Roller Coasters and Corny Dogs
Jan 06 11:06 AM

Roller Coasters and Corny Dogs

Jan 06 11:06 AM
Jan 06 11:06 AM

Not Fair Day 

Any parent knows the dreaded phrase “Not Fair” –  every kid learns it and once they do they treat it as if it was the ultimate trump card in some high stakes game they are playing on the cereal aisle … over Fruity Pebbles …  even though they never eat them. "Read 'em and weep Daddy, I have deemed this Not Fair and there isn't much you can do about it."

I came up with a counter argument to the Not Fair trump card, one both my kids hated which made it very effective because eventually they quit saying Not Fair. I just told them this, “you know ... life is not fair. In fact it's so unfair that they made a special day called Fair Day that only comes once a year. On Fair Day, they close down school and you get to go downtown, ride roller coasters and eat corny dogs but today is not that day, it's Not Fair Day. So while I realize it's not fair, there is nothing I can do about it, my hands are tied.” It's complete nonsense but was effective, for a small fee you can use it.  

Yesterday was my very own Not Fair Day, I had set out to ride with the Pace Group at the Hotter than Hell Hundred. I was going to ride 100 miles in less than 5 hours. For the past couple of months I've been up before dawn attempting to meet or exceed the things I needed to do to be able to do it. I had seen so many obstacles but the doors seemed to open despite the challenges. I could do this.

The Pace Group  

Saturday morning came and despite some challenges in getting to the starting line I got there and the ride started. I took off and roared along the course trying to stay the pace. I had been fortunate at the start to get a spot toward the front but in an early uphill quite a few riders sprinted past me and I found myself in the back half of the peloton. The back half is not where you want to be. When the front half crests a hill, they accelerate while you still are climbing and you have to catch up, quickly. When they hit the bottom of a hill you run up their back wheels as they slow down, they separate again, you catch up. Instead of a smooth line, it's like riding an accordion, back and forth. Sprint, brake, spin. It takes a toll on your legs so I decided to work my way to the front and avoid that. During another climb I slipped up the side of the peloton and tried to find a hole to jump in. Not a popular move and I quickly found that many of the riders I passed were taking any opportunity to regain their position in fact, that is what the ride became, all of us jockeying for position.  

I found myself in the back half again but this time I found myself separated from the pace group by riders that jumped into the peloton but weren't part of our group. It turns out that a lot of people start the Hotter than Hell early to beat the heat and the massive crowd at the start. As we passed them they jumped into our pace line and created a bigger gap between the back half and the front half and accordingly, we had a more exaggerated accordion ride. At around mile 53 I worked my way around the guys outside the group and rejoined the front half of the Pace Group, no longer a clean two lines but a mass of jersey's and sweat attempting to stick together. It was chaotic in some ways, not what I expected and during that melee I felt an all too familiar twinge in my left quadriceps, my muscles were starting to cramp. My heart sank. I had hydrated enough I thought, I was on my third water bottle but in that confusion and pressure maybe I didn't drink enough. I prayed they would pass but they didn't. I shifted to the little gear and kept spinning, it's called soft pedaling. Pressure brings the cramps on so if I just kept spinning maybe they would work themselves out. The pace group leaders were awesome, they encouraged me and time and time again helped me hang on but the twinges turned to spasms and at mile 60 a sharper pain than I could ride through shot through my leg. I told the ride leader who commended me for my fight and then took off to join the group leaving me alone under a giant inflatable Pyro Pete, the guardian of Hell’s Gate.  

A Disappointing Finish

I briefly took consolation in the fastest 60 miles I had ever ridden, 2 hours and 49 minutes and knew I could slow down now and easily have a really good time. I would just soft pedal. I thought through the plan and there wasn't part of it that involved catching up with the Pace Group so I was disappointed, but would press on. I thought about quitting but I didn't want to quit with that kind of time under my belt. I would still finish in 5 and a half hours, a personal best time for me.  

