One of the pinnacles of my cycling life was doing the Race Across Indiana. The event is actually called the “Ride Across Indiana” but for myself and the person I was with, it was a race.
The distance was 167 miles and the objective was time. The clock never stopped. Whether we were taking a food break or a break for mother nature, the clock was always ticking.
When we arrived at the starting line, we had taken a back route that had put us at the front of the pack…a pack that consisted of close to a thousand riders. However, the guys at the front were the ones who had ridden the event before and had the lowest times. That is exactly where we wanted to be when the gun sounded.
Once we were off, it was a mass of bicycles, escorting police vehicles and yes, city traffic. They only stopped traffic when we crossed intersections. So cars coming the opposite direction, cars parked along the side and cars attempting to cross the intersection were all obstacles. It was a mess. I had never been more nervous or on edge in a race like I was for this one.
It was not long until my partner and I got separated. I knew we would find each other again, eventually, so I did not worry about it. Then we left the city and things started to thin out. The riders at the front had the pedal down and the race was on. Once the thinning out took place, my riding partner and I were rejoined.
The pace at this time was about 30 mph and there was only a group of about sixty of us. We had basically left the main pack and we were riding on our own. It was a torrid pace and I was hoping it would settle down since we had such a long distance. After all, I was 50 and most of the others in the pack could not have been much over 30 years old. Soon we settled in to a rhythm at around 25-28 mph. We had a nice rotation going and everything moved quickly.
My wife was stationed along the way as a feeding station for us. She had extra water bottles, energy bars, and bananas to replace the ones we were consuming. There were major feed stations for the main group, but we did not want to get caught in that kind of chaos. The only time we stopped as a group was for “lunch”. If you had to take a nature break along the route, you stopped preferably when others stopped, did your business and then rode like crazy to catch the pack.
Here’s the point… my sense of direction and by object of focus was not the group, not the road beneath my feet, but the finish line. That is what was on my mind. Even when we found ourselves struggling to turn the pedals as the terrain changed at the end of the race and we were climbing the sloping hills of Indiana. The focus was on the end, not what was happening at that moment. Even as the clock was ticking, we kept pushing toward the goal.
Eight hours and seventeen minutes later, we arrived at our destination – The other side of Indiana. Do the math, that meant we averaged 20.44 mph for a 167 mile ride. Not too bad for a man who just turned 50. My partner was 36. We finished in the top group of riders for that “race”.
There are a lot of stories I could tell about those miles, but my objective is to say, it was the goal that propelled me. It was something beyond myself that pushed me to continue.
When Israel was crossing the Jordan into the promised land. Joshua told them to keep their eyes on the Ark of the Covenant. Keep your focus on that object “for you have not passed this way before.” (Joshua 3:4) Do not think about where you have been or where your feet are now, keep your focus on the presence of God. Even though you have not been this way before, keep your eyes on God.
There have been times and still are, where I loose my focus. I begin looking down thinking about the pitiful steps I find myself making. However, it is not where I am that matters so much as where I am going. Keeping my eye on God will mean keeping the finishing line in view. It is a long race, not a short sprint. Keep the goal in mind — for most of us have not passed this way before.