Challenging Myself Beyond Endurance Sports

Over the past year, I’ve taken a big step back from running. I wasn’t really enjoying it like I once had and to be quite honest, my body wasn’t tolerating 7, 8, and 9 mile runs anymore. But, of course, I couldn’t sit around and do nothing.

After Christmas, I spent a few days in Utah where I snowboarded for the first time since college. It was fun (if you think falling is fun) and challenging for me. Having grown up skiing and living in Colorado, it reminded me how much I love the snow and the feeling of being on the chairlift and seeing the mountain below me. So after returning home, I started researching programs that offer adaptive ski instruction. I found out about the Torrey Pines Kiwanis Ski Scholarship Program that provides disabled athletes with the opportunity to go to Durango, CO for a week and ski with the Adaptive Sports Association (ASA). I applied and was selected to participate for a week in February.

It was amazing. This time I decided to ski because that is what I had grown up doing and I was finding snowboarding very difficult for me because I was unable to maneuver my prosthetic appropriately for snowboarding. I am so happy I decided to ski because I picked it right back up and had a blast skiing for 4 straight days. I was fortunate to be there with ASA and they were so welcoming! Every person was so friendly and helpful. They are doing great things at ASA- each day they have students of all ages in to ski that have a variety of physical and cognitive challenges.

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While there, I had a ski instructor (or 2!) with me each day while I skied Purgatory. MJ was awesome. She challenged me when I needed to be challenged and we explored the mountain all week! Plus, she works for one of the National Parks and was able to give me lessons on the geology and wildlife around.

I also stayed with a wonderful host family, Carol and Mike. It was a really nice week with them as well and I finished the week by making them my famous enchiladas!

There is something so wonderful about growing up in Colorado and then getting off a plane and spending time in the crisp, fresh mountain air. After enjoying my time in Colorado, I decided that next year I will definitely be skiing more!

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

 

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