This might be a long one. Buckle up.
Last night, at 3 am, I was laying awake in bed writing a blog post in my head. I had just finished my last stage in the Alps, running a short day of 20 miles, which included an 11 km climb at 8,5% to finish the day atop Mount Semnoz. It was my last big climb and it was painfully steep. The fact that I was lying awake at 3 am when I knew that my body was exhausted and needed sleep more than anything else was frustrating and incomprehensible. I decided it was either because A. I had only run 20 miles versus the usual 30 B. I was buzzed that I would be driving to Paris today and see my sister Rosa, brother Gabe, and his wife Margaret in two days or C. My mind was only just then catching up with my body.
It was probably all of them, but the fact of the matter is, when I planned this whole thing back in January, the Alps were so far away they resembled nothing more than a chart of inclines and declines and Cols with names I couldn’t pronounce. After the Pyrenees, I had a bit of a confidence boost, but also experienced the opposite: I now knew how hard the less difficult of the two mountain ranges was – so I knew that from there it was only going to get harder. Then I hit a wall in the middle of France; a wall of overcast days and injured calves and swollen feet and the monotony of never ending wheat fields and hills that were rolling, rolling; always rolling and never leveling. By Lyon, you better believe I was damn ready for the mountains, ready for some excitement and a challenge that was more palpable and more daunting than a simple 30 mile jaunt through the valleys of middle France. After climbing my way up to the top of Mont Ventoux in sweltering heat amid herds of speedy cyclists, I remembered why I set out to do this in the first place and how good it feels to simply accomplish a goal or a dream or any task you’ve set for yourself, big or small.
And then I arrived in Gap, where I rested for a day before starting the most difficult week of this Tour. I re-read my training journal, double-checked my “schedule”, looked over the climbs again. It was going to be hard and I was ready to get it started. The next 7 days flew by in a way that only happens when each and every day is full of its own kind of hell and victory and your thoughts are never about tomorrow or next week but always just the moment right in front of you. The Alpe D’Huez gave me several memorable stress dreams in Richmond before I left, and in two days I was done and over and moving forward without even having too much time to think about what had just been accomplished, because the next day had its own new Col or summit or, sometimes worse, its own unrelenting descent. I rested one more day in Le Grand Bornard before starting the final Alpine stage in Annecy on Monday, and late last night long after my legs had finished and left whatever they had to leave out on the summit of Semnoz, my mind was finally catching up: I just ran the entire mainland Tour de France route. I just ran that. On my feet. And all those times I had my doubts and my questions and my uncertainties and I think somewhere mid-mountain yesterday I realized that everything we need to accomplish our dreams is already inside of us. We just have to draw it out.
All that lies between me and Paris now is a tiny stage from Versailles to the Arc de Triomph. However, I actually started my Tour in Nice, so that I could time it just right to finish one day ahead of the cyclists in the time I had and at an average of 30 miles a day. Which means that, while Paris is A finale, it is not THE finale – I’ll spend a few days here and then it’s straight down to Corsica to finish the three Tour stages there – the last of which might end with a surprise bang. It’s a weird feeling, because the finish in Paris is definitely an emotional, exciting one, but I also know I’ve still got 320 more miles to run, and I’ll certainly need some motivation on that – I suspect it might in some ways be more difficult than the past couple stages, just psychologically to go from the big push in the mountains to the run down the Champs Elysee to a return to the stages where it all got started, on an island away from the rest of France and with the Tour already over and done with. So if I can ask anything of everyone out there, it’s this: please keep sending the love and good energy my way until I finish for real on August 2nd!
And speaking of love and good energy, the last two days I have enjoyed the support coming from Richmond-based Health Diagnostics Lab as a sponsor of this run and World Pediatric Project! HDL has been a huge help in reaching our fundraising goal and knowing that I had someone matching my miles with a generous donation towards World Pediatric Project’s mission on three of my toughest and most exciting days – that’s a pretty good motivator : ) Thank you to everyone at the HDL team for helping us make history!