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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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!

 

I Dare You to Move

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In 2010, Rapha laid down a challenge: ride 500km in the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Since then the Rapha #Festive500 has become a holiday ritual for cyclists, with tens of thousands of riders around the world attempting the distance each year. And what do you get for completing the challenge? A nice patch and the ability to tell yourself you persevered and made it to the end. I stumbled upon the challenge last year as I trained for my ride across America, and I completed it. So of course, I had to do it again. For my American friends, 500km is about 311 miles. But…

How do you fit in a #Festive500 ride when it’s the holidays?

How do you fit in a #Festive500 ride when your only child who has been traveling around the world for the past 5 months is home for 3 weeks and you want to spend time with her?

How do you fit in a #Festive500 ride when you and your husband finally have some days off from work at the same time – and he doesn’t ride?

How do you fit in a #Festive500 ride when you want to spend some time reconnecting with friends?

How do you fit in a #Festive500 ride when you have to work?

How do you fit in a #Festive500 ride when you’re supposed to be training for a 15k race on the first weekend in January?

How do you fit in a #Festive500 ride when you wake up every morning to an outdoor temperature hovering around freezing?

You just fit it in. I did. Here’s how…

You get up early and ride. You have lights on your bike that allow you to ride in the dark. You have clothing that allows you to stay warm and toasty when it’s near freezing outside. You ride some local loops so you can bump up the miles. You ride a little bit every day. You ride to and from other activities. My recap:

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Day 1 – Christmas Eve – I only rode 25.65 miles. It was a busy day, but I figured I should start with something. Christmas Eve was on a Sunday so we attended regular worship service at 9:30 am. We went to lunch at one of our favorite watering holes. Then in the afternoon, I rode my 25 miles since we were attending Christmas Eve worship service at 7:30 pm. Of course, I still had to wrap presents as I always seem to wait ’till the last minute!

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Day 2 – Christmas Day – I was actually up early, about 5 am. The girl usually is, but this year, she was the last to stumble out of bed. We had fun opening our gifts. Mr. Sag made the girl’s favorite breakfast – pancakes. I made Mr. Sag’s requested Christmas lunch – ham and potato salad. And then I headed out for my ride of the day. I ended up with 40.28 miles. Good thing. I needed to average close to that on each of the 8 days of the #Festive500 challenge and I was a bit behind.

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Day 3 – I headed out early and it was only 33 degrees F. out there! Luckily, I’ve stocked up on all weather cycling gear. I just donned my tights, flannel lined, long sleeve jersey, wind proof jacket and balaclava (face mask). I intended to ride at least another 40 miles but I got a flat tire at the 38.65 mark – 2 miles from home. Since I was so close, Mr. Sag picked me up and we fixed the flat later in the evening. I made it back in time to take in a movie with the girl – one of her favorite pastimes. Great day!

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Day 4 – Warmer today! At least it started out one degree warmer at 34 degrees. I rode through some of my favorite areas of Napa Valley and ended up with 56.69 miles on the day. Catching up with the average needed. Speaking of chilly, if I were still living where I grew up, I’m not so sure I’d even be out there. Thank goodness I live in California!

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Day 5 – Another early ride as I had to go into work in the afternoon. Only able to get 20 miles in so I knew I would be in the catch up game for the next three days.

Day 6 – A 44 mile day. I needed this average for the next two days as well if I was to make it to the goal. It was another beautiful Napa Valley day and I was able to sneak in lunch with the family and then dinner with some friends.

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Day 7 – Saturday…my usual running day with Penni and I didn’t want to disappoint. We have a 15k race coming up on January 7, after all. So I rode 4 miles to get to our meeting spot. I stuck my running shoes in my trunk pack (handy for so many things). I changed and we went out for a 4-mile run. Unfortunately, I felt very sluggish so the pace ended up being pretty slow. It might have been the wine I had with dinner laughing at me. Penni is so patient with me though! I love running with her. I was pretty sluggish the rest of the day too, but ended with 45 miles.

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Day 8 – last day! I headed out early again and was able to get 25 miles in before church. I attended worship service and then rode another 16. That was it! 502km in the bag.

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What a great way to end this epic (for me) cycling year! As we head into 2018 I am throwing down a challenge of my own. There’s a saying that fighter pilots have –

“Speed is life”.

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As a Physical Therapist, I prefer to say “Movement is Life!” So in 2018, I dare you to move. Any activity is good – walking, running, cycling, swimming, or other – you choose. It doesn’t matter if its 10 feet or 10,000 miles. Just get up, get out, and move! I dare you!

Thus, the song of the day:

Happy New Year! Ride on!

 

I Believe

Merry Christmas! I LOVE Christmas! I have always loved the magic of Christmas! It’s 5 am and I am awake. I was always a night owl. Still am for the most part, but I’m up most days by now, too. It’s a habit that started with the big dog wanting his walk as soon as he heard anyone moving about. We go for two miles in the morning and then again in the early evening. I don’t mind. It gets the blood moving.

