The first 2 days were what I will call the “Cross”. The third day was Resurrection and the last day was Redemption. My point? That real community is formed from individuals who are doing something very difficult.
So off I went, alone but with 43 others.
We all set off alone in our fear and uncertainty. Would we be OK? Would we be able to meet the challenge?
As you can see in the pictures, the day was glowering with low cloud, rain and a 40k headwind. We had 60 k to do.
I and others went inside. At first into our fears and into our thoughts and then into our bodies. ” Fuck Fuck Fuck” was my mantra as the grade uphill turned into yet more grade. The wind was blasting in my face and the wet gravel slipped under my tires. There were times that first day when all I had left was my will. This was not fun!
But in the background were the shepherds. Every now and then one of them would whip up beside me. “How are you doing?” “Fine” I would say even though I did not feel that it was fine. Just as I thought I could not go further, I came around a bend and there was the break station. Volunteers had food, water and encouragement. Then back out again – grind grind grind. But all the time the shepherds were there. Had a puncture, they fixed it. Put your back out, they had Midol and carried your gear. Could not go on – there was the truck.
As I saw how the weak and the unlucky were being looked after, I began to realize that I was safer than I thought. Heh maybe this was not a race. Maybe the point was that we would all make it in our own way? The organizers had created a safe container in which we could be ourselves.
We were on our own. No one was pedaling for us. But we had support. All around us was a framework of support.
The shepherds, the system facilitators, were the obvious support. But so were all the breaks, the lunches and the first night at a resort hotel with entertainment put on by two of the most experienced members.
This was for many of us the most challenge that we had ever faced. It was a challenge of body and more important of spirit.
In the first two days, the ordeal was so great that each of the members could only rely on the official supporters to help us. We discovered the meaning of “the silence of his personal despair” Being in pain, and hence being inward looking, we could not help the other members much. But the design of the ride mean that there were people there who were above our pain and who could and did help.
By day three, most riders had done over 170K. Something changed inside us.
We had each overcome our fears and had discovered that we could do this. We had also spent 2 nights with each other. The first night I went to bed at 8.30 exhausted. But the second night I closed the bar with a large number of the gang. We were starting to see and know each other. We had shared something.
We had each of us carried a cross of our own. Every cross was different but all had carried one. So when we looked at another, we saw a fellow and not a stranger. We had respect and the beginnings of love for each other. For each of us had been on our own cross.
Now we could begin to help each other. Now we broke free from being alone and could be a group. How different from the false community that parades itself frequently on the net. Now the process of resurrection and redemption could begin. We felt like a band of skilled veterans at war. We were becoming a band of brothers and sisters.
Our motivation was starting to transcend our own needs and extend to the whole group. Then something really amazing started to happen to us all …. More tomorrow