Day 1 and 2- Ready, Set, Roll

I was able to sneak in some visits with some family and great friends on Friday before all of our Million Dollar Challenge (MDC) meetings started. It was great to see everyone though it was not enough!

My Friday consisted of 3 MDC meetings- Challenged Athlete orientation, freshman orientation and a welcome ceremony. At my Challenged Athlete orientation, I met my handler Willie. My handler is a volunteer who is their to assist me if I need help. I’ve enjoyed getting to know WiIie so far. She has been a CAF volunteer for many years which I love to hear! The freshman orientation gave all newbies to the ride the rundown of the week. Eeek! This made me so anxious and excited at the same time!

After that, the entire group had a Welcome Reception which was really fun! While I have been training with most San Diego based riders over the course of the summer, there were many new faces who are participating but not from San Diego! Every rider also received an envelope with a note about a recent CAF grantee. We were able to read their stories and also received their name on a bracelet to wear or keep on our bikes this week. My CAF grantee is Daniel who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. Reading Daniel’s story made me wonder if any CAF fundraiser ever read my story when I first applied for a running prosthetic.

On Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early and prepared my many bags for departure. I was so eager I ended up being the 1st one out to the luggage truck! We still had quite a bit of time to eat breakfast and lounge before rolling out at 7:30 but boy was I ready to get this thing started!

Breakfast was fun as every  meal has been. This group of riders is not only fun but incredibly friendly. There is never a time where you aren’t meeting someone new or learning more about another rider.

As we prepared to roll out for our first day, we heard the story of Chase, a member of the CAF community, who recently lost his battle with Muscular Dystrophy. Chase always had a positive outlook and this led his classmates to created the Chase Challenge. We were all given bracelets to wear and each time you complained, you would switch the bracelet to your other arm. This encouraged us to think about complaining about things others are not fortunate enough to experience.

We rolled out of San Francisco with a police escort which was pretty cool! It was Day 1 and we were all VERY eager and pushing ourselves really hard. I kept trying to remind myself I had 6 more days of this and to save my legs. But it was hard! We were cruising and it was just so beautiful! We rode through many sleepy beach towns which I loved!

It wasn’t all easy, I felt my gluts (okay… my butt) after only 10 miles and was a little worried. Climbing hurt a bit but that’s to be expected just not this early on! As I struggled a bit through some pain, I kept thinking about Chase and how I should enjoy every second (even the pain) of this experience since so many others are not able enough to do so. I also thought a lot about my CAF grantee. Had someone asked me 10 years ago if I’d be riding down the state, I would have laughed! And I hope my CAF grantee has that same WOW! moment in 10 years as well.

Late afternoon of Day 1 led us to our first special SAG stop- PIE! It was a cute little mom and pop pie shop outside of Santa Cruz. I enjoyed some fresh Strawberry Shortcake. Then we cruised through beautiful Santa Cruz and up (a very steeeeeep up) to our hotel.

Each evening, we have dinner and a program. Our first night was a Q&A with Jamie Whitmore, another Challenged Athlete. This woman is phenomenal! She has so much determination. Learn more about Jamie here: http://www.jamiewhitmore.com/.

I slept like a baby that night! So after Day 1- SF to Santa Cruz- 86 miles done!

I was a little sore when I got up on Sunday morning. I headed to breakfast rocking some Chargers socks because even if I can’t watch the game, I have to rep my team! We rolled out and boyyy was I sore. I was worried. My knees were aching in a way I hadn’t experienced before but I knew I was here to accomplish a goal and I am going to push through to finish. After warming up for a bit I felt much better. We rode from Santa Cruz to Monterey and then rode along 17 mile drive. WOW! I never ever thought I’d get to experience these sights on a bike! It was so fun! We ate lunch in Carmel and then rode up and down some incredibly windy and gorgeous spots on the way to Big Sur. We made it through Big Sur to our hotel in the woods after that. This afternoon’s snacks and cocktail hour theme were Oktoberfest. So of course we enjoyed some beer, brats and pretzels. Yum!

