About Operation Pedal 4 Vets

Follow my journey of raising awareness and funds for The Boot Campaign as I train to ride my bicycle on RAGBRAI (400+ miles across the state of Iowa) while wearing combat boots!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Op Recap

Ever since I boarded the bus to come home from RAGBRAI, I've been trying to figure out a way to describe the past week, and even past few months, that have been this journey. I lost my voice midway through the week talking about my Op and the Boot Campaign to those that I met on the road and in towns. I hope I can find the words to tell you all just how humbling this experience has been and how appreciative I am of the overwhelming support.

Being a "planner" by personality and profession, I knew going into this journey there would be known and unknown challenges. 

Prior to even getting on my bike with the boots on, these were the challenges I anticipated:
- Pain and blisters from the boots (Thankfully this didn't happen)
- Losing pedal power and having a harder time getting up hills from the lack of clips (Unfortunately, this did happen but I didn't have to walk up a single hill! Every time I felt like it was too hard, someone would yell out "Nice boots!" or I'd see a military branch jersey and I knew I couldn't let them down.)
- Possibility of having to figure out modifications to the pedal cranks to accommodate for the boot being wider than a typical riding shoe (Flat pedals worked better than expected but I did bruise up my shin from slipping a few times)
- Wet feet due to the boots making my feet sweat or not drying as fast as biking sandals. I HATE having wet feet! (My worst 'fear' for this Op happened on Friday. Rain, rain, wet boots, rain, wet feet. But I ran into some National Guard members that were also in their soaking wet boots as they handed out water. A great reminder that I had nothing to complain about.)

Putting perspective on boot puddles!

These are some of the challenges I've experience that I was NOT anticipating:
- Losing my voice from talking so much, especially on the windy days. A lot of people asked questions or made comments while riding. "Did you forget your biking shoes?",  "Nice boots!" and of course "Do those have clips?".
- The reaction I received from people when I told them about my Op. Body language changed, smiles emerged, eyes softened, some voices cracked as they either told me they themselves were veterans or that they had family members and friends that are service members. I knew people would be supportive, it's for a good cause! but the connection between the military and civilians is larger than I anticipated. I hope any service member reading this knows that there are people, and organizations out there that care, that are supportive, that are willing to help and no matter what, you are not alone!
- How emotional I got thinking about the support I was receiving. I shared this story as a status on my Facebook page, it was one of the most beautiful moments of the trip: "Tonight an older gentleman asked about my boots. After hearing the info he informed me he's a Vietnam vet, he reached into his pocket and gave me $1 telling me he knows that isn't enough but he's barely surviving on social security alone but he was grateful for what I was doing. It really puts into perspective the value of a dollar when someone is willing to give you their last one." 

One night while in my team camp I was talking to a teammate as we discussed my Op and why I was doing this. My simple answer all week had been "My father is a Vietnam vet and many of my friends have served."  The more my teammate and I talked, I realized it's more than that, veteran support has always been a passion of mine but before now I didn't feel like I could make a difference. I am not famous, I am not rich, I do not have a large network of powerful people I can call to get things done. I'm a plain jane who just happens to be patriotic and ride a bike! It's amazing what the 'average' person can do however, when we set our minds to it and have such overwhelming support from those that believe in a cause. I hope everyone knows that your kind words were heard and that they helped motivate me every day!

Looking back now it's hard to believe that my 'Op' is over, but I hope it has inspired individuals to do something they think they couldn't. I also hope it showed our service members that there are people out there that support what you have done and are doing for our country. Although I didn't hit my goal for fundraising, I know the donations we made to the Boot Campaign will go towards some fantastic resources and support to those that need them. 

These boots and I were fortunate to stand in front of the stone memorial walls that housed the names of those that gave all, as well as stand next to some of our brave men and women that answered the call to serve our country. This is a week and 400+ miles I will never forget. Thank you all for your support!

UPDATE: The donations goal of $4,180 was not only met, but surpassed! The final total raised for the Boot Campaign is $4,235!!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

One More Day

Only 67 miles and 3,000 feet of climb stand between me and completing Operation Pedal 4 Vets as RAGBRAI comes to an end tomorrow. 

