Indian 300K, a Successful Failure

Well, I finished my 300k Brevet in record time! Two years ago I rode the same Indiana 300k in 18 hours, yesterday 17:26 minutes! It was a very successful day, but it wasn’t…

It was a early start to the day, I was up at 02:45 and out the door by 03:15 to get to Indianapolis by 05:30 to get the bike ready for the 06:00 start. All went well and after some short instructions from Bill, the RBA, the seven of us were off!

I tried to stay with the pack, but that only lasted about half a mile:) I pulled around some folks and was leading the way. Before I knew it I had company! A rider I had not met before, Joe. About a mile in we where talking and not paying attention and found ourselves off course… that didn’t take long! We should have been on the very rough bike path, not the smooth road, oops. So we were back with the pack.

About 5 miles in we were on the south side of downtown and there were three of us, Joe, Junichi, and myself. We rode together until I realized my belly needed food, so I slowed a touch to attend to it and they pulled ahead. I ran into them a few miles down at the next Control. They left about a minute ahead of me. I thought I might be able to catch them but I didn’t. Considering it was nearly a 200 mile bike ride, I didn’t try too hard. I did catch up with them at the next Control in Nashville. Here I rolled out right behind them and kept pace with them for a few miles until we hit the big hills and they were GONE!

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Mr Questions

I rolled into the Control in Freetown. I love this Control, it is called Denny’s Grocery Store. The first time I was expecting a small grocery store, but nope! It is a very old, very, very tiny gas station. Most gas stations you stop at have about 10 times the product offering this little place has, it is very cute. I got there as 11 am was rapidly approaching and a mom and dad had a table set up selling baked goods for some local charity or something. They had their son there who had a million questions! I love inquisitive minds like that so I happily answered them all.

 

At the Control I learned I was about 10 minutes behind Joe and Junichi. Being less than 15 miles from the turnaround control in Seymour, I figured we would cross paths as I was going in and they where going out, but… I got to the turnaround Control before they left. For the most part it was a really flat ride from Freetown to Seymour. After some quick pictures and a quick signing of my Brevet card, we all rolled out together.

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Left to right: Me, Junichi, Joe

While I have the power and fitness to keep up the pace on the flats, the extra 100 pounds of weight I carry slows me WAY down on the hills. Joe was riding strong so he pulled away from us as we returned to Freetown. I could tell that Junichi was also stronger than I was and pondered how much longer we would be riding together. It turns out not much past Freetown.

Most of the 25 miles from Freetown to Nashville is this beautiful road, IN135. The views are breathtaking! There is a minor problem; it is one of those roads that EVERYONE knows about. So on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, EVERY motorcycle and EVERY convertible is out doing the exact same thing I am doing, taking in the sights! It didn’t help that the winery at Story was having some big event. The result was as I was outbound the inbound traffic was crazy! It is a wonderful road, but busier than suits my fancy.

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The general view Saturday on IN135, beautiful landscape, beautiful skies, and beautiful bikes (both gas and leg powered!)

This is where I ran into my failure! Now I do spend too much time on Facebook and there are one or two cycling groups I like to read. A few weeks back someone posted a video of a cyclist and driver yelling at each other. I opined that the cyclist should have been a loving (Christlike) ambassador for all cyclists and not yelling at drivers, even when being yelled out. Well, it turns out knowing something and living something are two VERY different things!

I finally got to the end of IN135 and needed to make a left onto IN46. IN46 is one of those two lane roads with big shoulders, it is a MAJOR thoroughfare between Columbus and Nashville and very busy. On this Saturday it was more heavily traveled than I had seen it in the past. One had to wait to find a gap to make the left turn. There were times when you had to make your move without the spacing one would like to have, too. Oh, and there was a line of cars behind me.

I did something to piss off the little white pickup truck behind me, I think it had something to do with pulling past them and not turning with the car in front of them. They honked their horn at me. What did I do? Did I lovingly move aside and let them go before me? No, I turned around and yelled, “WHAT!” in a very irritated fashion. They then yelled something at me, and I flipped them off! So much for being loving and Christlike! To make it worse, when I did go, I went just slow enough that I was safe to get across but they would have to wait for the next car to pass.

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An old barn on IN135, south of Story

I find it sort of funny how God will always convict you when you are out of line, but only when you are ready to receive the conviction and change your ways. I clearly wasn’t ready yet! As I left this little exchange, I was clearly not ready to receive what God had for me, so he simply did what all good parents do, give me just enough leash to learn, but not too much to get into serious trouble…

About 3 miles later I rolled into the Nashville Control. Since I was hungry I opted to make the Subway the Control. I was at a T in the road. The route called for a right turn into Nashville. The Subway was on the other side of the road on the right. I could have simply gone straight into a parking lot shared by the Subway and a few other businesses. I thought I was going to make the light so I was going to go straight, but I didn’t, so I thought maybe a quick right and cut over.

