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.