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The finish of Paris-Brest-Paris 2015. I AM AN ANCIENNE!

THE FINISH

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

By the time I had reached the Dreux control during Paris-Brest-Paris 2015, I had traveled 724 miles (1,165km) and climbed over 35,000 feet of elevation gain on 4 hours of sleep. The 39 miles to the finish at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines would prove to be the most difficult physical, emotional and mental test of my life.

I was also plagued by Shermer’s Neck at around mile 640 en route to Mortagne-au-Perche.  What started as a general neck discomfort developed into a rapid progressive loss of the ability to extend my neck for about 90 miles.  Shermer had paid me a visit and was going to be my stoker on the imaginary tandem bike on my ride into Paris.  With no cervical collars, braces, towels, masking tape or a bungee cord available, I had to improvise my way to the finish.

Pedal. Smile. Repeat.

Pedal. Smile. Repeat.

Pedal….Pedal…Pedal…

At the Dreux control, several of us happened to meet up to rest before our finish.  The group included Eric Peterson, Rob Schaller, Michael Billing, Jon Batek and me.  We rested for awhile and wished each other a safe ride to the finish.

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Shermer’s Neck

As we began to leave, I expressed my concern to Eric about my neck and my inability to effectively hold my head up.

I headed out from the Dreux control towards Saint-Quentin en-Yvelines with Eric and Rob and it started to rain. Up to that point, we were very lucky with the weather and had no rain during the entire ride.  Eric rode up along side me and said, “So, what do you think of PBP?”  I exclaimed most confidently that it was one of the best adventures I had ever been on.  And this was true.  This experience connected me to the country and people of France as well Randonneurs in the US and worldwide.  Paris-Brest-Paris was magical.  It was truly an adventure of transformation.

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Photo courtesy of Ivo Miesen

Pedal. Smile. Repeat.

Pedal. Smile. Repeat.

Pedal….Pedal…Pedal…

My neck was in bad shape.  I longed for anything to help support my head and envisioned using masking tape to secure my ponytail to my seat post.  Or, using a bungee cord to attach my helmet to hold my head up.  Unfortunately, nothing was available at the time.

AUGUSTE RODIN LE PENSEUR

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My last 39 miles. OUCH!

Without the use of any type or bracing device, I knew that in order to finish I would have to improvise.  As I started to ride, one thought immediately came to mind.  I was going to employ the famous Auguste Rodin “Thinking Man” Le Penseur pose for the last leg of the ride!  For the final 39 miles, I continued to pedal and worked through the challenge by switching in between my left and right arm to support my head.  I switched arms every mile for the next 39 miles.  I rode one handed and supported my head with my other arm.  Every mile, I would switch my arm.  39 miles and switch arms…38 miles and switch arms…37 miles and switch arms and so on and so on.  The Thinker was conceived in 1880 as the crowning element of The Gates of HellThe Thinker was entitled The Poet. He represented Dante, author of the Divine Comedy which had inspired The Gates, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell, while meditating on his work. The Thinker was therefore initially both a being with a tortured body, almost a damned soul, and a free-thinking man, determined to transcend his suffering through poetry.  How ironic, the theme was in parallel with me for this position of a tortured body, determined to transcend my suffering through perseverance.

There was still some climbing left through the Rambouliette Forest.  I stood on my pedals and employed the entire strength of my core to keep me upright and accentuate the extension of my entire spine and hips so I could see where I was going.  I pushed through the excruciating pain in my neck.  It was unbearable.  The last hill I had to climb was so painful, I cried the entire climb up that last hill.

IT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT 39 MILES I HAD EVER RIDDEN IN MY LIFE. 

The pain of pushing forward was unbearable at times, yet I was committed to finish.  I tapped into my mental reserves to take over where my physical body could not.  My body was telling me to stop moving. My mind kept saying to me 4 simple things.  I used this phrase to override my body and pushed through the pain…

Pedal. Smile. Repeat. Switch arm.

Pedal. Smile. Repeat. Switch arm.

Pedal. Smile. Repeat. Switch arm.

Despite the extremely difficult miles towards the finish, I never lost sight of my goal.  Nothing was going to stop me from finishing the 18th edition of Paris-Brest-Paris.  Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  I knew this to be so true.

Pedal. Smile. Repeat. Switch arm.

Pedal…Pedal…Pedal…

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I believed and so I could.

Pedal…Pedal…Pedal…

I COULD DO IT!

I BELIEVED…. AND SO I WOULD…

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Pedal….

Pedal…

Pedal…

I WOULD DO IT!

I BELIEVED…. AND SO I DID!

At 88:46:36, 3 ½ days after leaving Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and completing 764 miles and 39, 723 feet of climbing, I finished the 18th edition of Paris-Brest-Paris 2015.

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#T073 crossing the finish line of the 18th Edition of Paris-Brest-Paris 2015.

I became an ANCIENNE of Paris-Brest-Paris.

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I AM AN ANCIENNE.  Homologation #T073 PARIS-BREST-PARIS 2015

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After crossing the finish line of Paris-Brest-Paris, I literally stopped and exhaled one of the deepest breaths I had ever taken.  I was quickly greeted by Eric, Rick, Rob, Kathie, Bob Booth, Jose de Arteaga and Melissa Hardin.  It was so good to see them.  But my favorite final moment of Paris-Brest-Paris, was when I saw my Alison.  I had completed an epic adventure.  She was waiting for me at the finish and I literally collapsed into her arms.

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Home Sweet Home

I was done.  I was safe.  I was home.  And home never felt so good.

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Being interviewed by Marion Dupuis of Tandem Image for Le Film of Paris-Brest-Paris.

 

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Validating my Brevet Card inside the Velodrome National Saint-Quentin-En-Yvelines.

I AM now an ANCIENNE in the Le Grand Livre, the Great Book of Paris-Brest-Paris.

And so, like with every great adventure in life, I took time to reflect…

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10 Comments »

  1. Just loved reading this, you are amazing and write so beautifully making us all feel like we were on this journey with you. Congrats! So proud to be your friend.
    Rita

    Like

  2. Nothing more scarier, for me, than to have you riding in a strange country but so happy for your adventure because you were so pumped to do this. All your life, once you set your mind to do something, nothing would stop you. BTW, you got that from my side of the family LOL😂😂
    So proud of you, my beautiful/amazing daughter 😘😘

    Like

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