Garrett County Gran Fondo 2012 Race Report

With the 2014 iteration  of the Garett County Gran Fondo coming up June 21-22 where you climb for a cause. This is my ride report from 2012, I plan on also sharing those for 2013.

It was 8 years ago and I walked into the American embassy full of trepidation greeted by many people a lot of them my age who shared the same feeling. We were nice and friendly to each other but deep down we knew there was a significant chance we would not be leaving the place with an American Visa. Instead of the customary goodbye you hear when leaving someone the most prevalent words were “good luck: when you were called up for your interview. At the top of Wisp mountain the feeling was very similar, we were there to try to have fun but it was obvious if you did have fun it would be at a price.

Unlike all other races/big rides I have done (which is not very much by the way), it was surprising to see during my mandatory checkout session (when I count out how many people weigh over 200lbs and have bikes that cost less than $2000, do not have shaved legs) that there was a very diverse mix of people there. The was the customary lance Armstrong people with matching kits and wear their glasses outside their helmet straps, the triathletes with time trial bikes and bikinis for jerseys, the Clydesdales with quad twice the size mine, some who seemed to together with their bikes weigh less when me and everything in between, It was quite an unintimidating atmosphere as long as you ignore the HR exploding elevation profile handed to you during registration.

The ride started off very nicely, newly paved road down the wisp mountain and 300 riders plummeting down traffic-less roads, it felt like a professional race save for the missing team cars, escorts, officials and riders highly trained in picking and holding their lines. After riding the brakes for what seemed like a mile for fear of running into the other tentative descenders I decided to let my wheels roll, embrace gravity and gave my brakes a break (pun?), I was upfront when we hit the first short climb then a couple miles of rolling terrain till we started up White Rock. I would compare White Rock to climbing up the back side of rocky gap road (the tar and chip side) just longer. It was not terrible but did good to start warming up the legs.

Everyone was pretty together and it showed that most of this people did know what they signed up for. The decent was awesome bar some shaded area which made it hard to see any portholes and slow people in front who either do not know or had not mastered the (outside-inside-outside) way of taking a corner but this was all rather without incident. It was beautiful to see what you could of the landscape but there was also a lot of Fog that made you feel like you were climbing into the clouds (I sort of imagined myself riding in Colorado without the Altitude sickness).The first rest stop was pleasant where it was nice to see more familiar faces, John Waugaman took my Jacket and I saw some LFM tri team members.

The climb out after the first Rest Stop Old Morgantown road was Wellesburg mtn only longer it also had a lot of false summits and not really top out till you crossed over the interstate. Another sweet decent with a couple hairy switchbacks thrown in to keep you awake in case you were getting bored or wising you up if you decided to do this ride on a Tri bike. There were a couple of short climbs from here to the second rest stop: My initial plan was to try and sit on as many wheels as I can conserving energy but the ride was just a ribbon on continuous uphills et downhills where I had to ride my pace on fast downhills on which I was faster than most people around me, I promptly came to the conclusion this will be nothing like Seagull where there was constantly trains of pacelines going by “Hommie you are on your own”. The last climb before rest stop 2 Devils Half acre I would compare to a shorter but slightly steeper Martins mountain. This is where my cramps began to appear, not terribly but I know I had to start drinking….a lot!

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We (me, Ron Kessler and Steve) survived till we got to Bowmans Hill. In my opinion this was the hardest climb on the ride, pretty much Tucey without the turns, starts out with a shallow section then a brief break, two consecutive steep sections and finally another easier section. I would tell you what the grade was but I turned off my bike computer after the second climb after it said I still had over 9000 ft of climbing. The cramps were getting worse now and I just kept drinking, eating and massaging on the down hills. The most frightening climb on paper was called Killer Miller but I was not impressed, It was a decent climb but it is just like the last climb before the long downhill on our Road Kill café ride, the name escapes me. Waiting at the top of the ride was Steve’s support crew who felt it appropriate to have some Miller beer at the top of Miller.

At the top of Miller, Before the worst ever descent... EVER!!!

At the top of Miller, Before the worst ever descent… EVER!!!

We had some beer and I geared up for the decent. This was the greatest anticlimax ever! There was none we pretty much rolled down a little but did a bunch more climbing then came to the rest stop.

