Thursday, July 31, 2008

"I live with MS"

I had never in my life heard someone say those words to me until today. Whew ... that is a tough sentence to hear from someone!

I've been preparing for the upcoming MS 150 bike ride and at work I posted some flyers about a little bake sale I'll be doing around the office every Monday in August to raise funds. I also distributed the flyer via e-mail to the people on my floor. Today, I received an e-mail from one of my co-workers thanking me for what I was doing.

I stopped by his cube and chatted with him for about 30 minutes. He was so appreciative to me for what I was doing to help out with the MS ride and there was a wonderfully genuine and deep gratitude in his eyes when he spoke to me about the ride and his struggle with MS. I was very touched by his willingness to share that with me; it was a wonderful gift.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Martha, Martha, Martha!

OK I know it's supposed to be Marsha, Marsha, Marsha, as in Brady, but today is Martha's feast day!

I love the stories about Martha because she's so real and yet she's a saint! Her stories have examples of human nature that, despite the passage of 2,000 years, are still as relevant as ever! Today's Gospel reading from John (11:19-27) puts on display Martha's grief about her brother's death and frustration with Jesus for not having been there when Lazarus was sick. It's the appeal that we all make to God at one time or another: "Where were you?!"

Naturally, the majority of the focus regarding this story is put on Jesus' miracle when he restores Lazarus to life. Certainly, this is one of the most amazing stories in the entire New Testament. In addition, however, I think one of the most important lessons to remember from this story is that Martha's angst and later in the story, Mary's tears, are seen and heard by Jesus and he is moved with compassion for them and by his own love for his friend Lazarus. Jesus has that same love for each of us and he is there for us too -- perhaps not at the time we expect him, but he will be there.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Getting by with a little help

Went for a ride today in Illinois. I had planned to do 65 miles, but 17 miles into the ride, my front tire blew. So I set about the business of replacing the blown tube with my spare.

First, I inspected the tire to find the culprit -- it all came down to a tiny piece of glass about 1 - 2 mm in diameter. It had gotten lodged in the tire and had worked its way through the tire until it finally punctured the inner tube.

Next, I got the tire pulled away from the rim with my tire lever and removed the blown tube. About that time, a family in a minivan happened by and asked if I needed help. They even offered to put me and my bike in their van and take me back to Coffeen, a town I had passed through about two miles back. A little unsure as to whether I would need help or not, but also not wanting to delay them since I guessed by the way they were dressed they were on their way to church, I said I should be OK and if I need help I would catch a ride with someone else. They said OK and drove away.

I pulled out the replacement tube and blew a little air into it to give it some structure so it would be easier to install it between the rim and tire. I was working on threading the stem into the hole in the wheel's rim and about that time, the same family pulled up, coming back from Coffeen (I think they must have gone into town to get some gas). They asked again if I wanted help and this time, I accepted their offer -- the last time I put a tube in between the tire and the rim, I ended up tearing the tube!

So with their help we got the tube in, aired it up as best as we could with my mini pump, and parted ways. I told them thanks and God bless them. What a great show of kindness from strangers. I turned around and headed back to the start point for a total of 35 miles.

A snippet from today's reading from Romans comes to mind:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
Indeed, the Spirit was looking out for me today!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tour de Donut Results Are In!

Yahoo!!! I stayed in the top 10 this year, even with the new and improved categorizations.

In previous years, the men and women were divided into Men/Women Over 50 and Men/Women Under 50. So this year, I was categorized with women under 40, as opposed to last year, where I just fell into the broader Women Under 50 category. That means I had a narrower and younger field against which to compete this year, and I still managed to make it into the top 10. My time was actually a couple minutes slower than last year (I was 1:38:14 in 2007), but I am still glad I made it to number 9 again this year with a time of 1:41:26 in a field of 156.

I'll have to find a team to hook up with next year and see what I can do with some help drafting. I am sure I could easily shave 10 minutes off that time if I were drafting.

Hubby finished well also. He fell into the Men 40 - 50 category at number 38 in a field of 149. His time was 1:46:06.

By the way, the best donut-adjusted time went to a guy who ate 33 donuts. His donut-adjusted time was -0:25:06. All the results are here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

South City Ride

Had four other riders show up this evening and we had a nice time getting to know each other and chatting the miles away. Thanks Jeff, Bill, Adam, and Susan for coming out.

I was rewarded with a stunning moonrise as I rode home. The full moon is tomorrow; while it was still low in the east, its color resembled a pale peach veil.

