Bam! – Success

Bam! Marks from the last semester finished trickling in sometime in the past few days. Upon my last inquiry I had finally received the last grade for the last of my courses to be completed. That means I’m actually done. Bam! a few more illuminated pixels on the computer monitor and it’s now over.

Plenty of people have been asking me how it feels to be done and really it’s even more anti-climactic that you might first guess. No-one expects you to say “finishing my degree changed my life” but I’d guess that the question is supposed to have an answer there seems to be an expectation that finishing school is a turning point in life, really it wasn’t at all. Getting the Iron ring and making a pledge to pursue a career with professionalism did give a little dose of perspective change.

Why not? I don’t think it’s because I’m returning to Grad School. While that in some sense does make a difference regarding whether or not I see the end of a BSc as the actual end of school I think it’s mostly due to another reason. It’s because I’ve worked hard at putting school way down the totem pole of important things in life. Obviously I haven’t removed it from that hierarchy, because I did still bust my ass hard enough to keep the grades essentially flawless. I have however done a better job recently, especially the last 16 months or so, of putting many more important things first. School doesn’t even make the top 5 anymore: That is success.

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Commissioning from McKernan Baptist

This morning McKernan Baptist, the church I’ve been attending in Edmonton for the past 4 years has a commissioning for all of the people doing “kingdom related work” this summer. 17 people were sent out from just that community to go make a positive impact on the world for Christ in the next 4 months. God’s abundance seemed to be so evident.

It was a really good experience to be blessed by that congregation before I departed Edmonton, Pst. Sam prayed specifically for guidance in preparation, something that’s been tricky in recent weeks. I am quite aware that I’m leaving Edmonton soon, have I really asked all of the people for support that I should have asked before I split from town?

We also prayed that God would pour into us an extra measure of courage and clarity with regards to opportunities to share the gospel. That’s also something that’s been going through lots of cyclists heads in recent weeks. There has been a discussion going on with regards to why in the world we’re going on a bike ride along with this fundraising. The ultra-brief answer in my mind boils down to being a witness to our world. If through cycling there are opportunities to communicate the importance of caring for the poor then by all means it’s not a pointless endevour. Does that make it a worthwhile endevour? Well I guess I’d like to chalk up some quantifiable level of awareness at which I think this becomes worthwhile. If I can communicate well to one completely different person each day the reasoning behind my biking then I by all means am on the right track. Is one person enough? I think that if I start down that road I’m going on a bit of an adventure in completely missing the point, but here’s what I do know. It requires a good dose of courage and a clear mind to be making that conscious effort from day to day.

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Love God with your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Bike

There are a collection of Sea to Sea cyclists maintaining BLOGS in addition to myself and Sunday afternoons always seem to be the time where I can survey the week’s posts by fellow riders. I ran across one today by Ryan Bruxvoort from Chicago. The Entry: Love God with your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Bike commented on the uneasiness that has been sensed by many if not all the riders regarding the expense of putting on a big bike trip and buying cycling gear etc with our money when that money could in theory be used for something else. Click on that above link to read his comments.

It got me to reflecting on the same situation… but instead of having my bike as the second most expensive possession (following a car) I’ve got two bikes as most expensive possessions #1 and #2. So am I twice as in trouble?

No, I don’t believe so, the fact that there is some uneasiness surrounding the idea is comforting. It means that there is a desire to align the life I live with my ideology. Last summer when my quiver of bikes was widened by one (ask me the story about that) I was considering what it meant for myself to put such a large fraction of my time and money into the sport. Where on the totem pole of values was cycling coming? I as aware of the fact but not drawing a ton of conclusions. Within a week a co-op student from out of town commented on how much he hated doing groceries on foot and the sore arms that result from carrying bags of groceries home from the store. I had a bike to lend out, and I caught the opportunity. If those thoughts hadn’t been milling around in my head it probably would have passed me by. My reaction could easily have been one of solidarity, complaining about the times I occasionally did groceries on foot and the dead-arms that always resulted from trying to buy way more food than I could carry. When you’ve got your mind in the right headspace there are opportunities that present themselves. It’s impossible to capitalize on them if you’re going about life with closed fists and your head down.

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Banner Article

My article for the Banner arrived in Church mailboxes across North America this week. Catching me a bit off guard, I was under the impression that this was coming on Feb 1. I had a bit of a fundraising blitz ready to go at the end of January and point people to read the banner the next week, a bit of a double whammy and get things into peoples heads two weeks in a row.

Obviously that plan was not to be when I wasn’t even in the country when the Banner arrived. Maybe I just need to be reminded that my skills aren’t going to raise $10000, I can’t do it alone with my best plans, best writing and best effort.

The article is fantastic and is 4 pages long in the banner, starting on this page and my article is on this page along with a sweet photo taken by Reuben Krabbe.