After the rest stop we had an awesome decent. This was by far the longest decent I have done ever. It was just steady, smooth and scenic it felt like the downhill from Wellesburg to Palo Alto where I earned my infamous name (Pillow man). I also got to sit on some wheels in this section. I started getting worried when we had been descending for what seems like 6miles (what goes down must come up), the field was so scattered now that there’s were no other riders besides us. After enjoying this ride, we started the longest climb of the day; I am not sure of the amount but it felt like forever. I was on the fence the whole time between doing ok and cramping up. I would eat a Jell and get relieve for 10mins then it would come back and I would do it again, it was torture, about 300yards to the top of the climb, I could only stand and pedal, is I sat down my quads would cramp up. I made it to the top and we were on the home stretch.

When we got to lakeshore my cramping was beginning to hold the guys back so I told them to go. Ron asked if I was sure I could make it and I said I would be fine. He said it should be only about 10 miles left and was corrected by Steve that we only had 4 miles left. That news sent the most potent shot of adrenal cocktail into my system and an extra spring in my pedal stoke….. it did not last…. We hit the Wisp climb and I told myself…..Mandela, your wife, son and friends are going to be somewhere on this mountain… Thou shall not walk your bike no matter the pain”. Half way up the climb there is a cheering committee and traffic on both sides so slaloming the climb was out of the question, you had to go straight up, half way in I got the most massive cramps I have ever had, both quads contracted and seized up, it was like I came out of my body and watched myself key over, people came up to me asked if there’s anything they could do but I wasn’t sure so I just shook my head and wallowed in the pain. I got up got back on, they gave me a push which was awesome and I crept up the climb.

I could now barely see Wheelmen Jerseys and the finish line, one of the passer bys said “almost there, sprint for it” in my mind I was saying “Buddy there will be no sprinting today”… with encouragement from the wonderful wheelmen I crossed the line then proceeded to make a scene. My legs cramped up X5, I could not bend them or even get off the bike, people surrounded me and I felt like I was slipping out of consciousness (ok not that bad) but I really wanted to cry, maybe did a little. I think I have earned the right to quit one bike ride in this calendar year.

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Thanks to the awesomeness of the wheelmen and family, I am able to enjoy a sport I would not have even considered 3 years ago. These are the types of things that should be on my Bucket list I need to slowdown or else I would have to put more senseless things like jumping off an airplane because I have done all the other cool things so young. I know this was long, just wanted those that did not ride it to get a sense of what they missed and know that there will always be next year. I think besides one more team, it seemed like the wheelmen jersey was the most prevalent I saw…….
Until the next ride….
Allez Allez Allez

Mechanical/Emotional Advantage…

The general concensus is that around here you gain 100feet in elevation for every mile you ride so if you intend on being a “serious” cyclist you might have to learn how to climb. Now personally, I am not a bad climber until measured next to the type of cyclist categorized as a real climber (those 130lbs people consisting solely of skin, lungs and bone) against those I climb with the king of grace displayed in Charles Barkley’s golf swing. My point you ask? Ah!…. My point: False Flats…

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There are few things I hate worse than false flats, they seem to always be straight and exposed.  Spinning at a steady clip, hands in the drops, beads of sweat migrating steadily into your eyes, you are putting a decent effort in all the while experiencing what seems to be a decrease in forward motion. Usually you look at the road ahead and it seems flat but in reality you are gaining elevation ever so slowly hence the moniker “False-flat” . Situations like these display the apotheosis of a Paceline, a formation where you rely on protection from a fellow rider shielding you from the wind and  in time -you returning the favor. I see very strong similarities between this and the way we go through life.

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Whenever we get on false flats which we all do (the way life event sneak up on you just when you though all was well), it is nice to find a wheel to sit on for a minute, solace behind which to catch your breath, a place to rally a second wind, to restore your energy. We were created for relationship and we do better when experiencing them to the fullest. Without fellowship most of us are apt to quit riding and sit on the couch an example being that gym membership which we pay for every month but only go 4 times a year and only to swim in the pool on a hot day. There comes a speed and grade where the advantages of pacing are no longer aerodynamic but psychological, slugging up a 10% grade just keeping a wheel insight gives the motivation not to stop pedaling likewise in life, some situations no one can shoulder for you, you must pass through and overcome but it does help when there is a hand to hold on to.