Planning out at least one very major ride for the weekend -- probably on Sunday. Looking to do 75 - 80 miles. Probably will go to IL for that one.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Cowbell

The folks on the forum have been discussing where to find cowbells locally. Of course, the conversation digressed into SNL/Blue Oyster Cult territory with some hilarious results.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

20th Annual Tour de Donut

It's in the books (however, their site is not updated with 2008 results as of this writing). Nearly 1,000 people attended this year -- I think the number I heard was 975-ish. The longest distance someone traveled in order to participate in the event this year was achieved by a couple from Hawaii.

My bike computer said 1h 39m and some change to complete 32 miles. I faded a little in the latter half out of tiredness, naturally, but more so because I took one water bottle and it was gone by the first half. Actually, it wasn't completely empty, but the remaining H2O in the bottle was in solid form. There was water at the donut stops, but I skipped it because it had rained earlier and it would have taken too much time to trudge through the mud to get a bottle, trudge back, etc. In the end, I averaged 18.1 mph.

I don't know my standing yet for this year, but I am hopeful I again landed in the top 10 in Women Under 50 category -- donut-uncompensated, of course. ;) Last year I squeaked in at number 9.

After the ride, hubby and I stopped into Staunton's "block party", which they throw in conjunction with the Tour de Donut every year. Picked up a couple of grilled items and some mini funnel cakes and chowed down.

I can't say enough about how welcoming Staunton is to all the crazy cyclists that descend upon their town once a year. They always have tons of volunteers doing registrations, passing out t-shirts, guiding everyone on the course, picking up trash, stopping traffic, and many more behind the scenes. In addition to the volunteers, lots of residents park their lawnchairs next to the course and clap and cheer as the cyclists go by, which provides an experience that most of us amateurs rarely get -- it's a treat to be treated like a celebrity or pro athlete! After all, who among us regular folk doesn't need a little cheering on now and then?

UPDATE 07/13/2008 - Roger Kramer has some info about the results and his TdD adventures here. He says the results are expected to be posted some time this week.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Journey

My job is taking me to Chicago a couple of days each week for the next few weeks, so I have less time to blog, which is a shame because there's lots to talk about every time I come back from a trip. I wanted to be sure to relate this story, though.

At the hotel where I usually stay, they have a little happy hour every evening with free drinks and appetizers. It's a wonderful place to meet other travelers and hear their stories, the drinks are tasty, and the food makes a light evening repast. Tuesday night, I popped in for a drink and the place was pretty full. I spied a bar height table with two empty chairs and, weary from a day that started at 3:30 AM, plopped down with my drink, my plate, and my book. In a couple of minutes, another woman carrying a book -- a stranger -- turned up to the table and asked if the spare seat was taken. I welcomed her to join me. Sharon looked to be in her mid-40's.

Naturally, we started talking about our respective books. Mine happened to be Thomas Merton, which then lead us to talk about our religious backgrounds. She said she is Jewish and when she was a child, she lived on a block with some children who attended a nearby Catholic parish/school. Unfortunately, these children were not very kind to her. When she was three years old, she had blonde curly hair; she told me how one of the boys took her inside his house and cut off all her hair. When she asked why he did it, he said it was because "Jews aren't supposed to have blonde curly hair." On other occasions, some of the Catholic kids on the block would ask her to lift her top so they could see her belly button. When she asked why, the children would say "Sister told us Jews' belly buttons are black." Oh my!

I was moved with compassion for Sharon after she told me of the unkindnesses she endured in these (and probably many more untold) unfortunate situations. I immediately felt compelled to apologize and I told her I was sorry that she had to go through those things. With a gentle wave of her hand, she dismissed my apology as unnecessary since, after all, I hadn't done those things to her and for that matter, I wasn't even a Catholic until two years ago. Just then, Sharon's co-worker Nathan appeared, and in an instant, our conversation took a completely different turn.

My point here isn't to toot my own horn, but rather to draw attention to the journey that brought Sharon and I together that evening. What a coincidence -- surely God had a hand in it! I was only in Chicago for one night while she just happened to be staying there while attending a conference for work. While the simple apology I gave surely isn't enough to compensate Sharon for the harassment she experienced, I hope it helps take away some of the hurt or perhaps disenchantment that she must carry with her, considering that she could still vividly recall these events from 40 years ago.

So many opportunities are presented to us every day to show love to others, whether to someone as familiar as a brother or to a perfect stranger. It is up to us to be attentive for God's gentle urgings in our consciences and heed them.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

No Go

Sometimes, you just gotta' call it!

Had organized my Thursday night ride and two people showed up promptly at 6:30 PM, but with the gathering clouds threatening, we decided to call it off. Jason and Lauren, thanks for coming by!!

Tomorrow should be better riding weather -- 81 and partly cloudy. Doing my 44-miler. Husband says he wants to coordinate to meet up with me somewhere along the way, but he's not into getting up as early as me to get out there.

I think we might try this ride on the 5th.