Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The importance of goal setting.

Recently I was reminded about the importance of goal setting. Having a goal, and striving to reach it, can keep a person focused. The one thing that was stressed above all else when it comes to goal setting was that the goal doesn't to be huge. In fact, I've learned it's best to set "little" goals at first, to help build up confidence. Also, in the event you do fail to accomplish some of your goals for a given day, don't dwell of them. Instead, focus on the goals you did complete.

Goals are important in the life of a Christian. Everyday we should set a goal of being as Christ-like as possible. No, I'm not saying to strive for perfection, because we will always fall short of that goal. Instead, we need to keep the Scriptures in mind, weighing our thoughts and actions against what God has written in His book. I know it quite cliche', but we need to keep the old "WWJD" saying in mind.

Goals are also important when you're a cyclist. If we don't set goals, we will never know if we're improving or not. Both short term and long term goals are important. Long terms goals help you see how you've progressed over a longer length of time, usually anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Short term goals help you focus a lot of concentration and energy into a short period of time to rapidly improve.

Having said that, I have set a long term goal for myself. The past few years, I have "trained" for the Bike The Drive ride held on Lake Shore Drive the Sunday before Memorial Day. It's a 15 to 30 mile ride on Chicago's famous Lake Shore Drive. The drive is shut down to cars for five hours and open only to bicyclists. It's quite a sight to see over 20,000 cyclists enjoying a car free Lake Shore Drive.

However, that's not my goal this year. Going to shake things up some and shoot for the "Le Tour de Shore" charity ride, held this year on June 13 and 14, 2014. This is a two day, 100 mile ride from Chicago's Millennium Park to Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton Indiana (66 miles) on day one and then from the Indiana Dunes to City Park in New Buffalo, Michigan (34 miles) on day two. I've never attempted this kind of mileage before, so it will quite a challenge. The furthest I've ever ridden was about 32 miles when I did Bike The Drive for the first time way back in 2004. This past summer, the longest I rode was a little over 20 miles on a couple different occasions. However, I have about 30 weeks to train for the ride, so that gives me plenty of time to slowly build up my mileage base. I will give periodic updates as my training progresses.

If you'd like to get an idea of what the Tour de Shore ride looks like, here's part one of a video one of the riders made this past June......

Thanks for stopping by and reading today's blog entry. I'm going to try really hard to make more regular entries. God Bless!!!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Morning Hike

My wife and I went for a hike through one of our local forest preserves, Maple Lake East. It was a beautiful morning and quite a few people were out enjoying it. Psalm 118:24 (NASB) comes to mind....."This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it."  

There were people fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. I snapped some pictures, so I thought I'd share a few of them here.....

A mountain biker coming up the trail.

Another mountain biker enjoying the day.

A shot of Maple Lake; the forest preserve we were hiking around.

There's just something about a relaxin' morning spent fishing.

A group of cyclists taking a break before getting back on the trail.

Some more cyclists enjoying the trails of the preserve.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Quid Pro Quo

Mixed marriages and relationships can be disastrous. Cultural gulfs, societal pressures and ugly prejudices often tear lovers apart. Shattered, both partners are left wondering whether they should've stuck with their own kind.

Yes, it's tough when a cyclist hooks up with a non-cyclist.

At first your two-wheeled hobby seems quaint, even cute. "You want me to wear my Lycra skinsuit to bed? Why would I . . . ohhh."

But six months later, your snookums is screaming: "If I open a cupboard and get clobbered by one more water bottle avalanche, you're going to be sleeping with your precious bike -- in the garage."

For most non-riding partners, the last straw is the new bike purchase. To help you navigate this tricky but essential relationship rite of passage, here are three strategies:

Social Consciousness. You say: "If I have a new bike, I'll ride it to work. I'll use less gas, reduce pollution and cut greenhouse-gas emissions."
This works if you actually start pedaling to work. Or if your partner belongs to Greenpeace, PETA, et al.
It fails if you put your bike in the car and drive six hours to a race every weekend. Or your partner works for the Petroleum Institute.

Personal Growth. You say: "I'll ride more, which will make me happier and less stressed, which will make me a better partner."
This works if the partnership you're referring to involves your lover, not your new bike.
It fails if you ride so much that you're overtrained, which makes you unhappier and more stressed, which makes you a jerk.

Bribery. You say: "If I get a new toy, you get a new toy."
This works . . . every time.


