Monday, December 6, 2010

My goal and thanks to those who helped me in my training or donated to the Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) Golden State Challenge

Be forewarned.  This is a long blog . . . but not complicated.  It’s also long overdue. Since the R2R Golden State Challenge (GSC), I participated in the Florida Challenge and I blogged about it here.

Prior to thanking all the people who supported me in my training and those who donated to this worthy cause, I want to share my personal goal on the Golden State Challenge.

My goal was to complete every day’s ride because some people I know didn’t think I could.  I was determined to prove I could do it to myself and those who didn’t think I could.  AND, I DID! :-)

I have been training for Golden State Challenge for over a year and my goal was not to SAG. I didn’t want to be a burden to the R2R Program and take up a seat in a SAG vehicle that should be reserved for our newly injured veterans.

During and since that ride my beloved TREK has been referred to as a “clunky hybrid” by many professional and experienced cyclists.  My poor hybrid; I love my TREK.  It can get me up any hills those road bikes can go . . . just a tad bit slower.  OK, a lot slower with my chunky butt.

After the major hill days, I asked Wayne Stetina, a professional cyclist and Vice President, Shimano American Corporation and Road Product Specialist, who I refer to as the “Shimano Man,” and his wife, Barbara, how many people thought I would make those hills?

Wayne told me that NO ONE thought you’d make it up those hills. I said to him:  How could you think I would NOT get up those hills with those Shimano gears? What was he thinking!  ;-)

I asked Wayne if he thought it was the gears, the TREK or me that got me up those hills. He said something like the gears are fine; something about my TREK hybrid that I don't recall; and I had to have done some training.

I did train. I wanted to raise funds for this awesome program and I knew I’d have the honor of riding with many of America’s combat veterans.

I was surprised, but maybe not so surprised that they didn’t think I’d make it.  They didn’t know me.  And, I suspect those slim and fit “ professional cyclists” were taken aback because I’m definitely NOT slim. Furthermore, I was riding a hybrid and not a traditional road bike.

I was concerned whether I would make it, too.  But, I’m really stubborn; I was determined not to SAG.  I was blessed to meet up with Dick Brock, owner of the Scan-Van, on the first day of the ride; he gave me some suggestions on how to preserve energy riding up hills.  I put that advice to work and it helped a lot.

I’m still basking in the glory of my accomplishment.  The 3rd day was the longest ride day.   Day 3 was 95 miles according to my odometer and over 7,000 ft of climbing, according to Jason Bryant, who rode with me about 60 of those miles.  I blogged about the leg from Carmel to San Simeon via Big Sur.  Jason blogged about each day of the GSC on Facebook.  Day 3 was hereNOTE:  Scroll down to notes about the Golden State Challenge.  Even Jason didn’t think I’d be able to ride the entire route that day.

I have a lot of people to thank for this opportunity and my success including:
  • Bay Area Brain Injury Task Force (BABIT)
I owe a big thank you to the Bay Area Brain Injury Task Force (BABIT) for introducing John Wordin, President and Executive Director, Fitness Challenge Foundation and Ride 2 Recovery, to the brain injury community.  He was the guest speaker at their resource fair in May 2009.  He informed us how cycling is helping wounded warriors in their recovery and invited the brain injury community to participate in their fundraising and rehabilitation rides.  I blogged about it here.

Once I made the commitment to raise funds,
I knew I better start training.  I started riding 5 miles a day for a week, the next week I moved it up to 10 miles a day and the week after up to 15 miles and so on . . . 

AFTER I told John I planned to participate, I learned I’d be going up and down some really steep hills on the ride along Highway 1.  Oops!  Telling John I was going to participate, I already committed myself to ride.  I was born in California, but raised in Michigan and I was clueless about hill climbing and the thought of going down hills fast really scared me.  I thought . . . what did I get myself in to?!

Since I started riding again,
I have faced the fear of having another traumatic brain injury (TBI) because I had a brain injury that changed my life when I was out bike riding.  You can read about the TBI that changed my life here.  I've also come to realize that overall cycling makes me feel better.

