I am finally home at my desk. We had rain today as we started out on our final ride. The temp was around 39 degrees. It was cold. But I was used to that, right? After everything I’d been through, what’s another hundred miles today. That’s what I signed up to do in the Dempsey Challenge, the event named after Patrick Dempsey the actor, to benefit the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing. I stood there at the start line as the rain began to fall. It had rained overnight and had stopped before we lined up. I had hoped it would hold of for a few more hours. But, that was not to be. The 4,000 other cyclist standing with me all began to shiver in collective unison. Speeches had to be made, people had to get awards, we just wanted to get riding. The rain filled the grooves in my helmet and every so often I would lean my head forward and about a cup of water would pour off in front of my face and splatter on the pavement at my feet, reminding me that for some reason, I didn’t put my insulated shoe covers on this morning.
We were finally sent off with a countdown and the entire group rolled out of the start paddock as one. We made a few turns, crossed a bridge and headed out of town, still in a steady rain. In not too long I began to feel my feet getting wet from the road spray. Then the back of my pants. My top half was fine, but my feet began to get cold as soon as they got wet. By the time I got to the 10 mile mark, my legs, feet, head and neck and gloves were soaked to the skin and freezing. I gave it some thought, just a little, and decided that I had done enough for Mother, Country and Cause and I have had just about enough of being wet and cold. I turned my bike off to the right at the ten mile marker, cutting my planned route by 90 miles. I felt guilty for a few minutes, until I saw others turning too. I linked up with several other riders who said they had planned to ride further too. It was just too cold and wet.
I rolled into the finish to no pomp and circumstance, no band playing, and very few cheers from the die hard supporters at the fence, just a cold PA announcer reading the names of the few “Early Birds” who were coming in. I met my wife and I went and got changed into dry clothes. After that, I waited for my team mates to come in and cheered as many of them as I could. They all rode either 25 miles or fifty miles. A couple of brutes did ride the 100 mile route too. The rain had eventually stopped and Anne and I waited in the cold damp air to greet my team. They were frozen. They were soaked. They were very happy they decided to ride. All they could say was how beautiful the country side is in Maine. That is why they rode today. I see that country side every day, so I’m glad they could take that away.
I am still trying to get warm and I feel like I need to go to sleep. Exhaustion is still knocking at the door.
A busy, exciting, exhausting 10 days has finally come to an end. I can’t say I’d do this cross country ride again, but I am very glad I did it. I said goodbye to my team today, those I could f ind. I walked away from the Dempsey Challenge with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Another bitter sweet moment. It was finally over, but I’m sad it’s over. I will miss my team and hope to keep in touch with them.