While I would love to take credit for this humorous missive, I cannot. This comes from the brilliant and hilarious mind of Scott Martin; columnist for Road Bike Rider. This was just too funny not to share.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Storms of life

Having watched quite a bit of coverage of Hurricane Sandy earlier in the week, my heart goes out to all of those who were affected by the storm. One can never underestimate the raw destructive power of Mother Nature. Also, a tip of my hat goes out to all the brave individuals who put their own safety aside in order to help, assist and rescue those that took the brunt of the storm. After the storm blew past, the wreckage left behind in its wake was unbelievable. It will take months and more than likely years before the cleanup and rebuilding process is complete. One thing about us Americans; no matter what our political, social or religious difference may be, we always seem to come together as one when tragedy strikes and we work together to rebuild from the rubble.

Just as storms can cause devastation to trees, buildings, bridges, roads and other physical structures, storms can rip through our personal lives, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. Stress from losing a job, marital infidelity, financial problems or a host of other things can stretch a person to their limit. Sometimes these can be silent storms; raging on the inside, creating havoc in ones mind. Other times, these storms rage in plain sight for all to see. Words are said or actions are taken that can physical and emotional damage to those who are unfortunate enough to cross the path of the raging storm.

When those storms of life come into your life, there is help. Just as FEMA and state and local agencies come to peoples aid in times of natural disasters, there is help when a personal storm rages in your life. That help is found in the Bible. In Luke 8: 22-25, we see that Jesus and His disciples got into a boat to go to the other side of a lake. While sailing along, Jesus took a nap and while He was asleep, a storm arose ("a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake" verse 23) and they were afraid. The disciples woke Jesus up and seeing their fear, He "rebuked the wind and thesurging waves" (verse 24).  Needless to say, the disciples were fearful and amazed and the power Jesus had over nature.

That very same Jesus can calm the storm that rages inside a person. In Mark's gospel, he told of the encounter this way in chapter 4; "And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Hush, be still.' And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. (verse 39). Jesus can speak to the storm raging in our soul, telling it to be still, and it will calm. Back in Luke's narrative, Jesus asked his disciples where their faith was. That's all we need, is faith. In faith, ask Jesus to calm the storm that rages inside of you and He will answer by calming the storm. Where there was confusion, pain, anger and doubt now has been replaced with faith hope and love.

My friends, when the storms of life come crashing into your soul, you don't have to face that storm alone. Seek Jesus. Ask Him to calm the storm that rages within you. If you ask in faith, He will answer your prayer and calm the storm.

( all Scripture reference are taken from the New American Standard version )

Monday, October 22, 2012

Drop goes the other shoe.

If you're Lance Armstrong, things just seem to be going from bad to worse. I know he said at a fundraiser this past Friday that "I have been better, but I have been worse." From experiencing cancer both in my wife Kris and in my brother-in-law Dale, who lost his brave battle last November, I definitely understand where Lance is coming from.

However, from a professional standpoint, it couldn't have gotten any worse than it did today. Already having been stripped of his seven Tour de France title by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), today was the day that the International Cycling Union (UCI) was to issue their verdict on the case. Well, in a decision that almost everyone expected, the UCI sided with the report issued by USADA and stripped Lance Armstrong of his titles, basically vacating the race results for the years 1999 to 2005. In past cases, when the winner had is title stripped, the second placed rider has been elevated to the new winner. The last time was in 2010 when Alberto Contador was stripped of his title due to doping and Andy Schleck was declared the winner. As I write this, I haven't seen any explanation as to their decision in that regard. Perhaps as more information comes out in the days to come, their decision will become clear(er).

I'm going to honest here; when I wrote that it was a decision that almost everyone expected, I wasn't one of them. Yes, by now I had become convinced that Lance had probably doped, but I didn't think the UCI had the guts (for lack of a better word) to strip Lance of his titles and ban him for life. In my mind, Lance was their "cash cow" from 1999 to his second retirement. Cycling had (more so here in the USA; it's always been big in Europe) seen tremendous growth during his racing career. I thought that the UCI would ban him for anywhere from 2 to 10 years, fine him but leave his titles intact. Looks like I thought wrong. UCI president McQuaid was quoted as saying: "Armstrong has no place in cycling .... he deserves to be forgotten in cycling."

