Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How observant are you?

I saw this a while back and thought it was really cool. Linda and I were talking about our perceptions and how we tend to stay within our own scope of reality, judgment, and familiarity. We tend to miss a lot, and it takes God's insight to help us see things we might otherwise miss.

Aside from the spiritual applications, this really relates to bicycle safety.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hotter N Hell Hundred 2008

This past weekend was the highlight of my bicycle riding this year.

I was in line at 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning with 11,260 other cyclists, waiting for the starting gun at the Hotter N Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls, TX.

Linda and I prayed before the start.
The start line was organized by the different ride distances, with "Scorchers" (the fastest group doing 100 miles), the "Hell's Gate Keepers - 100 Milers, "Hell's Gate Hopefuls - those that were intending on completing 100 miles, and needed to pass the 65 mile mark by 12:30, next were 100 K riders (this is what I trained for, and where I was lined up), then the 50 milers, 25 milers, 10 milers, and finally, 10Ker's. In all, there was about a mile of cyclists lined up behind the start. From my position, there were about 5000 riders infront of me, and it took almost 25 minutes to cross the official starting line, then it was another 3 miles before I could actually get any speed up to get around the slower riders. It took about an hour to do the first 10 miles, which is unbearably slow. Next year I'll be lining up with the Gatekeepers.

I decided to train for the 100K (which was just short of 65 miles) to see how I would do. My official clock time was 5:03:15 including the 25 minutes it took to get to the starting line. My saddle time was actually 4:18:00, which is right in line with my training, and told me I could have made Hell's gate in plenty of time to finish 100 miles had I ridden that distance. I know it would have taken me another 3 hours, though, and I wasn't ready for that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this ride. The rest stops were well prepared with hydration fluids, pickle juice, ice-cold pickles, oranges, bananas, and icy-wet towels. My favorite part of the ride was near the end. We rode through Sheppard AFB, and the first sign we saw was one that said something about Sept. 18, 1947 - the day the Air Force was born. I immediately thought about my dad, who joined the AF in 1947. Then we rode through a static display of airplanes, and around the corner, we were met by about 100 or so Airmen in PT uniforms who were cheering us on. I saluted them as we rode by, and some of them snapped to attention and saluted me back. I yelled out at everyone I could, "Thank you for your service." As tired as I was, those Air Force guys really motivated me, and I finished strong. Thank God for the men and women who protect our skies.

After the finish, Linda met me with an ice-cold recovery drink, and we went to the "Finish Line Village" where they had live music, food, and plenty of cold beverages. I skipped the beer and instead waited until dinner to celebrate with a glass of red wine.

So this was another milestone, another personal best. I continue to train for longer endurance rides, and I feel confident to do the 100 mile Waco Wild West ride in September, and the MS 150 ride in October. Next year I'll finish the HHH 100 mile ride and plan to finish in 6 hours. Thanks to my trainer, Chad, the guys at Sun Country Bikes - especially John, who put on a new set of wheels for this ride - that keep me rolling, my cycling club who keeps me challenged, and my wife, who supports my crazy obsessions. I'm especially thankful though, to God, for giving me a healthy body, and for being my source of strength.

Here's my ride:

