Yesterday was the 29th Annual Audrey Prouty Memorial Ride. The ride, which is not a race, has options of biking 20, 35, 50, or 100 miles, starting and ending in Hanover, and is a fundraiser for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. This year the Prouty had 4,500 participants and raised over $2 million. I decided to ride my bike 100 miles – how hard could it be compared to some of the training that Pepa makes us do?
I had another reason, too, for choosing the longer option. I was riding in memory of my grandmother, Jean McIntyre.
I was a lucky kid growing up, because my grandparents lived on the other side of town. I could go over to their house after school every day, and I got to know them and spend more time with my grandmother than many kids get to spend with all of their grandparents combined. “Mommom” was a truly amazing lady: kind, thoughtful, hard-working, creative, and very nurturing. My first pony lived at their house, which made it even more exciting to visit. I learned my first lessons about taking care of animals, and always got to help name the lambs when they were born. I’d go over after school, and Mommom would make me cream cheese and homemade cherry jelly sandwiches, cut on the diagonal just like I liked. She taught me how to bake cookies and how to knit, using yarn that she had spun herself from the wool from her flock of sheep. When I was in high school she gave me a Canon A-1 camera and taught me how to use a darkroom.
But more than any of the skills she taught me, she taught me to be a good person (to the skeptics out there: think of how much more of a bitch I would be if it weren’t for her). I really enjoyed all the time I got to spend with her.
I rode my first Prouty (that I can remember) after Mommom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2001. Even though she was going through treatment and the cancer was wrecking her body, she and the rest of our family rode 20 miles together. It was amazing to see the willpower she used to get herself through that bike ride, and she was incredibly cheerful the whole time.
After Mommom passed away in the spring of 2005, I decided I would ride 100 miles. I had never done much bike riding and back then, I wasn’t in the kind of shape I am now – I was a senior in high school, a decent runner but not a great skier, and I didn’t even own my own bike. Nevertheless, my aunt Liz, my friend Julia Schwartzman and I rode 100 miles in the rain in memory of Mommom.
I missed the next few Proutys because I was working in Colorado. Last year, when I started living in Vermont (a manageable commute!), I rode 100 miles again, this time with my neighbor, Ray Clark. Ray is in great shape for being 60 and no doubt rode his bike much more than I did, but still rode kind of slowly. The 100 miles didn’t seem to hard.
This year, I rode with Sara Cavin and Ed Meyer. Ed is a really, really good rider. He goes to Cyclocross National Championships and stuff. Sara is also a very good rider. She rides about a million times as often as me (I hadn’t ridden in the last three weeks).
Not surprisingly, the ride felt a little bit harder this year! We rode much faster, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there were moments when I doubted I could stick with them for the whole 100 miles (this might have been in part because the first 25 or so miles, until we went down the far side of Mount Cube towards Wentworth, were in the rain, which was pretty discouraging). But in Haverhill, when I realized that we had already covered 50 miles, things started looking up. I knew I could ride the next 40 miles, which were basically flat, with Sara. Hills were my real problem. So we rolled along, taking turns leading and joining up with two other riders (whom we didn’t know) to make a 5-person pack. It was fun. It even stopped raining and turned into a nice day, and the scenery was beautiful: acres of farm fields in Woodstock, Newbury, Bradford, Fairlee, and Orford.
When we made it to Lyme, we were almost home. Just 12 more miles left. Unfortunately for me, we faced more hills, too. It’s not that they were big hills in any sense of the word, but for some reason my legs just weren’t with me yesterday. Sara and Ed dropped me at one point and it took me a while to catch up on the downhill – just like in the Tour de France, if you’re one rider trying to catch a group, it’s tough work.
In the end, though, we rode into Hanover together, triumphant, tired, and covered completely in sand and road grime. We munched on pizza and burritos, drank chocolate milk, and caught up with Sara’s parents and their adorable puppy, Cider.
I’m proud of myself for riding 100 miles in the rain, and sticking with Sara and Ed even when my legs felt like rubber. But I’m much more proud of my mother.
She’s the one standing next to me in the top picture. My mom has ridden the 20-mile loop numerous times, but she doesn’t really like biking. Last year she volunteered instead of riding. But this year, she decided to do the 35-mile loop. To get ready, she’s been riding her bike to work (15 miles) twice a week, and I think she’s even starting to like it. Yesterday morning, her riding partners bailed at the Lyme support station and decided to do 20 miles instead, because of the rain. So my mom rode on, by herself, and finished the longest ride she’s ever done in her life.
I like to think that my grandmother would be proud of both of us. Mommom, this was for you.