Tuesday, 15 July 2008

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Haven't made it to the city yet but finally found a PC here that doesn't treat Blogger like a bad word... I've been holed up in a motel in Deming for the past couple of days, doing a David Blaine and eating lots of Ben & Jerrys whilst watching good coverage of the Tour (and you can't imagine the joy at switching it on to see the peloton climbing the familiar "Pear-Sword"...). Naps have been frequent and I'm about to push the bike all the way to the Greyhound station, because for the first time in my life I am absolutely content not to ride it.

The one thing I really, really want to say here before I start wiffling on is that I have been absolutely blown away by the support from everyone who posted here and on the GDR blog and tried to get messages to me (messages which have required much tissue usage now I've finally got to read them, and would have caused further dehydration had I actually seen them whilst still ploughing along the trail). Thank you so, so much. I knew that frequent contact with home would make finishing that much tougher when it got difficult, so kept it limited to a few phone calls and carried thoughts of you all with me to push me along.

It really didn't feel like I was riding alone a lot of the time; I would be spinning along through these incredible places and thinking of you often and feel you all with me, despite the fact that at times I would ride all day and literally not see another living thing without feathers or leaves. Some of the places on route are so huge and remote that they defy existence; and some so quiet that even talking to myself (as usual) seemed uncomfortable and so I just rode on and on in silence for hours, trying not to be scared by the solitude that I thought I would welcome.

And then there was the joy of rolling into a town to see familiar bikes leaned up against gas station walls, happy faces grinning from behind a Subway, friends made on route who I'm longing to catch up with again in one way or another. I am so pleased that Carl had a storming ride, and that the Flying Kiwi made his sub-20; and that Geoff's keeping his options open, which hopefully will encourage David to do the same... Everyone rode so well, and so hard, all with their own battles to fight and in a way even though I didn't get my own "nice round number" in the end, I kind of feel like I share in yours, if that makes sense...

Physical damage is limited to slightly numb little fingers, some rather unpleasant saddle sores and peeling skin from constant exposure to sun and wind. Amazingly, that's all. There have been no long-lasting effects from the giardia (and I was absolutely scrupulous about purifying water taken from unreliable sources, even dodgy-looking taps, so who knows where it came from...). In Abiqui I weighed in at a smidge under nine stone; horrifyingly light for me and it took a few days for the food to start getting back to where it was useful but once the calories started getting through I really felt so much better. I only wish that I'd realised something was seriously wrong sooner, rather than struggling with it for five days and then having to battle the mental blow of losing the possibility of records, too. Having headed out here aiming to finish I was incredibly surprised to find myself not only able to ride but also enjoying the big mileage days that put me in that position; readjusting to 'just' making the time cut required another mental shift (and not a little self-flagellation) but I got there in the end.

I will write more about the ride itself later (there's a rapidly filling notebook in amongst the bits and pieces of my backpack) but the final day was somewhere around 190 miles, the last ten of which were the toughest I have ever ridden in my life. Knowing that Mary's family were still waiting at the border crossing for me (when she'd finished with Stephen several hours earlier) was the only thing that stopped me curling up by the side of the road to sleep, and I am deeply grateful to them for their kindness. The rising sun burst out through the clouds as I passed the 'mile 1' sign, in a way that could not even have been scripted, and there was an ambush of emotions that sent me through relief, sadness, exhaustion, loneliness, exultation and relief in the space of ten seconds. But it really only hit me yesterday, whilst watching the mixture of emotions flowing across the face of Cadel Evans as he received his yellow jersey, that I've done it. I've finished the Great Divide Race, the toughest mountain bike race in the world.

And I feel so incredibly proud.

j.

25 comments:

Andy said...

Congratulations Jenn.
(Andy C here - friend of Rory's)
I only picked up you were doing the ride with about ten days to go. Well done on doing something amazing; it was amazing to be able to follow the progress. I'm glad you got to meet Simon - I got to know him a few year's back.

Enjoy the aftermath of your ride, and take your time pondering the next challenge!

I'm not really gay said...

I'm so proud ?

so you bloody well should be you crazy bugger :-)

and because of your success I've decided to race another 24 hour solo race, if you can ride 2500 miles then surely I can do a couple of hundred !

rest up, stay safe and enjoy the rest of your summer, see you in the autumn

Steve

Minx said...

SO good to hear from you- now I can catch up on the Tour too....

trio said...

So nice to hear your views, look forward to more of it. Well done Jenn!!!

Nicky said...

I know of you but don't know you.. quite frankly 'impressed' doesn't cover it. Saying well done doesn't really suffice either... rest well and take care.

