Day 54: Lion’s Head to Guelph 197km
Last night I was having a lot of trouble falling asleep. I was feeling completely defeated by the weather and having a mix of emotions when thinking about how close I was to getting home. I had initially planned to try and get todays ride done before lunch so I could visit with my family in the afternoon. With having to call it quits yesterday I knew that it was not going to happen and I would have to wait until the late afternoon to see them. One friend of mine suggested that maybe it was meant to be as I wanted one last long ride. When I got up in the morning I thought about her comment. Maybe it really was meant to be and by the end of the day I will be feeling great even if it made me late. I also really appreciated receiving a message from Clara Hughes cheering me on for today’s big ride. I was blown away by everyone’s outreach of support yesterday when they recognized how low I was feeling. It made me realize I may be physically biking alone but I am biking with so many amazing supporters across our country that all want to increase awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.
The outpouring of support and encouragement gave me exactly what I needed and my energy kicked in. It was about an hours drive back to where we had left off yesterday. I used this time to fuel up for the day. Early mornings on the bike always feel so refreshing. The sun is not fully up, the sky looks beautiful, and everything is so quiet and peaceful. As soon as I started riding I was feeling really strong again. Thankfully I did not have headwind hitting me all day. I was cruising along thinking of seeing my family later today and everyone in the park tomorrow. It put such a huge smile on my face thinking of this.
I was also really into Harry Potter today as I was at an intense part of the book. I wanted to know what was going to happen so I did not want to stop. My mom was amazing today. She knew that I had a low day yesterday and was supporting the best way she could today. She would have food ready when I showed up and would say something motivating or encouraging putting a smile on my face. Though I am the one cycling it really has been such a team effort and I am very grateful for her support throughout this trip. Not too many people would want to sit in a car for 7 and half weeks to make sure a cyclist has everything they need. I don’t think I would ever do it. She really is the hero behind the scenes.
At the hundred-kilometer mark I decided to have a donut and a celebration dance. I was making great timing, my confidence, strength and motivation had come back in full force. I wanted to capture this moment and got my mom to take a video of me dancing and celebrating. This was the last long ride of my journey that I would be doing on my own. I think I also needed to prove to myself that I could do these long days on my own again as I had become used to cycling with Will and having someone to go through the feat of mastering a long day. I was feeling on top of the world. I called my brother to say that I was probably going to arrive in the late afternoon. He reassured me that it was great timing and that it will work out well with everyone driving up to Guelph to see me. Hearing his voice and knowing how soon I was going to see him and the rest of my family made me even more excited. I flew back onto the bike to continuing pushing forward.
At about 60km left I started thinking how I was fading a bit. I had been riding pretty fast all day and did not know if I would be able to keep it up for the rest of the ride however I did not want to fall behind schedule. I thought about how close I was to home and was hoping that somehow someone would appear to give me a boost or to cycle with me. I knew I was close enough that it could happen though none of my friends had mentioned coming out today. I turned Harry Potter back on. I was finding myself very annoyed and frustrated with one of the characters and yet became focused on the book and the road ahead of me. At that point I heard sirens coming. The shoulder was very small so I just focused on staying on the edge and riding straight in hopes of not being in the way. The sirens were getting louder and closer. Then all of a sudden I realized it was not sirens, rather it people were yelling at me through the roof of a convertible car. I was flustered and could not understand why these people were yelling at me. At first I did not recognize them and then I spotted a Ride Away Stigma t-shirt. I thought I must know them. Finally I noticed my friend Nisha and got extremely excited that she had come all the way from Toronto to surprise me. I wondered who else was in the car and thought maybe it was her sister and sister’s boyfriend. This was all happening so fast and I was trying not to fall off my bike with all the excitement. The car pulled ahead of me and onto the side of the road. The driver jumped out of the front seat and that is when I realized Nisha was with my two Irish friends who live in New York City. I almost crashed right into Declan as I went to hug him and threw my bike, which luckily he caught. I then saw Laura and gave her a huge hug too. It took me at least a few minutes to be able to put a sentence together. I was laughing, crying, shaking and most of all I was just blown away. I think the first thing I said was that they were in Canada! All summer I had wanted Laura and Declan to come to my closing ceremony but I thought that there is no way it would be to ask them to fly all the way from NYC. It was just the most amazing surprise I have ever had.
My mom explained to me that she and Nisha had been talking all summer about how the surprise would work and when I cancelled the hotel yesterday for tonight she had to call Nisha to ask her to rebook the room. It was so sneaky of them. I really had no idea at all that this was happening. Laura then hopped on a bike and cycled with me for 15km. The first few kilometers all I could say, repeatedly, was how I could not believe she was here and screamed a lot. Once I calmed down enough, we were able to have an actual conversation and catch up on how our respective summers had been. Then Nisha cycled the next 15km with me. I explained to her how I thought she was being distant the last couple of days and was sad thinking that she wasn’t sharing much excitement for how close I was to home. I now completely understand why she was acting like that and we laughed at how it all worked out. After her ride I asked if it was okay for me to cycle on my own as I wanted to cycle as fast as I could to be able to get back to the hotel and catch with them.
As I cycled the last bit I now had even more to look forward to. I could not get over the fact that my Toronto/NYC friends had surprised me and once I arrived at the hotel I was going to be able to see my family some of whom flew all the way in from Florida. I thought how fortunate I am that so many people have put in such a huge effort to come all this way. The last ten kilometers were hard as I was so close but my body was starting to get tired. I finished the 197km day at the hotel in Guelph. Once I got to the hotel room where my friends were waiting I could not stop thanking them and telling them how happy they made me. I got ready for dinner quickly as I knew my family would be there any minute. I got the call to say they were downstairs in the lobby. As soon as I got off the elevator I heard them cheering “Dee-Dee….Dee-Dee”. I ran around the corner and started jumping into each of their arms. Ahh this is really happening. I have cycled from Vancouver and been greeted by my family. I had dreamt of this moment for so long. Having all of them there made me not even the slightest bit tired after the monster of a day on the bike. It was the most amazing evening catching up with everyone and I did not want it to end. I was sad when my family drove away but knew it was going to be so exciting when I saw them tomorrow on the road and in the park. I am really grateful that my friends were spending the evening with me as it helped me stay relaxed and not feel overwhelmed. I joked to them saying how it was like they were my bridesmaids sleeping over the night before my wedding. Hehe. It was just so nice to have them there. Holy moly how did I become so fortunate to have such amazing love and support from everyone.