Last Saturday - August 13 - we drove over to Hobbs, NM, to ride the Roll for the Cure 50K bike race: Mark Foster, Corry Callaway, David Nobles, Todd Green, and me. We took my pickup with a hitch-mounted bike rack holding three bikes, and two bikes in the bed on a rack built by Todd. All five of us rode in the pickup, and we had a great time talking about family, cycling, and ministry all the way there and back. Possibly my biggest spiritual influences in the past few years have been trips just like this one, traveling with guys, whether to hike the Guadalupes or a bike race. It’s especially true during the ride home; shared hard effort loosens guys up.
Todd raced the 100K, and would have finished at least 3rd place but he got bad directions toward the end of the race from one of the course marshals, causing him to miss an additional loop. Even after returning to the course he still came in 5th.
The rest of us “raced” the 50K. When we first started talking about doing the Roll for the Cure I briefly considered entering the 100K. I’m a marathon runner, after all. I might have been talked into it in a soft moment, but I’m glad we decided to do the 50K instead. When it comes to cycling, my legs aren’t my weakest link; that would be my seat on the bike seat. 50K was plenty.
David was definitely the strongest rider our group of four, and he pulled us most of the day. We each took brief turns at the front, but David did most of the work. I personally had my worst patch between miles 17 and 19 when I would’ve fallen off pace significantly had I been riding alone, but the presence of our team inspired me to keep working hard. I didn’t want to fall back and lose contact. Our plan was to keep our cycling speeds above 15 mph, a significant goal for us newbies, and by the time the day was over David had pulled us to a 17 mph average.
Cycling is new to me, at least in the modern era. I enjoyed riding as a kid, picked it up as an adult in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but gave it up for some reason. I resisted returning to the sport for years despite sustained pressure from my brother, Carroll, who seized any opportunity to bring it up whenever I complained about sore knees. I used all the predictable excuses: I didn’t want to spend big money for a good bike; I didn’t like sports where the more you spend the faster you can ride; I didn’t have time to fit another workout into my schedule; riding among auto traffic was too dangerous; and, like that. Finally I was squeezed enough by Carroll and friend Mark to take it up again, and since I also wanted to ride with nephew Kevin, I bought a Fuji hybrid bike. Now I’m having a great time.
One thing I like about cycling is I have lots of room for improvement. At my age, I have plateaued in almost everything else that I do, but since I have strong legs and no lingering injuries to body parts important for cycling, I have potential to ride much further and faster than I have so far. I just need more time in the saddle. And I need a leaner motor.
Maybe what I’ve enjoyed most is doing something new. You know how it is - whenever you first start doing something, all of it is new and exciting, and you don’t really know what the significant or important parts are yet. Cycling. like running, takes a lot of miles to understand the subtleties, to get over the initial excitement of participating and start to understand the changes in your own heart and soul and mind and legs. And real change comes only through discomfort. Or at least, sustained effort. You must be willing to hurt in order to get better.
It has been suggested that I shouldn’t make everything an intellectual exercise and I should just learn to enjoy the moment. That’s probably good advice for most people. However, I know this about myself: If I’m going to take on something of value, I must become a student of it. I don’t mind being a beginner, but I don’t want to stay a beginner. It isn’t enough to participate; I have to understand.
I also know that I have to tell stories. For me, no adventure is complete if I don’t have a story to tell and someone to tell it to. I don’t enjoy participating unless I learn something, and I don’t enjoy learning unless I can share it. If I don’t have a story, well, it never happened.
If you are a regular reader you know whenever I write about running or backpacking or family life, or cycling, it’s never really just about those things. I don’t know how to distinguish between my spiritual life and what we used to call secular life. It is all life. It all runs together. All the stories mingle and overlap, and that’s the reason I tell stories. Sooner or later they all circle around to how we change in our hearts and in our minds.
I expect that will happen with cycling. I know I need to read more in order to know how to write better about cycling. And my observations will change as I change. I’m looking forward to it, I must say.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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