This morning, as I wait for the rest of the house to stir, I am sitting here reflecting a bit. Christmas does that for me. The sights and sounds and smells of the season always bring up memories steeped in the many traditions that pop up this time of year. I’m surprised the girl isn’t up with me. She loves to get up way too early to see if Santa came. As she got old enough, she would even make coffee for me and Mr. Sag so the aroma might wake us too. As I look around, I see the stockings are full. My grandmother and then my mom made stockings for everyone in the Streeter clan. Now my sister and others carry on. Any time a baby was on the way, a stocking would be started – just awaiting a name. Any time there was a marriage, the spouse was welcomed to the family with – you guessed it. You could tell those of us with the same or near birth years by the color lots of the yarn. The one I have is my second. Sadly, a mouse got to my original.

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Christmas is magical for me because it really drives home the sense of believing – and not just in Santa. All year I was reminded of things I believe in wrapped up in an epic adventure.

I believe in the unconditional love of family. I never would have been able to cycle across America without them. Who else would help someone accomplish their dream by dropping everything and living out of a mobile box for a month and a half – no questions – no complaints (well, not really) and cheering the whole way? Who else would hunt you down based on an article in a newspaper because they knew we had a long lost connection? Family.

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I believe friendships never die. They just fade away at times and then sneak up and pick up right where they left off. Friends make life interesting and livable.

I believe in giving back. Part of what keeps me riding and running, is that they give me the opportunity to do so for a cause. I have several causes that I’ve mentioned throughout the year and I’ll keep helping them in 2018. Come along with me.

I believe in forgiveness and redemption. My journey over the past few years helped me understand that one does not always represent the many. I have faith in and respect for the dental profession again thanks to Dr. Tom, Jena and others. Time does heal many wounds. And you can smile again!

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I believe in the goodness of humanity. People really just want to help each other. We’re in it together. If you don’t think so, go on your own epic adventure and see who you run into. It will surprise you in a good way!

And just as Christmas isn’t about Santa, I believe in Him and that He is with us always.

I leave you with a favorite holiday memory of mine. My mom was a wonderful pianist and she played every evening. I loved the sounds that filled the air and I love hearing that instrument played any time. The pastor at our church reminds me of her because he can really tickle the ivories too! In December, my favorite was always “Carol of the Bells”.

Merry Christmas!

Ride on!

The Pictures You’ve Missed

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In my days (and nights) of cycling I have taken hundreds of photographs. I’ve taken selfies, photos of my bike leaning against various backdrops, views from the ride, sun rises, sun sets, moon shots, and friends and family I’ve met up with. You’ve missed seeing lots of photos too. Probably thousands. And you’ve missed them – because I haven’t taken them. I may have been on a hard climb and just not willing to stop to capture the moment. I may have been in my element coming down a fast, long, magical descent. Sometimes the awesomeness of the view changed within a minute because the light changed. Sometimes I just wasn’t quick enough and the moment passed. Sometimes the still photo didn’t exactly capture the exuberance present. And in some cases, I just wasn’t ready to share the experience. So what have you missed?

  • Lighting is so special at times. I remember riding past flowers or trees that have turned colors in the fall and the lighting for a moment at just the right angle makes the colors spectacular. You miss it if you are fumbling for a camera. Barns are the same way. The specialness that calls out to me can change in twenty feet of riding. The right angle with the right reflection or the right background can be gone just like that. I rarely backtrack to take a picture. I either get it or I don’t.
  • I came down a hill in Nebraska on a very hot day and saw a whole herd of cows standing around a pond with one small calf standing right in the middle of the water. They all looked up and stared as I passed. The calf was one of the cutest things I’ve seen.
  • Speaking of calves, as I was riding out my road one day, about a mile from home,  four or five calves were running and jumping and playing around. It absolutely made me smile. Of course they stopped by the time I had my video set.
  • I missed a shot of the full moon salute given to me by a bunch of guys in the back of a pickup truck somewhere out east. You just can’t unsee something like that, though.
  • Clouds look incredible some days. They are especially memorable when a storm is looming. Just watching them move across the sky brings a sense of foreboding. I can always find shapes in them too. Helps pass the miles.
  • You missed the antelope that ran along side me for a couple of miles in Wyoming. They ran in my direction up one side of the road, crossed in front, and ran up the other side for a bit and then crossed back. This continued for a good ten minutes. So fun to experience, but not something to hold in a still frame.
  • You missed the look on Scoobert’s face when he tricked the girl at the ice cream counter into giving him a second doggy cone.
  • I didn’t capture my bike dangling off the back of the RV from a bungee cord when we took off and went to dinner in Fort Collins, CO. I was too shocked – first at the fact that we had left it dangling, and then at the fact that nothing happened to it.
  • I didn’t capture the beauty of all the waterfalls flowing on the way up to Echo Summit, leading to Lake Tahoe. You would miss the mixture of serenity and power, the mist, and the wonderful smells.
  • I also didn’t take a picture when I visited my parents gravesite and left a bike keychain for them (it was a memento that I shared with people as they supported or inquired about my ride). They are buried in my hometown and since I rode through there on my way to the Atlantic Ocean, I stopped to visit. My dad would have been so excited for my big ride. He would have been in the SAG wagon right alongside Mr. and Miss SAG – no doubt. He was always the biggest supporter of any of my athletic endeavors and he would have enjoyed this one.

Suffice it to say that photos are great and I really enjoy taking and sharing them but the best ones are still those that I have only in my memories. Sorry you’ve missed them!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

*Photo Credit: Amy Heathcote

 

 

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!