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Pace lines are great but require a rotation, you can’t sit on the wheel and never take a turn in the wind, you can’t lean on me forever and never afford me the chance to do likewise.
I feel the world is migrating the way of solo attacks, with everyone taking the wind and almost feeling proud of it, we call it Independence. Some of this I believe stems from not truly experiencing the vacuum present when in the sweet spot of a paceline, being a big guy I never quite understood why so many people loved to sit on my wheel, I mean I know my chiseled calf muscles are world renowned and all but these people only seem to love my wheel on the flats and especially on the downhills. The day I way brave enough to let go the brakes and slot right close behind a leading rider and felt what seemed like a sucking vortex, a feeling of literally being pulled along. That is what it feels like to have momentary relief from the troubles of life, to feel comforted by a friend telling you “you are not alone” by another saying what can I do to help you. I love a paceline…. I love to pull and I love to be pulled… It’s the way God designed us.

The Wanderlust Irony

Wanderlust… I find myself overcome by it, a continuous tug at my heart to pack up and head for the horizon to seek the peaks of fellowship in transit and the lows of solitude in the uncertain, how I wish it were that easy, to fill a daypack with bare essentials ridding myself of the tethers that hold back and weigh down. I want to walk the wilderness breaking bread with mother nature as I eat of her bounty and drink of her beauty, float between villages and taste wild berries, bread made by knowing aged hands the old way but alas things like Family, Finances, Infrastructure incarcerate my dreams banishing them to remain just that…dreams.

I all of a sudden find myself awake to feelings long suppressed,  an always persisting but now budding affinity for a vagabond existence… oh to be a rolling stone. I believe I have always wanted to see new lands, have new experiences, conquer new frontiers albeit at the cost of some comfort or a lot of comfort. I want to lay by the fire under a blanket of stars and breath in smog-less air but most of all I would love to do it on African soil. To tour on foot…better yet by bike Ghana, Benin, Cameron, Nigeria oh Naija to savor you slowly seeing you.

 

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I am not ignorant to the fact that many a man share these feelings, the strong pull to the wild hence its adoption into various tools for liberation from mental, social and physical issues, numerous books tout the healing powers of reconnecting with nature, getting away and being by ones self.

The point of the preceding dissertation is to invite you to contemplate with me the Irony our quest for wilderness and solitude especially when juxtaposed with the fervent effort most of those who live in these “paradises” pursue urbanization . People in 3rd world countries long to come to the west for the modern amenities ,the skyscrapers, to be able to send back pictures of them posing under the statue of liberty or the McDonald golden arches or Welcom to — state signs. while westerner paine for less connectivity and head to the thirdworld for an “exotic experience, amassing pictures of them smiling gleefully next to indigenous people and bright eyed African kids clinging to their legs.

 

Looking out into Bwari, Abuja Nigeria

Looking out into Bwari, Abuja Nigeria, what do you see?

As much as we want to believe “To each their own” and “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” I have to believe there is a better way to ascertain if we are where we are supposed to be. Somedays I am drawn to the possibilities and shinning lights of the city and other times the quaint hum of the country soothes and keeps me, the question is Am I where God wants me to be? or since God is Omniscient: Is wherever you find yourself where he wants you to be because he allowed you to get there?  I struggle with both questions but I anchor myself in Romans 8:28…

What Say you?

 

Ride Report Abuja, Nigeria II

It was clear there existed a hierarchy in the group, the foreign expats just stood and watch clearly now accustomed to the “African Time” approach to setting off, their patience was actually enviable as they watched group mechanic try to change a tire.
So this guy shows up with a mountain bike and a flat tire and group mechanic immediately swings into action. He takes off the wheel and calls someone on their way there to bring him a tube. I ask what the cause of the leak was if it was a puncture or a pinch, this gave me an opportunity to educate them on what a pinch looks like versus a puncture. As it turns out, they changed the same tire the last week and used CO2 to air it up so obviously it was down after a week and really did not have a hole in it. So amazingly for the first time I had more mechanical knowledge than anyone else in a group….Scary I know.

