The North Georgia mountain scenery was unspeakably beautiful, much of it through the woods. But, the last 33 miles, from the time we climbed the mountain, was a suffer-fest.
I originally thought I would settle for the 30 mile route, seeing it was a mountainous ride in Chattooga County. I grabbed the maps for the 30 and 63.4 mile routes, "just in case" I felt like I could handle it. At any rate, the decision had to be made early, as the smaller "green" route turned right at about mile 23, where the yellow route took a left turn.
The rain poured hard, making me wish sunglasses were equipped with mini windshield wipers. I rode low with squinted eyes. Finally the rain stopped. I was feeling great and decided to go for it, taking the left turn with gusto. I sort of had a few misgivings five miles later when I pulled out of the next rest stop and saw the little sign that warned, "Last Rest Stop Before the Mountain." :0 I knew the decision to take the longer route would mean I would spend a lot of time alone, as the big dogs go faster than I did at that beginning stage of proficiency for me. They would be way ahead of the guys I was with on the green route. But, I made up my mind.
I made it up the mountain slow enough to notice ants climbing beside me, as I sped by their insect troops. That was when the whole terrain took on a look of utter splendor. After that mountain climb, the hills didn't seem so bad. I decided to create a new rest stop on the route just near the top of a large hill, about 10 miles away from the last rest stop... that should do it. As I melted off my bicycle, I realized someone was almost right behind me, at the foot of the hill. After he reached "my" rest stop, he said he had been there for a while trying to catch up with me, and had figured he would lose me on that hill. We were equally relieved to have someone else along to contact next of kin if we didn't make it out of this alive. but, Jessie agreed that it would be a great view if we had to die anyways.
There seemed to be almost no car traffic in the Chattooga County, Summerville area. So, we didn't have to dodge cars flying down hills. It wasn't long before we were in the woods again for miles at a time. It was just stunningly beautiful! We passed a few dogs at farmhouses, but they seemed to be willing only to bark a warning, or ignore us totally. One big bulldog was sitting on a trampoline, like it was a hammock, just pretending to bark a little, to save face.
Occasionally, speed racers from the 100 and 125 mile routes would pass us from behind, coming within inches of our ears. Their routes left and rejoined our route several times. It sort of burns your ego to see riders like that, acting like its a stroll in the park while you struggle.
Eventually a SAG official vehicle got behind us, and followed us a ways. It felt like being in the Olympics, or the Tour de France, with our own team car following close behind. When I wondered why they didn't pass us, Jessie said they were probably watching us to see if we would pass out before leaving us to die on the hill alone. So, we refueled on granola bars from our back pockets and then threw out a gallant effort, standing up on the pedals to the top, and then flew down the hill at top speed, so they could see we were still breathing. It worked... they went away. It had felt like being circled by buzzards waiting to pick our carcasses off the pavement.
It did feel good later when we were at the last rest stop (50 mile mark) and the racers pulled in. We were unmistakably on a high mileage ride... if not quite up to their level. And, we could still walk and breathe. :) That was a tough ride. They had Dominoes Pepperoni pizzas and soft drinks waiting for us at the end. And, we sat there with the big dogs and ate our pizzas with pride, knowing the 15 and 30 mile riders were already home.
As you can see, I don't usually leave a lot of commentary, or "sermonizing" in my blogs. I think you will draw your own conclusions. Of course, there are no right and wrong answers in life, before death. What ever conclusions you draw will not be validated this side of eternity. Instead of trying to analyze why these things were all taken away from my life, I try to look at what remains. My Pastor at the time, had a grown daughter who died after surgery, about a year before. I woke up from surgery with my life changed. Why this happened to her or me doesn't really matter. What matters is that I was given extra years to love, which I may have never lived to see. My sister came to my bedside to tell me what went wrong when I woke up from surgery. I was allowed to live to love my Sister. My nephew Timmy was born after the first surgery. I was allowed to live to love Timmy. I married my soulmate the following summer. I was allowed to live to love Larry. I made it to my youngest son's high school graduation, and now he's in college. I was allowed to live to love Travis. I love to live. I am truly the blessed one. Come back tomorrow night for the special final blog in the series titled, "Healed and Whole."
