY HERE). As Paul and I pushed into the last 20 miles, a guy in a convertible BMW rolled by heading the opposite direction, raised his hand (or, more accurately, one-fifth of his hand) and gave us a "salute". I can only assume our ride to beat cancer had ruined his afternoon drive. Paul asked me if anyone had ever, in the history of cycling, received that "salute" and just decided in that moment that, "You know what? Gosh darnit, you're right. I really need to stop riding my bicycle because it's ruining the drives of all these people in their fancy cars."
Ummmmm...no. No cyclist ever has.
The irony is that, in a BMW convertible, flipping the bird to people actually exposes it to sunlight. Which causes cancer. The irony was not lost on me. Or Paul.
Mile after mile, Paul and I pedaled onward. The last section of the ride actually looks very similar. Hills, rolling hills. And more rolling hills. They're not big hills, but they are consistent. We call them rollers. Up and down the rollers we went. It affords you time to think, and for me, I have always used this time to think about the people I have known through cancer. this year, I spent a lot of time thinking about the man who would have been my father-in-law. He passed away shortly before Mrs. Fish and I started dating, and I was sad that he never got to see what an amazing woman she has become. Even sadder, he never got to meet Li'l Fish, and to see just how amazing she is. I can't help but wonder at how cancer had robbed him of this, and robbed us of that experience.
And then Paul and I rolled over the last hill and I was looking down at the bottom of the hill and the area where the finish line was. It always catches me a little off guard, because it's so unexpected. After dozens of hills, you're suddenly...DONE. Paul and I coast down the hill and he heads left in the supporter's chute, I go right into the Survivor's chute, and for the sixth time, the announcer says:
NOW FINISHING, ROB DUFFIELD -- SURVIVOR!