Awareness

The Cambridge Dictionary defines awareness as:

nounUK /əˈweə.nəs/ US /əˈwer.nəs/

Knowledge that something exists, or understanding of a situation or subject at the present time based on information or experience.

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Great Cycle Challenge

Today I am taking a short break from my quest to bring awareness to the needs of MS (Multiple Sclerosis) patients and research to raise it for a variety of other causes. Most of these have crossed paths with my life in one way or another. What is daunting is there are so many that create unwanted change and heartache for too many. What is daunting is that God uses so many opportunities to show us how to have faith, love for one another, and to grow.

Today starts the sign up for The Great Cycle Challenge 2017. I participated in this event for the first time last year, and as a promise to someone who has inspired me, I will be riding to raise funds for cancer research, specifically for children, once again in 2017. This will actually run concurrently with my ride across America in June (this one’s a virtual ride), so I am pretty sure I will meet the mileage goal. Molly Widner is someone who left this earth way too early but in her short time here, she was a huge model of faith and courage and has left an indelible mark.  This one’s for her!Molly

If MS or pediatric cancer aren’t your thing, there are so many other organizations who need your help. About 8 months ago, I rode my bike 10 miles every hour for 24 hours and called out one every hour. If you missed it, here are some of my favorites.

Great Cycle Challenge 2017 – for Molly

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – for Danielle

American Heart Association – For Dad

American Cancer Society – For Mom

Pink Heals – Napa Valley – For Jennie

Neurofibramatosis Network – For Tom and Laura

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

Of course there’s always… Bike the US for MS

 

And another option to make a difference…other folks raising funds for good causes:

Napa Valley Community Connections – Mentorship program for at-risk youth – Go April!

Milan’s Medical Fund – Feel better Milan!

Organ Donation Awareness Run – Go Penni!

American Heart Association Cycle Nation Event – Go KP and Andi!

Best Buddies Challenge – Go Shaully!

Avon 39 – Walk to End Breast Cancer – Go Cathleen!

 

After all the heavy heartedness of looking into these, you can relax or feel comfy by connecting to any one or all of these if it moves you:

Victoria Bartelt, Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant – Pamper yourself

Lucky Guy Bakery – Yummy post ride (or anytime) snacks.

LuLa Roe – Comfy clothes

One Beaded Sister – Good looking jewelry

Irwin Family Vineyards – My new favorite…The Bull

And save the date…April 18. I will be partnering with the Hop Creek Pub to host a dine and donate benefitting Bike the Us for MS.

Thank you for being good humans!

Ride on!

If my head wasn’t screwed on, I’d forget that too!

Head On

It’s a weird thing. I am very absent minded. Once something gets to my long term memory banks, though, I never forget it. Ask anyone who really knows me. I never forget birthdays, obscure anniversary dates, phone numbers, names, words that were spoken, treatments rendered, etc. I can still see doodles on pages of my Anatomy class notes. The problem is, it has to get there because my short term memory seems to be for naught. I can’t remember five things I was supposed to pick up at the store. I can’t remember to bring a book to a friend. I can’t remember my purse when we leave a restaurant. A year from now though, I’ll be able to tell you what was on my shopping list, or what page I read something interesting on, or what I ordered in the restaurant.

It’s funny. When I rode my bike in the eighty’s I never worried about remembering anything. We didn’t have cell phones. I had a small, first generation cycle computer that told me my speed and distance and started automatically. I didn’t really think about safety (I was in my twenties after all) so I didn’t have lights or safety vests or reflectors and what not. I did wear a helmet. Today though, is a totally different story. I have a satellite tracker (to keep my husband and friends happy). I have a fancy Garmin cycle computer that has info about everything, including maps. I have lights on the front and back of the bike. I have reflective bands. I have multiple water bottles. I have repair tools/kits. I have a cell phone and ear buds – yes I do occasionally like to listen to low volume music in one ear. I probably have other things that I’m forgetting.

That brings me to checklists. Checklists are great. And I’ve decided I pretty much need one (or two) for my bike. Otherwise, I forget to charge the aforementioned equipment. I forget to bring one thing or another. I forget to turn the lights on or I forget to turn them off when I’m done for the day.  And it goes on. Checklists are part of my life too, so I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before now. I am a private pilot and you use checklists before/during every flight. I help my husband who teaches CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and checklists are a big part of being prepared for and responding to disasters. I work in healthcare where checklists are used routinely to make sure the right patients are receiving the right treatments. I even make out a weekly grocery list these days.

And so, for peace of mind, I have created my bicycling checklists. I have one (would you believe it) for take off and landing (start up/shut down of various electronics). And I have one of things I should bring along when I’m planning to be 50 or more miles away from home base.