****This is 9th in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." Remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
"After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow." -H. G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance
Yes, that describes well the euphoria you feel when riding a bicycle, the first time or anytime. I may have begun to lose weight, but cycling quickly becomes an obsession you can't shake. I was soon getting in so many miles a week, between the local cycling club, and the state rides, that I found myself never needing to ride alone anymore. By late July, the thermometer hit the triple digits in our area that year, which is not uncommon. July and early August usually mean soaring temperatures for us in the northern temperate zones. These are the hottest, most sultry days of summer... the "Dog Days" of summer.
We also use the expression Dog Days to describe a time period or event that is very hot or stagnant, or marked by a dull lack of progress. Seeing that the Dog Days were heating up, that friday night was the yearly Dog Days Lunar Bike Ride at Mt. Berry Mall there in Rome. That event is one of a kind, with all ages and experience level of cyclists participating. I arrived a few minutes early, to see a few townie teenagers riding around the parking lot without helmets, which naturally caused me to cringe in shock. I know this happens a lot in town, but can't decide why. (Riding without a helmet ranks right up there with smoking, and doing drugs for me. I know people do it, but I love my brain cells and lungs too much to be that foolish.)
Fortunately, the event director made the announcement over the speakers quickly that everyone must wear a helmet as signed in the waiver at registration, or be escorted away by the supervising policemen, and no more bare heads were seen.
The ride started with the tune to "Chariots of Fire" playing over the loudspeakers, (I love that tune!) while the full moon shone brightly in his spot overhead. The average Joe crowd, being people in t-shirts, were in the middle lane around the outer perimeter of the mall, going clockwise. The speed racer jersey crowd was doing paces in the outer lane, and the tykes on trikes and wee children were in the right hand inner lane of traffic, and in the parking lot for safety. Music was a mix of oldies, from "Mustang Sally" to "Grease."
The charm was in seeing a chain of racers on the left speed by in excess of 20mph, while on the right, little boys and girls spun their tricycle pedals so fast, you could tell they thought they were really riding with the big dogs. The police were stationed at corners of the perimeter, and actually had a speed wagon set up, so the tikes could see how fast everybody was going without a bike computer. Sometime after midnight, the crowd had cleared, and many of the children had gone home to bed.
The teenagers must have sensed more liberty to use the whole track. One happy teen came spinning past me in the right hand lane, racing against a couple of other teens on the left of me, or rather missed his goal and careened into my right side. I barely caught a glimpse of his t-shirt as I went sailing through the air, feeling like a skinny rag doll. I bounced around on the pavement like a basketball, hitting my helmet and my face, and my right arm quite a bit. I could hear the kid in the group surrounding me, walking around, repeating, "It was an accident. I didn't mean to." I felt sorry for him because he sounded scared. No reason to be scared I thought from my position on the ground. I would just be a little sore tomorrow.
The guards told me to lie still, they were calling an ambulance. I said I was fine... just to give me a minute to see straight. I head a voice in the group say an ambulance was on the way. I hurried to my feet thinking of five hundred buck ambulance trips. I asked if the teen was ok, but then I realized the teen had skipped out... hit and run... lol... before I even got off the pavement. Suddenly I didn't feel as much sympathy :)
The helmet did its job, holding my brains intact, but alas, I no longer had as much padding on my posterior. I thought I was going to get back on my unscathed bicycle, until I took the first step. My right arm suffered minor bruising and a sprained elbow, which healed nicely and quickly. We got a couple of awesome t-shirts. They are blue with a picture of a skinny hound dog with a helmet on, riding a bike under the light of the moon. He looks so happy and care free with his tongue hanging out. He looks just like that teenager did the moment before he careened into my bike.
The summer after my first two surgeries, during the time I had gone back to work, I volunteered at the Dog Days Ride, at the registration table. It was great to get to be a part, even if I couldn't manage the strength to ride myself. I think that this is one of the things I enjoyed most about cycling... the group effort put out by a cycling community to involve people of all ages and abilities. Another event I enjoyed after my surgeries was fitting kids from the local projects with free helmets, provided by the hospital. It was awesome to see the face of the children of all ages and hairstyles, waiting patiently while we adjusted the helmet straps and installed the padding to fit over their braids, fros, or bald heads, as needed. Some children were so small, it took multiple adjustments before the helmet rode safely on their heads as they rode their bikes away with a wide grin and wheels spinning.
