Thank you Elk Grove

I wanted to stop by and show my appreciation to my community of Elk Grove, CA which has given to me, as well as many youth, the opportunities, resources and encouragement to succeed.  I thank parents, teachers and coaches who have touched my life since the time I was hitting a ball of a tee.  I want to thank Doug Penney with Elk Grove Babe Ruth for his continual efforts to ensure that these opportunities are available to every kid of our community.  Thank you to my local sponsor Bruce Kaiser at Kinetic Cycles, whom without, I would be riding a Huffy around the nation.  Much appreciation to Katie Freeman and the Elk Grove Citizen.  Thank you Ray Porter for ALWAYS being there with support, confidence and a few jokes to put everything into perspective.  Thank you Louis and Lesley Corpuz, recently acquainted friends, who have quickly become family.  A big thank you to the Zimmerle family for the many obstacles they have helped me overcome on the business side (the side of this I don’t like to deal with).  Thank you Viccy Lee and Audio Asylum, for providing the inspiraitonal theme song for my ride, “Brand New Day”, available on iTunes.  I thank and appreciate every member in our community who is actively making a difference, the smallest sometimes being the most influential.  And lastly, I would like to thank my friends and family, a small group of strong people from whom I gather inspiration, courage, love and a smile.

Thank you Elk Grove, for all you have done for me.  I look forward to my return next year, and making as remarkable of a difference, as you have for me.

Follow every mile of 11,000 and stay up-to-date with recently added video blogs, pictures and location on Facebook (Teddy Herrera) and Twitter (@onepedalatatime).

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Failure

I was inspired to write this blog after reading a tweet from a fellow cyclist/activist, Matt McClellan www.tourdepizza.com, simply stating, “Failure is NOT an option”.  I jokingly retweeted with, “What’s failure?”, as if I had never heard of the word before.  Then I started to think, what does it really mean to fail?  I, along with a majority of people, have never looked up the word “failure” in a dictionary.  I avoid using this family of vocabulary, which includes, “can’t” and “try”, but that’s another blog.  When I typed this word in the title of this blog, I made a face like I had noticed a foul odor, the one when you crinkle your nose and you squint your eyes, because it didn’t look like it was spelled correctly.  I hit spell check after writing one word, “failure”, with WordPress responding, “No characters to check”.  I then went to the information highway, the internet.  I came across this definition;

fail·ure (flyr)
n. 1. The condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends: the failure of an experiment.

2. One that fails: a failure at one’s career.

[Alteration of failer, default, from Anglo-Norman, from Old French faillir, to fail; see fail.]
 
(Sidenote: It is ironic that it originates from a French word.  Just kidding!)
 
The first definition hit home with me and it put the word into perspective.  “… not achieving the desired end or ends”.  But what if you do desire the end or ends?  Or you desire the end or ends so badly, that you are willing to spend the entirety of your lifetime to reach the desired end or ends?  Is it failing if you have to attempt multiple times, the end or ends still desirable, to reach your goal?  Another well-known phrase came to mind, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again”.  There is a reason why it wasn’t written, “If at first you fail, try again”, because if you’re trying again, the end is still very desireable to you.
 
A good friend, whom works at a local gym, told me the other day, “I normally would be worried about someone riding their bike around the nation by themselves.  But given your past experiences, and the conviction I see in yours eyes when you talk about it (childhood obesity), convinces me that not only are you going to finish this ride, but succeed in making a difference” – Kyle Cain.  My local bike shop sponsor, Kinetic Cycles, was also skeptical of my capabilities, which was very warranted.  At first glance, I appear to be an ex-athlete who woke up one day and said, “I think I want to ride a bike 11,000 miles today”.  After an in-depth conversation, they notated my conviction, as I did theirs, and partnered with Across America for Childhood Obesity in the fight against this epidemic.
 
