The Faithless Cyclist

It has been a while since I blogged about my Double Century. There could be loads of excuses, but the truth is I lost my faith in God. Now before you flip out, I have not stopped believing there is only one God, heck, even the demons believe there is only one God! One of the big things I am learning through this Double Century challenge is faith is not about knowledge but rather it is about doing despite a lack of knowledge.

The faith that God is asking of us is not perfect knowledge, which is for him and him alone. He is asking us to have faith in him, faith in the mystery we call the divine wisdom, the unknown. My struggle is that now that I know his voice, faith is simply a matter of following that voice even when I don’t see the point.

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First ride with DeBrim

Back in April I headed out on my Double Century. From early on everything was off. I got a late start. I took my new DeBrim. It is a wonderful product designed to keep your head in the shade. While I think it is a wonderful product on the flats, it doesn’t do so well on the downhill for me, I go too fast and it tends to come off. Early on I learned that the hard way and had to turn around to get it. There was the windy day factor, too. The DeBrim is a kite in the wind. Oh, and I have now learned that the new tires I just put on the bike were slowing me down.

At the 45 mile marker I looked at my watch and saw that I was running really late, over 45 minutes behind schedule for the first control. Considering I was up at 4:30am, the idea of rolling in at 1am just did not appeal to me. I called my wonderful wife and discussed it with her. The end result was neither of us could figure out a reason for me to keep going. I promptly did an about-face and headed home in great peace! I got home as Irma pulled in from work and we spent a wonderful afternoon and evening together! Since it was my first ride with the DeBrim, I had her take this picture of me with the DeBrim:

I realize it now: what happened was I lost my faith. Long ago I realized something about myself: I simply cannot do something for no reason. I have to see a purpose in what I am doing. Where my faith struggles is with the fact that God doesn’t always show us the purpose. When I don’t see the purpose, I want to throw in the towel.

Having DNFed one month, the next month was that much easier! I don’t know what happened exactly, other than I was in a very sour mood and at 11pm the night before I could not get the printer to print the brevet card (that is the card I get filled out at each control stop as proof of my passage). I said heck with it, it is suppose to rain tomorrow, I ain’t doing it! And I didn’t 😉 Again, a DNS due to a lack of faith. I simply was not seeing the purpose in these crazy rides.

I love this quote from Richard Rohr: God is humble and never comes if not first invited, but God will find some clever way to get invited.

I do not recall how it all played out, but God did his thing. One big part of it was the start of the Trans Am Bike race. It is a 4200 mile race between Astoria, Oregon and Yorktown, Virginia. There is zero support, just you, your bike and what you carry on it. How fast can you get from one side of the country to the other? It started the following Saturday.

Since this crazy ride has been and continues to be at the top of my bucket list, I have been following it. There is no media coverage per se, so the only real way to do this is via social media, as those in the race post stuff on a regular basis.

One rider, Lee Fancourt, was doing little 3-minute video blogs from his bike. I have to be honest, at first I thought he was really arrogant, but entertaining all the same. But then things started to go wrong for him, very wrong! I cannot even count the number of things that have happened to him that would make me throw in the towel and go home, but he keeps on racing. This man is truly a man of faith. He seems to have absolute faith that there is a purpose in him finishing this race. As it turns out there are a LOT of us pulling for him. Thus his faith is founded in great truth!

One thing I have learned from Lee is how crazy difficult completing this ride will be for anyone. Early on Lee made big claims about how he would knock off the riders in front of him, one by one with 250~300 mile days. While a whole host of things have prevented him from riding every day, when he is riding at the top of his game, he really is riding those kinds of miles. Considering the shape Lee is in and all the issues he is struggling with, what will a mere mortal like me face?

The other rider I have been following is Ed Bernasky. Early on he seemed to be riding the pace I want to ride, about 200 miles a day completing the ride in 28 days. Watching him fight the heat, wind, rain, saddle sores and continue to press on. Another example of what it looks like to have faith.

Both these men, along with all the others in the race, simply have no idea how much of an impact they are making on everyone else. I would like to thank all the Trans Am riders for that! In my book they are all men and women of great faith!

One of my big takeaways was if I am going to actually do something as epic as race across America, I am going to need to do two things: lose weight and increase my speed. Since I am not disciplined enough to do the work on my own, I need a coach!

I found a local coach and started to talk to about hiring. I was all on board until week before last, when he said: If you want to Trans Am next year, you need to be cycling 5-6 times a week, starting NOW! For a guy that cycles two or three times a month, that is a HUGE shift! How badly did I want to ride across country, really? (…as my faith begins to evade me yet again!) I had June’s double century planned for that Saturday, it seemed like the perfect time to reflect on what I really wanted.

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Got up and out on time for the first time.  Finally starting on time at 5:30am!

The ride started out GREAT! I actually got up early, did my morning prayers and got on the road at the official time of 5:30!!!! I was so proud of the fact that I opted to take a selfie and post it on Facebook. I was doing so well on time that 40 miles in I opted to stop for 15 minutes and get breakfast. What a wonderful energy boost!