I’ve had to accept I have minimal control over having another TBI.  Life’s a risk and I’m in God’s hands. I can’t control irresponsible drivers.  I can only do my part by obeying the laws that apply to cyclists, ride defensively and ensure my bike is safe with proper maintenance.

I took classes through Bike Alameda and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition to learn the rules of the road and other skills.  The classes were empowering.  You can find similar classes in your community through the League of American Bicyclists
I suggest all cyclists take these classes and especially novice cyclists.
  • My cycling buddies, Marc L.  and David G.
I introduced my cycling buddies in a previous blog.  I rode with Marc and David when they were available.  I learned a lot from them and it was much more fun riding with them than by myself, especially while training in the Oakland HillsI can’t say it enough; I’m so lucky to know them.  They were instrumental in building my confidence on a bike.

Marc believes I could have done the Golden State Challenge without them.  I’m headstrong, but I don’t know that I could have completed the entire ride without their support.  They kept me motivated and moving.

In preparation of the GSC, David did some serious maintenance on my TREK hybrid to save me money, including changing my worn out brakes. ;-) I know I have complete control over my speed provided my brakes work properly.  He also convinced me to change to lighter tires.  That was a wise move on my part and I am very grateful for that advice and the complete tune-up.

I’ve had an opportunity to ride with them since I’ve been back, and Marc and I road up Tunnel Road once.  The trip to Los Angeles made me stronger and going up Tunnel was easier.  I hope I don't lose that over the winter.
  • Anthony and Barbara D.
I want to thank Anthony and Barbara D for their continued support.  I met them where I bought my TREK.  Anthony is a Vietnam era Navy veteran and he rode in the first R2R Golden State Challenge in 2008.  Barbara and I watched Anthony and the other participants leave the San Francisco VA Medical Center last year.  I blogged about it here.

I loved knowing Barbara and Anthony were on this ride.  Barb was a SAG vehicle volunteer and Anthony rode.  We usually had breakfast and dinner together.  Barbara always cheered me on when she drove by.  When Anthony passed me with the fast group on the days they started after the slower riders, he always shouted out something encouraging.   It was fun sharing that experience with them and it's nice to know I have local witnesses to my accomplishment. ;-)

  • Flash and Flashette
I also want to thank Jim G., AKA Flash, the Ride Commissioner for Team Alameda for mentoring me the first time I climbed a little over 1,000 feet.  I tease his wife and tell her that I got up that hill because I had the cutest Ride Commissioner on my butt.  I was truly blessed to meet Flash and have him guide me on that ride.

Jim suggested a plan as to how and where I should get started training in the hills, too.  It worked! Flash is also one of my favorite bloggers.

What I want to thank Jim for most of all is introducing me to Cathy,
AKA Flashette, his lovely bride of 30 years or so.  She was a Godsend.

Cathy is a specialist in touch hypnotherapy, hypnomassage and trauma. I saw her to help me deal with my fear of having another brain injury.  Getting back on a bike has been challenging.  The sessions I had with her were definitely helpful and made a difference.

I would often have dreams where I’d crash with a vehicle.  It would wake me abruptly and I couldn’t go back to sleep.  After seeing her I only had one bad dream and that was after learning a cyclist was doored and killed when he was hit by the bus he was thrown in to.  I calmed myself and I went back to sleep.  I don’t quite understand the process, but I do know it worked because I haven’t had a dream like that since.

  • Team Alameda 
I want to thank several Team Alameda (TA) members for educating me about cycling matters (clothing, equipment, etc.) from their perspective.

Note that I’m using their "first name and initial of their last name or their handle/nickname/username" or something I remember that stood out to me because I no longer ride with them. Their awesome 2nd Sunday Slow Ride was too slow for me, especially while I was training, and I really wasn’t qualified for the other rides because I was too slow for that group.  I was a novice cyclist and I never climbed hills until this year.

Team Alameda is a membership organization consisting of a lot of wonderful people who enjoy cycling, and I am especially grateful to Anthony and Barbara D., Brenda, Casey, Diane R., Eric K., Flash, the “Got Gears” Guy, Gwyn, Harold, Melne, McGyv, JP, Shel M., and Sweeps for sharing their experience with me.