Make no mistake, the end of changing the way our youth lead their lives and creating opportunities for physical activity is extremely desireable, indescribable by words.  Remember back in high school, when your class was acting badly throughout class, and after the bell rings your teacher holds you in your seats as punishment?  And the most common statement made by your teacher was, “I’ll wait here all day for you to quiet down, I don’t have anywhere to go”.  Well, I am the teacher right now, and the student is childhood obesity.  I’m not going to lie, I don’t have any obligations in the near future.  I am 24 years old, I don’t have a mortgage, I have five more payments on my car note, I haven’t been in a relationship for four years, and don’t have any children.  And whether it takes me the estimated ten months, or ten years, to complete Across America for Childhood Obesity’s first campaign, it will get done, I will succeed, and together with organizations across our nation, we will make a difference. 
 
Matt McClellan was right, failure is NOT an option, it is a CHOICE.  A conscious decision when the end becomes undesirable for you.  I’ll wait here all day for childhood obesity to quiet down, I don’t have anywhere to be.            
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One day I will not be able to..

“One day I will not be able to (blank), but today will not be that day” – Author unknown. This was a quote that was repeated by a cancer survivor, struggling everyday to find the will to live. Everyday she filled in the blank with a different word or phrase, the challenge of that day. One day she was unable to get out of her hospital bed, legs numb from days of being bounded to her bed. She filled in the blank, “One day I will not be able to walk, but today will not be that day”. Using every ounce of strength, she was determined not to make that day the day she would cease walking. In other times of despair, she would use the quote to take nothing for granted. “One day I will not be able to hug my daughter, but today will not be that day”, thus cherishing every moment spent with her daughter.

September 11, 2007, the day I understood the meaning of this quote. Driving home on an autumn evening in Elk Grove, CA exhausted from a grueling training session, all I could think about was getting into a hot shower. As I turned the corner onto my street, I saw my garage door open between the golden orange leaves of the tree in my front yard. As I passed the uniformity of my suburb street, with redwood trees in every yard, I noticed a figure in the garage. I made out the shadowed figure as my dad’s, by the pep in his step when he walked, caused by a certain joy he possessed about life. He was working on organizing the garage for it seemed like the hundredth time, due to abundant supply of sporting equipment we had. This time he was searching for old cleats we had worn in previous years, to hand down to a friend’s son, whom had never played baseball before. As determined as he was, it was an impossible task, to search through the unorganized, yet neatly stacked, green storage totes, three racks high. As I pull into the driveway, he stops to welcome me home. I open my car door and verbally greet my father, “Hey dad, what are you doing?” “Hey son, I’m looking for your guys’ old cleats. Have you seen them anywhere?” I let out a chuckle, for I knew how big of a challenge it was to locate anything in my garage. “No, but I’ll help you look real quick.” I struggle to lift myself from my leather seat, my drenched shirt stuck to the seat, peels off with the sound of Velcro. I spent all of ten minutes searching for the cleats with him before he looks over with a concerned look on his face, sweat running down his round face originating from his thick moustache, fogging up his glasses, begging me to take a shower. “Son, you stink.” As a kid, my father would always tease me and my younger brother when we notated that there was a foul odor with a smile and this response, “Maybe it’s your upper lip.” At that moment, I recalled the phrase in my head, but didn’t utter it, for my sense of humor had evolved over the years since being five years old. I laughed in remembrance of that phrase and because it was true, I did stink. I headed inside to let the hot shower water massage my body.

After an abnormally short shower, I dried off and headed to the living room. I remember thinking that it was a brief shower, for something was on my mind but I couldn’t pin point it. I had to get out of the shower. As I enter my living room, I see my mother and father sitting side by side, on a brand new brown leather couch, which replaced an old red, green and blue plad couch, with the yellow memory foam visible in multiple areas. This was an odd occurrence for two reasons: One, my father never sat down on the couch, for he was always doing something to better the household, his family or his business. And two, although happily married, after 20 years of marriage, it was a rarity to see my parents sitting together. At that very moment, I witnessed my father pass away of a sudden cardiac arrest. Forty-seven years old and ten pounds under the average weight for his age. Although he was a slender man, he certainly enjoyed life and all it had to offer, including the food and beverages. The next day, I remembered the quote of the cancer survivor, but it had changed for me. “One day I will not be able to search through the organized rubble in my garage with my father, and today is that day.”