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rules or Relationship

I have thought a lot about sin and forgiveness, and recently have been challenged because of the title of this blog. I might say here that if you have a problem with an addiction to alcohol, I would tell you not to drink, and if you were in my house, I would not tempt you or encourage alcohol use. I might even keep it in the fridge and drink water instead. But that's your issue, not mine, and I respect your abstinence. For me, a cold beer on a hot day is a treat, not an addiction or stumbling block to my walk with Christ.
In fact, I'm training for the Hotter N Hell Hundred ride right now, and have not been drinking anything for the last 4 weeks. You can bet, though, there will be a celebratory cold one waiting for me at the finish line. And it won't be a cheap or light beer either.
When it comes to grace, how far does God’s mercy reach? Does God love us for who we are, or for our performance? Does He turn His back on me because (or when) I drink beer? If I have a beer on the back porch with someone and we discuss spiritual things, are they of none effect? What if it's my pastor having a beer with me? Does God hear me if I pray after drinking a beer? Exactly WHAT separates us from the love of God and His mercy? What does Romans 8:1 mean?
Is God offended when I sin? Does He love me any less, or does He turn His back on me? Am I in danger of hell? If that is the case, then do we really ever have a chance? And if that’s the way it is, what good was Jesus’ work when He said, “It is finished?” Am I in sin if the work is finished? I thought when I confessed my sin, and accepted Jesus, he forgave me and cleansed me from ALL unrighteousness. Was Paul lying when he said, “All things are permissible, but not all things are profitable?”
I was reading Galatians 5:1 this morning, and I got another understanding of grace through this. Here’s the Amplified version: IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]. What “freedom” (liberty, license, etc.) is Paul speaking of? Are we free, or are we in bondage or servitude to the law? The end of that scripture tells us to not be ensnared (entangled, held in bondage or servitude, trapped, enslaved) again by the yokes of bondage. Another version, NLT, says “…tied up again in slavery to the law.” Did Jesus set us free from the law? If He did, how can I be in sin? He forgave me, just as He has you, and He doesn’t want us in bondage to the law. My concern is being in bondage to legalism.
How is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Are you walking closely with Him? Or is your relationship only with a book? Many years ago, my only understanding of Jesus was through a list of what I could, should, couldn’t or shouldn’t do. It had little to do with grace.
Has Christ set us free? Are our sins forgiven - all of them, according to scripture? I could argue using the bible but that’s not my intention. It would serve little purpose, as in over 2 decades of this journey with Christ I have never won someone’s heart by beating them up with my knowledge of scripture. Have you? What’s this walk all about anyway? Is it about grace - or performance? Is it about mercy - or judgment? And has God forgiven me, or does He hold me accountable every time I violate the “law?” Why does the scripture say that we have been set free from the law? And what does it mean? Really, think about it – if we have to repent and ask forgiveness for every sin every time we sin, do we really even have a chance? Or could it be, that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” that it really was finished? If He completed the work, then why do I need to finish it?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Today's Ride

This was my ride today. My personal best - 56.8 miles, and I rode 15.6 mph avg. There's a lot to be said for training.
I might say, "Oh my God, that was a damn good ride," but I might offend some of the more legalistic types. Before you comment and bring my Christianity into question - think about what's really important.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Chihuahua Farm

I see the weirdest things sometimes. I passed this the other day on a group ride, and didn't have my camera. I decided today since I was riding alone, I would stop and document this evil place.

Friday, July 04, 2008

4th of July Club Ride

There's nothing like getting up early on a holiday morning and heading out for a 7:00 a.m. ride with 30 or more other people. Then after the ride, having breakfast ready outside with a bunch of crazy riders who want to start the party early.

I had a blast - and got home in time for family time.

Here's our ride:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I must be freaking nuts

So here's what I do on my Sunday afternoons. Instead of staying inside, watching TV and drinking a beer, Pauly's out there in the 100 deg. heat, drinking GU2O and burning 1033 calories. We had a short ride today, only about 21 miles since no one wanted to go the extra 5 or six miles.
Actually, I love testing my body's endurance, and there's always a sense of accomplishment when I'm done. Here's my ride:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Relationships that last

A few weeks ago, I started getting emails from some classmates I hadn't seen in over 30 years. They came fast and furious, sometimes up to 30 or 40 emails in a couple of days. They centered around our high school band director, Charles Kuentz, who is having a school built and named after him in San Antonio, TX. A few of us decided to get together at Pico de Gallo's in San Antonio last Friday.
It's peculiar how these relationships have stayed connected through an interesting framework built long ago, and kept alive through not just memories and nostalgia, but through life-long, committed and on-purpose contact. I graphed this out the other day in a conversation with my coach, Bobby Williams. I'm going to try to outline it in writing.

Let me set the stage first. Greg (Greger) Wright has been a friend of mine since 7th grade. 40 years...There is no one else in this world, outside my family, with whom I have kept in contact with for so long. Greger is connected to Anna, Betty, Carol, Ronnie, Larry, and me. I connected with Cynthia, and each one of us is connected to a few others, but the "hub" is Greger.