Bez said...

I'll cut the crap: You 110% OF ROCK.

Jill said...

Congratulations, Jenn. I too was on pins and needles most of that last week waiting for you to call in, knowing I'd be one of the first to hear about your whereabouts (I was the one updating the GDR blog.) Anyway, I wanted to tell you how deeply impressed I am with what you did out there. Few can even understand how difficult and amazing your ride was, myself included. Great write-up as well. I will be checking back often in hopes of more.

David Blaine said...

I am having a good laugh about "pulling a David Blaine". It is those small inside jokes that really connects all of us. If you think about it we did not spend that much time together but the shared experience of being part of a small group of people that have had the same unique experience creates a special connection.
I lost almost 20 pounds in the last two weeks of being sick so I know what you mean by "legs are like twiglets".
Now that I am finally starting to feel better I admit that it is hard not to think about next year.
Great job Jenn, next year people will be sitting around in motel rooms in Eureka talking about your amazing ride and wondering about what gear you used. You are a legend now.

Lisa Rowledge said...

YAY, great to hear from you Jenn, I feel complete now (that sounds lame) but you know what I mean (I hope!).

I had a lovely chat with Carl Hutchings today (he works at the storage unit where we store our Tour of Britain kit), it was so good to listen to what he had to say about the race and his experience meeting you. It's true and you'll be horrified, but you have a fan club out there!!! Anyway, I said I'd try to organise for us to get together when your back as Carl would really love to meet up with you again.

Enjoy your the rest, scenery, food, cake, pies, people and knowledge that you have rocked many peoples worlds in a very good way.

Big hug

Lisa
xxx

Adam said...

Hey Jenn, welcome back! (sort of)

You can be as proud of yourself as you like, it will pale into insignificance next to how the rest of us feel about you. :^)

I hope the Greyhound journey was a pleasant one (if you managed to stay awake) and you are now somewhere closer to civilisation, by which I obviously mean good coffee, good food and soft pillows for your weary bones.

See you in 5 weeks!

dRjON said...

bautiful. you and words...

Tom said...

Don't be too embarassed by the fan club Jenn! And you've more than earned the right to be proud.

And let's face it even those of us, who to be fair don't really know you or have simply seen you at events or have been lapped by you (*ahem*) are also incredibly proud for you too...by association if you see what I mean.

Anyway, as other's have said, rest up and heal those sores etc. Pig on food and soak up the Tour (wuses, they get a team, support and rest days dontcha know...)).

Keep writing the words too.

Tom

PS - hoping you'll do D2D this year, just so I can finally say 'hi' :)

Mel said...

Oh crap...and now i'm crying!
Well done Jenn...as i've said before...you rock. X

grant said...

Jenn,

When you spoke about doing this at SSUK08 I thought you were incredibly brave, but now you've done it words kind of fail me.

Just, wow.

Dave_A said...

Nice one. No something you'll forget eh? :o)

Anonymous said...

Jenn - you write as well as you ride.
Lovely,descriptive stuff - your Outcast article on 24hr hour mayhem some years ago was like prose poetry - I'm hoping there'll be something on your amazing ride sometime in the future.
Amazing.

Pixiefixie.

jumbly said...

Truly inspiring achievment. Well done!

Simon Kennett said...

Hey Jenn

You certainly deserve a chunk of my sub-20 time - you inspired me to ride long and hard. But forget 20 days - I wonder if you'd have cracked 19. If you had stayed healthy, I'm not sure when I'd have caught up to you - maybe Grants, maybe not. If I had caught you and ridden with you to Silver City, I suspect you'd have ridden on thru the night (while I slept) and made the border the same day I got there, but before noon. Voila - sub-19 pace!

Jasper said...

Been following your progress Jenn. Bit of an achievment (but what next?). Hope to see you back in boring old (and not so big) England soon.

craig said...

yeah, stop sleeping and get writing. people are eager to hear more.

from 'jenn superfan'


(okay, craig f really)

:o)

Jojo said...

Been using your achievements in this ride to inspire my own meagre efforts here in Blighty.
Be proud, be very proud. You've done something amazing that most of us will only dream of. :)
Jo

Julie G said...

Well done Jenn, we've been following your progress here in Glossop and was gutted for you when you got sick, but well chuffed you finished :-).

There aren't many people that would be capable of doing what you've just done or would have the strength mentally and physically to carry on day after day miles from home. You're inspiring.

Eat lots of cake, you've earnt it, rest well and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time out there. :-)

Julie

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