This is what is motivating me everyday of my life, and the decisions I make within those days. And it is for my father, for whom I ride for. Initially, I was going to ride for the American Heart Association, but then started thinking. My father’s health problems didn’t start, but ended, with an unhealthy heart. They started for as long as he could recall, with a poor diet and not exercising regularly. And riding my bicycle for ways to improve an unhealthy heart would be a temporary solution to the problem at hand, unhealthy lifestyles. Thus, I will be riding 11,000 miles, to over 20 major cities, to raise awareness on childhood obesity, educate parents on how to set the standards on leading healthy lifestyles to avoid health issues later in life, and motivate kids to get out and actively chase their dreams. And as demonstrated by my father, we understand that obesity is not an unhealthy size, but an unhealthy lifestyle.

Growing up in Elk Grove, CA, I was privileged to have the sporting facilities and community involvement to play on an athletic team year around. I played baseball, football and basketball, with baseball being my favorite sport. My involvement on these teams, directly influence the way I led my lifestyle, and the development of the person I have become. Across America for Childhood Obesity has three focal points, in which I will be actively fulfilling every mile of my 11,000 mile roundtrip. Firstly, to create these same athletic opportunities and extend them to the younger generation within the inner-city communities, where space, resources and participation are major challenges. Through these organized physical activity outlets, the community will be able to set the example of leading a healthy lifestyle. Secondly, to reach out to youth through any outlet possible, speaking at assemblies, schools, sporting events, to motivate, encourage and demonstrate to the youth that anything is possible. Last year, I was honored when invited to speak at my high school, Laguna Creek, on motivating the students to perform to their best ability on a California standardized test. It was through this speech, when I discovered my passion for reaching out to the youth of my community. Since then, I have been a frequent speaker at local elementary and middle schools, and look forward to reaching out to the schools throughout our great nation. And lastly, Across America for Childhood Obesity will actively support, promote, organize events and volunteer at locally based organizations with common goals, creating lifelong partnerships, further projecting our message on a larger scale.

You have to understand, I am not a professional bicyclist. I haven’t trained for years to get my legs into the conditioning necessary to caring me through this endeavor without complications. I will get tired, I will get injured, and I will come across days where the last thing I want to do is sit on my bike, let alone ride a hundred miles to my next checkpoint. But when I am unable to lift my legs, that is when my heart will do the pedaling. The most frequent phrase running through my campaign, Across America for Childhood Obesity, is “One (blank) at a time.” Whenever I feel overwhelmed by any obstacle, I take a step back and break down the obstacle to the simplest form. Think about your biggest challenge of the day and follow me through the paragraph. In the near future, the biggest challenge I face is an 11,000 mile bicycle ride, roundtrip through the United States of America, to over twenty major cities. Sounds impossible, but I am not going to be doing it all at once. If you break it down, that’s twenty-one stages from city to city averaging five hundred and twenty-three point eight miles a stage. Doesn’t sound as impossible as before, but still highly unobtainable. Simplify even further, 11,000 stages of one mile, riding one mile at a time. Even further, to the simplest form, and we arrive to “One pedal at a time”. There it is. It is only a series of one pedal after one pedal and you don’t need to accomplish anything more than one pedal. For I am not fighting one big battle, of an 11,000 mile bicycle ride, but many small, highly obtainable battles of a single pedal. And when you add up all of those little victories, before you know it I will be in New York City, Atlanta, Galveston, and ultimately returning to my hometown of Elk Grove, CA. And I am telling you right now, whether you believe or not, I do, if you can ride a bicycle and win the battle of one pedal, you can ride 11,000 miles. True story. And that is what I want the youth of our great nation to understand. Anything in life that may seem impossible, isn’t.

