Everesting – Why Suffer?

Romans 5:3-4

Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I finally finished an #everesting challenge! It was my third try after two unsuccessful attempts. I’m not always sure what to tell people when they ask “Why?!”, but maybe the verse from Romans, says it all.

I knew I was going to finish this time when I saw the image above at first light. It was my sign that all things are possible and I would not fail. Was it easy? Hell no! I think it’s the hardest challenge I’ve ever taken on. Was it enjoyable? Absolutely! Being outdoors, working hard, in the same general space for forty hours, essentially on my own, wakes up the senses. You see and hear things you wouldn’t have otherwise (And no, I wasn’t hallucinating!).  It’s amazing to see the light change on flowers throughout the day. It’s intriguing to feel the differences in temperature where the terrain changes slightly. It’s fun to watch the cows move about. It’s interesting to learn every inch (bump, scar, turn, undulation) of a road. It’s laughable, yet soothing to hear yourself gasping for air at the top of the run. Sunrises and sunsets are incredible! I witnessed two each this time. To me, that’s fun! To some, that is suffering!

 

I’m a numbers person. I have loops that I ride routinely and I know in my mind just how far one, five, ten and fifteen miles are. I’ve ridden those loops many times  in part to prepare for the repeats needed for an Everesting. I now know exactly what .2 km. feels like! I know how many pedal strokes it takes to get to the top of that hill. I know how many meters/feet I can climb in a minute. I know how many cars pass by in an hour. I know how many cows are in the field. I know how many bottles of water I drank. I know how many cracks are in the road. And it goes on. I count in my head as I do things. Weird, I know, but it helps to pass the time. For me, it’s fun and interesting. For others, it’s suffering.

Suffering is all relative. We all have our thresholds. I just find it “enjoyable” to go out and find what mine might be. That’s why I suffer. And I suppose, as Romans says, to build perseverance and character, and to find hope.

My lesson in doing this is never, ever give up! Always try, try again! You won’t be disappointed!

So what was different this time, and what did I carry with me from my other tries?

  • I had a plan and stuck to it the best I could. I wanted to average at least 10 repeats every hour. I started with about 15 to give me some cushion. On my last attempt, I allowed too much break time in between repeats as the hours wore on.
  • I picked a long holiday weekend where I knew I would have good recovery time.
  • The chosen hill was close to home so Mr. SAG could do what he wanted rather than hang out on the roadside. Would I pick that hill again? Probably not. The number of repeats were mind numbing, and it was too steep at the top for that many times (10-15% grade/391x).
  • I had my bio-break bucket handily nearby!
  • I didn’t have non-rider family/friends hang out to cheer me on. I found I was too tempted to stop and chat which took me off plan.
  • I didn’t announce that I was owing it. No pressure.
  • I still had the best SAG/Sherpa in the world! 

Why did I do this? After riding across the country 2 years ago, I happened upon this video and I was hooked. I knew I had to do an Everesting some day. I just had no idea how hard it actually would be. I have total respect for everyone who has done one. Mind you, many people have completed it multiple times (11x by one particular beast!) and others have done double, triple and even quadruple Evererestings! I really can’t even imagine! We all have our thresholds of suffering.

If I hadn’t come up short a couple of times, I wouldn’t have experienced the level of joy I had in finishing so my song of the day is:

So, I implore you to go suffer (but have fun while doing it)! Persevere, build character, find hope, and never give up!

What’s up next? A nice leisurely ride around the rim at Crater Lake. Can’t wait!

Ride on everyone! Ride on!

Everesting 2 – So Close, Yet So Far

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”   ~Jimmy – A League of Their Own

I’ve learned once again that completing an Everesting is really hard!  Everesting (Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and ride repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 29,029 feet – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.

I ended my second attempt last night after I had gained 26,703 feet! I would not have stopped except that it started to rain (not the ride killer – I’ve ridden in the rain plenty of times), I got a rear tire flat, and my derailleurs started to majorly malfunction. I think it had something to do with the minor crash I had a little earlier (no injury).  Mr. SAG changed the tire (at 1:00 am), but the derailleur issue was a bit more to deal with in the dark and rain. I had been up for nearly 60 hours at that point too and was becoming disoriented and it felt dangerous. Did I really need to put myself at risk to get those last few thousand feet in? I decided “no.”

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I may have another “fail” or “DNF” notched next to my name (virtually, at least), but I don’t see it as a failure. It was a great couple of days of riding, and I learned a lot, once again. Not too shabby for 56 either!

What was different this time, and what did I learn?