Late in the morning a thought popped into my head: I really don’t want to go from never working out to working out every day, that’s just too much of a change. It is like going from 0 to 200 mph in 3 seconds! Maybe my first goal should be another unsupported ride next October that is only half the distance: The Route 66 race. Based on how that goes, I could target the Trans Am in 2018. Seemed like a good plan. First go from zero to sixty, then maybe to two hundred!

I continued on. What was interesting is that I got to the turn around point about the time I normally got there. I contributed that to my breakfast stop, but that was only about 15 minutes. In the past my departures where about 30 minutes later, but who can really tell… I had lunch and turned around and headed home.

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Lunch in Russells Point.  After 11 months the AAA batteries in the SPOT Gen3 finally gave out and had to be replaced.

On my return trip, as I cycling through the heart of Springfield they had some major event going on in a park right downtown. Ton of folks where pouring in from all directions! In among the crowd was this ultimate cyclist. He was on a traditional upright tricycle, one wheel in the front and two in the back. Between the back wheels was a cooler! Now that is the way to ride!

Normally I am pulling into dinner between 8 and 8:30. For reasons I had yet to figure out, I was still an hour away! This was when I revisited my whole set of goals, do I really want to be doing this? Do I really want to ride across America? I realized that I did, but not alone. I wanted to ride across America with my wife on the back seat, and 1200cc under us!

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Finally rolled back into the finish at 1:10am.

I rolled in to finish 1:10am, simply fried. Since I posted a selfie at the start, I figured I should also post one at the finish. I was totally mystified at why it took me so much longer then my January ride, which ended with 24-degree temps. It only got up to the upper 80s with low humidity. Lo and behold, it turned out to be my tires! I switched to tires that are more flat resistant, but slower. Asking around this past week I found some numbers, my old tires, Continental GP 4000 S II, only have 13 watts of rolling resistance and the new ones have around 30 watts! And considering I only put out around 170~200 watts, that is around 10%. Over 19 hours 40 minutes, 10% is about an hour. Needless to say, I ordered a new set of the GP 4000 S II this week!

Before deciding what to do, I opted to simply abide in the Lord the rest of the weekend, as he does seem to have a very quiet voice at times. There is great truth in the fact that God will find some clever way to get invited. Come end of Sunday I had 16 likes and a few comments on the finishing picture I posted. I heard God saying to me:

“Sam, you are a Lee Fancourt and Ed Bernasky to others. In the same way they will never really know how they are impacting you, you will never really know how you are impacting those watching you. But have faith that folks are watching you. Continue to keep the faith that you and your actions are part of my much bigger plan.”

Monday I emailed the coach and told him I was in and asked what the next step was. In the silence waiting for a reply faith evaded me again! It’s amazing how fickle we can be at times. Coach had a wonderful reply with the final terms, but myself lacking the faith yet again, I simply sat on the email and waited, but I didn’t know for what.

Then came the Friday company picnic. I work at our company’s largest remote office, this year we had our site’s summer picnic Friday afternoon. Families were invited and a couple of folks came down from the home office in Toronto. Our VP introduced me to one of them. He mentioned that along with being a photographer, I am a crazy cyclist and asked, “How many miles did you do Saturday, 200miles?”

I mentioned another bucket list item I have: The beginning of December each year the company brings everyone up to Toronto for the annual company meeting and Christmas party. Since it is only about 580 miles, I want to cycle up to it. When I shared this with the VIP from home office, she thought it was great. She said if I did the ride, the company needed to get it up on the big screen at the meeting. She went so far as to say that if the company wouldn’t find a way to get footage of the ride, she would come down on her own accord to get footage of it!

Of course I am just thrilled, I always wanted the company to know because, well, I think it is cool so I think everyone else should think it is cool. But the truth be told, I don’t see how or why this would be of any value to the company. Then I hear God, “Sam, you don’t have to ‘get it’, you simply have to have faith in me that there is a purpose”.

And with that I have now reached out to the coach and asked if we can get started July 1.

I don’t know what the future will hold. I don’t know if the ride to Toronto will happen. What I do have is faith that God has given me these crazy cycling dreams for a reason. I must hold fast to faith that that God is working it into his big plan. While I will never see all of it, or, heck, for that matter much of it, the one thing I must do is hold the faith that he is in control and I simply need to lovingly follow his gentle whisper.

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2 thoughts on “The Faithless Cyclist”

  1. Sam, I am just thrilled to have discovered your blog! My husband and I are traveling and I just read the whole thing to him aloud. I think your dream of riding to Toronto is super cool and I’d love to see it happen. You just never know who’s watching or how you could inspire them. You are so right that God gives us dreams for a reason!! And just expects obedience- that’s the beauty of faith we don’t have wo worry about the big picture or results beyond just our own. I’m cheering for you!

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