Saturday, May 3, 2014

Crossing the Finish Line

Today was my first mountain bike race. I have ridden a number of times, but I don't rave about the sport. I find keeping up with the multiple moving parts and the unpredictability of the bike and trail a little more than my comfort level prefers. A slow moving trail on my feet with my body in control rather than my brain still is my preference.Thus, I've never raced.

Still, I met up with Brian--my brother-in-law--for this event.  We both claim the other was the motivation necessary to "compete". 

I didn't understand how this type of race worked. We were to ride for three hours on a loop track of 10.5 or so miles.  I didn't ask questions like, "What happens if your on the opposite end of the course when the three hours is up?" or that sort of thing. I just assumed you rode to the finish line, even if the three hours was up, completing the event in more than three hours. 

We trickled off the starting line among a mass of bikers all heading for the same single track trail.  Halfway into the race, a father gives his son a hard time, asking him why he's NOT GOING FASTER...does he not see the wheel to wheel line of 50 bikers in front of his son?

After the first loop, which we took quite leisurely, we took a short pit stop. I was feeling good, and pushed ahead of Brian a bit; he shouted, "Don't let me hold you up Reverend."

So I took off, the lines of people had petered out--racers were interspersed.  I glided through the second lap. Just as I was crossing the timing mechanism, the race director screamed in my ear, "YOU HAVE 57 MINUTES TO COMPLETE ANOTHER LAP!!! FIFTY-SEVEN MINUTES!!"

Okay, 57 minutes, I can do that. Even though the other laps took me over an hour, I was determined to do this third lap in 57 minutes or better. Never mind my legs were feeling like jelly; never mind my wrists were numb, my shoulders were still, my neck was sore; never mind my clip on my pedal was broken; never mind I was out of water--I was going for it.

Off I went, and rode well for about the first half of the loop. But, come the second half of the loop, I was out of gas.  My pedal power waned; I was shocked when I was passed, not by others who had been racing near, passed by guys who were on their FOURTH lap. The guy who can run for 3-5 hours straight had been lapped. Clearly I was out of my element. Those guys were trying to complete four laps in 3 hours, I was trying struggling to complete just three. 

I realized at the 7 mile marker, when my watch read a time slower than what it read on my first loop, I wasn't going to make it. Still, I wasn't going to give up. Part of me, even as I was huffing and puffing up hills told me to dig down deep...finish strong...maybe your watch is off. Maybe you're going faster than you really are.  I had already run into two trees at this point. One on either shoulder, just to balance things out. Reminded me of tackling drill from high school football. The trees didn't budge.

After my watch indicated 57 minutes was up, I still hadn't come to the 10 mile-marker. Still, I pushed on. So what, if three hours is up, I can still cross the finish line--see how long it took me according to the official timer to complete three laps. 

Before the final hill, Brian stood there, with his phone out, read to take a picture. "Way to go, Reverend!" (How did he get there, I wondered). I struggled up the final boulder filled hill, and then onto the pavement for the down hill glide to cross the finish line...
And just as I was turning to cross the line, the race director looked at me and asked, "Are you a three hour racer?" (As opposed to the crazy people who were riding for 6 hours).
"Yes," I gasped.



What kind of race is this?

A race where one doesn't cross the finish line? 

I pathetically replied, "Ok."

I dismounted. Rolled my bike to the side of a building. Leaned it there. Removed my helmet. Peeled off my gloves. I stood, stupefied, dazed...

I am so goal oriented. Task driven.
No matter if times up, I will often push myself beyond the limits of time in order to complete something I deem important.
One of the lessons from the Benedictine Monestary is to respect limits, not only of time, but also of ourselves. When the designated time for work has expired, one is to leave the work, no matter how much or little remains, and move to the greater task, prayer. 
One is to find contemtment, even gratitude, in what was, and even in what what not accomplished.

I had raced all the way around a third time. It had taken me longer than the aloted time. I was not allowed to cross the finish line.

And there was Brian. He knew he wasn't going to make three laps in three hours; he had done these events before. Even though he was only three minutes or so behind me, he was able to find contentment in what he had accomplished.

And so I seek to do the same. One thing I can say, my body is in a lot of pain right now. I suppose I do have something to show for my work.

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