****This is 8nd in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
I was getting faster at switching tires on my bike. I had the skinny road tires on now, and my bike was strapped onto the back of the car, ready to roll. The guys in the local club must have been impressed that I found my way back to my car without GPS or a breadcrumb trail, because it couldn't have been my biking skills or my sophisticated style that sparked the flurry of concerned emails and apologetic phone calls that followed my first club ride, and the invitation for the ride the next morning.
I couldn't believe they felt responsible for my stupidity. It seems they thought I wouldn't remember the turns, assumed I missed them, and doubled back looking for the newby after they finished their ride. But, I had already heard the first two turn road names in our conversation. I had asked for the road names during the ride. They had named the two turns I later took, but hadn't been certain about the names. They said they remembered them on sight, not by name. By the time they got to their cars, and drove the route looking for me, I would have been back out on Hwy 27, because I didn't take the last small road turn they took before the big highway. I'm not really a landmark driver, but I remember street names. And, I will take major highways to avoid getting lost on a cowpath if I don't know where I am, rather than choose any random back road... eenie, meenie, miney, moe.
They had been so friendly, and even described the terrain while we had been riding, so later I recognized the long hill Andrea had earlier referred to affectionately as "Chicken Coop Hill." (She called it that because of the smell. Kurt and the guys called it "Die Hill" because it was the longest hill on the route.) I was glad they were still willing to let me ride with them. But, as it turned out, the standard plan was that the first half is no-drop. After that, it's every man for himself as they let loose the inner beast and ride like the wind. It is assumed you will get dropped, until you get faster. Shame makes you all the more determined to kick butt and take names. And, it made the pleasure all the more immense when I was later able to keep with the pack.
But, despite the fact that I felt so crummy about my speed on the hills that first day, it felt really great after I recovered, feeling all the kinks worked out of my arms and leg muscles. There is something about the really big rides... the ones that push you beyond your most recent rides... that gets you in higher form and ready to go. Now, my goal was to work on the jersey "style" problem. I just had to lose more weight, which was easier said than done.
I had three women's jerseys, with meaningful name-brand labels matching the name on my gloves, but "form-fitting" didn't look the same on me as it did on the slim, trim, six-pack crowd. So, I wore a teeshirt to hang over my belly flab, instead of a jersey. Of course, I felt like I had been busted by the fashion police, when I saw the attention they gave their jerseys. I realized before long that they did not care how fat you were. They just expected you to be honest about your fat, let it all hang out in a tight jersey, and swallow your pride. Everybody knew you were fat, and you should just be yourself and wear a stylish jersey. And, of course, you had to learn to keep up or get dropped. But, that was beside the point.
****This is 7th in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
It was before the dog days of Summer, about mid-July. I had finished my first 5K as planned weeks before on the Summer Solstice. And, on this fine foul weather day, I was taking advantage of the rain by laying around the house, reading magazines and getting one of those valuable Sunday afternoon naps (after Sunday School of course.) It rained a couple of times while I was at church, which was one mid-day service there. But, by the time I was almost home, it looked fierce, with lightening bolts, like fingers of a teacher writing her marks across the sky, grading our papers with disapproving marks. The bolts raced across the sky, and struck the earth in the distance. A strange wind was brewing, while dark clouds billowed upwards in the sky above us. Those clouds opened up as I pulled into the garage of our new house, emptying their full force on the outside of my world.
I was safe inside, and comfortable. Leaning back in the chair at my desk, I logged in to find an email from one of my summer school sutudents telling me the exciting news that she had passed the CRCT retest that we gave them at the end of the summer session. I was so happy to know. That knowledge, and the row of mason jars full of fresh lime pickles standing on my countertop from my first canning session with my friend and neighbor, Diane over the past two days, worked together to ease the agony and shame of my failed Saturday morning ride the day before.