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Group Mechanic AKA Fast Guy

I tried to start a conversation with the Oyibo (Nigeria for white people, we also call African Americans “Akata” Nigerian 101) but they seemed a little stand offish, I could however tell one was English, another Flemish (I believe that’s northern Belgium) and the last guy was clearly American. After some small talk, I guess I passed their security clearance or sometime he told me he was from North Carolina and had a son who attempted going to Garrett College but could not handle the cold. He had been out of the states for 25 years and had no plans of coming back…hmm America’s most wanted anyone?
Down to the riders: There were 11 of us 3 expats on decent mountainbikes with super knobby tires pumped way too high (I thought to myself… they either are not be going very far or these guys are not very experienced). Of the local riders, 3 had real road bikes; one a 90s’ steel Cannondale, the other an older Trek Madone and the last guy a lower end Boardman. The Cannondale guy named Yemi was pretty much the leader with a whistle and everything. The other guys had …how do you put it Junk bikes pretty much convenient store bikes you find in Publix (UK Walmart), and 2 other guys had fitness bikes. I had to make a decision, do I take it easy and hang with these guys and just enjoy the experience or do I do what I do best: Stroke some egos and initiate a breakaway…. The problem is I don’t not know the roads!
We finally set off after all 6 finished changing a tire that really just needed pumped, what a way to start your ride. About a mile in, the pace was depressingly slow so on the first of only 2 significant climbs I went out front just to just open up the legs a little. It was difficult striking up a conversation because most of them were not fit and could not pedal and talk at the same time and I was a little worried about someone crossing wheels with me. I did not expect anyone to stay with me but I picked up the pace a little I sensed someone on my left well really I heard someone’s breathing, You know how you try to control your breathing to prevent someone from knowing you are suffering… Well guess what it’s usually obvious so you might as well go to your plan be “Proclaim you did a double century the previous day and this is a recovery ride”. I look around and to coach Yemi and he is putting some power in. I try to be modest but from his breathing and the grade I knew I could drop him even if I was climbing that at the end of a hard century. I resisted and did not drop him though. Yemi would go ahead and use his whistle to stop traffic as our rag-tag team limped through with a security detail in tow for the embassy delegates, It was quite comedic because we looked nothing like a well oiled bike club in a pace line expertly chaperoned by SIlvester or Jack. We looked more like a kid’s bike group being led to school in Portland Oregon.

RIding on shoulder of Expressway

Riding on the shoulder of Expressway

Unlike American Interstates, Nigerian interstates mimic the old British interstates. You do not exit from an interstate right into the settlement you are headed to, instead you exit unto a service road then exit to where you want to go, well guess where we were riding…. Yep the service road of an interstate with cars going by at 70mph all honking of course. It was a Saturday morning so traffic was light and it was new tarmac, just flat pedaling heaven. Again I headed out front and just put the hammer down, I wasn’t do this to cause a breakaway I just wanted to feel speed then I heard that clicking sound of a freewheel (Dang Wheelsuckers) then something amazing happens the rider comes around and starts taking a pull, it was the group mechanic (AB) on his Madone with Easton wheel… it was obvious the dude could ride…

Sitting on AB's wheel... Safest place to be.

Sitting on AB’s wheel… Safest place to be.

We left the group and took turns pulling for about 6 miles; his experience was invaluable as he pretty much bullied cars and rickshaws called Keke Napep (Keke is the Hausa word for bicycle), Hausa is one of the three major languages of the over 250 found in Nigeria, (Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo are the major three. I am Igbo) as they tried to cut us off. Taxi’s stopped at the side of the road to offload passengers got bangs from AB’s skinny arms as we went by, he would let out screams 10 yards before he gets to the car and give it a good smack as we wheeze by. At some points we got on the shoulderless interstate and I pretty much sat on his wheel the entire time. I wasn’t sure if it was safer to lead or follow for protection not only from the wind but from the unbelievable situation. It was a crazy experience …. My senses were on overdrive, I was pedaling as fast as I could to get off this never ending road, conscious of every car that zipped passed me at over 70mph but also conscious of the fact that if one of them does not see me or misjudges my location no amount of alertness could help me. At a point I started to tire and AB led us to a gas station where I had a coke (I mean real coke) made with real sugar. I was ready to do another 50K.

