Maria continues her description of this ride.
The sun set and the air temperature dropped quickly. I stopped to put on my arm warmers, a light jacket, and gloves. It became clear that it was going to be much colder than I had planned for. Later I would learn that the temperature fell to 39F. I could feel my chest getting colder and colder and I knew I was going to need more clothing. I had to stop again to put on leg warmers and a puffy fleece jacket borrowed from a crew member. That helped significantly, but I was cold for the rest of the ride.
The last six hours of a 24 hour ride are the most challenging. I spent a lot of the last few hours praying for my sister and her family and imagining that with each pedal stroke I was grinding up the cancer cells. My stomach felt like it was full of rocks and every time I took a sip of something, it would squeeze painfully. I thought of Jenny vomiting after surgery in the hospital and thanked God for the ability to ride.
I was constantly buoyed up by my crew and a couple of really good friends. Jim surprised me by rigging up our Suburban with a PA system so that I could listen to my music without uncomfortable head phones. It was wonderful to rock-out as I rode. The crew could also talk to me this way and during the night my daughter called from Denver and it was great to hear her encouragement piped through the speakers. Unfortunately, by midnight I had listened to every song on my play list at least twice. I heard Elton John’s Tiny Dancer 4 times.
Hold me closer tiny dancer
Count the headlights on the highway
Lay me down in sheets of linen
You had a busy day today
My speed was dropping significantly. I was frustrated, but couldn’t seem to do much about it. I just kept pedaling. I divided the remaining hours into short road segments: just to the next church, then the railroad tracks, then the school, then that funny house with the big pine tree. I even began looking forward to the pit bull terrier that pestered me during every lap. I would remind myself that each bend, each turn, would bring me closer to being finished. Finally, I began the last partial lap. They told me through the speakers that I had 31 minutes, then 18, then 10, then 5 then 2. I counted down the last seconds. Finally 6 am and done! It was dark and I was cold and sick. I didn’t try to get off the bike because my head was swimming. Jim and crew helped me into the Suburban and then marked the spot where I’d finished.
A UMCA record attempt takes a lot of planning and assistance from many good people. I am so very grateful to the crew and officials, especially my son, Steven, and nephew Kent, and officials Rob Redfearn, Brad Losh, Tom Florian, and David Price. These wonderful men tolerated me and stayed up all night to watch and support me. Riding a bicycle for 24 hours is a challenge but watching someone ride for 24 hours takes real endurance and is a sacrifice.
It’s a privilege to ride a bike that makes me look so good. I work hard and prepare, but the real magic is in the Vendetta, thank you John Tolhurst for your brilliant designs.
My faith is an important though usually private part of who I am. However I feel compelled to mention God’s consistent goodness and care of me and my family, in especially obvious ways during these past weeks.
Finally, I am the luckiest woman in the world to be married to Jim Parker. He inspires, supports, and loves me as only he can, and has given me everything my heart desires.