I say failed because I got dropped half way through, not because I didn't finish. I finished. I could pedal my way out of hell, and still be sitting in the saddle, not because of strength, nor speed, but simply because of my one strength of endurance. I call endurance a strength because not everybody can continue fighting a losing battle. Remember the old man in the book, The Old Man and the Sea? The sharks may have eaten his marlin to the bone, but he brought the marlin skeleton home tied to his boat.
"Dropped? What's 'at mean?" my neighbor, a kind elderly gentleman, had asked as he loaded me up with about some fresh cucumbers from his garden the evening before. Looking at his wrinkled brow, I pondered silently the reality that dropped meant my butt felt to fat to make those hills on this particular ride. I answered aloud that it meant I got to enjoy the scenery alone the last half because I couldn't keep up...I got behind... left behind.
I had joined the Coosa Valley Cycling Club and took off on one of the weekly rides, at the last moment, without taking the time to change my thick mountain terrain tires to my thin road tires. I had enjoyed the state rides so much, that I had decided to try the local club rides, instead of riding around town alone. The first half of the ride had been wonderful, talking and enjoying the scenery, even though I was struggling.
My knees were aching most of the ride. I had not only overworked them lifting furniture in my recent house move, but I had gotten out of practice riding. I realized after that half way point where I began to drag on the hills and got dropped that it had been weeks since I had done any serious riding. After summer school ended, I had done the 5K, and then spent a few weeks packing, moving, and unpacking. I had done a single, measly 6 mile ride Thursday afternoon. I was not ready for a 30 mile ride.
A fine pickle I was in, realizing that too late. I had been too eager to ride. And, I frequently found myself doing whatever those around me were doing, even if I wasn't used to their milage yet. Like with that first 50 mile Silver Comet Ride from Cedartown to Piedmont. My previous rides around town had only been 10 mile rides. I went from 10 miles to 50 miles all at once, because I just don't know how to stop when I get started, if everybody else is still rolling.
These were my excuses laid out in my mind as I slogged through the beautiful countryside alone, trying to resist the urge to kick myself, and giving myself that "attitude" pep talk I wanted and needed to hear. The physical pain was bad enough, but the shame of being dropped was enough to make you have visions of hanging yourself with your bicycle chain. Luckily, I was able to find my way back to Hwy 27, not knowing the route ahead of time, but being familar with Rome somewhat from College days. By the time I got back to my car, I hadn't realized how exhausted I was.
I hadn't taken a break, because I still had entertained hopes of "catching up" until this point. I knew I couldn't be much further from the mall where we had parked. But, the road just kept stretching before me. When I finally pulled into the mall parking lot, there were still cars from our pack... the big dogs who were still out riding the 60 mile loop. I had been with the group doing the 30 mile loop. I was relieved to still be able to hoist my bike onto the rack on my car. Riding home, I popped in my audio cd of the book of Mark.
"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God..."
Those first words caught my attention for some reason. This was the beginning, I reminded myself. Mark was the first gospel writer afterall. The others later expanded on his recollections. I thought ahead to John the Revelator and his expositions on the end of the gospel... the good news.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the
first and the last. Revelation 22:13
Jesus Christ... the beginning...and the end... the good news of Jesus. I remembered the angel a few chapters before who will preach the gospel in the end times, when men still will not listen.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having
the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every
nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Revelation 14:6
Such a comforting thought... the Gospel has begun, is everlasting, and will have its fulfillment in the return of Jesus Christ Himself. In light of that fact, getting dropped was just a speck of dust on the shores of eternity.
****This is 6thin a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
I glanced over my shoulder as I made the 8th circle around the track that morning. There was no one behind me. I spun my gaze back to the asphalt spread before me. No one in front of me. I began to ask myself, "Why am I here?" Then I raised my eyes and spoke to God, "I need a miracle of strength right now to finish this last mile today, God." As the words rolled off my tongue in the seconds I was raising my eyes, I saw the sun raising before me. Daybreak!
I thanked God for the miracle of a new day. I was reminded of how my life had been before I began to run. I remembered why I was there. I began running to lose weight. I continued running to relieve stress and to build endurance. I ran for life... healthful life. I ran because I wanted to be fit.