I could go on but I will end it here… I truly hope to get on some good rides with the group this year though I know it will be greatly limited… I am truly beginning to learn the level of commitment a child brings, my priorities are truly changing… but then again it’s a circle I will be old like some of you one day (Hey.. I did not name any names Larry)…
The ride was one of the highlights of my trip. It was good to experience and share in the lives of up and coming cyclist. I am now looking for Bike mechanic learning opportunities and hopefully a better connection with Bike for the World for opportunities to share more of the magic of cycling. Amazingly in the country I am aware of only 3 bicycle shops…
Prayers for Sue, I hope this cheers you up a little… we miss you…

Ride Report Abuja Nigeria I

Hi guys,

Just wanted to give a little write up on my ride during my trip home:

The dilemma that gave me sleepless nights was how to get my bike home. So standing at the checkin counter I looked at my newly upgraded bike and a montage started to roll to a Aerosmith’s I don’t want to miss a thing: the first time I sat the awkward machine, when I realized those skinny tires are not terribly twitchy if I kept my speed up, my very first road ride with Andy, Rick and Jack, Jaunts with Ron. I remembered how beautifully she pulls into the wind with a host of wheelsuckers staring at backside, how much those canti brakes squeal during a cross race, how no matter what I do the bike just cant seem to stay clean. I remember its companionship on my jaunt up ASCI during my inaugural gran fondo and how we cried together when my quads decided to protest having to propel her over 100 hard miles. I could not help but wonder if alas this was adieu to an old friend.

You see I had looked around for a bike case to ensure safe transport of my bike to Nigeria especially since we had to change planes in Frankfurt Germany and though the Germans are known for their meticulous and excellent engineering, baggage handlers worldwide are trained in the same facility all doctors take their penmanship class, watch them work and I guarantee you will learn to travel with nothing but carryon luggage, If you want to stuff to arrive in one piece pack it great and pray.

So just before I purchased a reinforced bike bag I decided to call the airline (Lufthansa) and see what their policy on bikes was; as it turned out the plane had a bike rack and all I needed to do was make a reservation (which I did), deflate the tires and pay $150 at checkin being that it is considered “Oversize” though it weighs less than 20lbs with pedals and a saddle bad. At the checkin counter the gentleman said he does not see a reservation for my bike but after some inquiry he said they could take it…. sadly for him he forgot to charge me and I did not remind him. So I looked at my bike wondering if this was the last time I would ever see it, Maybe I should just pay the $150….ahhh No!… being a victim of lost luggage numerous times, I put the chances of seeing my bike again at 35%.

I had been in Abuja, Nigeria for 6 days now and was yet to ride. Before leaving I had connected with some riders in Lagos (another city in Nigeria) on Strava and was really looking forward to schooling them on some good fashioned mountain man climbing albeit on winter legs. Due to circumstances beyond my control I could not take the bike with me to Lagos. So 2 days before I had to return to the States I resolved do whatever is necessary to get a ride in. Via some contact at the British embassy I learnt of a cycling group in Abuja who met at 7am. This was it, a social ride in 90 degree weather through the heartland of Nigeria AKA The Giant of Africa.

 

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I could barely sleep the night before this ride, the opportunity to explore my childhood stomping grounds or better yet the motherland by bike was tantalizing. though this was the first day I was actually beginning to adjust to the 6hrs I gained from flying across the Atlantic, I pushed aside any hypnosis of sleep, slapped on my Wheelmen kit (full wit bandana burrowed from Donna), mounted my lights and tip-toes outside the gate being deliberate not to alarm the sleeping by my cyclists cleats.

The time was 6am and the temperature was 74degree, the air smelt of fruits and gasoline and there was not that distant chill you usually feel early in the morning.

You could hear the distant call of an imam beckoning the Muslim followers to morning prayer. The was a general calm feeling almost stagnant no head/tailwind, I adjusted my saddle, clicked on my headlamp and pushed on into the slowly awakening city.

As I slowly pedaled in the direction of the meet-up the only traffic I encountered where the early taxi drivers in the VW golfs and Peugeot 309s continually tapping their horns to get the attention of potential passengers (car horns are really the soundtrack of Nigeria) The buzz of the cities is hardwired into your consciousness by the innumerable amount of car hunks you hear and process daily kind of reminds you your alive and not droning in some perfectly manicured socially correct system…(After 15mins of driving, my 11yr old asks…why is everyone so mad… I say buddy over here people don’t hunk because they are angry, they do it to pass time)…