Day 2 has been my favorite out of the two days. Mileage was 89- Santa Cruz to Big Sur.

Tomorrow is one of our longest days- 114- Big Sur to Pismo Beach. It is going to be so challenging but I know i can accomplish it! I just have to be in before dark! Let’s rollllll!

 

P.S. Sorry about the lack of pictures. We don’t have cell service in Big Sur so I’m unable to get them onto my computer. Tomorrow!

Here Goes Nothing! Embarking on CAF’s Million Dollar Challenge.

Well guys, here goes nothing! Here I am sitting at the airport on a Thursday afternoon preparing to leave for San Francisco. to embark on one of the biggest challenges I’ve decided to conquer. On Saturday, I will start my journey through CAF’s Mazda Million Dollar Challenge (MDC), a bike ride from San Francisco to San Diego. It’s going to trying at points but I also know it is going to be one of the best weeks of my life! I’m told it’s like summer camp for adults… unless that’s how I got lured into doing this and it’s nothing like that! I am full of excitement, nerves and perhaps sheer terror but I know I’ve prepared for this!

 

Let’s start at the beginning….

When I started toying with the idea of applying to participate in MDC, I tried to convince myself several times NOT to do it! I wasn’t sure I could commit and to be quite honest, since I took a break from triathlon a few years ago I hadn’t dedicated myself to something this athletically since then! I was scared I’d be too out of shape and slow. But I also REALLY wanted to challenge myself this year.

This has been the year of challenges as I celebrated my 10 years cancer-free! So I signed up for a lot of fun things I’ve always wanted to do! Ragnar Relay (Huntington Beach to SD on a running relay team), Spin Certification, and lots of other things.

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Just running our way across Southern California!

So after a few discussions with the Challenged Athletes Foundation wonderful staff, I was sold on participating. When I arrived for our first training ride of 41 miles, I was incredibly nervous! Everyone seemed to know each other and I was the only one on a tri bike. I learned pretty quickly how welcoming a group this was when many of the ride leaders took me under their wings. After my first ride, I knew a few things- I had to get off this tri bike (everyone was teasing me!), I had a lot of training to do, and this was going to be fun!

We trained nearly every Sunday through heat, rain, and sore muscles! Rides increased from 41 to 60 to 82 to 95. How easy that initial 41 miler seems now! I’ve developed some great friendships with fellow riders, learned wonderful things about how they got involved with CAF and seen parts of San Diego I NEVER thought I’d see! Our ride leaders have taught us to be better bike handlers, stronger climbers, and to believe we can complete this ride!

Cruising down from Anaheim to SD, a short 80 miles!

Cruising down from Anaheim to SD, a short 80 miles!

And now after many months of these long Sunday training rides, the event is finally here!

 

I invite you to follow this blog over the next week or so and share the journey with me as I ride from San Francisco to San Diego!

 

I’d also like to take this first post as a chance to thank some VERY important people!

1. A big shout out to my many, generous donors who pushed me past my fundraising goal! Knowing I have the support of each of you has made each training ride a little easier!

2. I’d especially like to take a moment to thank David Reiger, a CAF athlete, for encouraging his donors and supporters to support another Challenged Athlete. David generously encouraged his donors to donate to my goal since he knew I was struggling to reach it. Fundraising isn’t always easy!

3. Thank you to those donors who may not even know me! It is your generosity that really pushed me recently and made me believe I could do this!

4. Lastly, thank you to my wonderful friends who have put up with my dedication to riding the past few months and have tried to pretend I’m not crazy every time I get one of these ideas in my head. I missed out on some fun, acted like a grandma on most Saturday nights and missed quite a few football games on Sunday mornings (obviously not Charger games)!

5. Thank you to the CAF staff who is out there supporting us every Sunday!

So here goes nothing!

 

Below is our route list so you can enjoy this journey with me!

Day 1: San Francisco to Santa Cruz- 89 miles

Day 2: Santa Cruz to Big Sur- 86 miles

Day 3: Big Sur to Pismo Beach- 114 miles

Day 4: Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara- 121 mile (!!!)