That would be strange if I wanted to be unfit, now wouldn't it? I've heard of Mothers and Fathers being declared "unfit." Some teachers are unfit to teach. If I wanted to be a fit Mother, and a fit teacher, and Spiritually fit, why should I be content to be an unfit person? No one would verbally choose to be unfit. But, that's what I do if I fail to make the right choices. Fitness, endurance, life, those are enough reasons to run. It doesn't matter who's watching.
I love the ocean. The weekend after the 4th that year, after Summer School, Travis and I would be headed to Tybee Island. I already had my lawn chair and beach towel in the car. If you're going to be lazy, the beach is a great place to do it! Otis Redding's classic soul tune, "Sitting On the Dock of the Bay" below, reveals an odd philosophy that many of us take, even if we don't realize it consciously. It's like as a student, though I always had the same potential, year by year my performance changed, based on whether or not there was anyone who cared if I did well in school or not.
Otis (singing) feels as if it doesn't matter; he sees no reason. So, he does nothing. that's strange. If it doesn't matter to anyone whether Otis does or doesn't, then he could just as well do or don't. So, why does he choose to do nothing? I don't know, but that's the nature of the beast.
Who also has made us able ministers
of the new covenant; not of the letter,
but of the spirit: for the letter kills,
but the spirit gives life.
But if the ministry of death,
written and engraved in stones,
so that the children of Israel
could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses
for the glory of his countenance;
which glory was to be done away:
How shall not the ministry of the Spirit be more glorious?
For if the ministry of condemnation be glory,
much more does the ministry of righteousness exceed in glory.
For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect,
by reason of the glory that excels.
For if that which is done away was glorious,
much more that which remains is glorious.
2 Corinthians 3:6-11
Paul is speaking here of how glorious the ten commandments were to the children of Israel, while they were just rules written in stone. Paul is comparing those stones of law to the grace and salvation written in Jesus' crucified flesh. He asks how much more glorious the "Thou shalt's" of grace are, than the "Thou shalt not's" of the ten commandments.
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this
thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. 1 Timothy 4:16
To do is much better than to not do... with or without reason. I figure, since I can...I will.
***Running With Angels on Golden Candlelit Streets: The Longest Night!
Since I have already written about the Greenville Candlelight run in a previous blog last year, I will just share the link for your reference. Even though I had moments of doubt about running a race when no one would be there to see or care, I did it. I was there. Travis was there. And, God saw. Those are enough reasons to reach for a dream. Later, my Mom went with us to the Run in Dalton, and Travis actually ran it with me. That was an awesome experience, running with my son. The photo below is from the Greenville newspaper of the runners lined up ready to run. I'm in the 2nd row in the red Jesus Christ teeshirt. Below that is a picture my Mom took of me and Travis that day in Dalton before the race.
****This is 5th in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
Running south on Guy Street, past Olivia Baptist Church, 5 dogs surrounded me. I was afraid of dogs as a child, but not now. I was just sort of concerned that I might have to stop running and mess up my time, and lose my count on the tenth of a mile points I had mapped out in my head on that route. Beware of dogs... Philippians 3:2
Having already been to two church services that Sunday, and with only enough time left for a mile and a halfer, I had to hurry to be on time for the night service there in my home town. I wasn't really concerned when the high-strung mongrels surrounded me, creating a ruckus. I told them to be nice dogs and go away, and they looked like they were about to cooperate. But, then the bulldog came running into the pack with a look that said, "I'm going to show you I mean business, Sister!" Yes, he got the point across that he was not like the other four nervous mixed breeds. He grabbed hold of my calf with his bared teeth three times. I can't believe his teeth didn't penetrate my skin. Just a scratch and minor bruising.
I think he just wanted to scare me. Either way, he wasn't prepared when I shook him off my leg and into the ditch. The other four dogs ran slinking to the curb. The owner came out and gave him a whipping. In the irritation of the moment, I wasn't satisfied. I was thinking, "Kill the viscous mutt!" That was my last trip on foot down Guy Street!
I can remember my firstborn, Matt, playing little league football. He was a tough one. Once, he was tackled pretty hard and his mouth and teeth were a mass of blood and grass. I started towards him across the field, but held myself back when I heard the coach say, "Shake it off Matt, come on boy, don't let 'em stop you like that!" And, with a pat on the back, he sent my boy back out on the line. I stepped back silently, deciding maybe a bloody mouth wasn't a reason to stop playing after all. He's 25 now, and still hasn't stopped, "Shaking it off."
