Articles and thoughts by Steve Green.
Some time ago I saw an add for the Harpeth River Ride, an annual biking event in our area. While one of my goals for the year is to complete a century bicycle ride, I thought the 100k (62 miles) option would be a good first test of endurance. I signed up and have been getting. I’m feeling pretty good about the upcoming challenge.
In the mean time, one of the members of my bike club entered the toughest bicycle race in the world, a race I had not heard of before. It’s called the Race Across America. All of a sudden, my little 100k ride looks like a walk in the park! Jeff and his riding partner qualified for the 3014 mile race, from San Diego to Annapolis, Maryland on fixed-gear bikes. Their bicyles have one gear and do not coast. When the wheels are spinning, the cranks are turning. They surprised everyone, and taking four-hour shifts, finished the incredible journey in 8 days, 4 hours, and 21 minutes.
This is the 27th year for the Race Across America. The course is 30% longer than the Tour de France and once the race begins, the clock keeps ticking. Even while the weary riders sleep (if that is what you call 1 1/2 to 3 hours a day of sleep!) their time is still being counted. There are several divisions in the race - solo men, solo women and various team configurations. The most grueling is the solo race. Two women left on Saturday, June 7th from Oceanside, CA. Both Janet Christiansen, age 47 from the US and Caroline van den Bulk, age 41 from Canada are still plugging away. The men started their race on Sunday the 8th, at noon EST. The leaders did not stop to rest for 38 hours. Jure Robic, from Slovenia finished in first place for the 4th time. He averaged 1 1/2 hours of sleep a day and completed the coast to coast race in just 8 days, 23 hours and 33 minutes! The guy I’m rooting for is David Jones. He is 62 years old and as of this journal entry has only 315 miles to go. Yeah! for the old guys!
One of the most amazing feats to watch was the 8-man BMC cycling team. They took 1 hour shifts through deserts, over mountains, across the plains, and sprinted to the finish line in just 5 days, 9 hours and 43 minutes!
You can tell I’ve been somewhat taken by this event. The rider’s stories are fascinating, and as you might guess, I’ve notice aspects of the race that relate to our spiritual pilgrimage. Without trying to force analogies, there are a couple of observations that are noteworthy.
First, as each rider finished the race, they quickly acknowledged the importance of their whole team. The race was really a community effort. They could not have finished without those who accompanied them each mile of the way. The drivers of the support vehicles crept along close behind, keeping watch. The navigators made sure the riders stayed on course. And if there was a wrong turn, they made good use of maps and GPS help get them back on the right road. Others provided the necessary nourishment, handing snacks and drinks to the riders from their moving vans. Nurses and massage therapists tended to physical needs. Most vehicles had PA systems mounted on the roofs, broadcasting music and messages to the racers. When Scott MacIntosh grew weary, his sister took the mic and for hours on end recounted family stories, rekindling his purpose and desire to finish.
Most every rider, especially the solo racers, had some sort of physical difficulty. Whether it was debilitating fatigue, saddle sores or real injuries, they finished the race a bit wounded. Franz Preihs had an accident at mile 1150 and broke his collarbone. Amazingly, he finished the race, riding the next 1850 miles bandaged and hurting, but not defeated.
So, this Saturday, the 21st, I’ll get on my bike and ride 100 kilometers. My, it sounds awfully insignificant now! But, I’ll probably imagine I’m riding across America with Team Green, or the Presbyterian Peddlers. A guy can always dream, can’t he?
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