I could tell the sun was beginning to rise but due to the relative flatness of this part of the country and excessive development I know I did not have a good chance of seeing a sunrise. More importantly we were in Harmattan season when the northeasterly winds blow dust in from the Sahara desert to the Gulf of Guinea so the city is in a constant dust haze, no clouds…just a greyish haze…

It does not rain in Harmattan, actually it is considered an ominous sign if it rains in this season so needless to say I did not bring a jacket. lol

I did a 10 mile loop, watching people wake up and get about their business. The roadside restaurant lady brings her business back to life by stoking her kerosene stove with her baby velcrowed to her back by a length of clothe. The water sellers pushing their homemade wheelbarrows with loads of jerry cans, The fruit and nuts seller embarks on her route effortlessly balancing her goods on her head as she texts and walks, the occasional Range Rover ferrying the boss man home after a long night of clubbing… Abuja is such a vibrant city where all classes rob shoulders. In such a raw place, you can be a water seller today and a billionaire tomorrow its apparent the country and more appropriate Africa is the next frontier in business venture and opportunities and the fruits are very evident . The blacktop was immaculate, with a sidewalk and traffic and street lights, there was not a bike lane but an empty bus lane so it turned out to be a great personal bike lane.

 

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The terrain was primarily flat…false flat…little climb/rise…then back to flat. A couple decent climbs but nothing I would even consider a cat 3… Due to my winter legs, by 10 miles I was beginning to feel the effects of constant pedaling and by this time the temp had risen to about 80 (no humidity though). Though I group up in this city, the development and changes have happened so fast I got lost almost immediately, Finally I got on this long stretch which I knew would take me to the meeting point then I say a couple white(Caucasian) gentlemen on mountainbikes with a car behind which I realized was an escort and the first thing I though was Dang…this is going to be a slow sucky ride.

Sadly I was kind of a rock star, no one had ever met me before and they liked my kit and bike. Nigerians are a different breed, and this is true with many other nationalities. Nigerians pretty much wear their emotions on their sleeves and are quite touchy feely people so I had a lot of people touch me to feel my jersey, pick my bike without asking , checkout my lights, for the only prominent/popular/famous/awesome bicycle rider in Cumberland MD that I know of all that attention made me a little uncomfortable. It took me a while to readjust to this natural behavior but it was also ironic how they admired my aluminum cross bike with no bling whatsoever. I couldn’t help thinking “well if you see Silvester’s bike you’ll probably worship him them”

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In typical Nigerian fashion, a ride that was supposed to kick off at 7 was not showing any signs of heading out and it was 8 now and 95 degrees….

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The Saddle an Altar

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Barely brazing 85 percent of my maximum heart rate, I slug up Irons mountain on a crisp spring afternoon, blue bird day with the sun taking intermittent breaks behind sparse puffy clouds feels nice but a harbinger of what summer has in stock. Suddenly it strikes my how many parallels can be drawn between cycling and one’s spiritual walk, I ponder this while looking out into the cadenza of yellows, reds and varying shades of blue stratification that would require a true tetrachromic  to appreciate I juxtapose my spiritual growth with my improvement in the saddle over the course of my riding “career”. Just 2 year ago the idea of riding up this cat3 climb on a bicycle would have been totally absurd to me, the first time I made it to the top the only vista I enjoyed was watching the snot and sweat cocktail run from my face to the tarmac as I desperately toiled to reach some negative elevation figures, today however I can pedal up the same climb, hold a conversation (albeit limited) and still notice the curve of the road as it sneaks its way down the mountain, I am soothed by the vengance with which the leaves on the tree are reborn, I notice how this calls up in me an awe for a Creator. Something inside, something fundamental feels summoned, I feel a sense of privileged to somehow be willing and able to take the time to commune with the creator. A month after I gave my life to Christ I very nearly threw the towel in, I remember at a church service saying to God “this is too hard, I have tried all I can but its just too hard” I decided I was returning to my old life the minute I left that service that night, needless to say God spoke to me in a real way that night making me believe John 6:37. Just like riding if we stay with it we develop spiritual muscle/spiritual endurance with time.

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Before I ever fell into cycling, I asked God to help me as I start trying to live for him to get connected to the right people I knew some old friendships had to go and I needed support beyond family. He answered me by sending me a friend in the form of a Giant Rincon 26″, one not with triflow instead of blood coursing through its vein. A friend that if I look hard enough and listen well enough becomes an altar a vessel through which I could be with God.