Embroiled in my own physical struggles now, I have found myself time and again trying to do just that, "shake them off." I find myself seriously thinking sometimes that I am going to shake this disease. But, reality grabs me, and pain shakes me right back. I have to admit that I am not capable to shake this in and of my own self. Alone, I am defeated. I have no strength. That hurts my pride. I have always been strong and independent. I would have shaken it off long ago, if I could have done it, in and of myself. But, this beast has me by the teeth, and only God will be able to loose the grips of what has me handicapped.
Dis-abled. Yes, I was "dissed." I was so angry when I was forced off my job. I felt like a dirty dishrag, tossed out as useless. It was like a friend told me several years ago in a former teaching assignment near Atlanta. She noticed that I spent 60 hours a week at work. (I always had a key to the building.) And, she told me I wasn't that needed. She told me that when I worked myself to death, they would step over my body to hire a replacement. I couldn't believe she was so jaded. I was needed. I was sure of it.
It didn't take death to show me I was not that needed. When I got a job in North Georgia, I had to finish out the contract year there of course. And, at the end of the year, I watched as my entire accumulation of Science materials were shoved into a storage closet, since they wouldn't be re-filling my position. I had worked hard for 7 years acquiring and building up all those Science resources to see the students learn. They meant nothing when I was gone. Then, here in my last position, when I refused to leave my job after I was unable to move around easily, and the numbness had set in my lower body and legs, they took my class away right in front of me, and placed me in an auxillary position until they could convince me to sign the disability papers.
Having to ask for what I want is difficult. I never realized how much I relied on being able to take care of things myself. Now, I have things that are in the storage building out back, and in the attic: books, papers, stuff. It feels like they are gone forever. I can not get them myself. I have to ask for them and hope my husband or son will know what it is I am wanting, and that they will be able to find it in the middle of all that stuff. Resources mean nothing when they are not at hand. I always liked to prowl through my stuff and find something to do. Whether building models, or experiments, or constructing timelines, organizing photos into albums, or just putting together puzzles; I was always busy. Now, I miss something that seems so insignificant even writing about it.
But, being dis-abled is not any different for me and you. I just have a firmer grip on what it is I am not able to do; the big things and the smallest things I am no longer able to do. Before, I thought I could do anything. Now, I know that it is not me who is able, but Jesus Christ in me working who will change the course of this disease; in His time.
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
****This is 4nd in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
I had a flat tire before work. So, after work, I patched the front tire on my bike. It took 30 minutes with a bottle of shampoo and a partial tub of water to find the leak. I should have paid attention to how a mechanic had patched the tire on my old bike. I thought the glue was to hold the patch on. I had no idea which side of the patch was up. So, naturally I picked the wrong side, and stuck it to the glob of glue I had slathered on the tire tube. It didn't look right either. It sort of had lumps... not nice and smooth like the last mechanic did it. So, naturally when I got up the next morning it was flat again.... requiring a quick pumping to get to the track. I ran poorly on the track, too I might add. It was a pitiful slog... interrupted by a couple of walk breaks... a forced finish/ death march to prove a point to myself... all followed by aching legs.
After work that day, I took it to the garage across the street to have it patched correctly. For some unexplained reason, the old man at the garage across the street put the glue on the tube first, just a thin layer, let it DRY completely, and then applied the patch right side up. Now, I was rolling. I figured one day I would learn to patch my own tires correctly. Maybe. :) But, I never did.
Instead, I learned to carry tubes of CO2 inflator in my saddle bag for emergencies. That works like magic; blows the tire right back up in seconds. I never had a flat on a group ride, but I noticed the pour souls who did were often sidelined for 30 minutes or more in the blazing sun, repairing a tire. Other bikers always stopped to help them. But, I certainly didn't want to have a flat tire headed across the state, no matter how many people were willing to help. Some of my rides were across counties. Others were across state lines. Some were in the city, on country roads, or out in the woods. Some were in the pouring rain, or the glaring sun, and once I returned home pushing my bike covered with snow and ice from a sudden, unexpected snowstorm. I had icicles hanging from my sunglasses, and my black hoodie was solid white.
