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.