Ultra Distance Cyclist Connects to God Through Calling
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“When I race I feel God is always there,” said ultra-cyclist, Chris Pyles. “Every hill I climb, I'm like ‘Lord, please just get me up this – help me up this hill.’”
Ultra distance cycling – where riders can cover 150 miles or more in one day - takes stamina, grit, and determination. For Chris Pyles it’s more than a passion, it’s his calling.
“I get to the top of the hill, I’ve done the climb and I thank him, I thank God, I thank Jesus, I thank the Holy Spirit for getting me there.”
Before biking, Chris found his connection to god through using his gifts in volunteer missions work – rebuilding homes after natural disasters.
“It just seemed like I had to do that. Like I had these gifts, so I had to help these people by using my gift. It just solidified my relationship with him, just being surrounded by his followers.”
Then in 2016, after ten years of doing volunteer missions work across the US, he says God began steering him in a new direction. It started at a charity bike ride in Maryland.
“I saw this one guy on a bicycle and he's being followed by a van with all these stickers on it and all these flashing lights and there's spare bicycles and-and wheels up on the roof rack. I looked at some of the stickers on the vehicle and across the windshield they have ‘Race Across America.’ I'm like ‘Hmmm, wonder what that is?’ So I googled it and looked it up. It is billed as "The World's Toughest Bicycle Race." it starts in Oceanside, California, and it ends in Annapolis, Maryland, it's approximately 3,100 miles, approximately 170,000 feet of climbing, vertical climbing, and solo riders have 12 days to do it. And I’m up for a challenge, but I’m like "This is crazy." Well, fast-forward to last year, I’m praying to God "what's my mission?" Well, this Race Across America started coming up again. A lot of people try to raise money for charities during this race so I look at charities, and I'm like ‘Mmm, nothing really stood out for me.’ But then God gave me ‘Well, why can't your mission for this race be to spread my hope and love across the country to all the people that you're going to come in contact with?’"
As Chris began assembling his team, he made sure they were all on the same page.
“So we came up with the team name Racing for Christ, and our mission is ‘To share the hope, love and peace of Jesus Christ with others through our actions and words.’”
To get into Race Across America Chris had to qualify at the world time trial championship, where competitors had to finish a 400 miles course in 24 hours or less. It would take everything Chris had, and almost cost him his life. Things were going well, until the 18 hour mark.
“Then all of a sudden, I came in to stop to pick up some water bottles from my crew chief, Eric and I felt like I was going to pass out. So, I just sat there on my bike, kind of slumped my head over the handlebars and just – I just told Eric, I was like "Just give me a minute here." I just couldn't move. – just felt awful”
Chris pushed on to ride the full 24 hours. But after the race, EMT’s put him on an ambulance for the nearest hospital. On the way, they ran an EKG that showed what Chris felt on the course, was a heart attack. Adding insult to injury, Chris finished just 30 miles short of the 400 he needed to qualify for Race Across America
“My thought was, during this whole thing, I wasn't mad, I wasn't, you know, upset, I was like – because I knew God had given me this mission. Like I knew I was doing his will because of all the people that they put – he's put in my path, and everything that had come up to then had been just laid out by God. So right after that happened I was like, ‘Okay, God, what's this little twist that you're throwing in here, you know, with this heart attack?’”
Chris realized it wasn’t God, but his inexperience that caused the problem. His lesson learned, he took some rest, got better training, and just 3 months after his heart-attack, went back out for another qualifier.
“When all was said and done I rode 417 miles and had qualified and God, the way he can do it, just threw in a bonus cause I got s-second place in my age group, which the guy who got first is one of the best ultra cyclists in the world right now. So, to get second behind him was incredible. It was incredible. I mean, it was just – not just satisfying but just to see what God can do. I mean, it's like, you know, I-I have a heart attack three months – 3½ months before qualifying for the toughest bicycle race in the world, you know? …and you know, here I am in, you know, my second attempt I quality for a Race Across America. And I just – I’ll admit it, I broke down and I was like bawling. Like riding the bike like you can't see, I'm like blurred with tears and stuff like that, but it was incredible.”
Chris is now spending endless days training for the 2020, Race Across America. What keeps him going is more than competition, but the chance to share the hope and love of Christ and give god the glory for making it possible.
“I’ll be honest with you, this is a race, I want to win. But really if we do – if I win but we're not doing his mission, it's not, you know, it's not– it's not worth it. Physically it's going to be so grueling but, I’m looking forward to it. I'm planning on riding 18 to 20 hours a day. Leaving four hours for sleep a day. My favorite scripture is ‘I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.’ He can do anything, you know. He can – he can have you do anything, especially when you're following his will.”
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