No, I wouldn't want to have to pump up a tire away from home. Though you run on foot, running shoes are made for traveling on foot. Bike shoes have pedal clips on the bottom and are difficult to walk in. As a cyclist, I took great care in selecting the right equipment for my bike. You never want to be unprepared for the trip. Even something as simple as where you park your car before the ride can mean the difference in a pleasant ride and a death march.
My first group ride had been the Silver Comet from Cedartown, Georgia to Piedmont Alabama. I had parked my car facing east in an open parking lot. I had "hit the wall," "bonked," "spazzed out" at the end of the ride, and walked the last hill to the car. When I got to my car and lifted my bike up onto the rack on the trunk, my stomach began to wretch right there in the parking lot. It was the hot afternoon sun beating down on my back there in the sun as I lifted the bike, the extra exertion, with all my energy depleted, that did me in. I had to lay down in the back seat for 15 minutes before I had the strength to drive home.
Repairs, maintenance, equipment selection, preparation, all of the factors combined decide how you will finish the ride. I always finished the ride. Finishing was not an option. All that was left to work out was how I was going to finish. Was I going to finish with something left; a smile on my face, or was I going to come stumbling in the last 100 yards? That's all that mattered at the end of the day.
****This is 3nd in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
The 3 R's of summer for me, were Runnin', Ridin', and Restin'. Summertime... June... summer school. There aren't many better ways for a teacher to earn extra money and still have plenty of time left over for the 3 R's. I was training for my first 5K race. I was going to do the Greenville Candlelight 5K at 8pm that weekend. I figured that if I passed out it wouldn't be from the heat at least, haha. I had been practicing early morning at the track, increasing my milage by half mile increments daily before summer school classes.
That weekend I planned to ride Highway 41 North from Dalton to the Tennessee/Georgia border, which was a 51 mile roundtrip. I planned to leave early in the morning, before the sun climbed high enough to scorch me. I had ridden as far North as Tunnel Hill the day before at noon to partially test the terrain. That night I mapped out the route using satellite mapping on my training log online program. When I pulled on my clothes for the trip to the track that morning, I discovered my front tire was flat. I just pumped it up to make it to the park and back. That night, I would have to patch the tire and rest... the third of the 3 R's of summer.
Psalms 116:7-8 Return unto your rest, O my soul; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
Rest is important in so many ways. But, sometimes I'm not sure if I got more rest from the restin'... the runnin'... or the ridin'. I couldn't really rest sitting still, and usually opted for more strenuous rest. I'm sure if I had been a ditch-digger by trade, I might have valued restin' more. I had thought about that when I passed a guy in a hole with a drill in his hands and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, wearing a wife-beater t-shirt in the blazing sun the day before. There I was on my bike sweatin' for fun, while he dug holes in the ground.
****This is 2nd in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
If you know me at all, you know I enjoyed road bike cycling rides up to 66 miles at a time, and running 5K road runs, until a doctor made a mistake that cost me 5 more surgeries and ended with a diagnosis of Transverse Myelitis. Now, not only am I unable to bike, run, or walk without a walker, but I am in chronic pain. What's more, the doctor scheduled me for more procedures on my last visit, and next Friday the first is scheduled at the hospital there below Atlanta. He said it seems likely I will need another surgery after that for my bladder. That's great! Really! That's just one more thing that God can deliver me from when He heals me.
I believe with my whole being that God has more in store for me in this life than being shackled to a walker. I believe in miracles. If you don't then get ready to have your mind blown. God will show you through me that He has all power in heaven and earth to perform miracles. I do not believe that I will be unchanged by all of this. I will be a different person because of God's "big work" in my life. I don't think I will want to return to the same activities I did in the past, because my interests seem to have changed, as well as my focus. But, in honor of the fact that I believe that God will heal me, I want to share with you some of the things I wrote about cycling and running, to give you a feel for what I struggled through in all those rides and runs. I started riding and running to lose weight, and I did. But, I gained so much more (not in physical weight) on the journey to today; through every race, every road ride, and every surgery. Following is the first in a series of ten blogs. As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
I hurried down Hwy 27, on a Sunday June 3rd, trying to make it to church for the evening sermon. I got there just in time for the Scripture to be read, and the message. But, the message was worth the rush. It was one of my favorite passages.
