I will admit that I’m tired of riding, but I’m not tired of connecting with God, one person at a time. My legs are complaining loudly that they have enough of biking for a while, but my mind tells them to keep going because they are providing the opportunities to connect with others. However, they keep on complaining. Today the complaints came fast and furious. At first it was too many steep hills to climb when we (my legs and my mind) thought the worst was over. In actuality the worst is over, but even a short climb of 14% gets tiring. And then there was the road surface to complain about as it was far too uneven and rough for 20 miles. Once the road surface smoothed there was the headwind for a few miles.
Today I realized there will always be something to complain about if what you’re doing is significant. If anyone could pick up a bike and ride across America with no pain, no challenges, no complaints, then no one would care if you did it. If it weren’t for the presence of complaints, then I would not have so many speaking appointments, contacts, life lessons, and diapers for those in need. I had this same problem early in the ride, however for a different reason. Early in the ride I my fitness level was too low for the level of activity I was doing. So my legs revolted and I complained. Now my fitness level is very high but my fatigue level is also very high. So my legs have revolted again and I complained. But I know this ride is significant because I am doing it to join God in His activity across this country. I see Him at work more and more as I meet people in town after town. And so I laid the complaints to rest and my legs agreed because they want to be standing as I connect with others.
When your fitness level is low or your fatigue level is high, the complaints are bound to come creeping in. It’s worth remembering this fact. If you have not been spiritually exercising by sharing your faith and connecting with others, then you can expect to find yourself complaining more because your spiritual fitness level is low. The same is true if you are not resting in Jesus, allowing Him to fight your battles. When you fight your battles in your own strength without the help of a mentor, God’s Word, and/or His Spirit, then expect to find yourself complaining more because your fatigue level is too high. So exercise and rest. And if you find yourself complaining, make sure you know your spiritual condition. It could change how you see your challenges.
Ride Stats: Total Miles- 62.1 Elevation Gain- 3,533 ft Avg Speed- 11.3 mph Avg HR- 104 bpm
When I downloaded my Garmin into the computer yesterday, the resulting graph revealed it to be the most physically intense ride of the entire trip. Day 1 had a score of 505 (equivalent to over five 40k time trial races) while yesterday had a score of 626. I didn’t believe it because I didn’t think the ride was that hard. I rechecked to make sure I had uploaded the correct ride. I had. And then this morning I woke up feeling exactly as I did on Day 2 of the ride – exhausted and nearly without hope.
As I ride through Kansas, there is evidence of the drought all around me. I didn’t know how bad it was until Bob talked with the owner of a local laundromat who has lived through the droughts of the 1950’s and the 1980’s. She said this is the worst. They are in their 3rd year of drought. More farmers are selling everything and moving away every year. Feed lots are going out of business. Merchants are abandoning their shops and homes are being boarded up. There is a sense of hopelessness. It’s like being in a hamster wheel with every day exactly like the day before. Hope is in short supply in Kansas just like it is for families across this nation and the world who are in poverty. They see no answers and no end to the misery.
I can relate because I felt that way myself this morning. I want out of the hamster wheel! I want a rest. I want to see a difference. And to think that I’m just on a bicycle ride. What must it be like for those whose entire lives have been in a hamster wheel? But we do have hope. We live by faith. We have been called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to bring hope to those who are in a drought. The funny thing about a drought is that we can’t make it rain. It is a circumstance we cannot control. But we can live by faith. We can help one another. Without my team at my side, I’m not sure I could make this ride on the schedule I have to keep. In fact, I know I couldn’t do it. We need one another. We are called to reach out to those suffering in drought conditions.
As I began the first day of the second half of this trip, I was very tired. Two days of riding in the flatlands is beginning to takes its toll as there is never a “break.” In the mountains you expend a lot of energy getting to the peak, but then there is always a descent that allows you to rest while you move. This doesn’t happen in Kansas. The only way forward is to peddle and peddle and peddle. It’s no wonder that my legs were more sore this morning and during the ride than at anytime on the trip so far. In addition, the saddle sore is beginning to cause a little more problems though it’s not to the point of needing “hotel surgery.” By the way, if I need to lance it, I have injectable lidocaine on the way with Pam when she arrives on Friday. So lancing without lidocaine is “motel surgery” while lancing with lidocaine is “hotel surgery.” I have always liked hotels better than motels anyway.
To get through an 80 mile ride in Kansas I divide it into 4 phases in my mind. I begin with a 30 minute warm-up by keeping my heart rate in low zone 2 and then gradually allow my heart rate to reach high zone 2 and a little time in low zone 3. This whole process takes 2 hours and is always the most enjoyable. I feel comfortable on the ride with no fatigue or saddle soreness. At this point I feel like I could ride all day. But then after about 2 hours I usually begin having one pain or another. This begins phase 2. Sometimes it’s my legs that feel tired, or my neck and shoulders, or my saddle. I have gone about 30 miles by this time and I know there are a lot more miles so I don’t allow myself to dwell on the pain. In fact I force myself to stay seated (rather than standing on the bike & stretching) and focus on my pedal strokes. This is the “process” that we’ve talked about previously. Usually I get to the end of the third hour before I know it and have at least 45 miles completed. I now enter phase 3 that is the middle part of the ride. I know this is the toughest phase because I am already tired, I’m not close to being done, and I have to grind it out the next 25 miles to get to phase 4 which is when I can “smell” the finish. In phase 3 I take 5-10 minutes off my bike eating actual food for lunch rather than the bars and gels I eat every 30 minutes throughout the ride as I try to consume about 400 Cal per hour. The lunch breaks up phase 3 for me so I can make it through. Once I get to phase 4 I simply concentrate on my pedal strokes knowing that when I focus on the process it always gets me home.
As I thought about the phases today, I realized that the stats I report to you in this blog should be more than just interesting numbers. The real reason for the stats are to help me analyze my ride so I can ride better the next time. They also help me track my level of fitness. There are different stats that are important depending upon the terrain I am riding in. Elevation gain is a very helpful stat when in the mountains, while the temperature and wind direction are much more important in Kansas. So you will see below that I will change the stats I will be tracking.
This leads me to the question, What “ride stats” do I track in my spiritual ride through life? How do you know whether you are growing in Christ or not? How do you judge your spiritual fitness? As I ponder these questions, I realize that devotional time with God is a very important “spiritual ride stat” for me. Another one would be anger. When I find myself getting angry at drivers on the way to work or with my wife at home, I know my spiritual fitness has waned. But such “ride stats” are only helpful if we track them and use them to grow in spiritual fitness.
Ride Stats: Total Miles- 80.1 Avg Temp- 74.1 Avg Speed- 15.2 mph Avg HR- 113 bpm Avg Cadence- 83
An early morning start to beat the heat…