Now if only I could remember to check the checklist!

Ride on!

Why do we fall?

I recently saw the The Lego Batman Movie. I have to say, it’s my new favorite! If you haven’t seen it, go. You will have fun! It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes too (even though it’s from a different Batman movie):

“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” (Thomas Wayne – Batman Begins).

We all fall at times. It’s what we do about it that builds our character. I tried to instill this notion in my daughter as she was growing up. Hopefully it had something to do with the wonderful person she has become. She turns 20 this week – officially an adult – even though she rails against that thought most of the time. Has she ever fallen? Sure. She has fallen both literally and figuratively. She fell when I toppled her from the snow sled when she was two. She toppled when I had her take the training wheels off her bike when she was five. And she fell many more times that had nothing to do with me. Every time she did, though, she bounced up and yelled “I’m OK!” She “fell” when she wasn’t put in the game, or wasn’t given a part in the play or didn’t get the A or didn’t get to go Around the World. Every time, though, she bounced back and tried again.

She got put in the game and helped seal the win.Cheers

She got to be the main character in one of her favorite stories.15980420955_9574afa4df_z

She got many A’s and received a presidential scholarship for college.

And she applied again, and next year will be participating in the Concordia University – Irvine’s Around the World semester program.IMG_2323

Unknowingly, my daughter has taught me a lot about what you do when you fall. She has been one of my main supporters and motivators along my journey back to me and moving forward to achieve a long held goal of riding across the country on my bike.

It took a while, but for me, it was about not staying down in the pit of poor health habits. I had to climb out little by little, step by step to recover who I wanted to be. I learned to enjoy exercise and in particular, cycling again. I learned to have a healthy relationship with food and lost the weight that plagued me for years. I learned that I could trust people in the dental profession and allowed them to recapture my smile. I learned to practice what I preached – you have to pick yourself up after you fall. And it feels good!

Ready to ride on!

 

Progress

Progress. You’ve got to love it! When I was born, titanium dental implants didn’t even exist. When I was in elementary school, CT scans weren’t available. When I was in high school, MRI’s were just starting to be used. And coronary stents weren’t deployed until after I became a physical therapist. Heck, even personal computers and the internet weren’t around until a few decades ago. I had to use a typewriter to write my research thesis in college! Progress. I do love progress.

Progress is defined as forward or onward movement toward a destination. Synonyms include advance, breakthrough, growth, headway, improvement, and journey. I hope that progress defines my year.

I hope to advance toward my goals. Later this year, June to be exact, I hope to ride my bike across America. I even hope to ride at least 100 miles per day (about 40 consecutive centuries). I will be raising funds to help end multiple sclerosis (MS) along the way through Bike the US for MS.

I hope to breakthrough the wind. Headwind has always been my nemesis. I curse it as I ride. Some days the wind can be so strong, it feels like you are standing still. I’ve learned to pedal at a higher cadence (about 90 RPM) and ride in the drops which really do help you cut through the wind easier.

I hope to make headway with many things and show some growth. I happen to be on vacation in San Diego this week. A little spring break with our daughter. I’ve learned here that I have made some headway in terms of fitness improvement and that makes me happy. The leading photo for this blog is of the screen on a treadmill at the Worldmark where we are staying. Anyone looking at it might think it’s a great slow/average run. I think progress! When we were here a year ago, I had trouble maintaining a 4-mile per hour pace. Now that feels like a fast walk. When we were here a year ago, I watched from the cliff top while others discovered what was in the tide pools. This year, I had my own adventure.

I hope that I improve as a cyclist and as a person. And I hope to discover many exciting things yet to be revealed on my journey.

Ride on!

Dentistry and Cycling

What does dentistry have to do with cycling? For some, maybe nothing. For me, everything!

My journey essentially began a few years ago with a trip to the dentist. I’m convinced that God led me there.

Have your ever heard the story/joke about the very religious man who once was caught in rising floodwaters? He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in, and we’ll paddle to safety.”

“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God, and I’m sure he will save me.”

A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in, and we’ll take you to safety.”

“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God, and I’m sure he will save me.”

A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder, and we’ll fly you to safety.”

“No thanks” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God, and I’m sure he will save me.”

All this time the floodwaters continued to rise until soon they reached above the roof, and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven, he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”

“Yes you did my child” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter. But you never got in.”  Source: unknown.