Day 5: Santa Barbara to Santa Monica- 86 miles

Day 6: Santa Monica to Dana Point- 72 miles

Day 7: Dana Point to La Jolla- 55 miles

 

MAJOR PROGRESS

Last Friday, I met with my coach to discuss swimming and what I would focus on to get my training rolling. He gave me a swim workout. It was hard. REALLY HARD.

I swam on Saturday and Sunday. I almost died both times. First, it was raining. Normally this would be fine because I swim at TriFit and it is an indoor pool. But I went home. And the lap pool at home is OUTSIDE. OUTSIDE. So I had to swim in the pouring rain. It was also cold. Every time my arm came out of the water to stroke, it froze. There was steam coming off of the pool. I tried to pretend that I was practicing for “potential race conditions”. This is kind of true because if you recall it was raining during the swim last year at Nationals.

Anyway the swim was H-A-R-D. About halfway through I thought I was going to pass out I was so tired. Since my surgery, my energy levels are pretty low. These swim workouts are helping me work my way back up but jeesh. I swam for an hour and 15 minutes and had to come home and nap I was so tired. Pathetic.

Oh but it is not JUST swimming. Immediately after I jump out of the pool I’m doing some strength workouts with rubber bands. I’m tired just writing about it.

Now on to the BEST NEWS EVER!

On Sunday, I came back up to LA from San Diego. It was sunny, I was feeling semi-normal and thought, You know what? I’m just going to try to see if I can get my running leg on. And then I did. It fit! WOO! So then I thought, Well, if it feels fine, why not run for 15 minutes?

SO I DID!

So you heard it hear first. I am running again. Definitely not at the level I was at. But running. Well I’ve only done it twice. But still we all know running makes me happy.

And I won a pair of Nikes on Tuesday. YES. Free stuff is the best.

Moral Support

If you know me, you know that I REALLY love my family. We have LOTS of family gatherings and I actually enjoy them (I may have pouted my way through them from ages 14-18 because I wanted to see my friends. Who knows.)

I have a gigantic family due to the fact that my mom is one of 9 kids (Count it- Tom, Peter, Maureen, Kathleen, Ann, Bridget, Judy, Molly AND John). And they all have kids (I won’t list them). And my dad is one of 3 (oh, I know not THAT many) but also has 2 step-siblings. I won’t continue.

Anyway, I’ve been through a lot in this quarter century of life and one thing I have learned is that family is incredibly important.

I’m telling you this because I’ve had a rough few months and it has once again shown me how important my family is and how much moral support I get from them. So here’s my shout-out to my family (all 349809384 of you)- You guys are the best!

I’m also telling you this because my dad has been my superhero through a lot of these hard times.

Guys- this is my dad when we brought home our dog Lucy. He was reminding her that he was the ALPHA in the family. (His words. Not mine.) I’m ALSO showing you this picture because the man does not take photos. He doesn’t smile in them and this is the ONLY picture I have of him on my computer. COOL DAD.

While he is not the most affectionate guy (HAHA- this may clue some of you into why I also am not the touchy-feely type), he tells me like it is and helps me work through things. He definitely gives THE BEST advice around even if it may not be what you want to hear. Plus, the man has accomplished quite a bit in his lifetime (don’t tell him I said that).

This guy is also coming back from a BIG set back that required surgery. He tore his Achilles last year and it has been a slow recovery. He’s also really active so we’ve had the same issues with not being able to run, etc. So for me, it’s nice to be able to call him and complain to someone who ACTUALLY understands how tough it is. This has been very comforting for me to know that I am not ACTUALLY going crazy and that this is part of the recovery. (He’s probably going to grumble about me writing about him on this blog.)

I also have plans to kick his butt in a triathlon one of these days. I send him my swim workouts and it’s fun to hear if they are hard/easy for him. Can’t WAIT to smoke him at whatever race we decide to do. (I will definitely have pictures when that does happen. I’m laughing just thinking about it.)

