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!

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!

OK – It’s Not Really The Climb

DSC01211I’ve told you why I take on various challenges. It’s the climb. But when I think about what I really like about cycling, for me, it’s all about the thrill of the descent.

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There’s nothing better than working really hard and building up a sweat climbing a long steep hill, knowing that you are going to essentially get to free fall down the other side. I love the feel of racing down the hill or mountain. It’s thrilling! It’s magical! It makes you feel alive. Every time. There’s nothing like it!

 

 

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Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

 

It’s the Climb

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People often ask me; Why ride across America? Why ride for 24 hours? Why climb that hill? Why try to go farther? Why try to go faster?

Because.

Because I want to see if I can.

Because I can.

Because it’s fun!

Why not?

I’ve always been one who has been overwhelmingly, intrinsically motivated. When I was growing up, I loved to play basketball. The church parking lot across the street had a basketball court. Perfect! I would shoot hoops for hours every night. I would tell myself I couldn’t go home until I made all the shots “around the world”. All of you who play, know what I’m talking about. If I missed the very last shot, I would start all over again. Again and again. Sometimes I wouldn’t go in until I made 25 free throws in a row. Then 50. Then 100. And so it went. Personal goals, doled out by nobody but me, for me.

It’s been the same for me on the bike. Pick a goal and go for it. Ride 100 miles. Ride 200. Ride 100 miles in under 7 hours. Then under 6, and under 5, and under 4. Ride for 24 hours. Climb this hill. Climb that hill. Ride across America. And so it goes. Personal goals doled out by nobody but me, for me.

I love the journey to get there. I love the starts and stops and the little victories. And oddly enough, I love the pain of not making it and trying again. I also love the things you learn (mainly about yourself), the people you meet, and the places you see along the way.

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I suppose that’s why.

Song of the day:

Ride on!

#Napastrong

 

NapaFire

I live in Napa, CA. On Sunday, October 8, 2017, some of the fiercest wildfires in history broke out on one of our mountainsides. It quickly spread due to unprecedented winds gusting to 60-70 mph. Napa and several surrounding counties, Sonoma, Solano, Lake, and Mendocino have suffered unimaginable losses of human life, animal life, property, and livelihood. Luckily, my family was spared. Sadly, many whom we know, were not.

In the face of this devastation, I have also seen incomparable kindness, love, compassion, volunteerism and generosity. Napa will survive!

I had the opportunity, due to a work commitment, at the end of this week of fire, to visit one of my favorite places. I fell in love with Pacific Grove when I arrived in California 27 years ago. It is all together beautiful, energizing and peaceful. After a week filled with smoke, anxiety, and unknowing, it proved to be all that and more. I had thrown my bike in the back of my SUV before leaving home, just in case. It turns out that we had almost a full free day on Saturday, so of course, I rode. I was off before most of the tourists were even awake. I took in the sunrise, and I rode along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline one can imagine. 50 miles and 4 hours later, I felt renewed.

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And just as the lone cypress is resilient against the odds, so too will be Napa. We will recover. We will love and help each other. We will move forward. We are #Napastrong!

Song of the day:

Ride on!