The hill I chose this time was shorter, but a bit steeper than the one for my first attempt. This meant I could do more repeats in the same amount of time and gain roughly the same elevation. I chose the hill because it is at the end of the road I live on. Mr. SAG could stay at home and just come by if I needed something. He decided to hang out for a while too.

I have the most unconditionally loving and supporting SAG team on the planet!

I trained better for this one. I did a lot of cross training over the winter, including TRX training, running, weights, stair climbing and core training using various methods. My power to weight ratio was much improved and I even improved my VO2 max (Seems I still have a ways to go, though).

I refueled and hydrated better and more consistently. (I did have my breakfast of champions after I finished!

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I had the right gear with me – including cold and rain gear, charging stations for my electronics, glasses with lenses that work in different lighting and lots of lights for night riding.

The high number of repeats did not bother me at all. I completed 315 of the necessary 341 (or so). I say “or so”, because the altitude measurement is based on barometric pressure. Since we had a cold front moving through the area, when I started the ride, my Garmin gave me credit for about 85 feet for each repeat (the Strava segment for that hill gives it about 90 feet). By the last hundred or so climbs, Garmin was only showing the gain as 72 feet! That’s a big difference!

I can stay awake for a long time! I knew I could, as I’ve done a few 24-hour challenges in the past. The moving time for the ride was just over 24 hours, but with my rest stops and the mechanical issues, I was there for 60 hours (something to work on reducing).

I actually can do this. I could see the finish. I feel like actual Everest climbers might, who get to the final camp, awaiting the final push to the summit when something happens – weather changes, altitude sickness ensues, etc., and they end up not being able to summit after putting in all that time and effort. It is still a great accomplishment, just not the ending hoped for. Although I did reach the height of Annapurna, it’s not the same.

I called it last night when I was feeling disoriented and exhausted in the dark. Since I was so close, I know that if not for mechanical challenges (I should have had my back-up bike ready to step in) I could have finished, so I expressed that I was DONE! No more Everesting needed for me. But, Mr. SAG, knowing me better, argued that I will try again because once things get in my head, I can’t let them go. Apparently he was right. I’ve already started listing things that I need to change for my next attempt! Dang!

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If you feel so inclined, I am using these personal challenges to help fund Multiple Sclerosis research. I’ll be participating in a Bike MS ride in the Fall, likely after another Everesting. You can find my fundraising page here:  Bike MS Personal Page

In search of up!

Thanks for your support!  Ride on!

 

Success or Failure?

I set out a few days ago to attempt an Everesting (Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and ride repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 29,029 feet – the equivalent height of Mt Everest. I did not succeed – this time. Mark my word, though, I will be back! This was one of my chosen personal challenges. It’s a challenge because it isn’t easy. This one, I found out, is freaking hard and I’ve got more work to do! I’ve given myself challenges before that took several attempts before I achieved them and so too it will be with this one.

As my daughter, “the girl” pointed out, I may not have conquered Everest, but I did climb the height of Mt. Whitney (the mountain in the photo), so I’ve now ridden the Continental US both horizontally and vertically! I’ll take that for now. Thanks to her always positive perspective, I’m reminded that success and failure are relative terms.IMG_3443

My many successes from the ride:

  1. Elevation gained: 14,567 feet
  2. Distance: 122.29 miles (another century in the books!)
  3. Burned almost 9700 calories.
  4. Rode 115 repeats of the same hill and did not get bored.
  5. Kept my current expected pace of about 1000 feet/hour – just had too much unexpected down time.
  6. Brought new awareness to the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry
  7. Raised $1200.+ for the Comfort Dogs
  8. Made some new friends
  9. Provided a good connecting activity for Team Aaron Comfort Dog
  10. Was able to keep my recording equipment charged.
  11. Had lots of love and support from near and far.
  12. Got a really cool custom jersey.Comfort Dog Jersey

What I learned:

  1. My husband is still THE BEST. He even earned a new title: SAG-E (Support and Gear- Elevated) for his always superior and unquestioning support. Who else would get up at 4:00 am to cook a hot breakfast and bring it to me at the base of the hill?SAG1.jpg
  2. I can do this, I just need much more work on my quads/gluts and climbing speed. (More HIITs and weights, here I come).
  3. When you injure your hip and foot in a crash on July 4, it might not be a good idea to commit to a major challenge two months later.
  4. There is a lot of crap in the air that we don’t necessarily see! Check out what my headlight picked up. I didn’t notice any of it (except the biting bugs!)

     

My hats off with so much respect for all those who have successfully Everested!  I still hope to join you some day. 🙂

Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

 

All In

Everesting – Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and ride repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 29,029 feet – the equivalent height of Mt Everest.

That is my next challenge. Looking to attempt it Labor Day weekend.

Why? That’s the first question people typically ask. Well, I’ve always been someone to do things all or none, all in or not at all, and to test and push my limits. If you can hold your breath under water for 30 seconds, see if you can do it for a minute, then for however long (Good test for other things if you know what I mean, DR-O!) If you can make 25 baskets (basketball) in a row, go for 50, then 100, then more. If you can ride 25 miles, go for 50, then 100, then 200, then ride across America! And the beat goes on.

I didn’t have a “challenge ride” planned this year. I decided I wouldn’t ask Mr. SAG to support me on any out of town, long rides.  After all, he gave up half his summer last year to do just that.  I figured this year was for him to decide on vacation preferences, and I didn’t think it would involve an RV or a bike! But, alas, me being me, I suppose the challenge idea was always there in the back of my mind. And once I heard about Everesting a few years ago, it has been calling my name.

I’ve also learned that the fitness benefit of cycling alone, does not motivate me. I’ve ridden substantially fewer miles this year since I had no pressing goal out there driving me – until the last 2 months. It turns out I need to have a challenge in mind and commit to it and it really helps if I tie it to a specific cause or need (purpose). I fit nice and neatly into what research says about motivation.

So, Everesting it is. This weekend! I’ve picked a relatively small hill to ride (average 5% grade, half mile long/mile lap). I picked it because it is fairly close to home so Mr. SAG won’t need to hang out there all day (he’ll want to), it doesn’t have a lot of traffic, and the grade is reasonable enough where even I may be able to sustain multiple repeats (about 250). I’m not a climber, so this is definitely going to be a challenge! Mentally too, I suppose.

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For the cause part, I decided that since the LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs were there for me with encouragement, food, shelter, and comfort/comic relief across the country last year, that I would support them this year. The LCC K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry is near and dear to my heart. I am a handler on team Aaron Comfort Dog who is on staff at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Napa, CA. He is one of over 120 Affiliate Comfort Dogs deployed by Lutheran Church Charities out of Northbrook, IL. They bring comfort to schools, nursing homes, hospitals, first responders, and families in need on a regular basis. And they deploy to areas having suffered tragic events whenever requested. They have been present after horrific school and other shootings, floods, fires, hurricanes, etc. They are often able to bring just a moment of happiness/normalcy to those who are hurting and it is a blessing to be a part of that. They never charge to go anywhere, but they do incur travel and living expenses, so I dedicate this ride to them and am raising funds to help them continue their good work. If you would like to help out, you can give directly through LCC, a church with a Comfort Dog on staff, or through this link to my Facebook fund raiser. 

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Check out Aaron and friends at work.

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“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hilary

Say a prayer or two for me this weekend! Whether I succeed or fall short, you can bet the farm that I will do it ALL IN!

Ride on!

 

This Is Me

Hi there. It’s been a while. I don’t like to write just to write and I haven’t had much to say that you haven’t heard, so I took a break. Now I’m ready to share part 2 of my story.

At this time last year, I was well into my adventure of a lifetime – my cross country cycling trip, raising funds for Multiple Sclerosis research. This year, I am continuing a different kind of journey. If you read part 1 of my story, you know that I worked hard over the last few years to recover my fitness levels of long ago. I’ve engaged in many hours of cycling, running and other cross training activities as well as making better nutritional choices. Kick starting all of that was a trip to the dentist. For my own very good reasons, I had not seen a dentist in over 40 years. You can imagine the level of periodontal disease that developed as a result of that choice. The fix ended up being the removal of all my teeth – March 6, 2014. I actually refer to that date as my second birthday because I believe my dentist literally saved my life and gave me back my “joie de vivre”. I no longer have my original teeth, but I do have my smile (and health) back!

This year, since I had no chosen events to train for, I decided to heed my dentist’s advice and take steps to prevent future bone loss of the jaw (something that typically happens over time when you don’t have the teeth roots stimulating bone growth). That meant implants for my upper jaw to help preserve the bone. I finished that process for my lower jaw prior to my epic ride. In order to place implants in my upper jaw, however, I had to first have some extensive bone grafting. I had already lost a significant amount of bone to resorption starting even prior to the teeth extractions. So, in February, I started the long process. I had bilateral horizontal ridge and sinus lift augmentations done through two separate procedures. There had to be a period of at least six weeks before any denture could be worn again. It turned out to be fourteen weeks for me because we chose to do the surgeries back to back. Fourteen weeks without upper teeth!