Ouch. Harsh, but I guess in light of the report handed down by USADA, I guess Mr. McQuaid felt justified. Will Lance be forgotten? No, of course not. The debate will rage for some time to come whether Lance actually used performance enhancing drugs, and help create a culture of doping in the teams he was a part of. Some people will say that all of the other riders in the pro peloton (or at least the names that count) were doping as well, so the playing field was level, thus Lance won his titles "fair and square."

Those arguments are for others, not I. I will try to remember the highlights of his career, most notably "The Look." Anyone who's a follower of the Tour will knows what I mean.

Hopefully this will be the impetus needed to finally clean up professional cycling. There are a slew of young, exciting riders coming up the ranks both here in the USA and in Europe. I look forward to these hungry young lions competing  for the Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey) without having to wonder, "is this guy on the juice?" I hope that day comes soon.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Preachers and Cyclists

Well, as I'm sure you have all heard by now, the bottom has really fallen out for Lance Armstrong. Not only did the US anti-doping agency stripped him of his seven Tour de France titles, and ban him from all sanctioned competition, but nine out of ten sponsors (as of this writing) have dropped him from their payroll. It is estimated that that could cost Armstrong upwards of $30 million a year in sponsorship revenue.

To this day, Lance Armstrong denies that he ever took any performance-enhancing drugs and that he passed every drug test administered to him. Now I will be the first to admit, that I have not read every page of the report that the anti-doping agency put out, but from the few pages I have read, the evidence against Armstrong looks very damning indeed.

The eyewitness accounts of former teammates and colleagues certainly paint a grim picture of life inside the pro peloton in general, and the inner workings of Armstrong's teams in particular.

Back in the heyday of 1999 to 2005, when Lance was winning his seven titles, I was a huge fan. I had the posters, I had the books, I devoured every article I could find on the man, both in print and online. For three weeks in July, all I could talk about was Lance, Lance, Lance. Needless to say, it drove my wife nuts. When the topic of doping would arise, I would always answer any criticism with the comeback "Hey, he's clean. He hasn't failed a drug test yet." Despite the mounting pile of evidence, I stuck to my guns and defended Lance at every turn.

I was overjoyed when the US government's case against  Lance fell apart a couple of years ago. in my mind, that just proves what I knew all along, that Lance was clean and everyone who accused him of doping was jealous. And yes, like a lot of other Lance supporters, I was curious when the new charges were brought against him by the US anti-doping agency. But as details of the investigation began to leak out, my view began to change. I began to have my doubts, despite Lance's continued denial. It appeared there was just too much evidence, too many eyewitnesses, to believe any longer that Lance had been writing clean for all of those years. In my mind, the day that Lance said that he was not going to fight the charges any longer, and was not going to appeal the agency's decision to strip him of his titles and ban him from competition, was the day he admitted to doping while not coming right out and admitting that he did so. To say I was very disappointed in the man would be a huge understatement and I'm sure a lot of other of his fans felt the same way as I.

Now I suppose you're wondering what Lance Armstrong, and cyclists in general, have in common with preachers. Well, I'll tell you. Both will let you down. I know in some church cultures, the people of the congregation look up to the preacher, or as some people call them, the "man of God." They see the preacher as a wise man, one who knows what is best for them. Yeah, I know, I'm broad brushing here a little bit, but I'm trying to make a point. We place these men upon pedestals, thinking they are great individuals. Sometimes what we fail to realize is that they are indeed men, prone to failings, just like us "mere mortals." in the case of professional cyclists, it's the temptation to take illegal performance-enhancing drugs just so they can pedal harder than the next cyclist so they can win the race. For preachers, while I'm sure the temptations are many, it seems like the most common temptation is the temptation to cheat on their spouse; usually with a member of their own congregation.

What am I getting at? That we should put no individual up on a pedestal, for in time, they will fail in one way or another. And when they do, we will be disappointed. Sure, it's okay to admire the skills of an athlete or the knowledge and speaking skills of a preacher, but that's as far as it should go; admiration. There is only one person that deserves the honor of being placed upon a pedestal, and that man is Jesus Christ. He is the perfect man; the perfect Son of God. He is the only one that will never fail our expectations. "Heroes" like Lance Armstrong or the preacher at your church, space or your favorite television preacher or teacher will come and go, but Jesus Christ, as it says in Hebrews 13:8, "is the same yesterday, today and forever." That is whom I will place my trust, in whom I shall never be disappointed.