This weekend my friends, Mike and Cheryl Woods, and I rode our bikes from Seattle (Husky Stadium) to Portland (Lloyd’s Center). It is called the STP. The ride is 206 miles plus a couple getting to and from our overnight stopping place. It is the second time I have completed it. I have a number of long rides, but this is the farthest.
Someone asked me, once, “Why?” It is a good question as I sometimes ask myself that same question, like toward the end of each day, especially day one. I think about that question from time to time. I suppose it is a similar question to the skydiving question. Why do we, or more significantly, why do I do these things. I have thought about it and here are some answers, and a bigger life application.
My first answer is, I do it because I can. Not so much an ability answer (that one is the next paragraph), but one of opportunity. Someone decided it would be fun to get on a bike and ride a long way, century rides seem to be a premier distance. That person or group of people got together and did it. Maybe they liked it so much that the formed a group and started organizing long rides from major places to major places or around really famous landmarks. I know you can ride around Mt. Rainier and cruise around Crater Lake in Oregon. Many place not far from the ocean do a variation of reaching the beach and inland communities probably have similar things going somewhere cool and fun, or hard and challenging. The point is, someone or group of someones came up with the idea, organized it and invited people to pay them money to do it. It is opportunity. In many places in the world the idea of riding a bike is about going to work, or just getting to grandma’s house. We this for fun and because we can. I am privilege to have the opportunity. It is similar to the skydiving question, “Why jump from a perfectly good airplane?” “Because they opened the door.”
Another reason is more personal and mental. I did it the first time five years ago. (That is a story in and of itself maybe I tell sometime). I remember making the decision to do it. I hadn’t seriously ridden a bike for over 40 years and that was 40 miles a day (when the weather was good) while in the Navy. The big question was, could a 64 year only guy without a bike, any gear (like a helmet), training for three and half months, really make a two-day, 200-mile bike ride. We trained and did several other rides. That first time as I left the starting line the thought in my mind, “Can I really do this?” And it wasn’t until I crossed the St. John’s Bridge in Portland, ten miles or so from the end, that I allowed myself to really believe I could. I clearly remember about mile five or six from the end getting emotional, almost to the point of tears, accepting that I had done it. One of the reasons why I did it the first time was to see if I could.
This time was different. I knew I could, even five years later. I am healthier now that I was then, riding thirty pounds lighter and a measure stronger than then. By late June, with all the training and the riding I was doing, I knew could. So why this time? Since last time, I have done quite a lot of studying, learning, reading, YouTubing, talking to people about riding. Had I learned anything? Was I correct in the things I thought I knew about nutrient, training, cardio, etc.? The only way to know was to ride it again and ask, “How do I feel at this or that stage?” I guess it was a question of improving. So, another reason was to test myself.
Yet maybe the most significant reason why I rode the STP again, or around Island Lake, Mason Lake, or from Redmond to Snoqualmie Falls and back is simply I love to ride. Getting on a bike and heading down the road is something brings joy and pleasure to me. Some days, especially days when I train alone, it is challenging to load up the bike, put on the clothing, and get out there. (It is much easier when meeting someone). There are only a few times, usually when the weather turns, that I regret starting a ride. Usually, withing fifty feet of the starting line, I am at peace and feel blessed. I never know exactly how to explain it, but I find the said joy and pleasure sitting on my bike seat, peddling along. I feel the same feeling once I get on the jump plane. Another reason, I love doing it. And that might well be a good enough reason by itself.
Now to get a bit spiritual. Paul challenges us to put on the full armor of God, so we can do battle with our enemy. It is not enough to own some armor, or a bike and really cool helmet and some colorful jerseys. We need to become proficient in using it. Training, as in studying the word of God so as not to be ashamed is part of the journey. We have opportunity here because so many tools are available to today’s Christian. Paul also uses the analogy of athletes, runners and fighters, to highlight this need. At the end of the STP, several cool things happen. First, total strangers gather along an entry path and ring cowbells, cheer, and wave banners. I can’t help but smile and feel great pride at that moment. And those are strangers. We also are given a nice t-shirt. There is a set of patches which say, “STP Finisher.” I treasure these simple things (and as I write this, I am wearing my 2017 STP t-shirt. That said, I treasure the lessons I have learned and the rewards, present and future, that are mine being one of His warriors. I look forward to hearing from my Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And, being a servant of Jesus is something that I love. That too is reason enough.