Saturday, May 31, 2008

I Wanna' Be Charlie

One of the wonderful things about riding a bike is that I meet a lot of fine people and learn a lot of things about them in a very short time. The bike is a vehicle -- literal and figurative -- for a common understanding between individuals that likely would not occur if say, people just happened to be walking next to each other on the street. Striking up such acquaintances and carrying on conversations while cycling is a remarkable way to while away the miles, especially on a very long ride.

Well today, I met a man who was an amazing inspiration. I met Charlie.

I passed Charlie on Grant's Trail. I noticed his bike right away because it was a lovely bright yellow Cannondale road bike. I also noticed he was an older man, but one who looked fit for his age. I called out to him I was passing on his left and he thanked me for the courtesy. A short while later, I was stopped at a traffic light. He pulled up on my left and we began to talk. So, when the light changed and we could cross, I hung with him and we started chatting.

It turns out that Charlie is 76 years old.

Charlie has had two hip replacements.

He had neck surgery last year.

Most amazing of all, Charlie said he was planning on riding the MS150 this September. He said this will be his 19th consecutive MS150. He simply rides as his own one-man team. In addition to riding in the event, he also volunteers for a variety of other events related to MS150.

Charlie has raised over $250,000 in the 19 years he has ridden the MS150.

I wanna' be Charlie.

Click to view my MS150 page.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Canticle of Mary

Tomorrow's Gospel reading from Luke (1:39-56) contains the Canticle of Mary, also known as the Magnificat. This is one of my favorite passages in the Gospels because the excitement, awe, and wonder that both Elizabeth and Mary are experiencing are so vividly communicated -- two mothers-to-be who know they were chosen by God in very unique and special ways. I love to imagine myself in Elizabeth's home when Mary arrives.

I have never personally known the experience of pregnancy and serve a tertiary role in the lives of my step-children, but due to a project I am working on for my parish, I happened to sit in on the tail end of a parish Moms group meeting last night. It was a beautiful experience to sit among these women who have given over much of their lives to motherhood -- the bond they share is deep and potent. They are at ease with each other and willing to share of themselves with one another; this capacity for giving of one's self is one of the most powerful strengths about women in general.

These moms are aware of their role as models of faith in their children's lives. They are trying hard to provide guidance to their children while also providing spiritual growth for themselves. Keep up the great work, ladies.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bike Month

May is National Bike Month -- just a way to encourage people to get on their bikes and ride! Also, it's a reminder to motorists that with the warmer weather comes greater numbers of cyclists on the road.

Friday was National Bike to Work Day. Trailnet, which is a fantastic locally-based organization that promotes active lifestyles, coordinated 20+ "refueling stations" where riders could stop by, grab a little pastry from Companion Baking, pick up some water, socialize with other riders, and head to work. They had a station in Forest Park by the History Museum with news media, so I decided to pop over there before work Friday morning to support Trailnet. It was a nice time to meet some other folks -- saw some familiar faces and met two people from the Multiple Sclerosis society.

The ride to work from Forest Park was around 4 miles. A morning mist permeated the park and the sun filtering through the trees was eerily beautiful.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cycling Season is On!

At last, we are getting some fairly consistent warm/dry-ish weather. Just in time, because today was the first 5-Star century ride for me.

Today was a day of obstacles:
  • It started when I got a little lost driving to the ride -- 14-mile detour!

  • Flooding re-routed 30 miles of the ride, causing a lot of overlap on the route.
  • Trains kept getting in the way of crossings at inconvenient times -- spent at least 30 minutes waiting on trains!

  • I got a flat tire. SAG was nice enough to change it for me. :)

  • A driver in a giant pickup truck buzzed me at about 60 mph.

  • The wind was a factor as it picked up throughout the morning.

  • One of the water stops wasn't ready in time for many riders to use it.

