Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Unfinished Business: Dex Tooke

Available Through The Race Across America Store 
Dex Tooke is my hero, my model of how to be just a regular person who has an epic goal. He knew how to surrounded himself with a crew team of people who were totally invested in his succes--riding solo in Race Across America (RAAM) a one-stage race at age 60+. He fell short of the goal with the finish line nearly in sight in 2010. BUT, he got back on his bike a year later and crossed the finish line in Annapolis. His unfinished business was finally finished. 

Every year since Dex published his book, Unfinished Business, I re-read it just before the start of RAAM. Even though I know the outcome I'm riveted by his compelling telling of his 2011 RAAM. Tears roll down my face; I cheer for him; I feel his demons (and my own) trying to choke out success; I feel his mental and physical fatigue and that of his crew. After all, this is a one-stage race 24/7 for 12 consecutive days for rider and crew. I collapse in a puddle of delicious tears of triumphant success and fatigue when he and his crew are received at the Annapolis finish line. 

I am not and never was RAAM material; and, of course, I never will be given this is my 70th year.

But, I totally, totally relate to being just a nothing-special kind of rider who just happens to have my own version of epic goals. My most recent epic goal was that of riding 200 miles, a double century, in 12 hours. I caught the vision in 2011, went for it in 2013 and failed; went for it again in 2014 and failed. Went for it again in 2015 and Finished The Business--precisely 200 miles precisely in 12 hours. 

Still don't know how I did that, I really don't.

But I do know that Dex rode with me, especially in the last 30 minutes of my race against the clock. 

Let me share with you a few paragraphs from Unfinished Business that resonated in my mind's ear for the last minutes and miles of my 200/12 as I chased down my own ticking clock. 

*****

From Unfinished Business pages 166-167 by Dex Tooke:

"Time was so critical that Joni timed my 15 minute sleep to the second. I awoke and immediately started asking questions. Joni just told me, "Shut up, we don't have time for your questions. You just need to get on your bike and ride!" 

"It was a little after 3:00 a.m. when I climbed back in the saddle--in less than nine hours the RAAM official would turn off the clock at the finish line."

"I began to ride again, but my speed did not improve. Joe and Dan looked at their charts and they could see that my average mph was continuing to drop below the critical line. At this point, Joe was desperate to do whatever he could to keep my RAAM from going down the tubes, so he grabbed the PA system mike, knowing I could hear him better than when he used the headset, and he started working on me."

"Dex, you gotta go faster, You have to push. Dex, what do you want to say in three weeks? Do you want to go back to Del Rio and tell all the Dexans that you did the best you could but just came up short?"

"When you get back to Del Rio and speak at the Lion's Club and the Rotary Club, how is your speech going to end, Dex? Are you going to tell them you didn't finish RAAM? Are you going to give them excuses?"

"Dex, you are writing that speech right now. You are writing your final chapter in RAAM. How is that chapter going to end, Dex? I want you to show me right now with your pedals and your body how that speech is going to end. Do it right now, Dex." 

"Tears of joy poured from Joni as she saw me wake up. She said, "Guys, he is doing what he does best now. I've seen this before. He's going to make it."

"Dan called it the single most impressive demonstration of pure will he had ever seen." 

*****

As for me, well, when any of us is in our 70th year, the clock is proverbially ticking away from anything physically epic. 

What I knew was that on January 11, 2015 all the conditions were as favorable as they were ever going to get: weather, bike, crew, physical health. I needed to give this ticking clock everything I had and answer Daniel's loud speaker:

"Ok, Mama, you can do this, but you gotta pick it up, you can do this but you gotta pick it up. We're going 20 but you gotta pick it up to 21." You can do this Mama, yes, you can!" No coasting, you gotta keep pedaling; you can do this, grab my wheel. You can't let up."

And when my clock stopped, I had finished the business: 200/12, an accomplishment that could only have happened with a huge supporting cast on that day and many years of days before January 11, 2015.

Huge hugs of gratitude to all of you who have helped me finish this epic goal.