I will be departing Elk Grove, CA, initiating a ten month roundtrip to accomplish the mission of Across America for Childhood Obesity. I will ride through the northern states during the summer, down the east coast through the fall, and returning to California through the southern states in the winter. Every week or two, I will reach a check point with a family member or friend, where I will pick up supplies, nutritional supplements, and bicycle parts shipped to me by my local sponsor Kinetic Cycles, here in Elk Grove, CA. I will stay in contact via my Facebook page (Teddy Herrera), my Facebook fan page (Across America for Childhood Obesity), my Twitter account (@onepedalatatime), my blog (acrossamericaforchildhoodobesity.wordpress.com), email (acrossamericaforobesity@gmail.com), mobile phone (916-479-3865) and video blogs posted on YouTube. I will be relying on partnered bicycle clubs and bicycle shops in each community to map out the best routes to my next destination. Although I drafted an itinerary of arrival dates, I will have a better idea of my estimated time of arrival as I near your community, and will have an exact date of arrival a month in advance.

The days are counting down and the training sessions are becoming more strenuous with each day. With the tremendous support from friends and family, I will stroke my first pedal on Saturday, June 5th, winning the first battle of many to come. I am excited to reach out to youth and touch as many lives as possible on my journey. As well as see our vast country along side my father in my side car, invisible side car of course. I thank you for your support, and words of encouragement. And I look forward to my arrival into your community, making an impact on how our youth lead their lives. “One day I will not be able to make a difference, but today will not be that day!”

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I had a dream.. now I have a few

I swing my bat down toward my left foot to give my cleat cleaning, freeing it of all debris.  Even though they were rubber cleats that rarely collected dirt, it made me feel like a big leaguer.  As I raise my head, the bill of my helmet slowly unveils a classic baseball scenario told by the few working lights of the scoreboard.  “B” Division championship, bottom of the 6th, the score is knotted at 4 and I am leading off the inning.  I take a deep breath while I look down once more to tap my right cleat with my bat.  With an exaggerated exhale, I look back to the enormous silhouette of the umpire and slowly raise my right hand, allowing me time to become comfortable in the box.  Digging with my right foot on the chalk line in the back of the box, I grind the bat with both hands, twisting the handle.  I get into the rhythm of the moment by performing perfectly timed half swings, like a conductor keeping his band in uniform.  The pitcher and I exchange intimidating stares, at least as intimidating as a little leaguer can appear. 

On my third half swing, the pitcher initiates his windup by taking a step back with his left foot.  He raises both hands above and behind his head resembling pitchers of past generations.  With no hesitation, he kicks up his left knee towards his chest and lunges forward, pushing off of the rubber with his right foot.  His right hand exits his glove with the ball and is in a windmill motion coming towards me.  When his arm reaches the top of the windmill, every things pauses.  The crowd that was clapping and cheering, is no longer moving.  The third base coach, my dad, freezes mid sentence, “You can do it son, give it…”.  Even my own feet seem to be cemented into the light brown dirt of the batter’s box at this particular moment.  The reason everything stopped, keeping everyone still, was because I recognized the pitch at the top of the motion.  And any baseball player can attest to this occurrence.  Although it is rare, when you play baseball long enough it is bound to happen to you.  I fix my eyes on the right hand of the pitcher which is right next to his right ear, almost as if the ball is whispering into the pitchers ear, “pssst, he sees me, he knows what pitch is coming, throw me in the dirt”.  His index finger, middle finger and thumb squeeze the ball tighter, maybe to put a muzzle on it, or in attempt to put a few extra miles on it.  His fingers are spread two inches on the top of the ball, with his thumb securing the bottom.  Fastball. 

I hear the crowd continue cheering, the third base coach, “You can do it son, give it a whack!”, and the pitcher abruptly resumes his motion.  Arriving in under a second, the ball enters the strike zone and I am going to make sure the pitcher knows it.  Seeing the fastball out of the hand, I take a small stride and quick coil.  With a mighty swing, I feel the thunderous vibration of the bat in my hands immediately followed by the release of the ball jumping off my bat. I strike the ball to the left gap between the center and left fielder; both are scrambling to obtain the ball which is rattling on the chain link fence.  I round first base and nearly trip over my own feet consumed in adrenaline.  I quickly gather myself and my rubber cleat safely stomps on second base.  The crowd goes wild and initiates a championship chant, for we are sure to win.  With three chances to advance me two bases, the odds are in our favor. 