  • I wiped out on the road around 45 miles or so. Fortunately there were no cars around when I did it. I have a beautiful strawberry with a big bruise and bump underneath it on top of my elbow. Also have a bruised left hand and a road rash on the front of my left calf. The crash took out my cycling computer. I think it can be fixed -- just don't know how yet.
In addition to the physical obstacles, there was the psychological obstacle that goes along with riding a century -- setting out to ride a bike 100 miles in one day is daunting! Even though I have done three century rides before, I felt a little unsure going in to this one because I haven't had much time on the bike this year due to the poor weather. First ten miles of the ride was spent debating with myself over whether or not to do the entire ride. Before I knew it, I had 25 miles under my belt, and had decided that I should be able to finish the 100 miles after all. Then the flat and the accident happened and those two things -- on top of the other stuff -- were enough for me to call it quits after 65 miles. At least I got in a metric century. ;)

On the bright side, the injuries from the crash are not serious. And, since I had made up my mind to finish the ride at 65 miles, I was able to push myself in the last 10 or so miles and see how fast I could go. Unfortunately, since the computer was on the blink, I don't know how fast I got to, but with the tailwind I had at that point, I am pretty sure I was in the 23 - 25 mph range. That was fun. It was really fun when I passed the much fitter person on a time trial bike -- sweet! :)

There's another century coming up in a couple of weekends. I'll give it another try then. :)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Fun with Food

There is a segment of the population that really likes good food. In that segment, there is a subset who likes to know how to prepare good food. Within that subset, there's a group of people who like to know the science behind how the elements work together to make good food happen.

Alton Brown was made for this group.

I would call these people sci-foodies -- they are like science fiction geeks who love food and get into all the details of it. It's like being one of those trekkies who can rattle off any obscure detail about Star Trek you could ever think to ask -- like how many tribbles were used in the Trouble with Tribbles episode -- except the obscure details are about food. (For the record, I am not a trekkie and, no, I don't know the answer.)

Anyway, me and a bunch of other sci-foodies got to meet Alton Brown last Sunday as he gave a short talk and a book signing for Feasting on Asphalt - the River Run. He had some interesting things to say about sustainable agriculture, organics, and much more. He fielded lots of questions from the audience also.

One of his stops in the Feasting on Asphalt series last year was here in St. Louis. He visited numerous donut shops and as a result, I think St. Louis is known as the donut capitol of the country now! So I thought he might like to know about the Tour de Donut, which is a 32-mile bicycle race that takes place every July in Staunton, IL. He seemed really interested to learn about it and wrote it down on a note so he could remember it.

For every donut you eat, you can take five minutes off your time. Some people have consumed enough donuts to arrive at a negative adjusted time -- quite a feat when you consider that you have to scarf down tons of donuts then ride your bike in warm and muggy July weather. I did the race for the first time last year, but I opted out of the donut part!

It was delightful meeting Alton and who knows, maybe we'll see him at the Tour de Donut this year.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


I did the 11th annual Tour de Stooges ride today. This year, the ride took place in Highland, IL instead of Lebanon, IL; the change in location was because the number of riders outgrew that community's ability to handle them all. I think the count of riders last year was around 700.

The choice to move the location was a good one. The route was interesting enough, but not extreme. In today's case, however, an interesting course was made very challenging by the addition of a sustained 15 mph WNW wind with 25 mph gusts. I spent the first 40 miles riding with the wind pushing me from my left, my right, or head-on. About a third to a half of the remaining 24 miles was spent with a tailwind -- a great relief. I am a stocky rider with lots of meat on my bones, but even I was getting pushed back and forth across the road by the wind.

Spending five hours on a bike, I had time to think about a lot of things. At certain points, I couldn't help but think of the symbolism of wind as the Holy Spirit. After all, how appropriate since Pentecost is a week from tomorrow! I have to admit, with the wind making the day's cycling so challenging, my thoughts didn't go much beyond "wow, this is hard!" Now that I have had some time to reflect on the day's experience, I wonder to myself if some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as fortitude/courage and understanding/common sense aren't given to us -- but rather (l)earned -- the hard way! I certainly learn courage -- and perseverance -- by enduring against the wind on my bike. Common sense also tells me not to expend all my energy early on a long ride like today's -- I have to be conservative at the beginning of the ride if I am to make it for the long haul.

How does the Holy Spirit challenge you and push you to be better, more courageous, or wiser? You might face physical challenges of your own such as disability, infirmity, aging, or something else. What about emotional, social or professional challenges -- any of these can feel nearly as crippling as a physical problem. What is the Holy Spirit teaching you through these obstacles, how do you work with them, and more importantly what do you learn from dealing with them?