Cost versus Joy of the Mudgee Cycling Classic

I recently went away with my dear wife Joanne to the country town of Mudgee, about three and half hours’ drive north-west of Sydney. The purpose was to participate in the Mudgee Cycling Classic. There were three race events available for cyclists: - 170km Maxi Classic; 123km Challenge Classic; and the 35km Social Classic, all run on closed back country roads in mid-western New South Wales. Each event started in the main street of the township and finished at the Event Village set up at Mudgee’s Sporting Complex with lots of festive activities, stalls, food outlets and a live band playing as the riders all crossed the finish line.

I had registered for the 123km ride, whilst Joanne had entered the 35km social ride. I can report we both were very happy with our performances, having trained for quite some time to each be fit enough to complete our distances. But the real gift was the time we spent together in the beauty of that region: dining, evening and morning walks, enjoying the countryside, stopping at lookouts to take in amazing vistas and praying together as we drove. Although we both enjoyed our bicycle events, there was much more Father God was pouring into our hearts over that getaway weekend.

Whilst out at dinner on the eve of my big race, I heard one bemused elderly man behind me ask this question: “Why would anyone want to ride a bike that @^%$! far?... Isn’t that why we invented the motor car?!?”

Fair question!

It’s probably a question only answerable by a cyclist, and even then, individual riders may offer different reasons for riding the number of kilometres they do each year and turn up to cycling events such as these…

But, a primary motivation for me is to improve my physical health.

A few years ago, I was finding it more difficult to keep up with my teenage kids, I’d gained some weight and realised I was getting steadily closer to the age at which my father had died of a heart attack. He was 63, and my family has a history of heart disease.

Courtesy of cycling, I have lost 10kgs and I am now off all blood pressure medication. (My blood pressure used to be up around the 150/110 mark; today I’m around 120/90. My resting heart rate used to be around 73bpm. Today it’s at 52bpm). And having a cycling race in the calendar helps focus your training, and aids with motivation on the days you don’t feel like getting on the bike.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I have also discovered that cycling has been a tremendous benefit for both my physical and mental health. Time in the outdoors with the breeze in my face has allowed me to take in the beauty and has drastically improved my prayer life!

The pressures this pandemic has produced have affected us all. And to be clear, it has been a slow burning ‘trauma to the soul’ that has incrementally impacted us.

Think about it…. to be robbed of your normal routine for months upon months; to be kept in a state of constant uncertainty; and constantly changing regulations and restrictions, border closures (and the threat of border closures); the accumulative disappointments over a prolonged period (eg missed holidays; birthdays uncelebrated; weddings or funerals you could not attend); to be bombarded by bad news on a daily basis; reports of a continually rising global death toll; to hear of new Covid-19 strains for which there is no defence; and never clear on when the finish line will appear!

These are the kind of tactics used on POWs placed under interrogation when their enemy wants to break them! There is no denying these past twelve months have been rough on all of humanity – and it continues to be so.

To care for your body physically is indeed crucial but taking care of your spirit and soul are just as vital in these stressful days.

As we emerge from a year of global tension, we need to acknowledge Australia is very blessed compared to many other places in the world …yet still, we feel the constant threat of being only one out-break away from another complete lock-down.

However, trusting that we will maintain some kind of status quo as we move forward, we must recognise our hearts need intentional care right now. This is the moment to begin planning how to invest in your inner-being, because if you don’t - you may run the risk of getting ‘fried’ in the months that lay ahead. (That’s code for possible burn-out or a break-down!).

Right now, I’m definitely finding joy in simpler things - having big family dinners again, getting to play with my grandkids, seeing friends face-to-face, being able to worship publicly, enjoying weekends away… Please Lord, may all those things keep coming and remain!

But, simply getting a meat pie at a footy match, or visiting the cinema to see a good movie is simply not sufficient to address the pro-longed taxing nature of events that we have all been through. Our hearts require more than that to come out of rehab! Enduring for months and months under pressures we have not previously faced required us to draw deeply upon our inner reserves, sending many of us close to emotional bankruptcy! We are simply tapped out.