I think that’s how it was with my dental health. I had a very negative experience with a dentist as a child, and I could never go back – for forty plus years. I knew I should see a dentist but couldn’t go. I knew I had cavities, but couldn’t go. I knew I had rampant periodontitis, but I couldn’t go. I knew I had loose teeth, but couldn’t go. I could deal with my teeth myself, and God would keep me healthy. I had pain and other issues over the years that would come and go. When the problems resolved on their own, I decided I didn’t need treatment. My friends referred me to their dentists, and my husband tried to introduce me to his (and my daughter’s). I couldn’t go. I even tossed Christmas cards into the trash that were from “the dentist” so I wouldn’t have to know anything about him.  I didn’t go until my dog accidentally head butted me and knocked a tooth nearly out of my mouth. I think that was God’s way of telling me “See, my child, I sent you a dentist. Thankfully, you finally accepted!” I was led to the kindest, most professional and to me, most talented person who would end up turning my life around.

I’ve learned recently from my friends and pastoral leaders at St. John’s Lutheran that we have Kairos moments (times that God is at work in us) throughout our life’s journey. They are opportunities to think about what God is saying to us and then decide what we are going to do about them – how are we going to move forward?

In this case, I decided He wanted me to reclaim the health and fitness levels of my 25-year-old self and then start to share stories so others might benefit as well. For people to be interested in your stories, you have to do something interesting – like ride across America on your bike. So here I am.

It turns out that cycling is linked more to dentistry than I ever imagined. If left unchecked, prolonged bacterial build up in your mouth will negatively impact how your whole body functions and performs. Advanced dental erosion has been implicated in many diseases, such as osteoporosis, pneumonia, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Long, hard training for days, weeks and years can leave your immune system stressed. Add to this an increased bacterial load in the mouth and your immune system struggles to keep up with demand.

There are two big reasons why endurance athletes are at increased risk for dental erosion: consuming sugary sports drinks and foods, and heavy mouth breathing. Frequent small sips of sports drink or other sugars while training spares muscle glycogen, but negatively impacts your teeth.  Luckily, I don’t usually consume sports drinks – never have. Sugar consumption increases acid producing bacteria that begins the cascade of potential problems.  Most sports drinks also contain phosphoric or citric acid which further erodes tooth enamel. Heavy mouth breathing (now that’s me) during endurance training leads to dry mouth that reduces saliva flow giving bacteria a bigger opportunity to grow and thrive. Dry mouth combined with sugary sports nutrition exacerbates the potential harm.

So, don’t follow my path on this one. I encourage you to take care of your teeth. You will improve your training, health, and performance. And be mindful of your Kairos moments. What is God saying to you? And what are you going to do about it?

Ride on!

 

*photo credit: unknown

Weekend Warrior #3 – Trials and Tribulations of the Sag Wagoneer

The forecast was for no rain or at best, chance of showers, so I thought I would go for my first century of the year. I blew off the St. John’s running crew, said “good bye” to the crusher guy, and headed toward Dixon. I knew riding there and back would put me right at 100 miles.

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Of course, my husband, aka. sag wagoneer, wanted to know where I was headed on this cold Napa morning. img_3468

At first, I didn’t know. I usually let the day decide and once I get out there, the bike just heads where it feels right. Early on, I thought I might do some local loops. I have a bunch mapped out – 4 miles, 5 miles, 10 miles, – you name it. But then as I headed out the door, I shouted to him that I would ride to Dixon and back.

It turned out to be a beautiful pre-Spring day. Flowers were peaking up everywhere. Baby animals were romping in the pastures. And trees were bursting with buds. flowers1img_3481img_3467cows.jpgimg_3354

It was also a pleasant surprise that the wind was really calm. It’s always nice when you see flags just hugging the poles!img_3482

I made it to Dixon and thought I would grab a little bite to eat so I called my husband to let him know why I was stopping. img_3490Well, he replied that he was almost in Dixon as well, so we could grab some lunch together! It turns out that he thought I was just riding to Dixon – not there and back. So he set out in time to pick me up in the “sag wagon.” How sweet – but I certainly wouldn’t get my century in. We had a good chuckle over the miscommunication and decided that I would ride on to at least make a metric century (62 miles) and then we would get a bite to eat. It was all good! I even found my first road treasure of the year – a slightly used bungee cord. I can always use those!img_3507

Lesson learned: Clear communication with the sag wagon is a vital skill to perfect.

Ride on!

 

 

Why I Don’t Ride Every Day

Once people know you are setting out to ride across the country, the first thing they ask when they see you is “Did you ride here?” If you know me, you probably would be able to tell right away whether or not I had ridden someplace. I usually wear an appropriate cycling kit. I haven’t always done that. And I haven’t always referred to my riding apparel as a kit. I’ve ridden in jeans,”basketball” shorts, floppy t-shirts, and even swimsuits (when I worked as a lifeguard). In my recent incarnation as a cyclist, however, I do wear appropriate cycling gear, no matter how goofy I may look. I have finally learned that there is good reasoning behind it, whether it be for safety, comfort or performance. But I smile and politely answer “yes” or “no” accordingly. The “no’s” are almost always met with a mocking “Really? Why not?” retort. And we have a good little chuckle.

