Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Misfit

World English Dictionary
misfit (noun): a person not suited in behavior or attitude to a particular social environment

I am a misfit. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a misfit. Or at least circumstances have always lead me to feel that way. I won't bore you with the entire spectrum of where the description might fall in my life. For this post, I'll refer to my athletic abilities.

When I was in grade school, I was tall and thin. So everybody told me I should be good at playing basketball. I wasn't. Basketball requires coordination. I have always lacked severely in that department. And my tall, thin build was never a good formula for a football player. If there was any sport I might have done well at while I was growing up, it might have been running. But that required a desire to hurt. Hurt? ...HURT? Ha-ha! Need I explain any further?

I really didn't discover the joy of athleticism until somewhere in my mid-20s. I was working at a factory as a welder, and a few of us would go to the local park after work and throw a Frisbee around. There were many late summer afternoons I could be found running and leaping and tossing the magical disc with an abandon I had never before experienced in my life. Now that I look back, I guess I kind of saw myself as some kind of Frisbee-wielding ballet dancer. But please don't tell any of my macho football friends I said that. ;-)  I was finally loving athletics,  but in truth it was sort of a misfit sport when you compare it to the traditional sports in our country. Those were great years though, and it was in those open fields that I learned that even this scawny, misfit kid from Brown Deer, Wisconsin, could use the physical body that God blessed him with and have fun doing it!

Around the same time in my life, I rediscovered the joy of bicycling. Back in grade school, my buddies and I would often construct wooden ramps to jump from with our old Schwinn Stingray bikes. We would set up a number of garbage cans inbetween the launching and landing ramps, and have contests who could jump over the most garbage cans. I think 6 cans was the best we ever got. But later on in highschool, I purchased my first adult-sized bike, a 1974 Raleigh Grand Prix 10-speed. And in the spring of 1980, I started to ride my old Raleigh again, and decided that by the end of the summer, I wanted to complete my first "century", 100 miles in one day. With the help of a fellow cyclist that had organized events for American Youth Hostels, I reached that goal later that September. I was hooked. I had found my sport. I was a long-distance cyclist!

Over the years, I grew into an ultra-marathon cyclist. Ultra-marathon cycling events typically have to be at least 200 miles long (in one day). But ultra-marathon cyclists are a strange breed, even in the sport of cycling itself. When people speak of bicycle racing, as least in the United States, we are usually referring to much shorter events, such as the criterium. Criteriums are considerably faster, but much shorter events than ultras. They also involve pack-style riding, which allows cyclists to take a "rest" as they take turns riding in the slipstream of other riders. On the other hand, ultra-marathon cycling usually requires the cyclist to ride on his own, and is more like a very long time trial. Because it is you alone racing against the clock, an individual time trial (ITT) is often referred to as "the race of truth". So here I was. I could finally call myself an athlete, but I was still a misfit athlete! Ha!

So why am I boring you with all this babble of my misfit past? Well, things haven't really changed much for me if you consider what my main cycling goal is for this year. I am trying to return to the sport of ultra-marathon cycling at an age when many of my "old" friends have stepped into the role of grandparents and bouncing grandkids on their knees or maybe even taking them to their first baseball game. Is this idea of mine crazy? Does it make any sense? I guess I won't find out until the summer's over and I have had my chance to break this record. I know one thing for sure, I will need a lot of help if this is to work. It has already required the loving patience of my wife, who sacrifices a lot of her own time and energy to allow me to maintain my focus on this goal. It will also require a lot of time and energy from a support crew who I will need to rely on for many things during the event. But mostly, I will need to trust in the Lord for my strength to carry me through those 290 miles across the state of Wisconsin, for I know this is not possible without him.

You see, I am still that same misfit athlete that found the joys of ultra-marathon cycling over 30 years ago when I dusted off my Raleigh and found the open road. But even misfits find their way when they place their trust is in the Lord and look to him for their strength. To him be the glory. All of it.

PS: One more thing. I've been planning to hook up a charity with our record attempt and a decision has finally been made! An announcement will follow within the next day or two, and I promise it will be a good one.
 

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