There Is Honor In Competing

June 12, 2011

Bicycling, Faith

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Hebrews 12:1

Today was my second chance to participate in the 2011 Kansas City Corporate Challenge.  I got up at 5:15 to assemble my gear and get ready emotionally.  Clyde Miller arrived at 5:50AM.  We strapped my bike onto his car and we headed out to Shawnee Mission Park.  Today was the duathlon/triathlon competition.  And my job was to ride around the park four times (approximately sixteen miles).

My spirits were upbeat.  And my attitude was positively ebullient.  After this year’s bicycle commuting, I was ready for the challenge – despite the looming hills and the threatening weather.   I ride about twenty five miles every day.  And there are some substantial hills on the return home.  So I wasn’t too worried about completing the course.  In fact, I took finishing for granted.  Boy, was that premature!

Clyde started us off at 7:00AM when he began his swim.  He did his leg in about thirty minutes.  I give him so much credit.  I can’t imagine swimming in open water with a pack of people kicking you in the face.  I heard them call our number when Clyde left the water.  So I lined up and got ready for the transfer.  I worried about the transfer and getting clipped into my pedals.  But the transfer went so very smoothly.  I started off my part of the race with excitement.  This was looking epic.

During the first lap, I did fantastically well going up the hills.  I was dropping folks w/o much trouble.  And my downhill pacing was good.  [Note: I hate downhill racing.  It requires much finer motor control.  And my poor vision really reduces my ability to react quickly – especially in a big pack of people.  But I was doing remarkably well going downhill.

I passed the start/stop line and shifted up into a high gear so that I could grab every ounce of power/momentum on the downhill stretch before the dam.  When I shifted up, I heard a very disheartening clunk in my rear derailleur.  I could still pedal.  So I figured it was just a poor shift on my part.  I kept hammering across the dam and then turned to go up the hill.  And that’s when I figured out what happened: my shifting cable between my shifting levers (on the handlebars) and the rear derailleur had failed.  I tried to shift down and nothing happened.  I made it halfway up the hill before I had to hop off and run it up the hill.

I rode across the next flat and down the next hill.  And I then tried to shift down.  There was no joy.  I tried to shift up – but with no success.  My rear shifting was completely kaput.  So I was riding a fixie in a high gear up and down the hills of Shawnee Mission Park.  I had to hop off twice.  I tried on two more occasions to fix it myself.

After about twenty minutes of fiddling and walking, I finally made it to the north side of the park.  I rode down toward the transfer point where I had seen a bike repair truck from BikeSource.   So I stopped at the finish line, dismounted and headed for the repair truck.  My teammates thought that I was done.  I had to wave them off and hoof it to the truck.  It took about ten minutes for the tech to resolve the cable issue.  Fortunately, I knew the tech.  In fact, he was the person who had prepped my bike for KCCC almost six weeks ago.

After taking almost forty minutes on the second lap, I finally was back on the course for the third lap.  The shifting was smooth, but I was hesitant.  I probably did a twenty minute third lap.  By the time I passed the start/stop line, I was one of the last folks still on the course.  As I started my last lap, I had finally gotten back into the rhythm that I had built on the first lap.  The final hills were tough  but not punishing.  I hammered through the last lap in about thirteen minutes.

While I don’t have the final time I posted, I think it was almost ninety minutes – a full thirty minutes off what I had expected to do.  Yes, I did have a mechanical failure.  But I did finish the course.  And surprisingly enough, I wasn’t last.  I was certainly in the last third of the participants.  But I was passing people even during the last lap.

But for me, I must chalk this up as a moral victory.  This was my first relay competition.  So any time was obviously my best time.  More importantly, I finished the course.  I really thought about just packing it in when I rolled into the transition area for the repair.  But as I thought about it, I realized how silly that would have been.  I was here representing the USMC.  Young Marines were (and are) in harm’s way.  And they never gave up.  So how could I give up on a simple bicycle race.  I HAD to complete the course – regardless of which position I ended in.

The bottom line lesson for me was the obvious lesson of perseverance.  I would finish in order to validate the work that Clyde had done.  I would finish in order to give Julie her opportunity to compete in the running segment..  I would finish so that I could prove to myself that there is honor in the competition.

I must say “thank you” to all the volunteers who made the race possible.  I must also say “congratulations” to the victors.  Finally, I must say “Amen” to my Lord and Savior.  Thank you for allowing this lesson to be so permanently impressed into my consciousness.  I will not soon forget the message from the hills of Lenexa, Kansas.


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