Years ago, when I first got into long distance cycling, I rode every day. It was compulsive, and I was obsessed. I rode about forty miles every day after work and every Saturday and Sunday; I rode at least a hundred miles. I would have little contests with myself to push faster and farther. I rode the same hundred mile loop over and over again and finishing a few minutes quicker felt like winning an Olympic medal. I rode in all kinds of weather and at all times of the day. It didn’t matter. I was possessed.

At some point, I just stopped riding. I really don’t know why. I like to blame it on different circumstances.  I had to work. I wanted to spend time with my family, and they don’t ride. My joints hurt. My hands get numb. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. The roads around me are too dangerous. I’ve gotten too out of shape. I look silly in Lycra. I’ve heard them all and practiced saying them – inside my head. At the end of the day, though, I had no excuse not to ride. The only thing preventing me from doing so was me. I just needed to buck up and get back in the saddle. So I did –

Little by little I started to ride again. This time is different, though. In embarking on this “journey back to me,” I’ve had to come to terms with myself. I tend to be an all or none kind of person. I’m either all in and go at it with all my might, or not at all. I’ve shown signs of being that person again. Why else would I decide to ride across America? I’ve revisited the days of personal challenges too. Last summer, I did two 24-hour challenges. In June, I rode a 5-mile loop every hour for 24 hours. And then just to try and top that, in August I rode a 10-mile loop every hour for 24. Why? Just to see if I could. It is different this time, though. I’ve given myself permission not to ride. It has to be fun, and it can’t supersede all else. If something comes up that I want to do more, it’s OK. No guilt. No panic. No shame. And it feels good!  So I don’t ride every day.

Sometimes you just have to trade out the silly white hat with the holes and walk the dog.

Ride on!

There is nothing Better…

There is nothing better than going for a ride on a beautiful, clear, crisp morning after another week of rain.img_3317

My ride today was wonderful but very slow! Why? It seemed as though every time I came around a bend, turned my head, looked up or looked back, there was something awesome to see. So I had to stop and take photos even though they show only a hint of what you experience out there. Photos can’t give you the feel in the air. Photos never reproduce the phenomenal colors that change from moment to moment. Photos don’t show you how the flowers dance in the breeze. Photos don’t let you smell the fresh air. But photos do their best to capture the moments so you can remember all those other things.

There is nothing better than seeing the mustard and other flowers popping up everywhere to create their magnificent tapestry. Spring is definitely right around the corner and I am beginning to feel the days left to train tick tock away.

There is nothing better than seeing the impressive, elaborate wineries guarding the hillsides awaiting their throngs of visitors. I’m just not sure why I keep riding PAST them.

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Oh well. Ride on! There is nothing better…

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The Beginning

The mustard is blooming in the Napa Valley so I figure it’s time to get off my duff and start sharing my cycling adventures that so many of you are clamoring for. Besides, it’s raining (something we don’t often experience here) so I don’t think I’ll be out riding a century this weekend!

As you may or may not know, I will be riding my bike across the country (USA) sometime around June, 2017. This has been a dream of mine for a long time.  When I was in my twenties (yes- young and stupid), I rode obsessively.  I rode at least 40 miles every day and usually 100 or more on weekends. I had a goal of riding cross-country, but didn’t have the time or logistical support at the time. The best I could do was ride from Hammond, Indiana, where I worked/lived to Herkimer, NY, where my parents still lived and I was born and raised. It was about 1700 miles round trip and a friend and I completed it in 8 days. Note the really cool 1st generation Bell biker helmets!

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I moved to CA shortly after that ride, eventually met my husband and gave birth to a beautiful daughter. I stopped riding for years. With significant changes to my exercise routine, my health suffered over time. About 3 years ago, I decided to “journey back to me.” I started running, riding again, doing other cross training activities and changed my eating habits @Whole30. then-now

Once riding long distance became part of my arsenal again, I got the itch! I decided that since I live in CA, and my extended family lives in MA, it’s a perfect set up for a coast to coast ride. To make it even more meaningful, I’ll be raising awareness and funds for Multiple Sclerosis research through Bike the US for MS. So…here we go! If it moves you, follow my training and eventual big ride adventures here. I’ll try to give you a taste of what it’s like and maybe spark something in you to follow your dreams too.

* BTW – I haven’t been compensated in any way for any products or services that are mentioned in my blog.  I also don’t get paid to write this blog.  If I do mention or link to a product or service from time to time, it will be because I happen to personally use it and like it. I won’t generally mention something I don’t like – I’ll leave those judgments up to you. And if I am ever lucky enough to receive something free that I talk about, I’ll let you know.