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Overcoming Boundaries by Accepting a Challenge

This article is part of a series focused on the extraordinary women that make up Team Brigham Health, a four person team of age 60+ women who are competing in the Race Across America. Over the next few months, we'll be bringing you stories from the team as they talk about the challenges they've overcome and what drove them to enter a 3,000 mile bicycle race.

Although “Never say never” is one of my favorite slogans, I can definitely be guilty of holding myself back with restrictive thinking. Five years ago, I learned there are always more possibilities for myself than I can imagine.

In December 2011, I was competing in a Cyclocross race, which features a very challenging mix of paved and off-road surfaces over uneven terrain, when I fell in a narrow part of the course while passing another rider. I fractured my right hip and won myself a complete hip replacement. The day after surgery, I began physical therapy. Because of my injury, walking required the use of a walker for six weeks, and I could only put half of my weight on my right leg.

An active Cyclocross racer, I fractured my hip after a fall - leading to a full hip replacement.

I was able to gingerly get back on my bike only two and a half weeks after the accident. Thanks to my desire, my medical team, and my coach, I rode indoors on my computerized trainer. When I could walk well enough without a cane, I started riding on the road. 

Three months after the hip replacement, I decided to sign up for a climbing challenge on Strava, a cycling and running web site. A Classic Challenge from Specialized dared cyclists to climb more than 105,000 vertical feet in just six weeks. This is three times the total feet of climbing in the Spring Classic races in Europe! 

I love climbing, but it soon became evident that my normal bike routes were not going to amass the climbing feet I needed. So, a few weeks into the challenge, I decided to up my game and opened my eyes to the local hills. The glaciers had cut valleys, and roads ascended the ridges. It was beautiful and fun climbing, giving each ride an immediate purpose. After each ride, I uploaded my information to Strava and checked my progress against my virtual, but real, competitors. 

As I significantly increased the climbing feet per week, I started leapfrogging over people. With two weeks remaining in the challenge, I had managed to claw my way into ninth place among the female riders. My riding took on an obsessive edge. On the last day of the challenge, I set out to climb the steepest hills that I had discovered during the contest. My total rose to 137,772 feet, and I earned 5th place for women and 107th of the nearly 11,000 riders who entered the contest. 

Moving my training to local hills like this one helped me reach new levels of endurance.

The result was something that I never dreamed about when I entered the challenge.  Once I entered, though, I pushed myself to do things that I would not have done otherwise.  Motivation enabled me to ride in abysmal weather descend some steep and scary terrain, and I enjoyed almost every minute of it.  The upshot was that my hip became very strong and my walking improved tremendously.

The first step into any new venture can open up doors formerly thought “closed for the season.”  The focus on climbing helped me strengthen more quickly, and the fitness I accumulated definitely widened the array of events I could take on during my first season back.  

The challenge also taught me to go with the process, work hard, and see what happens – without trying to predict the end of the story.  During Race Across America, I’ll work at applying these same lessons. The training for this race is tough, but by involving myself in this challenge, I am motivated to go well beyond anything I’ve done up until now and get past my self-imposed limitations to see what is truly possible.