Friday, August 5, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on RAGBRAI

On July 24, Gary and I rode on RAGBRAI. I had heard of the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa a long time ago and always thought it would be fun to do, but never took the time to train and attempt it.

This year Gary decided to do it. Well, the first day anyway. Our daughter Erin moved to Shenandoah in June and that's where the first day's ride ended. 

Gary rode to Clarksville almost daily and went to Shell Rock a few times before the ride. I rode to Clarksville a few times, but I didn't train every day. I wasn't sure I wanted to do it. We had seen RAGBRAI riders coming into Clear Lake a few years ago, and it kind of scared me to see such big groups of bikes riding together. I wasn't sure I could handle it. I could just see me getting wobbly and causing a huge crash. 

As the day got closer, I started to think about riding, too. It was "only" going to be 50 miles, I was sure I could make it. So, that morning we drove to Glenwood and Erin dropped us off. We just pulled into the campground, unloaded our bikes, took a quick picture, and got on the road with lots of other riders at about 6 a.m. 

The very first hill was a killer and I had second thoughts as I started to huff and puff up the curvy incline. But then I got to the top and coasted down a nice long hill. I think I was hooked right there.

It was daunting to look ahead and see a hill coming up, but I kept pedaling. Gary and I didn't stay together very long. We figured out that we had different ways of riding. He liked to hit the hills hard and get up them fast. I clicked down through my gears and plugged away slowly and steadily until I got to the top. We texted and talked a few times during the ride, but we went at our own pace. 

During the first half of the ride, I got to a discouraging sign. 

 I like roller coasters, but I didn't think I wanted to pedal through one. The hills were at an 8 to 10% grade and they were tough, but I kept pedaling and made it through.

Here I am halfway through at Tabor. Erin had driven there and waited for us. Gary had passed through quite a while before this, but it was nice to have a little rest with Erin and refill my water bottle. 
All of the cool RAGBRAI riders wear their helmet slightly askew like this. :-)

I also had a photo op in the park where I documented my half-success:

I don't have any pictures of the second half of the ride. Frankly, I was just trying to survive. It got hot and every hill seemed a little bit harder. My goal was to not have to walk up any hills. I did it, but I did stop at the top of several of them and rested a while. The first time I did it in the hot sun. After that I got smart and made sure to find some shade to sit in while I drank a little water and rested. More and more people asked, "Are you okay?" while I was panting next to my bike. I was okay, it was just going to take me a while to finish.

There were some really tough hills near the end, but Gary had also texted that the last few miles were relatively flat and encouraged me that I could make it. I pressed on.

It felt so good to ride into Shenandoah and cross under the banner on Main Street. I had done it! It didn't matter that Gary had finished in four hours and I had taken six hours and fifteen minutes. The most important thing was that I had finished. It felt great!
Holding the seeds they gave us at the end.

I keep thinking about RAGBRAI in the weeks since then. It's such a good comparison to life. The hard work we have to put in to get through difficult times in our life. How important it is to keep going and eventually finish our life's race. How some people stop to help when a fellow rider is having trouble. The importance of taking care of ourselves as we ride (drinking water, resting, knowing our limits). 

One of the greatest things I took away from RAGBRAI was the importance of riding your own ride. I watched people pass me (and lots of people passed me) and they were all so different. Some were in fancy bike gear with team logos on them, some were in shirts and shorts like me, some rode with a friend and chatted as they rode, other rode alone. Some looked like they were in great shape and the ride was easy. Others were huffing and puffing (like me) and had to walk up the worst hills. It was okay. We were all on RAGBRAI. Some were registered for the whole week. Others were "outlaws" and just joined in on the first day to get a taste of what RAGBRAI was like. 

I rode in RAGBRAI, but I didn't really do RAGBRAI. That honor is reserved for those who put in seven days of pedaling their hearts out. I'm glad I rode, even if it was for just one day. It will stay with me as I keep plugging away through this life I live. Some days may be an uphill climb, but I will keep going. Other days may be a joyful coast through beautiful experiences. I will choose to enjoy them fully and rest up for the inevitable hill coming up again. No matter what, I'll rely on God for my strength and courage to keep going and complete life's ride.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14 NIV)

How is your life's "ride" going? How can focusing on God help you keep going and finish your "ride" well?

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