I apologize if I left anyone out who shared their experience with me either via the TA forum, personal message or if I ran in to you at Alameda Bicycle or Cycle City.

I occasionally ran into Ken J., also a member of Team Alameda, at Alameda Bicycle.  He was always encouraging.  When I got back from the Golden State Challenge and I went by Alameda Bicycle and Cycle City to tell them about the ride, I was hoping I’d run in to him.  Guess what – I did.  It made my day to see him and be able to tell him that I never SAGed on the Golden State Challenge.  I hope I didn’t startle him because I was so excited I gave him a big hug without asking first.

The rides of my life get bigger and better.  First, in the Oakland Hills up Butters Canyon with Sweeps as the ride leader and Flash as my mentor with Team Alameda; then up Tunnel Road and down Snake Road with my cycling buddies, Marc and David; and now the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Highway 1 through Big Sur with Team Ride 2 Recovery participants on the Golden State Challenge.

I have a feeling that the R2R Golden State Challenge will always be the ride of my life!  Imagine the surprise of the skeptics when I made the entire route on my TREK hybrid without SAGing.  I’m still euphoric knowing I met my goal.

I also want to thank those who supported the Applebees and Chevys fundraisers and my sponsors.

I’m very grateful to the Alameda Sun and my friends who spread the word about Applebees and Chevys' fundraisers and especially those who participated.  It was an opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends, contribute to the economy, but most of all contribute to the healing of America’s injured veterans.

Because of those who sponsored me, I was blessed with the opportunity to ride the entire route in this awe-inspiring rehabilitation and fundraising ride.  While striving to meet my personal goal, I saw a lot of newly injured veterans get stronger and more comfortable and confident on their bikes. 

Cycling is great medicine!  Despite sore muscles and butts from the long, challenging rides there were lots of smiles.

My sponsors included my Trainer who is currently serving in the Coast Guard and many veterans, including my brother, one living with a brain injury from a construction accident and a doctor whose specialty is traumatic brain injury (TBI), the “signature wound” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If my donors weren’t veterans, many were related to someone who retired from the military or a veteran.

Family members and my friends who are like family donated.  Some of them told their close friends about this ride and they also donated.

Some of my donor’s lives have been affected by brain injury and a few work with the brain injury community.  Others I met through my beloved Buddy, an American Pit Bull Terrier, and some through my new love of cycling. 

This program exists because of important and special people like my donors.  I acknowledged them here.  

In closing, I want to thank again . . .

Marc and David, my cycling buddies, for blessing me with their presence and taking the time to ride with me; sharing their valuable experience; and donating to this awesome cause.  

Anthony and Barbara for their support throughout the year; cheering me on the ride; participating in the Applebees fundraiser; and their kind and thoughtful donation, especially since they were raising funds, too. 

Flash for his suggestions for training and mentoring me on the first ride of my life.  Flashette for helping me deal with my fear of having another TBI, and some of the members of Team Alameda.

I thank God and BABIT for the opportunity to cross paths with John Wordin who got me back in to this feel good sport. 

I also want to thank the R2R Team, their volunteers, and partners for THE RIDE OF MY LIFE!  :-)

If you click on the Ride 2 Recovery web site, their is video on the home page about the 2010 R2R Golden State Challenge in a segment of Making a Difference on the NBC Nightly News.

Now, I have to get out those belated personal thank you cards.  I hope my sponsors, many who are my friends and/or family, know that I’m just as appreciative today as the day they donated.  I’m dreading writing these because my penmanship is atrocious.

If you haven't already and you're interested, you can read my blogs about the Golden State Challenge here.

By the way, did you notice the beautiful picture on my blog?  That’s Day 3Carmel to San Simeon via Big Sur on the 2010 Golden State Challenge.  To see that picture in its entirety and lots more pictures taken on
the Golden State Challenge, go here.

Until next time and in between the rain, I'll be riding my beautiful R2R Stealth powered by Shimano and Debi whenever I can.


AKA Deborah Palmer

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