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One Hundred SeatoSea-ers

Today we passed the 100-cyclist mark for people registered to ride from SeatoSea next summer. It’s a good landmark but I continue to hope and pray that the number will continue to grow. I previously mentioned that 100 people would be biking next summer, that was a total including people who are only able to get enough time off work (or permission from their spouse etc.) to bike for only a portion of the ride. As things currently stand we’re bigger than the largest ever cross continental bike ride (Sea to Sea 2005) and at this rate I hope we’ll be breaking that record by a significant amount. More riders out there means more people to ride with, live with and get to know. More importantly though, it means that more money will be raised to support development work.

It’s no accident that Advent tradition is supposed to get one thinking about the coming of Christ. The word means coming, and in many ways it’s a time designed for reflection on what it really means that Christ Jesus showed up on earth. On top of that however is the reminder that we await another arrival. The first week of advent is one in preparing our hearts with an attitude of hope.

    Yet, This I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

    Lam 3:21-26

Being “hope week” this week, it’s been good to have the idea reinforced in my head that this isn’t about wishing, it’s about expecting. I don’t wish salvation through the arrival of a crying baby, I expect it. Similarly I don’t wish that the injustices of the world would be undone, I wait with expectations that God is bringing restoration to such situations. I don’t hope that the money raised next summer will help make a bit of difference. I have great expectations of what God can do with the bits and pieces that we can offer to him. One hundred people getting on bikes is something worth getting excited about, it’s worth having some hope that good things can happen as a result.

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Doping in sports… an inside perspective

Well, oddly enough the news from our “hero” Marion Jones didn’t surprise me all that much. I sucks for everyone to deal with stuff like that, I mean each time someone else gets caught it makes us second guess our heroes. I don’t think any less of all the guys preparing this week to race in Hawaii because of a stupid decision by an athlete and coaching system back in 2000, but I’d be lying to say that it didn’t make me wonder a bit about the cleanliness of my sport.

I certainly wasn’t the only person wondering what it’s like to take drugs in the past week, it’s a topic of conversation that’s running rampant on internet forums right now. Someone dug up a feature story from the Outside magazine of a guy who went on a collection of drugs back earlier this decade and competed as a steroid loaded machine in the Paris-Brest-Paris bike race. The story is from 2003 and is available online here.

Here’s a snippet that gives you an idea of what kind of enhancement he was getting.
Within three weeks, my hematocrit level had risen to 48.3. By this time, my testosterone levels had shot up to 900 nanograms per decaliter, from a previous mark of 280. (My starting level was just below normal.) My HGH had increased only slightly, which Dr. Jones found unusual. He upped my HGH dosage to 1.2 IU a day, speculating that the long hours I spent training might be keeping the level down.
Those numbers, for those of you that don’t know what they mean, are great! I would estimate my hemocrit level as “good” but that means I’m somewhere around 42-44. You get ejected from competition at 50 because you’re superhuman.

The guy went on to add an anabolic steroid to the mix and I think that’s where things started to get a bit past where he was comfortable as he writes:
I got a glimpse of myself in the glass of a freezer door. I had a light on my helmet and a bunch of other blinking gizmos attached to my arms and ankles. My face looked like one of those “thousand-yard stare” photos from Vietnam. What have I done? I wondered. I had a life once, and now I’m standing in the Easton WaWa in the middle of the night, looking like a cyborg, with thousands of dollars of drugs coursing through my veins.

Basically the author decides, as I had known all along, that if you’re looking to use some drugs to gain a bit of an edge, to improve yourself as an athlete without damaging yourself as a complete person, your best bet is HGH. He started at 0.1 IU of HGH, which I think is really at the low end, but was up to a daily 1.2 IU of HGH by the time his race rolled around, I think that’s pretty high. This is under the advice of a doctor though, so maybe 1.2 is ok, I’ve never really read of anyone dosing above 0.5 or 0.6, maybe that’s because the only people who I read about are those who aren’t taking the drug with anticipation of making serious performance enhancement.

So 1.2 IU of HGH in my opinion is intelligent, but I would suggest that anything anabolic is unintelligent, any testosterone supplementation in excess of the 98th percentile of natural testosterone production is unintelligent. I would say that use of EPO to put your hemocrit level at anything more than 5 points above natural would also be unintelligent. I think this guy is nuts to go so extreme with the drugs if he’s only trying to explore them for personal interest. His numbers suggest to me that some people must be really hyped up on stuff if that doctor was prescribing those doses without really being pushed or convinced to make the guy into a monster.

Am I ever going to take HGH? Maybe it sounds like I’m considering it because I know what kind of dosage I’d be comfortable at. Well the answer is yes I’ve done my research but it’s out of interest and the answer regarding putting the stuff into my body is a resounding no! Triathlon is a challenge against myself, it’s an opportunity to see what I can get myself to do. If I start taking something, I have not treated myself fairly, what kind of success is it if you’re not pushing for your absolute (real) best. I suppose the perspective exists that you’re still competing against yourself, but you’re just doing it at a higher level. To that I’d say, bullshit, I can bike fast enough that it’s scary without drugs. There is no “entertainment” enhancement achieved by competing against yourself at a higher level than the one you’re at. If you’re a pro there is certainly a reason to dope though, you’re not competing against yourself, you’re competing on a playing field with everyone else and you’re manipulating the topography of it. I’ve got very little respect for those that are doing so.

