Day 7 - June 9
Ventura to Los Angeles
1798 feet of climbing
Big fluffy bed? Surrounded by family? Anticipation of tomorrow being the last day? Should have been the makings for a wonderful nights sleep. Unfortunately, I had quite the opposite experience waking up 3x to throw up whatever remained in my stomach and shivering in bed between episodes. As I lay there cursing whatever was making me ill (and of course googling my symptoms) I came to the conclusion is was probably just a combination of exhaustion, dehydration and heat exhaustion. Despite my diligent efforts to always be covered in sunscreen, I came home sunburned after day 6 and I know I didn't drink near enough since I finished the day with a full water bottle.
More than anything I was angry. This was the last day! My family was here, I was supposed to be celebrating, not feeling like crap. However, I vowed not to let this ruin my day. I had enjoyed every mile up until today and I wasn't going to stop now. I decided just to keep it slow and steady and soak in every last bit.
Kevin dropped me off at camp that morning and I met up with Samantha. I was so happy it was overcast and cool. It was a somber morning - quieter than usual. As we walked to our bikes for the last time everyone had a egg on their bike seat from the "Chicken Lady." The chicken lady is an ALC icon. He dresses in a colorful skirt, wears crazy glasses and carries a chicken purse. Inside the egg was an inspiration message and a "thank you" for riding.
Our "masher" jerseys had been such a hit earlier in the week we decided to wear them again. Samantha also got us "bad ass" socks.
Once we got on our bikes the first 20 miles was just flat and fast. We were heading back out to the coast and highway 1. We passed the Naval Air Station on our way to rest stop one where there was an ambulance stationed playing Kenny Loggins "Danger Zone" - well played Mr. Paramedic. We passed more lettuce (really?) and as we rounded the corner to the rest stop I saw the whole family cheering. I probably didn't show it at the time but seeing them all made me smile and helped me focus on something besides my upset stomach.
I had no appetite whatsoever but I forced down a few shot blocks and some water, said goodbye and Samantha and I were back out on the road.
The powers that be at least blessed us with perfect overcast cloudy skies and we enjoyed the rugged coastline to our right. Despite my queasy stomach it appeared a rider in front of us was much worse as he lost his got a little wobbly and lost his breakfast. I *literally* felt his pain but was happy mine was at least staying inside.
I saw my parents again at rest stop 2 (mile 30). I couldn't believe we were already halfway. It was all going so fast. I also caught a photo of the chicken lady.
I said goodbye to my family. The next time I saw them would be the finish.
Welcome to Malibu - the city of hills. Nobody mentions these hills - they just "appear" on day 7. There were times I felt like I was going 2 miles an hour and yet I knew the hill did not warrent such a slow speed. Slow and steady right?
It was very cool to watch the surfers in the water below - postcard perfect California.
Just before lunch we had a celebrity sighting - Cher's house! Just as Samantha was walking onto the driveway for a picture the gates opened and a black car with heavily tented windows rolled out. Cher? Chaz?
Lunch was on the Malibu bluffs just across from Pepperdine University. The mood at lunch was much lighter than it had been in the morning. I still couldn't eat anything but Samantha's husband had my Starbucks bottled frappacino waiting for me! We ate with the rest of Samantha's team and conversation quickly turned to what non-ALC food we were craving, how we were going to spend the next few days and who was going to do this again next year. With only 16ish miles to go I think we all wanted to get back out on the road and just finish and yet we all wanted to linger for that last moment longer. Soon we would be surrounded by family and friends and getting back to the real world. For just a few more minutes we wanted to stay together in the "ALC bubble."
|No more porta potties - no more bike racks.|
After lunch there was more climbing and the roads got extremely busy with traffic. With just 5 miles to go we made a left through a tunnel that took us to a more residential area with many stop lights. Somehow I must have just squeaked through a stop light and everyone else got stopped as I found myself alone on a shady residential street. I pulled over to wait for Samantha and it all started to sink in. 5 months of training, fundraising, over 500 miles covered on my bike in 7 days, an incredibly supportive, wonderful family waiting for me in a few short miles. For the past 7 days I didn't think think about the "big picture" - all I could muster was the "now" - "how many miles to the next rest stop," "apply sunscreen," "eat," "fill up water bottles," "eat," "sanitize hands for the billionth time after a porta potty," "sleep," "check tires," etc. It was so overwhelming I just started to cry - it just seemed like the right thing to do. Of course then I saw all the cyclists coming up the street and had to pull myself together but over the next few miles I just tried to remember everything I could. Orientation day seemed like years ago.
With every turn I thought "okay, here we go" but there was a lot of false finishes. I knew we were close though as there were more and more people on the street and I could hear the faint sounds of a crowd in the distance. Finally, we we at the entrance to the VA Center. I looked at Samantha and said "here we go."
The crowd was thick with spectators cheering and waving. I am sure I had the goofiest cheesiest grin on my face trying to hold back happy tears. I saw my family cheering wildly and making sure Samantha was next to me passed under the finishing arches. We crossed every finish line together and today was no exception.
I saw all my family . . .
And took a lot of pictures . . .
Officially 542.6 miles completed
100% of total route
We all walked to the car together and Samantha and I said our goodbyes and in time my family all had to go their separate ways too as everyone came separately. I am pretty sure I promptly passed out as soon as I got in the car and in just a short 5-6 hours up boring I-5 we were home (and to think it took me 7 days). They did have a closing ceremonies but we opted not to stay as we would have had to hang around for almost another 2 hours. Looking back I wished I would have stayed but at the time I was too tired to even think about it.
Almost a month from the date I began this journey I am typing these last few words. I can't believe it has already been a month and yet, I am still not done. I still have one more "final" thoughts post to come.
I was still pretty sick until Monday morning. I spent a lot of Sunday in a daze, napping and looking through all my pictures (I did make it out for a manicure). I still owe myself a massage - but all that will come in two weeks after Rev3. Monday morning it was back to the real world and my inbox.
But my brain was still out on the road.