This is a personal entry, and it is not focused upon a lofty theological concept, so if you are looking for that…might want to keep looking.

I’ve thought about writing this entry for months. Every time I was tempted to turn around and give in to the body’s constant cry, “Come on, this is too much, go back,” I thought about writing this blog entry. In April of 2010 I changed the focus of my physical exercise by completely changing my diet. As a result, I was able to get back to riding shape, nearly as light as I was back in the 90s. So I came into the 2010/2011 riding year already logging more miles than I had since 1998 (when I set my record at 6,300 miles). After the first few weeks my spreadsheet was predicting a distance well beyond the 5,420 miles I had ridden in the previous year. So I did some calculations, and set two goals, both of which seemed like they would challenge me to my utmost: 8,130 miles (150% of the previous year’s distance) and, for the first time, an ascent goal of 50 miles. I had climbed 28 the previous year. I harbored serious doubts I could make these lofty goals, but, it was worth a try. I am closing in on 50, and if the Lord is gracious to me health wise, I wish to be the fittest 50 year old I can be. My dear 29-year old wife, oddly, has the same goal (that is a kind of mathematics that men are wise not to question).

Reaching those goals became even more unlikely when I underwent cardiac ablation surgery in January, and was off the bike for more than three weeks (spent in the UK). But since the doctor gave me the “go for it” approval once I got back, I did so. Since February 15, when I got back on the bike, I have averaged over 200 miles a week. As I kept piling on the miles, and the climbs, my spreadsheet told me that I was not only going to make my goals, I may well need to consider raising my aspirations, which I began to do a number of weeks ago. First I changed it to 8400 miles, then 8500, 8750, and finally 8888 (nice looking number). The ascent goal went from 50 to 54 to 58 to 60, especially over the past two months when I have averaged over 10,000 ft. per week of climbing (yes, Mabel, there are mountains in Arizona). In the past seven days alone I’ve done over 16,000 ft. and 254 miles.

About two weeks ago I sat down and crunched the numbers and realized that if I really, really, really pushed hard, I could do something that I had never even dreamed of doing. So I decided to do it. It’s been hard, but today I am glad I pushed for it. When I got on the bike this morning at a recreation center in Santa Fe and began following the little arrow on my Garmin 800 as it led me out of town toward the high mountains to the northeast, I knew what I needed to do: 50.09 miles, exactly. I knew they were going to be tough miles, as my goal was the ski station at the end of the road, 10,300ft. above sea level. It was a gorgeous ride, and when I unclipped back at the car I had ridden…50.09 miles. Why 50.09 miles? Because that gave me, for the 2010/2011 riding year, 9000.00 miles, on the nose. The more than 7000 ft. of ascent likewise put me at 64.13 miles of ascent (over 338,000 ft), well past the 100 kilometer mark.

If anyone had suggested to me a year ago that I could ride 9000 miles, climbing 338,000 ft. in the process, over the course of the coming year, I would have laughed. I am surely not going to try to beat that this year. I have a much more reasonable 6,500 as my goal, though I will be focusing even more specifically on building climbing strength and endurance. Some of that can be done on my trainer, so I am really not setting an ascent goal either. This year it isn’t about those numbers, it is about the Triple By-Pass Bike Ride in July of 2012 (a daunting challenge of 120 miles climbing three major passes, two of which are above 11,000ft above sea level, for a total climb on the ride of a lung-searing 10,500 ft).

How long did it take to ride 9000 miles? 542 hours according to my computer. I would say 500 hours of that was spent listening to dozens of debates, radio programs, and mainly…books, all converted to audio either by my Kindle or on my Mac. That was 500 hours of study time, sermon prep, DL prep, book research, etc. I am so thankful to have found a way to combine my passion for cycling with my passion for study.

If you go back through the blog archives around this time period you will find previous reports since I got back on the bike in 2005. But none of them gave an inkling of a 9000 mile year, that’s for sure. As I think of how many times the Lord protected me over those 9000 miles from dangers seen, and unseen, I am again made thankful. I never know when I will take my last ride, but I leave that in the Lord’s hands. Till then, there are many more mountains to climb, and many more books to “read” while doing so.

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