On Saturday, August 22nd, Sheldon and I embarked on our first century (100 mile) bike riding journey as part of the training for the fast approaching Show Me Challenge. The Show Me Challenge includes running and cycling across the state of Missouri in four days in an effort to raise money for The Touched by Cancer Foundation and raise awareness of our new company, Challenge Factor. The Challenge begins on September 8th at the Staybridge Suites hotel in Independence MO.
What began as a standard training ride ended up being anything but standard. We encountered the unexpected along the way, and learned some life lessons, as well.
The day began early, before the break of dawn. I loaded up my bike and gear into CHALLENGER ONE and headed to Sheldon’s house arriving a few minutes after 6:00 am. Sheldon and I double checked our gear to make sure we were ready for the day’s journey. I had three water bottles, Sheldon had two, we had several packets of Gu to keep us fueled along the way, and we were also prepared for any flat tires or bike mishaps with a repair kit and some CO2 cartridges. We each had a credit card and driver’s license with us in case we needed to stop along the way and purchase something. Before we hopped on our bikes, we said a quick word of prayer asking the Lord for safety knowing this ride was much further than either of us had ever gone before. Deciding we were prepared, we strapped in (Sheldon) and clicked in (me), and away we went.
All seemed to be going great, and the day could have not been more perfect. The sun was coming up over the horizon, and the temperature was in the low 60’s (perfect for a ride). At just five miles into our ride, we encountered our first of many unexpected situations. Sheldon’s back tire sprung a leak and quickly went flat. We went to work trying to get it repaired, so we could get back on the road without losing a lot of time. I had two CO2 cartages to air the tire back up once it was patched, but unfortunately we were unable to locate the needle sized hole, so we ended up wasting one of our two CO2’s. After we found the hole, we patched it and put the tire back together. We then used the second and last CO2 to air the tire back up. About half way through airing the tire, the CO2 valve blew out along with the rest of air. At this point, we had a half aired tire with no way to air it up. Our excitement for the day was quickly waning and teetering on the verge of frustration.
Sheldon called his wife, Laura, to ask her to bring us a bike pump he had at his house. Laura said she would come as quickly as she could, but she was going to have to wake the kids first. After sitting on the side of the road for some time, another biker came peddling our way. We flagged the rider down asking if she might have a pump we could use. Yes! The other rider did have a pump. We placed a quick call to Laura letting her know we no longer needed help, and we were on our way. It was nice to have the helping hand of a stranger when we needed it.
From there we road east to 135th and Stateline where we stopped at a Wal-Mart in hopes of finding some more CO2’s or a small hand held pump just in case we encountered another flat. We did find both CO2 cartages and hand held pumps; however neither would work for us because the CO2’s were not threaded and the pump applicator would not fit the valve stems on our bikes. My anxiety rose slightly knowing if we did encounter another flat we had nothing to repair it, but we pressed on.
We rode out past Longview Lake and Longview College. The sun was getting higher in the sky at this point, and the lake looked like a pool of sparkling refreshment just calling out for a nice relaxing swim. Resisting the urge, we pressed forward. While passing one of the picnic shelters by the lake, we met some new Spanish friends. We conversed briefly in broken Spanish and they replied in broken English; smiles were on all our faces. They recited the Challenge Factor slogan in Spanish “Accept the Challenge, Factor the Difference”. YouTube Video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX8axz_A7YU
From there we made our way to downtown Lee’s Summit, where we stopped at Bike America (one of the sponsors for the Show Me Challenge) to purchase some more CO2’s and a hand held pump. At this point, my anxiety subsided knowing we were properly equipped once again for what may come. After the bike shop, we made a quick stop at a gas station for some more water and realized Sheldon had lost both his credit card and drivers’ license while pulling the directions out his shirt pouch earlier. There is nothing more frustrating than losing both your credit card and driver’s license. This is not the type of mental distraction, we needed at this point. Sheldon made another quick call to Laura to get the card canceled.
From the gas station, we headed out to Lake Jacomo to get to our half way point of 50 miles. Both Sheldon and I were getting tired at this point, and the hills around the lake proved to be challenging, but it was just the training we needed. We made our way back to Lee’s Summit where we stopped to grab some lunch. We also made some time to stop at a bike and skate park we came across. We watched the guys ride for awhile and had a good conversation with a bmx’er that was ripping up the park by doing all kinds of cool tricks.
