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All right, then. Team Hoyt was ready.
On Father's Day 1985, Dick fastened on a harness and ropes—discarded parachute straps from his National Guard base—attached to an eight-foot inflated dinghy on which Rick lay. Rain beat on Rick's head. He looked like hell, having pitched face-first to the asphalt from the van a day earlier.
It took nearly an hour for Dick to pull Rick's dinghy back and forth across Spot Pond. Then he peeled off his wet suit, cradled Rick in his arms and ran 200 yards to their bike, minutes vanishing as he made sure his sidekick was covered in suntan lotion, hydrated and Velcroed into his seat on a two-wheel cart behind the bike. The chair, buffeted by wind, whipsawed from side to side, dragging the bike with it, and finally toppled during a 90-degree turn and spilled them both.
Rick, accustomed by now to a mouthful of road, wanted more, so on they pushed, needing nearly four hours and finishing next to last. The new $4,000 bike and cart, much too precarious, were already obsolete. But now they were triathletes ... and what did time matter? Six triathlons a year were jimmied into their racing calendar; one year they did three Olympic-distance triathlons in a single week. Nothing could get in the way of the relentless training required to do this, nor the focus on logistics and equipment to preclude an accident that could bring down the world's wrath on Dick. It left Judy—hungry for notice of her groundbreaking summer camp where able-bodied and disabled children lived and played side by side—feeling ever more marooned, watching reporters and photographers stampede past her to get to them. But this is just what we've always fought for, Dick kept insisting. Look at the funds we're raising for your camp by hosting a Team Hoyt 5K race each year. Look at all the people we're reaching, all the awareness we're raising. Oh, no, this isn't what we fought for, cried Judy, choking on her husband's unawareness.
Ironman Canada called in '85. How about tripling the absurdity, Dick? How about a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and then a 26.2-mile footrace next year? Lunacy, thought Judy, and Rick did too, till Dick mentioned the lad's weakness—all the women they'd bump into, glistening in those Lycra racing microshorts—and Rick was in.
Race day came. Dick cramped in the frigid lake, his throat constricting, lungs gasping, arms and legs losing all feeling, and fell an hour behind the field but refused the safety boatmen who tried to fish him out. He stumbled ashore, trembling violently. He refused again when the doctor there told him he was done, and he climbed on the bike. Bees swarmed inside his helmet and stung his ear as he made the brutal ascent through Richter Pass, so exhausted that a photographer found he could perch right in front of Dick, barely backpedaling, and snap photos to his heart's content of Sisyphus going nowhere as fast as he humanly could.
Rick, normally lifted and repositioned once an hour to keep pain from seizing his crooked spine, had to endure the 10-hour bike ride without budging, his skin chafed raw, his bladder aching, his only recompense coming when they approached a well-packed pair of those microshorts and he'd turn and implore his dad not to pass; damn him, he wouldn't comply. Then they staggered through a six-hour marathon, reeling to the finish line 17 hours and 53 minutes after they'd begun. It was 1:30 a.m., with Chariots of Fire blaring on the speakers and spectators lined up four deep, cheering and reaching to touch them and dissolving into tears. "Isn't that the finest sight you'll ever see?" cried the P.A. announcer. "What a man! What a family!" Even Judy wept.
On Team Hoyt ran, and biked, and swam. With Rick so cocooned in panty hose and sheets and battery-powered heated hunting socks and five layers of clothes and sleeping bags against freezing winds and snow that people swore Dick was carrying a dummy—or a mummy. Through the lava fields of the Big Island in a half-dozen Hawaii Ironmans. Through Japan. Through Germany. Through the choked streets of Santa Ana, El Salvador, in the midst of a civil war, behind a wedge of 10 soldiers attempting to clear a path for them because so many people—convinced that TV images of the Hoyts had been a trick of American special effects—couldn't believe their tear-streaked eyes and had to take hold of the two men. And across the entire United States in 1992, Dick taking out a $70,000 loan against their house to finance the Trek Across America, awaking at four every morning to bike and run Rick from ocean to ocean in 45 days. Not a single day off, not after the nightmarish seven-hour bike climb to the top of the Rockies, not when the bike hydroplaned and spilled and Rick's helmet split open, not when Judy's dad died from throat cancer and cirrhosis.
She stayed at the helm of their donated RV when the news came, the toll mounting, the tension ratcheting. She stayed and kept watching her husband and son get showered with accolades and honors in town after town, unable to contain her suspicion that her son had been hijacked by Ahab's obsession, unable to bear another day on the Pequod but unable to leap overboard.
Until they got home. She was nowhere to be found when Dick and Rick poured a bottle of water from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic as the cameras whirred, or when 34,000 at Fenway Park stood and hurrahed as Dick and Rick put the ceremonial finish to their voyage by circling the field. A month before Rick's graduation from BU in 1993, a nine-year ordeal in itself, Judy wrote a letter to the family. The 33-year marriage of the Class Couple in North Reading High's 1959 yearbook was finished.