Oh also:

Today my little sister, Georgia, turns 8! Happy Birthday George! You are the craziest little munchkin I know. And you talk TOO much. But I love you!

Georgia is the crazy one in the middle. These two munchkins are THE best!

Sorry if you hated this post because it was not at all related to training! Well it kind of is because you need that moral support to get through training and races.

Adventures in… Swimming?

I know I know. Weeks and weeks (maybe months?) ago I promised that each week I would post an “Adventures in Running” story since I’m a tool and silly things happen to me while running. I haven’t kept my promise. Sorry!

This morning while I was SWIMMING I thought to myself, “Hey. Maybe we should substitute swimming for running so all those people (Like there are so many of you! I’m still delusional.) reading your blog can see what you are up to.”

Warning: Swimming is not NEARLY as amusing as running. You don’t have nearly as many interactions (or none) with dogs, crazy tourists, or cars. Just sayin’. Don’t expect to pee your pants laughing over these swimming posts. Again, I’m sorry. This isn’t really an adventure. (Grumble grumble grumble)

So. In case you are living in a cave, I do not especially enjoy swimming. It feels like I am walking to my death every time I walk those 8 stairs up to the pool at TriFit. Swimming is also MOST DEFINITELY my weakness in the three portions of a triathlon.

Several people have commented (cough cough my coach, Bernard) that I should take this down time from the bike/run to focus on my swimming and learn to enjoy it and get better. While I hate this idea, I am trying to embrace it.

So, for the past month I have been swimming 3-5 times a week. (Also, my physical therapist says swimming reduces swelling. Reduce swelling=Danielle running.) I bumped into Coach Bernard several weeks ago after a swim. He told me to call him so we could get back in the pool.

I didn’t call.

I’ll tell you why. Pool workouts are hard. He kicks my butt. I practically hyperventilate and think I’m about to drown every time I go there for a training session with him. And I had taken SOOOOOOO much time off from swimming after Beijing to stare at my gold medal (I’m kidding. But REALLY that’s what I do these days- reminisce about the good old days.). When I say time off I mean I didn’t swim from September to January. Okay, I lied. I swam twice. Oops.

Anyway, my thought process went like this. I can’t call Bernard because his swim workouts are scary. I’ll start training in the pool on my own and regain my confidence/endurance in the pool. THEN I’LL CALL. But only once I’m ready. So I swam a bunch using old workouts he had given me. And I started to like swimming again. And I even started to feel like I swimming not just flailing around pretending to be a swimmer. YAY! (Be real. I don’t LOVE it. Don’t get crazy.)

And then I bumped into him again. So guys, tomorrow morning I will rise and shine to get my butt kicked. Pray for me.

So… I’m swimming. And going to Physical Therapy. And that’s about it.

First off- I haven’t written in a long time. I think it has been over two weeks. Actually I think it may be three. Whatever. Here’s how I justify not posting: This blog was created to inspire others as well as describe my training and races and frankly, I don’t feel inspirational AT ALL and am STILL NOT training OR racing. Because of this, I feel no need to blog consistently. SORRY.

Anyway, I’m sure you all have been sitting around wondering about me (HAHAHA, I’m so delusional). I imagine you saying, “Oh I wonder how that Danielle is? I sure hope she’s running again!”  So here is an update.

I lied when I wrote the title for this blog. I can do a little more than just swim and physical therapy. But it sure isn’t enough.

Here is what I am doing-

Physical Therapy- 2x a week for an hour. I like Physical Therapy. I really do! My physical therapist, Erin, is fantastic. I can tell she understands how important being active is to me and knows how badly I want to be back to training. We’re focusing a lot of strengthening my core which will help me with my cycling and running in the long run. My core sucks. I’ve known this for a long time. My legs are strong. That is about it.

Oh and I have homework. HOMEWORK? I thought I graduated. No really, I do the homework because it is extra core exercises to do in between our visits. Which means I’m working out. Kinda.