We were now excited to be on the second half of our journey and heading for home. We still had a long ways to go, but all things considered, we were doing well. We were traveling back through downtown Lee’s Summit where Sheldon encountered yet another flat on his rear tire. At this point, we had just finished lunch, and we were looking forward to making our way home and a second flat tire was not what we needed. Instead of focusing on the negative of the situation, we had to look to the bright side which was we were back in downtown Lee’s Summit and the Bike America bike shop was right around the corner. This was definitely yet another delay in our day, but we took it in stride. Besides it was a wonderful day outside, we were bike riding, and if you were to encounter such circumstances who better to encounter them with than your best friend. Also, out of all the places to get a flat tire, who would have guessed we would be right by a bike shop. Coincidence, I think not.
Not wanting to take the risk of another patch blowing out, we decided to get a new tire tube. After getting the new tube installed, we headed back out on the road. At this point we figured we were all set to go and nothing else could go wrong. Besides if we had a third flat that would mean three strikes we’re out.
We were pressing hard to make up for some lost time and getting set for a huge downhill on the west side of Lee’s Summit. Sheldon was in front, and I was drafting right behind. All of the sudden I heard a loud pop and saw a white dust like spray coming from Sheldon’s back tire. The first thought that went through my mind was “not again” and the second thought was “we’re done”.
At this point, we had been gone for over 9 hours and were only 60 miles into our ride, the sun was hot, and we were tired. We were both extremely frustrated. We gathered our emotions and began working to repair the blow out. The patches were not holding and we could not keep air in the tire. We sat there for a moment wondering what now. Then, Sheldon looked around at the neighborhood behind us and said he had some friends that lived right around the corner. We thought it was worth a try to see if they were home, so we made our way just a few blocks, and they were home. What are the odds of having three blow outs and each time finding ourselves in a location that aided us in our situation? Need I say it again… Coincidence, I think not!
Sheldon’s friend quickly helped us by tossing Sheldon’s bike in the bed of his black Chevy truck and took the bike back to Bike America where the technician discovered a slight gash in the sidewall of the tire proving to be the culprit causing the tubes to blow out. This time Sheldon got a new tire and new tube.
We were determined to complete our journey. We had accepted the Challenge and giving up was not an option for us. Had either of been on this journey alone, we may have given up but through the encouragement of each other we pressed on.
We were back on the road with 40 miles and a lot of hills to go. Not only does dealing with all these unexpected situations wear on you physically, they wear on you mentally. It is in these times of adversity when having the right mental attitude comes into play. We are given the opportunity to either keep pressing forward despite the circumstances, or we could have backed down. We chose to press on, and we invite and encourage you to press on through the adversity standing in your way, too. Don’t let some flat tires be the obstacle that keeps you from riding on to victory.
The last leg of our ride was slow and the day was taking its toll on both of us. Shortly after crossing back onto the Kansas side of the state line, Sheldon took a nasty spill while going over a set of rail road tracks. A wipeout with bloody knuckles and elbow was not on the list of expectations for the day. Being the Challenger he his, Sheldon was quickly back on his bike and cycling onward.
It was now late in the day and our journey was coming to end. At just over 11 hours after starting that morning, we rolled back onto Sheldon’s driveway with a sigh of relief and great accomplishment. There was a sense of joy and satisfaction that came from completing the task we had set out to conquer. Despite all the obstacles along the way, we still pressed on. Although the day did not go according to plan, we still reached our final destination.
I gained much more from this day than just physical conditioning. I learned to expect the unexpected. It goes without saying, our century training ride did not go smoothly, but we kept our final destination, our goal, in front of us. Through all of the setbacks of the day, we strangely found ourselves enjoying the journey because we kept fighting to maintain a positive perspective. Life is a lot like a long bike ride in that there are times of long straight-a-ways where things are pretty mundane yet comfortable. Then, there are stretches of steep hills or mountains to climb that are painful to get through taking us out of our comfort zones. Though, I must encourage you to climb those mountains in order to experience the view from the top. Keep in mind, that the downhill will come fast, and you will more than likely find yourself in the midst of another climb, but stay positive and press on through it. The challenges have purpose and meaning, and if choose to embrace them; we will be well on our way to Factoring the Difference in our lives. Again, I don’t think the events of today were coincidental in nature. We were blessed by the adversity because the accomplishment meant that much more to us.
Wherever you find yourself on this bike ride of life, keep peddling. Aspire to be your best, Believe you can do it, and Conquer your challenges. ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE and FACTOR THE DIFFERENCE!