This week has been challenging, uplifting, pariotic and memorable. I was getting emotional tonight just thinking about it coming to an end. Once I get back I'll be uploading photos and give an update blog post. 

Although the bike ride ends tomorrow, I still have a ways to go to reach my fund raising goal. The link to donate: http://www.crowdrise.com/oppedal4vets/fundraiser/laceyh. The 'fee' the website charges is optional and can be adjusted to 0.

Thank you for your support! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Wind... Heat... And generous people! 

That has been my experience during the first 3 days of RAGBRAI. While riding I have met community leaders that wanted to show off their memorial and tell me their future plans to expand and I've meet some pretty tough looking guys that even they were even impressed with my choice to ride in boots. I've also been blessed with a lot of Facebook posts and texts filled with encouraging words from those not riding. Most importantly, I've met service members that I could tell were genuinely grateful for what I was doing. 

We have 4 more days to go. Boots On! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Service Member Spotlight: My Hero, My Dad

I'm extremely excited to share with you the final, and to me, the most important Service Member Spotlight, my father Larry. He raised me to be independent, a little stubborn, and to complete anything I started. He also taught my brothers and I to respect our flag, our country and our veterans. I will always remember looking up to my father as a child as we stood for the national anthem; in that moment, when he stood a little straighter, a little taller, that is when I could see the Marine in him. He will always be my first hero. I love you dad and thank you for everything you have done for me, I hope to make you proud next week.

Military branch / term(s) of service: United States Marine Corps

Tour(s): Viet Nam--1969 --1970
My father with my brothers and myself

What do your boots mean to you? Boots are your connection to the ground, and good jungle combat boots have some protective aspects (lamenated puncture proof metal in the soles), as well as preventatiave features(breathable nylon sides to help your feet dryout in the heat, and also in the monsoon season.
Do you still wear your boots? The Marines were not allowed to bring home our jungle boots, but I still have my leather state side boots.  Still polished up, and in a closet.  Just a reminder that I was there, and was lucky enough to come back.  I don't wear them, as they are a little small for my feet now.  Also, I just can't bring my self to "wear them out".

Tips or tricks for breaking in the boots: We used to get a new pair of boots, and fill them with warm water for about 10 minutes.  Then wear a couple pair of dry sock, put them on for the day, and they would "dry fit" to our feet.

Suggestions / advice for getting through the tough times during RAGBRAI?  Think positive with a can do attitude.  When the physical stress and pain starts to appear, just think about good things and good people, and not about the physical pain.  It will help you endure.

What should civilians know about how to support veterans? Many ways.  community actions.  Wearing part of your uniform on Veterans Day.  Support the local Memorial Day programs.  Also don't for get the Paralyzed Veterans Association, Wounded Warriors, and other associations that support the veterans who have returned with physical, and emotional issues from their service time.  Be sure to check out your favorite vet charity for their giving records to the vets.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


For those that are unfamiliar with RAGRBAI, here is some quick information to get you up to speed:

History: RAGBRAI stands for the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. It is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state. Heading into its 42nd year, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world.

The route starts on the west side of the state traveling east, passing through different towns each year. It’s tradition to ‘dip’ your back tire in the Missouri River at the start and then ‘dip’ your front tire in the Mississippi River when you finish, a symbol of riding across the entire state. This year, along with my tires, I’ll be dipping the heels and toes of my boots.

Route: Iowa is not flat! Ok, it’s flat compared to some other states but you really get an appreciation of the terrain when you are pedaling up a hill. Add in some head wind and it can make for a tough ride. However, while traveling 16 miles an hour on a backroad highway, you really do get to experience the views of Iowa: farmsteads, beautiful landscapes, and of course CORN.  You’d probably miss seeing a lot of those items while speeding down the main interstates. It’s also wonderful to see the communities welcome the riders. It’s a great opportunity for them to showcase their town (some not even big enough to be towns!) and the hospitality is always welcoming after a long day. This year's route is 418 miles and we will be traveling the upper portion of the state.