Also. Last week, Erin asked me to balance on one foot. I couldn’t. Basically, my balance has been off since my initial surgery. For those of you who have been around me a lot (especially those who saw me take some major dives after slipping on alcoholic beverages at parties in college), I trip a lot. I slip on the tile at the grocery store nearly every time it rains. I trip over my feet at the gym on a weekly basis. I’ve fallen down the stairs at my grandpa’s house more time than I can count. So now Erin is working with me on balance too!

Swimming- 3 times a week. I’m trying to embrace it. I feel much better after I swim but I still struggle getting myself TO the pool. Two Fridays ago I went to go swim. There were “high levels of chlorine” so I convinced myself I might be allergic to chlorine and went home. WHAT A FOOL.

Biking- TECHNICALLY, I am only allowed to bike for 15 minutes at a time. So I was doing this once or twice a week and then doing some strength training.

Off the record, I have been biking more than that. Here’s how the story goes:

The weather has been AMAZING here and I couldn’t take the fact that I wasn’t able to do ANYTHING active outside. So I went for a bike ride! OOPS. Apparently, I was not ready for this. I felt fantastic during the 20 or so mile ride. No pain or discomfort. I came home from the ride with a HUGE grin on my face. I was sweaty and I had been active outside! WOO!

But the next day I could barely walk.

OOPS again.

Big oops because I had physical therapy that day. And I gimped in and Erin told me no more biking. Only 15 minutes on the stationary bike. UGH! Just take away all of the fun why don’t you!

So I listened. For 4 WHOLE days.

But then I went for another bike ride last Friday. Don’t tell Erin. I just had to! How can you work out inside when it is a beautiful 80 degree day.

I know I am making progress but it is not happening fast enough. I like to think I am a “Go Go Go” type of person. Currently I am a “Limp, Ow, Go” person. I dislike her. You probably would too if you  bumped into her on the streets of Santa Monica.

I’ve been EXTRA sassy since my surgery but think that I’m starting to get back down to my old level of sassiness. On a scale of one to ten, I’d say I’m usually at a 5 but the past few weeks have been at an 8.5 or 9. I think I had WAY too much energy pent up and it was coming out as attitude. Now that I’m working out a bit more, I think it is getting better.

Another reason why my sassiness has leveled off:

VISITORS TO LA! Such a great weekend!

Okay bye. Sorry for the long post. I had a lot to say I guess!

And then I swam! (For the first time in a LONG time.)

Guys. I did it! I went to the pool yesterday.

If we’re being honest here, I tried to put it off. I went home after work (I needed a snack! Don’t judge). Then, I sat on the couch and ate this snack while trying to work up my confidence to get back in that pool. But there was no backing down because I posted about it. So I HAD to do it. Or you readers might think I was a liar and I wouldn’t want that.

When I got to TriFit, I forgot how heavy the door is to get into the pool. On a normal day it is heavy. On a day, where you are on crutches and have to somehow maneuver your body and crutches around to get in said heavy door, it is TOUGH. Then, I realized I forgot that they added a sauna AND redid the pool deck. So I barely recognized the place! Looks good though!

So there I was. Just me and the Water. Oh and my snazzy goggles. And I started swimming. Let’s be real, I haven’t swam in a long time. No I am not going to tell you how long it has been. You all know that sometimes my swim workouts are the bane of my existence so I took some time off from those.

Swimming felt great! I felt good! I forgot how much I love that feeling of getting in the pool for a swim. Once you get going, it’s just you and the water. The silence and the rhythm of the stroke is so calming. I definitely felt my body relax.

I’m so so so glad I finally got in the pool! So yesterday pre-pool, I was feeling like I was at a 3 (mopey, blah blah blah. I know get over it. Things could be worse.). But post-pool, I felt like I was at a 7. Probably the most calm I have been in over a month.

After I left the pool and because I was feeling so confident, I went home. I put that stupid leg on and I went to the grocery store with 1 crutch. Yep, I went grocery shopping. On my own. Come on, it’s the little triumphs. So now I have food too. And food is love.

Physical Therapy starts tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes.