Well, the cool weather is finally here.  Gone are the long days and warm afternoon rides – the winter training season is upon me – and that means base miles.  Ughh.  Thankfully for me I love the bike, otherwise I would likely find little motivation to pull myself out of bed and ride in weather that would keep most sensible folk indoors. (we won’t talk about running yet)  As I’m tempted to sleep in another day, I remind myself of the hard lesson I learned about building a proper base.  I learned it the hard way, by not building one…


     I won’t quickly forget my first metric century ride (that’s about 62 miles) back in 2005.  I was new to road cycling and gung-ho for anything.  Unfortunately, I failed to grasp the importance of building up to distance, and jumped into the ride woefully unprepared.  The first 30 or so miles were tons of fun.  I rode with a friend and we chatted along the way.  I zipped down some descents, passing many riders, making myself feel faster and fitter than I actually was.  This is easy!  62 miles?  What’s the big deal!?!? Then I beheld the behemoth…


     They call it “Grunt Hill.”  It is certainly not the longest, nor the steepest climb around, but to my green legs it might as well have been Alpe D’Huez.  As I watched my friend zip up the climb, I perceived my legs turning more and more slowly.  Like pedaling through molasses, slower, slower, legs burning, and eventually, well you get the picture.  If I was the nail, “Grunt Hill” was the hammer, and needless to say I was thoroughly pounded.  To use the modest term “grunt” to describe the climb seemed like a cruel joke to me, as one actually has to have some breath left in order to grunt, or utter any other audible sound for that matter.  My legs were toast, and the day went downhill from there.  After many painful miles, and several unscheduled breaks (read – writhing on the ground with agonizing cramps – and I writhe with the best of them J) – I eventually crossed the finish line.  That one hurt.


     I never saw that climb coming.  If I had, I would have prepared for it.  Of course, it’s always the unforeseen challenges that get you.  That’s how my life has been.  It’s always that sudden illness, that unexpected bill, that job situation, that family calamity that seems to come out of nowhere that knocks me off my feet.  They catch me when I’m weak, when my legs are green, when spiritually I have not put in the base miles.  I’m learning (and I’m a slow learner) that just like building a physical base is important, likewise building a spiritual base is not an option, it’s a life necessity.  The days are growing short and cold, and I’m tempted to spend just a little less time studying the Bible, God’s words.  A little longer in bed.  Just a little less time in prayer, talking to God.  Just a little less time spent listening to him.  Just a little, what could it hurt?


     The truth is, staying in continual fellowship with God enables me to better know his ways, to think according to his principles, to understand how he would have me react in a situation, and most importantly, to KNOW him.  Spending time with him changes my perspective.


     At my job, we refer to the task of taking care of sudden problems that pop up as “putting out fires.”  That’s a good analogy.  When people unexpectedly encounter a real fire, such as in their home or business, many tend to loose their heads.  They rush for an exit, they fumble around, they scream and shout, in short, they panic.  Contrast that with the firefighter’s reaction.  He sees the exact same fire, but through different eyes.  While the untrained freak out and clamor for a way out, the trained see the situation, size it up, and deal with it.  Same fire, totally different response.


     The Psalmist writes in the Bible, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105),” and  “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2 NIV)  That’s sound training.  That great spiritual runner and coach, the Apostle Paul affirms the plan: “Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.  Through the Word we are put together and shaped for the tasks God has for us.” (2 Timothy 3:16 The Message)  The reality of it all is, base miles hone our vision, shape our character, and strengthen our spiritual legs, so when the next big life event surprises us we’ll be ready.  I guess that means it’s time for me to get out of bed and get moving.