Well, as I sat in that area between the lines of going straight and turning right another gentleman starts yelling at me, “WHERE IN THE HELL ARE YOU GOING?!” Considering I was tired, hungry, had been up since 02:45, had cycled 134 miles and was already annoyed with the encounter at the last intersection I did what was natural – I yelled back. I don’t recall the exchange, I just recall Jesus stepping in. At some point he yelled in that swearing way folks do: JESUS CHRIST! That got my attention. I didn’t turn into an all-loving Christian, but it brought my defensiveness to an end. He moved on and I, more than likely, broke a few traffic laws by making the right and than cutting over.

The nice thing about these long rides is that God has a long time to slowly work on ya. As I left Subway, I thought: Dang, there are simply a TON of folks out here! Nashville is this small historic artist’s colony in the mystical blue hills region and it was HOPPING with a million people. Two years ago when I road the 300k Brevet, there was a festival with roads blocked off. That wasn’t the case on this occasion, and it was still packed! It’s most definitely a place I want to take my wife, I think she will love it. But at this point, I just wanted to get out of town, back into nice quick country cycling even though the next thing on the agenda was to climb up Greasy Creek Hill.

This hill seems to be legendary; lots of folks have mentioned it on the ride and on FB. It defeated me twice two years ago on both the 200k and 300k. I finally climbed it successfully on the 200k last year. It is one of those hills with a LONG slow climb up starting at 1% and slowly getting to 6% over the course of about 2 miles just to make sure your heart rate is up a bit and legs are a touch fatigued. Then you start to really hit the climb, about 1000 starting at about 6% and in the last 100% it hits well over 25%!

This year was different; I knew without a question I was capable of climbing it. There are hills steeper and longer in Ohio that I climbed early in the year, the question was really: did I want to? I figured why not, it was quicker than walking, but I didn’t feel the need to kill myself doing it. I got to within 20 feet of the top, doing 2 mph, huffing and puffing. Than it happened, a truck came up behind me. I had my excuse: I didn’t want to fall off and end up on the under-side of some big pickup truck. I jumped off the bike and walked the last few feet. Truth be told, I simply didn’t want to kill myself knowing all the riding I have scheduled, with the 400k next weekend followed by Devil’s Week. The 60-second break was nice. When I looked at Strava, it seems I still climbed the hill only 9 seconds slower than last year when I did ride to the top so I am happy!

My favorite thing about cresting Greasy Creek Hill is not getting getting to the top, but knowing that I only have about 1.3 miles on the IN135, which is pretty busy on this stretch before I am finally back on Spearsville Road, a quiet country road!

Folks always say, “Go with God’s speed”. Let me tell you, that doesn’t mean FAST! God has all the time in the world and his speed seems to be way slower than many of us like…

I made the right turn onto Spearsville Road and almost immediately had three cars pass me. I was NOT happy – this road is supposed to be a nice, quick, peaceful road! I thought to myself, what is wrong with these people! Than I realized, oh… maybe they like a scenic drive just like I like a scenic ride! And then God started working on me about the second driver, how I was really completely out of line and how I was fully aware of that fact and simply did not want to admit it to him. I should have been humble and apologized rather than yelling back. I played the encounter back in my head a few times. Each time I imagined myself more apologetic and forgiving. I chuck that up to God letting me practice for next time. You know what they say, practice make perfect. Hopefully next time I will not be so quick to fly off the handle. More than likely I will need a lot more encounters of me doing dumb things before I learn to reply with a humble heart. I know God will be with me every step of the way, helping me become that humble servant I was created to be☺.

The rest of the ride in was, for the most part, uneventful. The sun was starting to stretch itself out making for a nice late afternoon ride. I finally rolled in to the finish at 19:26.

The course was not new to me. The first 2/3rd of the course is the Indiana 200k, so all told I have ridden most of the course three times. One thing was very different this time: I now have a Garmin Edge 820 GPS rather than using my phone. When the Garmin Edge is loaded with a course, it can show you elevation profiles of what is to come. I tend to look at it when going up hills and I am going slower than I like.

For example, when I turned off IN135 onto the Spearville Road I was not maintaining the cruising speed I expected. I flipped over to the elevation profile. Holy cow, I was climbing and doing a LOT of it! That explained why I was going so slowly! All in all, I really like this feature because when I have cycled 140 miles and have 47 to go, it is nice to see that it is gravity holding me back, not the fact I was beat into the ground. Later when it was flat I was able to keep cruising at my normal pace even into light headwind. The elevation profile feature is a very helpful little feature of the Garmin!

All in all, it was a wonderful ride. I made a stop at Chipotle for dinner and headed home.

Along with God reminding me that I am really a developing Christian and have a long, long way to go when dealing with high-stress situations, I also learned that I don’t have the strength I thought I had.

As I mentioned in my last blog, starting Memorial Day I am riding in Devil’s Week. That is a complete series (200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k) in the span of 7 days! The plan had been to bike camp the whole thing. The 200 & 300 are in the same basic place, then there is a gap of 90 miles to the 400 and another gap of 90 miles to the 600. I was going to cycle those gaps on the off days. I have realized that I really will need those days to be super light cycling, an hour or two to keep the legs loose, but otherwise I will be car camping, not bike camping.

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I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

The last weekend of January was a truly amazing weekend of cycling. First was the weather: in this part of the world, January is normally overcast, wet, and COLD! Saturday it was sunny and up in the 60’s, Sunday overcast and in the 50’s. Irma was gracious enough to let me ride both days to get the rides I needed. On Saturday I rode a 200k with Larry and Scott and Sunday a 100k with Paul.

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Scott, in Ohio, chases Larry into Indiana.  The state boarder is the fence between the two.

Looking back on the Saturday ride, it was just funny, all the way around. From the word go with one of my companions showing up at the wrong starting location and another running late due in part to missing an exit on the highway, all the way to the dead car batteries at the end, it was the day of the unexpected challenge. The best part is the three of us banded together and got her done! Scott summed it up perfectly:

“I think, bottom line, we all had fun on the ride. That is what counts the most. Each of us took shots at each other and each of us took the hits that each other gave out. All in all, a very good day.”

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Larry takes a selfie with both Scott and me in his background.

This sport of Randonneuring is a perfect reflection of the rest of life. As is so often the case, what is good is also bad. One thing I love the about the sport is also what I passionately hate about it: the fierce independence. I see the same fierce independence as the best of and the worse of the American culture.

It is built into the rules that once you are out on the ride, you cannot get prearranged help except at the controls. This really adds to the challenge of the sport, learning to be resourceful with what you have. What I hate about this rule is the ‘go it alone attitude’. I have blogged about it in the past, but all in all, the ’ride your ride‘ attitude really discourages the concept of self-sacrifice for the communal good.

I really don’t know how this happened, but of the three of us, two of us forgot our wallets. The first one of us realized it about 10 miles into the ride, the other one had a bit of cash so it didn’t register until 30 miles. While the one that had money (he, too, almost walked out the door with only a $20 bill, but opted to bring his credit card, thank God!) could have been a jerk, he was gracious enough to cover the other two. The best part of the whole thing was that it was no big deal to anyone. Well, that wasn’t 100% true, the second gentleman though he lost his wallet at the first control, he wasn’t at peace until it was confirmed that the wallet was in his car. Among the three of us the money issue was a non-issue!

What I truly, deeply appreciated the most about Saturday’s ride was that in one way or another each of us came up short. When we did, we had friends to come along side to offer a helping hand. It seems very much the way God intended for us to live: in community, leaning on others in our weakness and holding each other up in our strength so that we can have ‘a very good day’. Independence is good; community is far, far better!

Those who know me know that I am very persnickety. One of the ugly side effects is that I get really judgmental of folks. Then I start thinking it is simply too much effort to try to be in community, it is so much easier to just ‘do my own thing’. Yes, I am the most fiercely independence of them all!

Confession time: I cannot tell you at the number of rides I have walked away from a ride with Larry and/or Scott never wanting to ride with them again. It is not them, it is me. I simply like doing things my way, at my own pace. There is always something about them (anyone really) that gets under my skin. I am an introvert, which means I am charged when I am by myself and while being with others drains me. I truly, deeply love my solo rides, they are GOOD for my soul.

My belief is that being in relationship is more important then going it along. My unbelief is that it is so much simpler and thus better to go-it-alone. Through 2015 God has grown a deep love in me for riding with others. In a radically different way then a solo ride they, too, are equally GOOD for my soul.

When I started Randonneuring last January (2015) I knew I needed community. In the past I have experienced real community, now being without it, I knew that it was what I needed to find to once again. The problem is that knowing and believing are two radically different things. In the beginning my belief was just one spider silk that tethered me to Jesus’ truth of my need for community. Month by month as I rode with Larry, Jesus added yet another strand to that tether.

March of last year Larry and I had a hard time coordinating our schedules. I said, “To hell with it, I am getting my ride in with or without him. Larry can fend for himself.” I went out on a solo ride and locked in my March ride. But Jesus was already weaving his web on me. Come March 29, Larry was free to ride. This quiet voice told me, “Sam you made a commitment to this man, go ride with him.” So I hit the road with him and we locked in his P-3 ride, I walked away really having a lot of fun that day.