I also feel like adding a few reasons why drug use is not honoring to God, as I believe I’m a created being. I’m 6′5” tall for a reason, I’ve got funny knees for a reason, and I don’t have a hemocrit level of 55 for a reason. I’m not going to elaborate a ton here though. I just feel like you’re not really honoring God if you’re enhancing yourself via chemical means. God calls us to worship him in all things, doing things that human beings do is honoring to him.

Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars… Let them praise the name of the LORD: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” Psalm 148: 9 & 13.

That means that riding bikes, running in the river valley and swimming in freezing cold lakes are expressions of worship and praise to God if you participate in them as such. I have a hard time justifying doing those kinds of things through a means that was not created is as honoring to God as those people who aren’t.

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Sea-To-Sea application

I’m sending in my application today at lunch now that I have received back the endorsement from First.

I’m interested in participating in the sea to sea bike trip from Seattle to New Jersey next summer. As a part of the application process I must seek the endorsement of a CRC church, and because while living in Edmonton I’ve been attending the Baptist church right near campus and my house, First CRC is still what I would consider to be “home”. It would be great if you would bring my request to council the next time you meet, or perhaps raise the idea with them over email I don’t know what kind of schedule council is on for the summer months.

I’m supposed to explain why I’d like to participate. Well first off, I absolutely love cycling and an opportunity like this, to participate in an epic-all-summer-trip is exactly the kind of thing I’d like to do. Next summer is also a unique opportunity for myself as I’ve got a gap to fill between the finishing of my undergraduate studies and the beginning of grad school. The real reason I’m interested in participating in this trip is because of the group that is going and the people I hope to meet, not because it’s the craziest idea I could dream up (I’ll admit that there are crazier ones). Let me elaborate.

After leaving high school I started out at the university in Edmonton, I became involved with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) through some of the first people I met on campus. Over the past 3 years I and have found it to be a place where I have been challenged time and time again to be challenged in my faith and challenged in my developing leadership skills. The leadership team of IVCF has been an amazing community of accountability, calling me to step deeper in commitment with God and his plans. Through intense study of Philippians this past semester many of us have found a real common ground surrounding the idea of partnership in ministry. There has been a real sense of dedication as well as urgency in making our lives, our friendships and ultimately our classes and campus a place where Christ is seen.

I think that the large majority of us, because I don’t think I’m an anomaly, are quick to point out that we form a church, albeit an unconventional one, on campus. I know that this idea is reinforced by attending church services chock full of students. I’ve found, especially during the last bit of this year, that living in such a setting means that I miss out on what a church community comprised of children, parents and seniors has to offer. While it is certainly possible to be stretched and grown in a setting of peers, there are real and significant benefits to being part of multi-generational group of believers. I know that going cycling with the seatosea group is certainly different than hopping on a bunch of bikes with friends from triathlon club and that’s something I’m really keen to be a part of. I certainly hope to learn a few significant things about how that type of thing really plays out. I guess that the appeal of biking every day all summer has evolved into a bit more since I started prayerfully considering the idea and discussing it with other people.

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Sea to Sea 2008

I just received confirmation from First CRC that they will endorse me as a cyclist for the 2008 Sea to Sea bike trip between Seattle and New Jersey. That means I’ll be fundraising like a maniac over the next year and will be biking like a maniac next July and August. Of course there are going to be many more blog posts regarding seatosea over the next year and a bit. I’m really quite excited about the opportunity.

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Why I love James

Here’s a high quality musing by James Bell the First:

If an intelligent outside observer is required for a waveform to collapse (and thus for anything to exist), how is the entire universe here? Who is the extra-dimensional intelligent outside observer who makes the waveform of the universe collapse into the form that we experience it in? Is there a God?

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Quantum Mechanics

Quantum Mechanics is honestly the sweetest course I have ever taken in the history of my life. I’m now checking it off on my list of life goals as complete

Now, anybody else in the course right now might be thinking otherwise as we are all finishing up the largest “weekly” assignment of our lives. Mine totals 16 pages. But by struggling through some ridiculous matheMagic to do those complex integrals and expectation values etc. I’ve developed not only a greater interest in the stuff, I’ve really got a much larger respect for the whole deal.

When you start an integral on one page, and hack your way through it on 2 pages, making reference to another 4 pages of previous results for simplification along the way, and arrive at the finish line with an answer of h|bar*(l^2 + a). You really get a grip on how intricately everything fits together. Having started with an expression that was so long I couldn’t even write it on one line (and couldn’t be reduced from there either!) and can develop such an elegant result I’m beginning to get a bit better grip on how perfectly God has this world balanced out. Whether or not the quantum mechanics aspect of the problem characterizes the real world very accurately, the math itself is something that elicits a bit of awe in me. I can’t help but sit here at my desk and be in a good mood even though the clock now shows “12:50″ because I’ve just seen a few of God’s fingerprints.

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