Don’t think so? Feel like I’m describing someone else – but not you?

How would you react if I told you another outbreak is coming next month (maybe a new strain of Covid-19) and we are all about to go into another complete lockdown?

I am guessing the very thought of that occurring again brings a shudder to your inner-most being. The truth is, none of us have a great deal left in the petrol tank. So, what I wish to strongly suggest is we all map out for ourselves a ‘recovery plan’ for our hearts.

For the human heart to replenish, it’s quite simple - we need more coming ‘in’ than is going ‘out’.

It really is that simple. Seriously.                                                                                         

You cannot replenish your reserves if you are still driving hard every week.

That is why for most people, holidays are a beautiful gift. They allow us to unwind, let go of most demands and slow down. We get to do things we love, we get to play, drink in beauty and find rest. If that is occurring, we find ourselves doing better, simply because more is coming ‘in’ than going ‘out’.

However, not all of us can just stop and take a holiday… but if you can, please give some careful thought as to how you will spend that holiday as it may play an important part in your recovery plan. But a holiday can only be part of the plan, as a couple of weeks off is not going to address the injury your human spirit has suffered over the course of an unprecedented year of tension and loss.

All that to say, we will need to be far more deliberate in our planning for recuperation. Our hearts will need some regular investment. Simple strategies that minimise travel are needed to receive the convalescence required (the further you have to travel - the more taxing and costly that getaway becomes). I would recommend no further than your own state, perhaps. (Border closures are a sure way to lose a booking and ramp up anxiety!).

The key question to ask is how can we best slow down and find rest?... And how close to home can we find that rest and joy?

Does working in the garden feed your soul? Perhaps taking in sunrises or sunsets at the start or end of a day? Picnics? Walks? Day trips to the beach? Weekends away camping in the beauty of the outback? Things that are close at hand don’t require major effort. Remember, we want more coming ‘in’ than is going ‘out’.

I’ve heard the boys at Wild at Heart Ministries refer to it as the “Cost to Joy Ratio.” 

You see, every outing, trip, adventure, holiday and enterprise has a cost to it. We need to ask: Does the joy this event brings, outweigh the cost it requires to make it happen? How taxing will it be for this outing to take place? Is more coming ‘in’ than is going ‘out’? (Note: If you need a holiday to recover from your holiday, then you’ve got the cost to joy ratio horribly wrong!)

This stuff is important to consider, so here is what I suggest you do… make time over the next several weeks to sit down and write out a list of the things that bring you joy. If you looked ahead for the next six months, what would you arrange for periods of investment where more is coming in than is going out?

Pray each time before you sit to write out that list. By arranging several times to consider this over a period of weeks, you give God opportunity to tap deeper into what your heart really desires. Be sure to invite Father God to be part of the whole process – He knows our hearts better than we do ourselves! It will be a wonderful exercise to set aside time just with you and God as you do this, inviting Him to share with you how best to care for your heart.

When I took time to ask God what would bring me peace and joy late in 2020, He responded with a few outdoor pursuit suggestions. But key thrust of it was this: - “Plan some getaways with your wife/family; and include challenges that involve riding your bike”.

So, I have been deliberately putting into my diary future cycling events that require us to go away to beautiful locations just to invest in our hearts (both our physical and spiritual hearts).  

As your plan takes shape, put pen to paper and pin it up somewhere visible where you will see it regularly. Talk about it openly with family and friends so they can encourage and support you in that plan to recover your heart (plus, you never know when you may inspire others to follow suit and come up with their own recovery plan).

Judging by our time away at Mudgee, I’d say we got the cost vs joy ratio just about right! We definitely experienced God pouring more ‘in’ than was taken ‘out’. We came back relaxed, refreshed and having experienced true sabbath rest.

I’ll be praying you get the cost/joy ratio working in your favour too!

Until next time,