The final day! The push to the finish. I laid in bed on Friday morning visualizing what it would be like to pull into the parking lot at Chomerics in Woburn, where this whole things started.
I got up and took a quick shower (even after taking a shower last night and knowing that I am going to do nothing but sweat all day, I still need a shower in the morning. It is part of the wake up process.) put on my bike shorts and a tee-shirt and brought my laptop case and fan down to the gear truck. There was a definitively different "buzz" around the truck this morning. Everyone was anticipating the return to home and normalcy. Riders who had, for whatever reason, that had stop riding throughout the week were back in bike gear ready to ride the final day. The riders who were normally barely awake on the other 6 days were bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to go. Breakfast seemed to rival one of the competitive eating contests. Not so much the amount of food eaten, but the speed at which everyone seemed to plow through their food. Then it was back to the room, get the rest of your gear on the gear truck, get your bike ready to go, and start pedaling.
If you look at the elevation profile in the Garmin details below, you will see that at the beginning of the day, there were still a few climbs that we had to do before heading down to Woburn. These started almost immediately, and they were those l o n g never ending uphills, that are not very steep, just never seem to end. The five of us put our heads down, got into a good pedaling rhythm and made our way over the top. after about 3 or 4 of these climbs came the fruit of our labor... the best downhill of the ride. The road had been newly surfaced, the downhill was more gradual that the ones in the mountains, the road serpentined slightly, and there was very little traffic. Before I knew it, we were at the first rest stop.
The rest stops on the last day were different as well. There was no sitting down and lounging. You got in, got what you needed, got rid of what you didn't need and then hit the road again. I made a quick pit stop, ate some watermelon and some granola, filled the water bottles, drank some gatorade and away we went.
The second rest stop was more of the same...get in get out and be done. There was a route change from previous years just ahead, so the volunteers did their best to get our attention and let us know to pay attention to the road markings. The next rest stop was different this year also... it stopped at an ice cream stand. So my ride between rest stop two and three was, for the most part, an ongoing conversation with myslef on the pro's and con's of getting a milk shake at the last rest stop. It has taken me months to tweak my eating habits while doing long rides on the bike. I have tried liquid protein, Gu gels, sport beans and the like, and I finally have it down well enough that I do not dehydrate of bonk while I am riding. Do I really want to mess with that formula at the last rest stop before the end of this big ride?
As we pulled into the parking lot of the third checkpoint, the volunteers had set up tents to the right, to provide us with shade during the stop, and the ice cream stand was to the left. As we pulled in, Rolland, Mike, Joe, Steve and Barb all headed to the right, but for some reason my bike just wouldn't turn that way. It headed right to the ice cream stand. I ordered my coffee milk shake and enjoyed it under the shade of the tents. It was alright, but it was not like Storm Bros. here in Annapolis, but it was OK.
We had 17 miles to go to the finish, and I figured that Rolland would start smelling home cooking and really start spinning the wheels to get back, especially on the flat terrain. Surprisingly, we kept a very comfortable pace and we all stayed together reasonably well, and before I knew it we were making the right onto Dragon Ct. Another 500 yards or so, and we would be done. We rode side by side, because Dragon Ct. Is basically a driveway into an industrial park area, congratulated each other and i thanked Rolland for being a great diesel engine. We crossed into the Chomerics parking lot to cow bells, applause, whistles and cheers.
That is not really a question that I could answer only minutes after finishing the ride this year. According to the Garmin data, I rode 569 miles, climed 23,000 + feet through 4 states over the course of 7 days. That was not easy, but I have to say that the hardest part was raising the money. That seemed to be the consensus with all of the riders that i spoke to. My donors were awesome, and gave above and beyond what I EVER would have expected them to give. Friends, family, co-workers and even former in-laws all chipped in to help me reach my goal. I could not expect them to do that every year, so if I do decide to ride again, the fund raising will be approached in an entirely different manner.
I left the parking lot in Woburn with a feeling of accomplishment. I headed back to Maryland and arrived home at around 1:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. When I pulled into the garage I was greeted by this banner that Courtney, Bev and Donna made for me. I am so loved.
Garmin data below