So yesterday, I was engaged in a conversation with Bobby, and he asked me what my perception of coaching is. Having never been in organized sports, the only thing I could relate to is Mr Kuentz, my band director. He had a framework in which he provided:

  • Resources - a place to practice and learn, music, uniforms, instruments, etc.

  • Direction and boundaries - so that we could safely and effectively progress from one level to the next

  • Mentors and leaders - more experienced peer relationships that helped us improve through technique and accountability

  • Encouragement - not only to improve, but he was constantly drawing out the talent we already had within us

  • Challenges - we had to compete for our position within our respective groups

  • Focus - not only on our individual strengths, but also on working as a team

  • Testing - we often had to audition individually in front of him

  • Application - we had to perform as a team, and in harmony

Out of this framework flowed relationships, growth (both personal and corporate), revelation, and transformation.

So the question came up - is the church working this way? Usually, whenever spiritual meetings occur, the focus is centered on whoever is ministering at the time - the praise & worship team, the preacher, etc. - but, where is our focus to be if we want to truly experience growth, lasting relationships, revelation and transformation? Do we work on coaching and encouraging our brothers and sisters to grow, (and this can only come through relationship, not a program) or do we just come once a week to hear a message and then stumble through the rest of our week wondering why "the devil is attacking" us?

The focus has to be on each other, and flowing out of our relationship with the Father, a divine connection in a kingdom that provides us with resources, encouragement, and all things necessary for kingdom living. It's then promoted through people that are using those resources and bringing others along with them. We can't get this from a once a week "church" experience - whether it's in a traditional or a house setting. Relationships and growth have to flow from a healthy framework that encourages us to become the best in all areas of our lives, and then to multiply and reproduce.

So when the five of us old-timers, who hadn't seen each other in 33 years, met for lunch on Friday, it was like we had just left the band hall and went to the cafeteria - we picked up where we had left off 33 years ago. These lasting relationships flowed from a healthy framework that reproduced itself in our lives, families, and church. I can't wait to see where this goes from here.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I pooped out

I bravely started the Tour d' Temple with 168 other riders this morning, fully intending on riding the 100Km (62.5 miles) route. I averaged about 16.5 mph to the 2nd rest stop, about 21.5 miles out. I was feeling pretty good, not tired, confident in my exercise and nutrition this past week. The wind was from the south, about 12-16 mph, so I had an easy ride until then.

Mother Neff State Park was the site of the 2nd rest stop. It's the oldest state park in Texas, and has some beautiful old pecan and oak trees - some over 100 years old. It's one of my favorite scenic places in Texas, and has so much shade, it's always about 10 degrees cooler than anywhere else. It's also on the Leon River, which feeds into Lake Belton. With the rains last year, the entire park was underwater. It's recovered maybe about 65%. None of the buildings have reopened.

At Mother Neff - underneath some pecan trees.

I took off from MNSP onto the 100k route.

Here's the road right outside of MNSP.

Up a nice climb, then turned onto Moody-Gatesville Parkway (Hwy 107) toward the east - and into the wind. Then south, back to MNSP - right into a wind so stiff, I had to pedal downhill. When I reached the park again, I realized I was the LAST person on the 100k loop. The rest behind me had already quit or turned at the 50 mile turnaround. I was still making decent time, about 15 mph average, so I was still OK. My legs were feeling a little tired, but I continued to fuel with e-water and oranges. the next part of the ride started going bad around 35 miles. Then it happened - I hit the wall at 40 miles. I figured if I just continued, I'd get my second wind, but it never happened. I had to dismount around 41 miles and take another break, then I was just looking for the next rest stop. I thought maybe I would recover, and at least go 50 miles, or even finish on the 50 mile route - which would have let me ride in with about 56 miles.... nope. When I got to the last rest stop, I felt spent. I knew my body was telling me to stop. And even though I know I could have maybe gone another 10-12 miles, it was against a headwind, and I decided to call in the SAG. Poop.
I think a combo of not riding much the past week, the wind, and going to bed late last night. I got beat by the wind, heat, and just exhaustion. So I rode in an air conditioned truck back to the start...44.6 miles, according to the Vetta.

So I came back home for a cold Dos Equis and some pizza.

My route: