Giving Thanks and Paying it Forward

Thanksgiving is a holiday that always makes me feel good. No matter where we celebrate, or what we have for dinner, or who we dine with, there is always the giving of thanks – taking time to be mindful of the many blessings we are given daily.

Some things I’m thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Good health
  • Safe home
  • Ability to run and ride
  • Beautiful places

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As I am reminded of the many blessings I have, it’s time again to think about paying it forward. Since giving Tuesday is coming up this week, I’ll take this opportunity once more to share links to some of the organizations I like to give to throughout the year. Some I give to directly. Some I raise funds and awareness for by riding or running in their sponsored events. Thank you for considering giving to them or your favorites.

Bike the US for MS

Great Cycle Challenge

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

American Heart Association

American Cancer Society

Pink Heals – Napa Valley

Neurofibramatosis Network

The Pathway Home

Wounded Warrior Project

Lutheran Church Charities – Comfort Dogs

Make a Wish

Compassion International

Napa Humane Society

Samaritan’s Purse

American Diabetes Association

Lutheran World Relief

Fisher House Foundation

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Michael J Fox Foundation – for Parkinson’s Research

Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

Be Not Afraid

Do I get scared when I’m riding? Sometimes.

DSC01463When I was in my twenties and riding across the Midwest, I rode solo and through areas where the corn was so high you couldn’t see anything else all around. My mind would play tricks on me and I would imagine all kinds of things jumping out at me. It didn’t help that a film based on Steven King’s Children of the Corn was released in 1984. I didn’t even have a cell phone to call for help if I found myself in trouble. They didn’t exist yet.

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I’ve ridden in parts of the country where storms come up seemingly out of nowhere and are fierce as all get out. I remember one time coming back home with a friend from the South Bend, IN area. A storm rolled through and a huge lightening bolt hit the ground about 25 feet from where we were. I didn’t think I could run so fast. We left the bikes and ran into the truck stop that luckily was near by.

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Years ago, I was riding on a remote country rode in Ohio late at night. Unfortunately, my bike light ran out of juice (back up batteries were used up as well) and it was difficult to see anything. The moon was not bright that night. I can still remember the odd clomping sound coming at me from a distance. I was so relieved to finally see the dim light on the Amish buggy and be able to connect the sound to the horses hooves.

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I’ve reached 62.3 mph coming down a hill on a bike. That can be a bit scary on a 25 mm wide tire! It’s exhilarating at the same time, though, so scary hasn’t stopped me.

My bike has slipped out from underneath me when the rear tire hit sand on the shoulder while climbing a mountain road – I fell into traffic coming up behind me. An angel slid me out of the way. It has happened on wet railroad tracks as well. I’ve since learned to walk across wet tracks. You don’t have to tell me twice!

I’ve been chased by dogs and was once bitten.

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I’ve been on roads where triple semi trailers have passed so closely that I swear I could have reached out and touched them.

Since Mr. SAG now calls me Wrong Way, you know I’ve been lost!

All of these experiences were scary but we can’t let scary stop us! If I had, I would not have accomplished what I did this past year. Happy birthday to me! Since my last birthday, I’ve ridden across America on the way to 7,632 miles (about a thousand more than my previous best when I was 27). That includes 40 centuries (100+ Miles), or if using metric, 68 metric centuries (62+ miles) and 210,340 feet of climbing (7 1/4 times the height of Mt. Everest). That’s way more climbing than I’ve ever done since most of my previous riding was in the Midwest.

Along the way, with your help, I’ve raised over $12,000 for organizations like Bike the US for MS, The Great Cycle Challenge, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Tour de Fox for Parkinson’s Disease and Tour de Cure for Diabetes Research.

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Song of the day:

Don’t let fear stop you. Ride on!

Revival

Revival. Sometimes it happens by circumstance. Sometimes it comes by choice.IMG_7237 (2)

This past weekend I rode one of my fairly regular training routes. It’s a 32 mile loop with a fair amount of climbing – about 1600 feet and gets up to a 12% grade in parts. It takes me out along one of the roads where fires raged two weeks ago. They are actually still smoldering a bit in some places around the valley as they are not yet fully contained. There is evidence of the fires in the sporadic charring seen, and in the fire crews still maintaining watch, and in the PG&E crews hard at work restoring normalcy (power) to areas where it was lost. This route doesn’t go into the heart of where the fires actually burned ferociously, but already, I am seeing signs of revival. It will be a long hard road for some, but it will come.

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My Ride.

Fall (or Autumn to some) has always been a favorite time of year for me. I am from upstate New York, and the colors of Fall are astounding. When I see them around the Valley, my longing for home is always revived. I love the smell of fallen leaves. I love wearing shorts with a bulky sweatshirt on breezy, clear afternoons. I love the feel in the air that says change is coming. And if it weren’t for recent events, I love the smell of smoke telling me people are snuggling with families by a warm fireplace. I don’t always enjoy the feel of acorns crunching under my feet or tires, though. I love the knowledge that after fall and winter, nature will revive us with the fresh smells and brilliant colors of spring – my new favorite time of year since living in California.

My revival began in the fall, about four years ago. I chose to renew health and fitness levels and revive quests for adventure once thought lost. What a ride it has been! I am reminded every year though, that sometimes revival involves hard work and conscious decisions. It can be harder to get up and work out every morning when it is dark and cold outside. It can be harder to get a ride in after work when the sun fades so quickly. It can be hard to make healthy food choices when the season says “bake!” But onward we ride. Revival doesn’t always just happen. It can be a long, persistent journey.

Song of the day:

Ride on!

More Courage

Does it take courage for me to cycle 100 miles? No. It does not. Does it take courage to cycle 200 miles? No. It does not. Does it take courage to cycle 3500 miles? No. It does not. All it really takes is a bit of fitness and mental craziness stamina.

It takes courage to stand up and fight against cancer.

It takes courage to live with and fight against MS.

Me and Bubby

It takes courage to fight and win against leukemia.

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It takes courage to stare down Parkinson’s Disease and keep riding.

Ride with Pam

It takes courage to fight diabetes, heart disease, ALS, chronic pain, depression and so many more of life’s medical challenges.

Since I can ride, and enjoy doing so, I feel privileged to be able to help others fight by raising awareness and funding for their causes. Yesterday, I had a special opportunity to bring awareness to Pediatric Cancer research.  I challenged myself to ride for 24 hours to highlight the need and raise some funds. I didn’t quite make the 24 hours due to a flat that I didn’t have the courage to change in the cold and dark, but we were able to raise over $1000.00 in honor of a special person who lost her battle with cancer 3 years ago, while starting a full on war. Molly W. had way more courage than I could ever hope to have. The ride wasn’t a total loss either. I rode over 200 miles (35 after fixing the flat in the morning), and I had fun with friends who came out in support to run or ride for a bit.

Pics of the day:

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Song of the day:

Ride on!

Lighting the Night

I was blessed this week to be part of an ‘IncredibLLS’ team that walked to light the night to raise funds for leukemia and lymphoma research. We raised our lanterns to honor those we have lost and to celebrate those who have survived.

I walked because I lost a dear friend to leukemia several years ago. Gail was a PT I worked with in the first clinic I worked at in California. We were in a small space and our office and treatment areas were cramped, but if you ask any one of us who worked there, it was the best place we ever practiced, because of the people. Gail was part of that team and she was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known.

I walked because Danielle fought bravely and survived her battle with leukemia. She taught us all what true faith is and how to face struggles head on with no holds barred.

I walked because I could. And I’m proud to be part of a team that raised over $5000.00 for leukemia and lymphoma research.

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Song of the day:

Next up: I’ll be riding for 24 hours next Saturday (September 23) to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. You are welcome to donate by going to this site: https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/MicheleArnold

Ride on!

 

Courage

What is courage?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Ernest Hemingway defined courage as “grace under pressure”.
Winston Churchill stated, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others.”
And according to Maya Angelou, “Courage is the most important of the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
I learned what courage is from a seventeen year old girl. Molly Widner lived life to the fullest and without fear despite having a diagnosis of cancer at such a young age. She fought bravely and showed us all what courage looks like in the flesh. Molly died three years ago but not before showing the rest of us how to live.
Molly died in part because she had a rare cancer and there just wasn’t enough research that told her doctors how to treat it in a young patient. Only 4% of research dollars is directed toward pediatric cancer research. It’s time to change that. Don’t get me wrong. All cancer research is important. September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month and on September 16, I’ll be walking with Team IncredibLLS in the Light the Night Walk to support blood cancer research. I know plenty of people who have survived various forms of cancer and many who have not, including my mom. I know how impactful a diagnosis and treatment can be. And I know we are all hopeful for a cure. But when cancer strikes a child, it absolutely breaks my heart.
September is also Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. One of the things I’ll be doing to help raise awareness and funds is a 24-hour cycling challenge in Molly’s name. On September 23, I will be riding a nine mile loop along the upper part of Napa’s Vine Trail for 24 hours to see just how many miles I can ride.  You can join me too. Come and ride a loop or two and I will try and keep up! If you would like to donate and have your dollars directed specifically toward pediatric cancer research, my link for The Great Cycle Challenge is live. Great Cycle Challenge USA is a national Children’s Cancer Research Fund (CCRF) fundraising initiative. I participated in this event in 2016 and 2017. Rides are uploaded throughout June, but donations are accepted any time. They are a great organization with one goal: end childhood cancer. I’m giving a dollar for every mile I ride on the 23rd. I am hoping to do a triple century – I’ve never done that before. I hope I have the courage!
For Molly:
Ride on!

 

 

Tour de Fox – Check

I had a great time riding in the Tour de Fox – Wine Country event this weekend! I rode the “petite” 10-mile route. For me, that’s usually a warm up. After all, I’ve ridden 36 centuries this year. Those 10-miles were some of the most gratifying I’ve ridden, though.

The Tour de Fox is a ride to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s Disease research and I was privileged to ride along side a friend who has early onset of the disease. She has been riding for a few months now to prep for this ride which had a couple of pretty good hills in it. Her goal at first was to just finish alive. Check! Once she gained confidence, the goal changed to finishing in an hour. She actually finished with a personal best on the route of just over 53 minutes! Check! So proud of her!IMG_6474UntitledRoute

As usually is around these parts, it was a perfect morning to ride. It started out chilly, made it to the mid seventies by ride time and hit the high eighties by the end. Good thing we finished when we did too. The temperature rose to over 100 degrees F by mid-afternoon. Ugh!

The event raised over $600,000 for Parkinson’s research! Happy to play a small part.

Next up? I am planning to do a now annual, 24-hour challenge. I guess 2 years in a row makes it annual. Right? I participated in the Great Cycle Challenge 2017, which targets pediatric cancer, when I did my cross-country ride in June. It ran concurrently with my Bike the US for MS efforts since it is a virtual ride that automatically tracks your miles. I didn’t talk about it too much because my main cause was MS research. I did raise $1000. for GCC, though. September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness month so in 3 weeks, I will be continuing with GCC and co-sponsoring the first ever Molly Widner Courage Ride to raise funds and awareness for Pediatric Cancer Research. Only 4% of all cancer research dollars are directed towards pediatric cancers and it’s my hope to increase that. You’ll hear more about the ride coming up.

Today, though, we celebrate Pam and her team P-Cubed…Pamela’s Parkinson Pack!

Song of the day:

Ride on!