Equipped to Finish

It was a hot day in the saddle of my bike…strong headwind, Ozarkian hills, and the heat of summer.  I rode in a training ride for the upcoming MS 150.  The MS 150 is an annual charity ride to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  This is my fifth year riding in the event, and at age forty-two, three kids, a full-time job, a husband, and a household to maintain, I do my best to squeeze in training time when I can.

Today, as riders passed me by, I thought, “Why can’t I keep up with them?  I’m trying just has hard.  My legs are burning.  My heart rate is up, and I’m eager, just like them, to finish this ride with a personal best time.”  

photo (73)I get “lost” in my head sometimes when out riding my bike on long distance rides.  If you ever need time to clear your head a bit, get a bike, pick a route, and take off. On my bike, I am able to work through so many challenges; physical, emotional, and spiritual.

As other riders passed me by, I started to think about life outside of my journeys on two wheels in the country.  I thought about the times when I have wondered, “I work just as hard as this person does.  I have more experience, and more time spent in the field.  I have just as much passion about the work at hand. Why do I seem to be passed by?”

As the miles clicked on, I found myself alone on the road with the sweltering heat and the odometer on my bike declaring how many miles I had yet to finish.  And then, I recalled Scripture:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” -2 Timothy 4:7

Now, I am not at all comparing the trials and imprisonment of Paul to my own traveling down the hilly roads on my bike.  Of course, not.

However, when out there today, on the road with the blazing hot sun glaring at me, and riders passing me by, I started to meditate and speak to God about life, and challenges both off and on the bike.  While doing this, I felt the Lord speaking back to me,

“I equipped you to finish the race…not best, not first, not fastest, and not necessarily with top honors.  I equipped you to finish it with faith, endurance, and courage.”

As the fifty mile training ride drew to a close, and I rode my weary body to my car, I continued to think on these things.  To finish the race; this race of life, with faith, endurance, and courage is by far, the most sacred of all finales as we make our way to our Home.

Whatever road you are traversing, hill you are climbing, or number of miles ahead of you, remember this,

God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  You have been equipped to finish the race; not first, not best, and possibly not with top honors.  Instead, you have been dressed in the fullness of faith, endurance, and courage.

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

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!