Flying Solo

6:00 AM

If you read my post yesterday about the Gran Fondo, you might recall my mentioning that I experienced the benefits of drafting with a pack of fellow cyclists for the first time.  I also mentioned that for part of the time, Kyle and I weren't in a pack, but off by ourselves, and that I enjoyed this too.

Riding on a bike for 4 hours gives you plenty of time for contemplation, and I took advantage of that time.  I found myself thinking about the whole principal of drafting and riding in a pack versus going at it on your own.  As is so often the case, there are clear parallels between cycling and life. 

Cycling is very often a solitary sport. I think partly that may be due to the long hours that it can demand - hours which not everyone is able to give up.  Cycling can often be a very communal sport, too.  People love to meet up for big group rides. I know of so many different groups that meet up at all different locations, days, times...the longer the training ride you need, the nicer it can be to have a buddy! 

One of the main benefits of riding with a group is when you form that line and begin to take advantage of the benefits of drafting - slipping into the airstream behind another cyclist - which allows you to maintain significantly higher speeds at a fraction of the energy expenditure.  The person leading "pulls" the pack until they need a break at which time they peel off to the left and then find a hole in the line to slip over into.  Meanwhile, the next person in line takes their turn. Theoretically everyone benefits. Faster speed, less energy.

There are times, however, such as in triathlons, when drafting is illegal. You are required to maintain a certain distance between yourself and the next cyclist and you have a set amount of time in which to pass other cyclists or you'll be penalized and potentially disqualified. Triathlons are excellent for those who are comfortable going at it alone.

I think that's one reason I find myself drawn to them. It's an internal battle more than anything.
I love that it pushes me. It's also scary because you're faced with all your weaknesses and are forced to come to grips with yourself on the grittiest level. What are you made of? 

It's the question that emerges on a really long run, on a hard struggle up a hill, at the end of a long week, in the middle of the day being the mother of four children.

Those of you who know me well know that I fly solo more often than not.
I choose to home school apart from any type of group. I prefer to do independent Bible studies outside of group settings. I don't often join things. I am not a people pleaser.
I am far more apt to make a decision that goes against what everyone else is doing, not just to be contrary, but because I don't care what everyone else is doing if it isn't what's best for our family.
On that bike ride this past Saturday, I enjoyed riding by myself for many miles, battling the headwind and seeing what my body was capable of handling.

On the flip side of that, I would be a fool if I didn't notice that there were huge advantages to riding as part of that larger group on Saturday.  It was good for me to really FEEL the difference.  One tangible difference between riding solo and in a group is that on your own, you're always pedaling. Unless you're free-wheeling down a hill for a second, most of the time, your legs are spinning - working. In that line of other riders, slipping through the air stream, you actually find that doing the same amount of work makes you go too fast - you bump up against the next rider - so you let off the pedals every now and then.  

Life is very much like this. There are times for you to go at it alone, and there are times to be part of a larger group - both to contribute and to benefit from its advantages, the give and take. 

Even if you wouldn't define yourself as a loner, even if you are an extrovert who prefers to be surrounded by people, the reality of life, especially motherhood, is that much of it is done by yourself (not counting these little people who are our children).  The hard bits, the dirty bits, the pure work that motherhood can be - it's like the triathlon part. You might wish you could "draft", but you just have to dig deep and do the job you have to do. And it hurts at times and strips you raw of all you thought you had, and you think, dang, I did NOT take in enough "nutrition" today. Where are my Gu's, my energy gels? I'm dying here!!

About that. As followers of Christ, we are never truly alone. Just as I believe I'm never truly alone even on a bike in the middle of nowhere. Being a mom 24/7, I am never without the "nutrition" I require to complete the job.  As an athlete, when your body absolutely runs out of juice and you hit the wall, it's called Bonking. As a believer, you never have to bonk, because we have constant access to the power of God which fuels us more substantially, more thoroughly than any energy gel or electrolyte tablet out there. I find, too often, that when I reach my limit with my kids, what I failed to do was "supplement" my personal limit with the abundant stores of grace, mercy, kindness, humor and peace that come from the Holy Spirit.  Whether I chose not to have a quiet time or prayer time, or what, it's no different from being unprepared on a run or ride and just running out of juice.  

Since we all are required to perform solo for at least part of the time, be prepared for it. Fuel up with the spiritual stores offered to us by our Creator and Maker.  In Isaiah 43, God says, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Our waters and rivers may not be the same as each others, and the levels that are treacherous to us may be different, but thankfully, God doesn't specify a certain water level or river depth.  He just says, YOU. When YOU pass through. Your stressful day doesn't have to be the same circumstances as my stressful day to be worthy of His intervention.   Just know that He is there to be called upon. His promise holds for each of us who are called by His name. He is our Savior, on our solo days, no matter what.

He also gives us a body of believers designed to function as a team, a pack, so that we may experience the benefit of both leading and following. Our journey doesn't have to be a full out energy dump every single day. In fact, when I over-isolate myself and get super snappy at Kyle and the kids, it's probably because I'm not taking advantage of that body of believers.  Or if I am, maybe I'm leading instead of benefiting from the slipstream. All of the work, none of the drafting. How dumb is that? Worse, even, than just flying solo. 

There are undeniable benefits from spending time with my fellow believers, my fellow moms, my dear friends. I realize that now as clearly as I ever have.  It doesn't change who I am as a person or my desire, need even, for solitude. But if Christ has established a body for the purpose of functioning better together than apart, I'd be pretty unwise to take part in that process. 

Isolation can definitely be a good thing...after all, these thoughts I share with you are ones that I mulled over while alone on my bike.  However, even I need the boost from the shared journey experience.  There's no shame in riding together, no loss of honor in reaching out for companionship on these daily journeys of ours. Truth be told, I'm honored to be sharing the journey with many of you, and the struggles you share make my own a little easier. I hope knowing that it's a struggle for me, too, puts you in that slipstream and eases your efforts. 

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