Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Florida Challenge is over :-(

The last ride day of the Florida Challenge (Saturday, Nov 20th) was 41 miles.  Approximately 350 miles in 6 days.

Cyclists from Team Navy Jax came to the World Golf Resort and joined the Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) participants on the last day of the ride and escorted us through the Naval Station in Mayport.  We arrived to a nice reception and lunch.  Chick-Fil-A, Domino's Pizza and the USO rock!

During those 6 days I learned how to ride a road bike with clipless pedals and I didn't fall.  John Wordin, reminded me it's a matter of time.  Thanks John.  I'd like to think I met my quota of falls the first time I tried to use clipless pedals.  In retrospect, I probably didn't give myself enough time to learn them.  Getting up and down hills was more important to me at that time.

Later, we had a great evening meal and I was presented a R2R Stealth road bike by John Wordin, R2R's President and Executive Director.  I did a horrible thank you speech so I hope I can make up for it in this blog.  I really don't know how bad it was because I can't remember a darn thing I said.

What concerns me most is whether I thanked the R2R and their partners.  I couldn't think while trying to keep my tears at bay.  I started to feel my throat choke up and I know I get all red and uglier when I cry. I would have tried to hide my face in John or Wayne Stetina's shirt if I started crying so I tried to spare them that embarrassment. ;-)

I am very grateful to the Ride 2 Recovery and their partners for inviting me to participate in the Florida Challenge and giving me this awesome road bike.  Only God knows when I could have purchased a road bike after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) changed my civilian and military careers.  I've been thinking about getting a road bike since the Golden State Challenge; but due to the cost, I was wondering whether my next bike would be a road bike or an adult tricycle. ;-)  

The R2R Stealth is beautiful; very, very light; AND powered by Shimano. ;-)  I always wanted my first road bike to be shiny black.  I think it makes my butt look thinner, don't you? ;-) That's a rhetorical question.  I already know a black bike DOES NOT make my butt look any smaller. :-)  I wish.   

The morning after John gave me the awesome R2R Stealth bike that he suggested I "borrow" for the Florida Challenge so I wouldn't have to pay to transport my TREK hybrid, I woke up at 4:30 AM Eastern Time.  Tears were streaming down my face.  I suspect I was having a dream about John (R2R) giving me the bike because that was what I was thinking about when I woke up.  I do remember the last thing John said and I was touched.  My new bike has enormous sentimental value.  I will cherish it forever. 

After hearing John at a brain injury resource fair talk about how cycling was benefiting our wounded warriors physically and mentally, I decided to start riding again.  I was desperate to feel better because I was very depressed.

John shared how he lost weight cycling after playing football in college.  I've always fought the battle of the bulge, but the weight crept up rather quickly after the brain injury. The fatigue issues that come with TBI and medications didn't help.

I lost some of the weight after I adopted Buddy, an American Pit Bull Terrier, but I gained it back when he couldn't walk very far because of a pituitary tumor growing into his brain. It didn't help that I was dealing with the stress of losing him and the expense of his illness.  Even after losing my best Buddy, I didn't walk far because I was having problems with my knees.

The physical benefits from cycling are awesome.  I'm going to cycle as long as I can.  I've enjoyed that I've lost a few pounds from cycling (approximately 30 lbs) and it's not painful.  Cycling doesn't strain my knees like running did and walking does.

My goal, between now and the R2R 9/11 American Challenge, is to get more junk out of the trunk (weight off my butt) and my Buddha belly.  I'm thinking at least 30 pounds.  To lose thirty pounds in itself will be a challenge. ;-)  I'm also going to be working on strengthening my core and neck muscles.

Cycling has been challenging for me because of my fear of having another brain injury and a lack of confidence, but I'm more confident now because of my two cycling buddies, Marc and David, and two awesome R2R experiences, the Florida and Golden State Challenges.  There is nothing more fun and safer than riding with cyclists who care about each other and experienced and professional cyclists who care about inexperienced riders -- like me.

I hope Marc and David will join me on a future challenge.  Having them on a ride -- even if it's for one day -- will be icing on the cake.  I'd love to have the R2R staff and participants meet my special friends and have my friends experience a Ride 2 Recovery Challenge.

The psychological benefits of cycling are wonderful, too.  I love how cycling makes me feel.  I sleep better when I cycle.   I enjoy what I perceive as an endorphin high after a good ride.  It's better than any medication a doctor has prescribed me for depression or anxiety since my brain injury.

Cycling helps me cope with depression. The loss of my careers in 1993 (civilian and military) because of the ignorance of my doctors about TBI, formerly referred to as head injury, is something I continue to struggle with.  I've moved on, but I still get angry at times.  Riding my bike calms me down when I'm having a bad day.

I was surprised to receive the bike from R2R because I thought the program was geared to combat veterans, but John told me that the Ride 2 Recovery helps all injured veterans, not just combat veterans.  R2R doesn't care how a veteran is hurt, only that they can help them in their rehabilitation. 

I thank God every time I ride that I had an opportunity to hear John speak because getting into cycling has helped me a lot both physically and mentally.  Cycling should be prescribed medicine. 

In closing, thank you again Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) and partners for my awesome new road bike.  I will ride it and I will cherish it.  Also, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the Florida Challenge.  I had a great time and I learned a lot.

I enjoyed meeting the new participants; seeing again some of the Golden State Challenge participants and the R2R Team and volunteers who work tirelessly to plan, coordinate and execute R2R events with their awesome partners

I am so proud to have had the opportunity to ride the Golden State Challenge and Florida Challenge with America's finest on Team Ride 2 Recovery.  I love all of you.

I'm wishing everyone a very safe and happy holiday.  And, you and your families, and our troops in harms way and their families will be in my prayers.

Until next time, I'll be riding my beautiful R2R Stealth whenever I can.


AKA Deborah Palmer

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