Monday, April 27, 2009

Chicken Soup For The Cyclist's Soul

Even If there’s a bike race, she attends Sunday mass or at least the Saturday matinee.  God before bikes.  Not preachy, fun, and always good humored, the only thing that might tip you off that she’s somewhat religious is when she blurts out “Jesus help me,” on a particularly tough climb.  She’s not using the Lord’s name in vain, but sincerely asking Jesus for help. 

While I haven’t been to a church since a 5k festival run last year or been to service since I spent a Christmas at my mother’s house, I grew up in a Catholic family.  I believe in God, just maybe not how my mother wished.  Regardless, between kneeling, sitting and standing, I can imagine the sermon she heard on Saturday about how God can help one overcome life’s difficulties.  

Priest: And, now a reading from the book of Peter.  "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."  Amen.

“You just have to ask God for help,” he preached.  “Too many times, people get themselves into a difficult situation and they don’t ask for help.  All you have to do is ask,” he added.  She had communion, gave thanks and made a beeline for her car to meet the caravan to the bike race.

Not a day for the deep dish wheels, the wind forced riders to lean into the crosswind.  In the headwind the mph’s dropped into the lower teens.  With the temperature hovering at 85 degrees, on the third lap the salty crust formed on her upper lip and helmet  straps.  She struggled to suck wheel, doing her best to hang on to the pace of the lead breakaway group of five.   The next attack went, and she popped off.  She tried to regain contact, but the lead group of four were gone.  She reached for her bottle, half empty.  “Jesus help me,” she muttered in her head.

Trying to salvage a 5th place finish, she hunkered down flat backed hoping to stick out a no-womans-land finish between the breakaway and the chasing peloton.  However, behind her, the pack had splintered in the crosswind.  She powered on for an entire lap solo, but fading.   As she crossed through the start/finish she looked back and could see another girl within 100 meters of her wheel. 

It was her teammate.  On the next climb the two made contact.  “Let’s work together to stay away,” her teammate said.  “I don’t know if I can make it,” she sputtered between breaths.  “Get on my wheel,” her teammate replied.  Through the headwind section on the wheel of her teammate she gained her composure.  When it was time for her to pull-through, she pulled even with her teammate and jokingly said, “You know.  I was asking Jesus for help about a lap ago and now you’re here.  You’re my Jesus!”   

They laughed.  She pulled to the front and got back to the business of keeping the gap to the women chasing behind.  When they hit the 200 meter mark she said, “you can take the sprint.”  “No let’s cross together,” her teammate said with a smile.  At the line, the two locked hands and took 5th together.

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