Out on the Road

photo (73)I rode my first charity training ride of the season this year.  It was a 50-mile ride for the local breast cancer foundation.  I love this ride, and participate in it every year.  It’s always extremely well supported with SAG and with just the right kind of nutrition at rest stops.  It also has mix of flats with several hills (okay, maybe I don’t love the hills).

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m usually one of the slowest of my friends.  I usually always finish well behind them, but, I really don’t mind.  My goal is to finish what I start in life!

The picture to the left is one I took while riding.  I like taking pictures as I can from the road.  The mirror attachment helps me to see upcoming cyclists, as well as, cars.  I usually don’t like to talk a lot while riding.  I sort of prefer to be a lone wolf.  It gives me time to think, pray, and process all that is going in life.  If I meet someone new on the road, I’m much more interested in listening to them and allowing them to entertain me as we move along the road, than I am in being the one who is talking.

I met up with a gentleman on the road who was 60-years-old and a veteran rider.  We talked about the usual things when out riding – hills, pace, “biking stories”, etc.  We also talked about prayer (love meeting other Christians out on the road).  He told me that his mother-in-law suffered from and survived breast cancer in the 1950’s.  She underwent a brutal mastectomy as well.  Through the years, he became very close to his mother-in-law. They went on fishing trips together, and when he was a young man, she bought him his first suit.  It was clear that he loves his wife and adored his mother-in-law.

In his mother-in-law’s later years, she was able to walk the full distance for a charity event for breast cancer survivors and earned a medal.  She is no longer living, but he takes the medal out with him each time he rides a big ride.  He has it neatly tucked into the Camelback he carries.  He said to me, “When I face a big hill, I say ‘Come on Liz. We can do this!”  This made me smile so much.

He went on to tell me that in 1996, when he was in his early 40’s, he underwent an experimental heart surgery.  The surgery involved taking out and essentially rebuilding his aorta with other valves from his heart.  The other valves were then replaced with donor valves.  His heart is  essentially held together with a mesh casing.  “About a year following my surgery, I did the “Hotter than Hell Ride” in Texas.”, he said.  I said, “What?!  How did your doctor feel about that?”  He said, “He was okay with it as long as I was feeling okay.”  For those unfamiliar, the Hotter than Hell Ride takes place in Texas.  It is a 100-mile ride, and well, as the name suggests, it is very hot!  Well, he felt okay, and has not stopped riding since!  I didn’t catch his name, but I sure enjoyed the miles I spent with the gentleman in the lime green jersey.

As I finished up my morning out on the road, packed up my bike, and drove home, my mind kept going back to the man I spent a few miles with.  Here’s what I was reminded of today from my experience:

  • People have incredible stories if you allow them to tell you.
  • The cycling community is made up of a diverse population of people who I absolutely enjoy spending time with.
  • One is never too old to take up a sport.
  • The survivor spirit is strong, and capable of overcoming the greatest of obstacles.
  • Prayer is powerful.

Oh yeah, and it IS possible to get along with your mother-in-law!

Strength Training

I love cycling!  I just started a few years ago and thoroughly enjoy it. I have been able to meet an eclectic group of fellow cyclists, make some new friends, see parts of my state I would otherwise over-look, and witness in small ways about my faith in Christ.  A lot of issues have been worked on and prayed for while out riding in the country.  I really enjoy riding in local charity events and end my “season” with completing a 150 mile ride to bring awareness and raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis.

There are numerous hills dispersed throughout my corner of the state in Missouri.  Oh, I love going down them, but climbing back up is a whole other issue.  Often, I just want to unclip my shoes, get off the bike, and walk up.  But, I don’t (okay…well maybe a few times).  Instead, I huff and puff my way up these “Ozarkian” hills.

The bike is not to blame.  It doesn’t change.  The suffering of the ride really has nothing to do with the bike, but instead, my lack of focus, determination, and training….oh yeah….and those darn hills.  I am now realizing that perhaps my cycling journeys represent my walk with Christ.

I’ve found that when being challenged by a major hill that feels more like a mountain, I’ve struggled with the instinct to just keep my focus on the Lord.  It can be hard to stay determined to make it up that mountain.  I have wanted to do it all on my own and not allow the Lord to help me up it.  Then there are those times when life is good and I’m just flying along.  I fail to notice or acknowledge sometimes the One who gives me those moments where I am carefree, content, and not having to work very hard.

Like cycling, I think that walking with the Lord takes practice.  Let me explain a little further. Before I fully committed myself to the Lord, I did not realize how important it was to stay active in faith.  I just assumed that I could be “immobile” and the Lord would take care of it all.  I did not pray that often, barely cracked open my bible, and never went to church.

Through the past 12 years since I have surrendered it all to Him, I have learned that being active in my faith requires daily “training”.  Prayer, acknowledging His good works in my day-to-day life, trusting Him daily, reading the Word, tithing, being active in church, serving others….the training regiment goes on and on.  I do not want to be a lukewarm, out-of-shape Christian.

When I am out on my bike and really feeling every muscle in my legs burn, I start to recite to myself “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  

If I look up the road and see what seems like a monster of a hill coming, I recite “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  

If nearing the end of a long ride and I am just worn out, I tell myself “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Just like training rides build up my strength and endurance, my daily walk, or run for that matter, with the Lord builds up my strength to face the mountains in life.  Christ strengthens, Christ builds up, Christ refines, and Christ declares the victory.