It was late July in Alabama, and I was on my bike for “Hot Hundred: The Hottest Ride in the South.”
When I signed up, I wasn’t exactly sure if “hottest ride” described how popular it is, how warm it might be, or both.
The “Hot Hundred” has a variety of mileage options, ranging from 30 to 100 miles.
I was tooling along at a good speed in a pace line and feeling pretty good. So good that I rode past the 50 mile turn around (my Plan A), then at around mile 40, I rode past the 70 mile turn around (Plan B) and committed myself to the 100-miler.
Riding with a group helps tremendously – and it wasn’t too hot. My brain told my muscles, “We can do this. We do a lot of ‘century rides.’”
Soon after, I had a flat tire. No big deal and easily repaired, but it meant that I lost the group.
Riding in a pace line significantly cuts the wind resistance for the riders in the back of the pack. On a bike (just like in life), it’s easier with others.
“No problem,” I said to myself, “I’ve ridden 100 miles before – lots of times.” Tire fixed and here we go.
Somewhere around mile 70 my muscles sent a message to my brain, “We’re not on board with your decision.”
Around mile 80, I was struggling and wondering if I had 20 miles, just 90 minutes, left in me. At 3 p.m. in the Alabama afternoon, the meaning of “Hot Hundred” was crystal clear.
By mile 90, every peddle push and pull was an effort. My brain was telling my legs and lungs to keep going, but my legs and lungs barely responded.
At about mile 98, I came to a small rise where the road crossed a culvert. I stopped, looked at it and literally wondered if I could get myself across it. Normally, I would barely notice such a slight rise, but this afternoon it felt like a mountain.
Eventually, I gathered enough of myself, crossed it and reached the finish where I laid my bike down on the ground (something of a no-no among cyclists) and stumbled into a chair in the shade of the food tent.
I felt so awful that there was no joy in having completed the ride. I was spent.
Momentarily, a man with a name badge came over, looked very kindly at me and asked, “Why don’t you follow me?” There was no energy to resist so I said, “Okay.”
He led me to the medical tent where the team there began a process to cool me down. They took care of me and recovered me.
Ironically, I was so spent I didn’t know I needed medical attention. Thankfully, a caring person saw that I was in trouble, came to me and kindly invited me into the tent.
COVID-19 has us on a long, difficult ride. Along the way, and when it’s over, some are going to be utterly spent.
Here’s the point: be the person that kindly invites that spent soul into the tent.
System Vice-President, Mission & Outreach for Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky. He and Joyce, his wife, are members of St. Matthews Baptist Church where she serves as a staff minister. Oliver is an ordained minister who holds a PhD and MBA.