Last year, my ride showed me that there is still good in humanity. I had someone find and return my ID/cash pack. I had people donate to the cause. I had people looking out for my safety, offering food and water, and giving shelter in a storm. And I met wonderful, supportive teams of people who are part of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog ministry all across the country.Image 2018-06-05_17-00-54-447

This year, my dental adventure has shown me the same. I was worried about going to work (I have a very public job) and being seen outside my home without teeth. But once any bruising from the procedure went away, back to work went I.

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I don’t know what I was so worried about. No person over that time ever made me feel the least bit uncomfortable. If there was any conversation about it at all, it was more interest in the procedures themselves and the healing involved. No one snickered. No one looked aghast. No one pushed me to do anything if I showed any trepidation about it without question or judgement. I even met a large number of new people (hundreds). I am part of the LCC K9-Comfort Dog Ministry with Team Aaron Comfort Dog and deployed to speak and share the ministry at other congregations and schools, attended events and a large conference, and met with other teams at a regional gathering. I rode in a couple of large cycling events. And when I ate out at restaurants, no waiter or waitress ever had issue with my soft diet requests or substitutions. It turns out the only person who was concerned about being out and about with no upper teeth was me. Every other person I encountered was kind and supportive.

I do have my upper teeth back now. I smile again with abandon and it feels great! I’m back cycling and running and working on my next goals/adventures. Stay tuned as I figure them out. And later this year, after 6-8 months of healing, I’ll have the implants placed. I’ll be without teeth for a short time again, but I’m not worried!Image 2018-06-05_16-45-35-323

Lessons learned:

1- There are a whole lot of good humans out there!

2- Even without teeth, you can eat just about anything – blenders/hand blenders are great!

3- Everyone has something going on. They won’t judge you for yours.

4- Having oral surgery and being without teeth is a minor inconvenience. Cancer, heart disease, MS, ALS, strokes and clinical depression among others are real struggles.

5- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. God and people around you will lift you up.

6- Dr. J is my hero! Dr. V isn’t so bad either!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

Don’t Wait

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up doing nothing for nobody.” ~Malcom Bane

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that a big part of my motivation to get out there and move in some way is the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for various causes. I love being able to keep my fitness levels up while helping others in little bits along the way.

Today I signed up for a run to help people with spinal cord injuries (SCI). I’ve had a yearning to help those with SCI for a long time. My first clinical internship was at St. Joseph’s Rehab Center in Elmira, NY, and I worked mainly with patients who had spinal cord injuries. I learned what self motivation is from a 16 year old who never gave up hope and I’ve never forgotten him. I signed up for the race last year, but the timing didn’t work out, so I didn’t make it. This year, though, they added the opportunity to join via an app! It’s the Wings for Life – World Run.  It takes place all over the world, starting at the exact same time, May 6, 11am UTC. For me, that will be 3 am. Everyone finishes too, since it has a unique format.  A half hour after the race starts, a moving finish line, the “Catcher Car,” chases runners along the course, gradually getting faster until each one is caught. If you participate by app, like I am, you’ll be chased by a Virtual Catcher Car at the same time as all the other runners around the globe.

Sound fun? Stay tuned – I may try and organize a group app run. If you’re not into running, I’ll be participating once again in the Great Cycle Challenge in June. Join me!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

Days of Service

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Taking a break from my fitness adventures to tell you about a special trip and a different cause that is near and dear to me.

Just ahead of Martin Luther King Junior Day – a day of service, I had a great opportunity to deploy to So Cal with my friends Aaron Comfort Dog and Jennie. We were able to visit with so many people, bringing comfort and joy through this wonderful ministry.

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Aaron is one of many Lutheran Church Charities’ LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs, who are stationed and deploy all around the country to bring comfort in times of need. I am blessed to be one of his photographers and soon to be handler.

On the way down south, we met Andy, who moved to Bakersfield, but previously worked with Aaron’s friend Katie Comfort Dog and team. I met them in Nebraska when I cycled across America. Talk about connections!

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We even got to visit Concordia University – Irvine where the girl has returned to study after her semester around the world (#CUIATW).

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CUI

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The visit to Southern California was requested by Maeson, who is student teaching at Christ Lutheran School in Costa Mesa. We visited kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grades. Maeson was teaching about how to be loving and compassionate to others so they even role played with Aaron, which was a lot of fun and very heart warming.

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Serendipitously, we met people who were celebrating birthdays, and who wouldn’t want hugs from Aaron Comfort Dog on their special day? Happy Birthday RuthE!

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As a special treat, we visited the ocean at Huntington Beach – a fabulous reprieve from the fog and gloom we’ve been experiencing this week (normal this time of year in my neck of the woods). Of course we got to run around and play too!

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All in all, it was a wonderful experience and motivating to get myself back out into God’s country to run and ride and soak it all in!

Song of the day:

Ride on!