I clap my hands with my batting gloves muffling the sound, cheering on the next batter.  Ryan Gardner is approaching the plate, who has two hits under his belt in the earlier innings of the game.  My dad gives the signal and Ryan steps into the box with determination in his eyes looking over two eye black stripes on his cheeks.  The pitcher begins his delivery, slightly jerking and visibly shaken by the situation at hand.  His left foot steps back, hands fly back over his head, left knee comes to his chest and he pushes off the rubber to send his pitch towards the plate.  As the pitch is mid-flight, I notice the infielders inch back in anticipation of a hard hit ball.  I fixate back onto the pitch as it enters the strike zone.  Ryan begins his swing with a stride toward the pitcher.  At this moment, his right hand slides up the bat resting at the start of the barrel and he kneels lower to the ground.  It’s a bunt!  The ball hits the bat and the bunt rolls perfectly down the third baseline, flirting with the chalk foul line numerous times.  The third baseman is caught off guard, back on his heels and is forced to run in, off-balance, to field the ball.  With nobody occupying third base, I seize this opportunity to advance.  The third baseman fields the ball and with no hesitation heaves it to first base.  As I round third base, tapping the bag with my right foot, my dad holds both arms up signaling me to stop in my tracks. I turn towards the field just in time to see the ball leave the third baseman’s hand.  The ball is released and is slowly gaining height as it continues on the path toward first base.  The ball gets closer to it’s destination but also continues to gain height.  The first baseman jumps with all the strength he could muster on such quick notice and reaches up with his 12 inch glove to snag the ball.  Completely stretched out, the first baseman seems to be in the air for an eternity.  He closes his glove at the peak of his leap and begins his descent, touching first base before Ryan reaches safely.  But to the surprise of everyone in attendance, the first baseman has a horrified look on his face as he looks in his glove, the ball was not there.  He quickly spins around toward the outfield to see the ball rolling along the fence.  I pick up my sprint again down the third baseline but it seems home plate is getting further away with every step.  I finally cross home with a glorious stomp on the plate, in attempt to monument this moment by stamping my rubber cleat on it.  We were the champions.

That is the furthest back into my childhood, where I can think back and feel as if I was reliving it all over again.  I can see and feel the Nike cleats with gray shoelaces I wore, that never collected dirt, but still clean after every pitch.  I can smell the hot dogs cooking in anticipation of the end of a game and the sound of the traffic on the 99 freeway constantly rolling by the church fields.  I can remember many things about my childhood, but for some odd reasons they are all sport related moments. 

My name is Teddy Herrera, 24 years old from Elk Grove, CA.  I have been an Elk Grove resident and participating in the Elk Grove youth sporting leagues for the past 20 years.  From my championship game winning run, I went on to have a solid baseball career.  I lettered three years in both baseball and football at Laguna Creek High School, graduating in 2004.  After my high school career, I walked on to the baseball team at the University of Arizona, playing with them for a year.  That is the point of my career where I knew I can do more than play baseball and chase only my own dream.  I had gained a passion for helping others and knew I had the tools to allow others to make their dreams come true.  And for me, if I could help two other people make their dream a reality, it would serve greater than my own.  I returned back to my home in Elk Grove to do what I could to give back to the community that had given me so many opportunities to succeed.  I coached baseball in the local Babe Ruth League and returned to my high school to assist with the rebuilding of our program.  It wasn’t until a few months ago, when I realized that helping others obtain their dreams, was my dream.  Although doing all I could to help with the development of out youth, I knew I always could do more.  I was right.

Last month, I created an organization Across America for Childhood Obesity to combat, ultimately eliminating, childhood obesity in the inner-city communities of our great nation where limited resources hinder the opportunities for physical activity.  This June 5th, I will initiate my organization’s first campaign by embarking on an 11,000 mile bicycle ride around our nation, to raise awareness on the epidemic of childhood obesity.  I will be speaking at schools/rallies/sporting events, organizing awareness events with organizations forming lifelong partnerships and speaking through media outlets, further projecting my message on a larger scale.  My trip will encompass over 20 major cities and amount to a duration of 10 months, creating every opportunity to reach out to youth.  All of my efforts are in hopes of motivating the youth to become a more active generation than ones before, giving them the confidence to create their own championship moment, in any arena of life they choose.

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