It started out as a simple desire and commitment to stay healthy; plus it was fun to be able to move faster! Since I've been in a wheelchair from 1973 some kind of physical exercise probably took on a note of necessity. So, I started riding a hand cycle. All was OK while Garett King and I would ride a 9-mile loop on the bike path by the Windmill Inn. Nine miles seemed like a long way at the time and we were pretty proud of ourselves! However, one night Mona and I were having dinner with Rob Scribner, Mike Hagoski and their wives at Macaroni Grill. They had just competed in the El Tour de Tucson bike race and they both had their medals for finishing. I thought, "Hey, I'd like to win a medal myself!"
So, this led to a greater commitment, which in turn involved a number of races over the years (although with me the word "race" can be a bit of a stretch at times... riding might be more accurate). Most of the time I was competing against myself, but each time trying to improve. This has led to the Sadler's Alaska Challenge: the longest (hardest) wheelchair and hand cycling race in the world, 267 miles over six days. This year is their 25th Anniversary Edition and it begins on July 20, 2009. It is an entirely new course and they've made things much more difficult. This is rapidly approaching. The question I ask myself, and my mind asks me when I am training is "Why are you doing this?"
Just look at the race profile and you'll know what I mean. At times, I am not exactly sure, but maybe because I can (at least I hope). The list of racers in this year's event includes real world class athletes, some of the very best wheelchair hand cyclists in the world. I realize I am seriously outclassed in this department. I am under no delusions. However, what gives me motivation is that there is a 55 year old and above sub-category (I call it "the old man division"). That really is my goal. My conflict in all of this is that I do have a real job , more than that, a calling as a pastor and preacher of the Gospel. That's where I find my true and greatest joy: in studying the Scriptures, in preaching God's Word, and pastoring God's precious people. But to compete in a 267-mile, six-day stage race does require that I ramp up my commitment to train and prepare and increase my fitness level. My conflict is that I don't want to neglect what really matters in the process. So I've tried my best to juggle all of these things and still "keep my head in the game".
So, I ask for a little grace here! Can I find some Biblical parallels and applications? Uhhhm, a preacher can find Biblical parallels in just about anything! In this case, though, it is not a stretch since the Bible frequently uses athletic metaphors for the Christian life. Paul exhorted Timothy, "train yourself to godliness." The accomplishing of any goal requires training , and living a godly life is certainly no exception. Paul's charge to others and his own personal commitment was "run that you might obtain" (finish the race and winning the prize). He could also triumphantly say at the end of his life "I have finished the race" highlighting for us the need to learn the importance of finishing. None of these guarantees how I will do in this event but they are valid reference points for my life. So, for those who are interested (and I definitely understand there are bigger things) I will try to give you a "daily dose" of what went on and how things are going during the race. One other important reason for this is that a number of my health care providers (who have a vested interest in keeping me healthy!) have graciously donated resources in order to purchase a new bike and compete at this level. I am definitely looking beyond this week of competition to something more exciting: revival with evangelist Stacy Dillard, July 26th-29th. Then, our Marriage Retreat at the Westin La Paloma Resort on August 6th, 7th with Pastor Scott Lamb. And even better: preaching and serving in the greatest church in all the world, The Door - Christian Fellowship Church in our beloved city of Tucson!