My team: For the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to ride with a wonderful bike club call the Tall Dogs. There are about 125 of us that will be riding during RAGBRAI. They are based out of central Iowa but we have a large group that are located in the Kansas City area. We also have members that come from all over the country as well as a couple guys from Finland!
Tall Dog Bike Club

My Op's RAGBRAI plan: During the week I'll be stopping at the VFWs and American Legions in each town (if available). Additionally, if the town has a memorial I'll be stopping to pay my respects to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. I hope this will help showcase the local community support as well as put faces to the inspiration behind my campaign.
Graettinger Memorial

Thank you for your support!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Service Member Spotlight - Sgt. G

Thanks Sergeant G for answering my questions and for the "advice" on getting through the tough times. I'll be thinking of that when I'm pedaling up the hills in a headwind!

Military branch / term of service: Army, 10 years

Tour(s):  1 combat tour Afghanistan

What do your boots mean to you? I've had many boot over the years, they have carried me many miles to many countries. They been clean and polished, they've been stained and dirty, without them I would not have made my trek.

Do you still wear your boots?  I still wear them, they may become a different pair but they are cared for with the same respect as I knelt with before the boots of my fallen brothers.

Tips or tricks for breaking in the boots: The only thing that truly breaks in a pair of boot is wear. Slow wear over time increasing in distance as you go.

Suggestions / advice for getting through the tough times during RAGBRAI? Advice? You're not getting shot at and carrying 80 pounds. Ranger up and push through, no one likes a quitter!

What should civilians know about how to support veterans? The best way to support a veteran is to help build the sense of community and make sure the are part of it. Help them find that higher purpose the had in the army. An ice cold beer is also nice.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Service Member Spotlight - Kevin

A very special thank you to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions and for sending these wonderful photos of the Graettinger memorial. We will be going through Graettinger during RAGBRAI and I look forward to taking a picture in front of this memorial with my boots!

Military branch / term(s) of service: Army National Guard/1979-2005

Tour(s): Operation Enduring Freedom 2002-2003

What do your boots mean to you? Next to a soldier’s personal weapon, his boots are one of his/her most prized possessions.  Both are similar in that if you take good care of them, they will take good care of you.

Over my 25 year career, I have had the privilege and honor to conduct many military funerals for soldiers and veterans.  The image of “The Soldiers Cross” now comes to mind.  As I have lost two soldiers recently from PTSD after their return from Afghanistan.  I am sure many of you have seen the pictures of the display of a pair of combat boots, and inverted rifle with the soldier’s helmet and dog tags hanging from it.  The helmet and identification tags signify the fallen soldier. The inverted rifle with bayonet signals a time for prayer and a break in the action to pay tribute to our comrade. The combat boots represent the final march of the last battle.  So I guess when I pull out my old combat boots these days, it reminds me of the sacrifices our past and present veterans have made and continue to make.

Do you still wear your boots? Upon my retirement, I had multiple pairs of combat boots.  I began my construction business in 2005 and they were the best pair of boots I ever had to do concrete work.  I have another pair of cold weather gortex boots I use during these cold Iowa winters when I’m clearing snow.  I do have two old pair that I still use, but will be keeping the others as keepsakes.
Tips or tricks for breaking in the boots: The best tip I could give to break in boots would to wear them a few hours each day for about a week.  Then they should be stretched and flexible enough to begin training for your big ride.
Suggestions / advice for getting through the tough times during RAGBRAI?   I don’t know if this will be of benefit, but whenever we as a group did a 5 mile run for instance, we always stayed as a unit and this always seemed to make it easier.  So stay in a group or at least in pairs.  And of course, you can always soften the pain with a few cold ones at the local watering holes.
What should civilians know about how to support veterans?  I guess by showing love and respect for our flag and country.  Appreciate the freedoms you now have and reflect not just on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, but often, of the sacrifices that our veterans and their families continue to make on their behalf.
"Dedicated to the men and women of our community who came from every walk of life to serve our county in war and peace so that we can enjoy the freedoms of democracy."