Nine months later it is December and we are looking to schedule our final ride of the P-12 challenge. It totally rocked that Larry and I had been able to work things out to be able to ride together at least once over the last 11 months. On Friday December 4, Larry and I where working out the details for riding Saturday. It turns out his wife took a minor spill. She might need his help the following day at a big event she had on Saturday. Like any good husband, he knew that helping his wife might prevent him from riding the following day. He told me, “Don’t skip the ride because of me! Finish your P-12 and then laugh at me struggling to get it in…” then concluded with “Think positively”.

I replied, “I am thinking very positively: I am positive we agreed to do this together, I am positive we started together and I am positive the right thing to do is finish together. God willing it will be tomorrow! Keep me posted!”

Late Saturday he told me that things were worked out at his end, his son would help his wife so he was released to ride with me. So that was the first obstacle, but Saturday morning comes around and there is a fog thicker than pea soup. While driving in fog is terrifying, cycling in it is double so! I seriously considered bailing Saturday morning. Then I stopped and pondered all Larry and his family had sacrificed to allow him to ride and that quiet little voice made himself known to me again. I knew I had to go, despite my reservations.

The temp dropped to 22, my bike computer stopped working due to the cold and the fog didn’t lift until noon. But it turned out to be the most amazing ride I have ever been on to date. I would have never gone out in weather like that, but thanks to Larry I got to experience a landscape that was simply breathtaking!

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On the December ride the combination of fog and 22 degrees resulted in the fog condensing on my arms and beard.  It was simply spectacular out there!

Reflecting back on the last year, I have come to realize what I have been doing for a long, long time: faking it until I make it. This is a good faking it, going through those motions because you know they are right even though you heart isn’t there yet. What I keep finding is that when I live it, even if I don’t feel it in the beginning, in the end I do feel it.

At the beginning of 2015 I knew God had me on a journey, I just didn’t know what journey. I began — and continue to begin — by being present with the Spirit, followed by action that is aligned with Jesus’ will. With every hiccup I stop and am present with the Lord. Each time I receive a small piece of wisdom to move forward. The wisdom seems to always call for me to giving up a bit of power, control, and desire. Day by day, my faith grows in the truth that God is truly in control. He has been completely faithful to that!

If you, like me, are seeking help in your unbelief, bridging the gap between believing the truth and actually feeling it, join me: Ask for wisdom and then be present and simply listen for those steps of self-sacrifice. Even if you don’t feel it yet, live it out anyway and watch how the Lord will, oh, so slowly, build your faith!

Pacifism vs Christian Pacifism

This blog was inspired by a conversation started on Facebook when someone posted the following video of Burxy Cavey talking about Christian Pacifism at Woodland Hills last year.

I have been listening to both Bruxy Cavey of The Meeting House and Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills for a while now. It seems the Facebook conversation missed a key point which both pastors always seems to strive to make when talking about Christian Pacifism: Christian Pacifism is NOT pacifism, or as I like to say it, secular pacifism.

From what I understand, a secular pacifist is one that judges all war/violence is wrong, period. I do not see this as a Biblical view. As Bruxy points out, Romans 13:1-7 states that all authority has been established by God, and that these authorities were not given the sword for no reason.

I believe one must start with The Fall (Genesis 3) if they are to understand my Biblical view of Christian Pacifism. As we know, The Fall is all about man thinking we know good and evil. Man thinking we know better than ___________. It all results in us judging others when the truth is we don’t have all the facts. The secular pacifist prospective of all war/violence is wrong looks to me like judging.

It appears to me Romans 13:1-7 is calling followers of Christ to have faith that the Holy Spirit is moving the authorities, who are God servants, to do the just thing, let it be violent or nonviolent. Romans 12 talks about how followers of Christ should live. I believe it also can guide us in how to advice the authorities, if we are so called. But in the end, as far as the choices the authorities make, I believe Romans 13:1-7 is telling us to respect their choice and have faith in the authorities established by God. Ultimately I see it as a call for us to have faith and not to judge.

In a sermon by Greg Boyd (I think after Bruxy’s) he talked about the term ‘established’ used in Romans 13:1. I recall his point was that in the Greek, it didn’t mean put in place, but simply means put to use what is already there. My take on that was God does not always pick the individuals who are the authorities. Nor are all authorities godly people. Rather, once one is an authority, God use that authority for justice (Of course the enemy does his deception thing and uses the authority for injustice, too.)

As a Christian Pacifist, the one thing I do know is that despite Christ’s opportunity to be violent, he chose the way of sacrificial love, Calvary. In his parting words, he commissioned me to teach other to obey everything he commanded me. What they do with those teaching is between them and God, it is not my place to judge them. My place is to love The Lord my God and to love those God makes my neighbors.