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Yes, Philipians 3:14
I can picture Paul in that Philipian jail writing about winning a race. Actually that Sunday was one of those milestones in my walk with God that we all have, and I had been pondering the irony of all those hills I was climbing...
I had ridden the West Georgia 100 that morning. This is a cross section of the 50 mile option of the ride that I took. Heights reached over 1,200 feet. The rest stops were appx. every 15 miles. Those hills were amazing! It was wonderful to have volunteers at the SAG reststops there with peanut butter sandwiches and bananas to refuel. Imagine riding through the boondocks and seeing some folks with a table set up in a pasture. Kind of strange looking. Haha.
Whether I am climbing up one hill or falling down another, I always just try to keep moving. It's like that you know. Sometimes you can see what lies ahead. But, sometimes you can't see over the hill and around the corner.
It was difficult to keep pushing the pedals when I would start down a huge "forever" hill. I wasn't sure if I would be able to stay on the road... or crash into an oncoming car from some blind street. But, I realized early on, that if I held anything back on the downhill runs, that I would soon find myself suffering up that next hill that was certain to be at the bottom of this one. I needed momentum. I reminded myself that I could only die once. And, then I took my hand off the brake and let her fly.
I guess that's how Paul felt sitting in that jail cell. He knew where he was headed, but he was still moving.
Sometimes facing reality is just plain difficult! And, so it was apparantly for many of the fans in the visitor stands at last night's rivalry game between 2 of the 4 Floyd County High Schools; Model and Pepperell High Schools. Pepperell took the ball at the snap and before long Model made what looked like an intercept. The cheering on our side was interrupted quickly when a call was made for out of bounds. The crowd behind me turned ugly with an uproar of booing and calls to lynch the ref. I started videoing after the first few minutes or so of booing. The fans were still agitated and shouting the word "cheaters" and "go home."
This was the only time during the game this happened, and things quieted down. I heard several people cheering the coach, but missing were fans who cheered on individual players. Usually I hear different players names called out in encouragement by the fans. Maybe that was the problem. This is Model's third "losing season." They have managed to eke out a game or two each of those years, through the skin of their teeth, so to speak. The best players graduated 3 years ago. But, I could sense the underdog spirit in the stands behind me. The losing mentality has taken over. And, that must be changed before a new team can be molded.
You have to ask yourself how it happened that the younger players were never taught to play while the better players were on board. And, I for one did not enjoy the bad sportsmanship in the stands behind me. You have very young men and women out there on that field learning to fit into the world around them. If you can't cheer the players then go home. It's not about the ref or the coach. It's about the players and the cheerleaders and the band. I think the whole approach to playing football at Model needs to change. They have an excellent instructional program. Why field a team if you are not going to teach them how to win? The final score was 47-6. At least it wasn't a shut-out.
I console myself with the cheerleaders. They are some of the best in the region. I think they have a wonderful attitude in the middle of a series of losing games. They take the "stand by your men" approach and you could never tell by the cheering that they rep a losing school. They are amazingly athletic and supportive.
These pictures were taken from Model's Athletic site. They are better than my pictures at the top. The cheerleaders have champion attitudes. They act as if this is a job and they are professionals. That's amazing to me that they can keep cheering even when things go wrong. As a matter of fact, when the bad call was made they began cheering over top of the fans who were calling for the ref to be lynched. After three losing seasons, they may have just saved the life of a referee. :)
I blogged about Joshua last night. It is easy to see Joshua's winning attitude in these cheerleaders. They definitely have the spirit of champions. Too bad they can't have a winning football team. Fortunately the basketball teams win big, and basketball season starts before too long.
I had to sit in the car and listen on the radio a little after halftime because I was froze stiff and in so much pain that I couldn't hardly move this morning. But, I am fine now with a heating pad and coffee. This was the first game we made it to this season, because of my health. Fortunately, the walker has made it easier for me to get around. I have been out of the house more since I got it. You would not think that using a walker would be a good thing. But, it's all about perspective. Once you've had to sit in the house for so long, being able to get out on a walker is an improvement. So, I'm winning the game!