Saturday's club ride was miserable--for the first 23 miles or so. My legs felt heavy and I was having to work much harder than expected to keep up with the group. What was wrong with me? Over-training? Did I need some time off the bike to recover fully? Am I just not cut out for this? A very fast, dark spiral of self-doubt and negativism. Then we stopped for a breather at the halfway water stop.
When I checked the rear brake, it had been rubbing on the wheel the whole time. Essentially I had been riding all morning with the brakes on. I felt like Charlie Brown's attempt to kick the football. The second half was a completely different experience. The self-doubt and negative self-talk went away and the rest of the ride was more like it should have been.
Why was my first thought that there must be something wrong with me? Why did I not think that something mechanical might be the issue? Why was I so quick to assume that I had lost the benefit of all of these months of training just from taking a couple of days midweek of not riding?
It would not have been easy to spot the brake issue while I was riding. I could have detected a flat tire pretty easily. An issue with the chain or the gears would have been apparent. But my rear brake is under my seat and I am not flexible enough, nor a good enough bike handler, to bend around and look under and behind my seat while I am riding down the road. But when I stopped and looked over my bike, the problem was easy to see--and correct. And once corrected, the ride was fundamentally different. I could expend my energy in moving the bike forward, not in getting past the engaged brake.
The writer of Hebrews may have had a similar experience in mind when he wrote, "throw off the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before us." I wonder how much progress in Christlikeness or self-realization is hindered because we find ourselves fighting against the "engaged brakes" in our lives. I wonder how much more progress we could make if we regularly did a quick check to see that the brakes are released and the wheels are spinning freely?
Next time, or right now, check the brakes.