However the cramps didn't see it that way, by mile 86 a sag wagon was on the scene. Sag wagons are part of every ride and they pick up the riders that can't finish due to injuries, the heat or typically a battle with severe cramps. If I was cramping where I had to stop in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road, that was bad and that's why they were there. They were trained to get me and my bike off the road and into the truck, for my own good but I convinced them I would be fine, that I  just needed to finish the race at 14 mph to finish under 6 hours. I would take it easy. 6 hours is still a really good time and I would be okay with that.  

I had to stop again three more times on the side of the road before the 90 mile break where I spent what seemed like forever in the first aid station with my legs iced down trying to stop the spasms. That six hour mark passed with me on a cot and I got back on the bike with two fresh ice packs and slowly spun in, moving ice around my quads and massaging each cramp until I crossed the line in 7 hours and 10 minutes. At the finish, I couldn't unclip from my bike and the volunteers handing out medals had to catch me to keep me from falling while I worked out the latest cramps which now prevented me from twisting either foot to unclip from the pedal. 

Reflections on the ride and me

Linda and Will had driven up from Dallas to see me finish and, I thought, to celebrate my five hour achievement. Instead she just gave me a big hug as I held back the tears. I had worked so hard, I even downloaded the checklist app and checked off everything. I hydrated. It wasn't that hot. How did this happen? 

My friend Doug had his best ride ever but instead of being happy for him it just made it hurt more. Why couldn't I get to do that? It was not fair. How come every single prayer I had on that ride was answered with a no? Please help me get up this tiny hill without another cramp! No. Please send this water and electrolytes to my quads!  No. Please help me just keep up this pace! No. Please give me Steve Austin’s bionic legs. No. I was being the kid in the cereal aisle. The more I plead, the more I asked why, the more I slowed down. Why? Slower. Why? Slower. Why? Slower.  

The only thing that answered that "why" question was me. It was just me. I think He really blessed my efforts early on in my weight loss adventure because back then Today I Can was about looking to Him and helping others, somewhere in my quest for the five hour ride I turned it into Today Ford Can, I'd lost contact with Him and the goal I had to help others. I rode alone, trained alone, even on Sunday mornings, and just set out to ride fast. I never updated my blog or encouraged another person, there wasn't time and that wasn't my goal. My goal was to post a great time and get a picture of that time on my Garmin posted to Facebook so everyone would think I was awesome. It was pride. It had nothing to do with Him and everything to do with me. It had nothing to do with others it was all about me. If He wasn't part of the plan, why did I think He'd solve the cramp thing? He did give me enough strength to finish, I'm thankful for that but it was not a finish that involved pride, it involved what got me here. Humility and perseverance.  

It would have been much easier to get in a sag wagon, meet Linda at the first aid station and just skip the whole finish line thing. Nobody would see me, nobody would blame me either. Nobody else had two ice packs on their legs, nobody else would do this. I had finished this ride before, I didn't need to prove that. The lesson He wanted to teach me was out there in that heat, with those cramps, in 7 hours and 10 minutes. You need to persevere, just ride to the finish and complete what you started. This is not about you and your great time, this is about humility. I will be there, I will carry you across that line but it will not be on your terms. Perseverance and humility are the terms that got you here and that is where I want you: in this and fighting with me.

Today I Can - Reboot

So first of all, I am sorry I lost site of the goal. There were a couple of things over the past couple of days that have shown me that. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought if I did this it would encourage others but it was in the back of my mind. I did learn something. I actually was reminded of something, it is really fundamental to what Today I Can is supposed to be about and that is that sometimes you don't want to do what you need to do or what God wants you to do. The big guy or girl jogging or walking or riding a bike isn't glamorous. Finishing a ride in a Pace Group jersey two hours after the Pace Group isn't going to get a lot of coverage on SportsCenter. It is just what we have to do to fulfill whatever plan He has for us. I know it hurts sometimes because I have been there, I was there yesterday and you think you are alone but you're not, He's there. So just get out there and give it a try, ask God to help you make good decisions and be safe in your venture and if that works out, try it again tomorrow. 

Also, drink a lot of water if it's hot and humid because cramps suck.



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Ford Baker is a CPA and entrepreneur. He's passionate about helping CPAs gain balance and understand that they can live healthy and balanced lives while having successful careers.

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