In April, Wildomar resident Gidget Giles plans to ride her road bike 100 miles to raise money for her city's three parks --
Her “Century Ride for Park Pride” is slated for April 7, and all sponsor donations will benefit Wildomar parks, she said.
But Giles’ passion to keep the parks open runs deeper than just ensuring plots of green grass in Wildomar: She is pedaling for her health, her children and her community.
“Every little thing counts when it comes to investment in kids,” she said.
A Young Family, A New Home
When Giles moved to Wildomar in 1999 with her husband and two young children, the quiet town seemed like a nice place to raise a family, she said.
“There was a little park next to the house. It was great for the kids,” she explained.
But shortly after moving in, the park – – was closed due to lack of funding. and parks also fell victim.
Giles was upset by the closures and decided to get involved. She didn’t know anyone in town, but she did meet up with , who was advocating on behalf of the parks. Through concerted community efforts, the parks reopened with financial help from a special voter-approved tax to pay for them. But another parks’ shutdown came after a judge ruled the special assessment wasn't legal. Park proponents regrouped and worked to put a retooled proposition to the voters.
“I saw the disappointment in my children as the parks closed,” she said, explaining the difficulty in finding local practice fields for her Little Leaguer. “I think it’s very important that our kids have this space available to them.”
The Road To Healthier Living
Last October, Giles said she started thinking about the 100-mile ride as a way to raise money for the parks. Health had been on her mind. A few years earlier she was realizing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Weight gain and associated health problems began taking a toll on the successful Realtor who was spending more time behind a desk than ever before.
As her less-active ways continued, Giles eventually had an epiphany: “As a mom, what kind of example am I setting for my kids?”
It spurred change. Giles started exercising and really watching what the family put on the table. She was hiking, and was running up to seven miles a day. Her kids were becoming more active too.
But she suffered a setback last year when she blew out her ACL during a martial arts class. A trip to the surgeon fixed the damage, but her recovery was long. Then in November she underwent gallbladder surgery and another layup.
Giles is on the mend though, and doctors have given her the green light for cycling.
“It’s the only activity I’m fully cleared for,” she said, longing for the day she'll be able to run and hike again. She expects doctors will clear her for those activities mid-year.
Just Do It
Giles had started cycling before she blew her knee out, but explained with a humble laugh, “I’m such a novice.”
Her journey to becoming a road warrior began when she saddled up on a hybrid mountain bike outfitted with fat, knobby tires. Not exactly a streamlined street machine.
“I told my husband I was having a hard time on the hills, and he looked at my bike and said, ‘Honey, no wonder ... .'”
They switched out her tires, but she eventually broke down and bought a real road bike. Now she’s pedaling up to 45 miles a day. Her training regimen includes three consecutive days of riding, followed by one day off. Speed, strength and endurance training are all part of the program.
“People tell me that if I can get to 70 miles, then I can do the Century Ride,” she said.
Where Passion Lives
Details of the long ride are still in the works. Giles is working with the cycling community to help her plan the riding route through Southwest Riverside -- Wildomar will be on the map. The April 7 ride day coincides with Wildomar’s annual There could be homage paid to Marna O’Brien Park on the way through town, too, Giles said.
For Giles, who “likes to fly under the radar,” the attention garnered as a result of her upcoming ride is a bit overwhelming. She admits that while the parks are the focus of the effort, there’s more to it.
“We need to invest in places where our kids can be active. If we don’t do this, America’s not going to be in any better shape in 20, 30 years from now,” she said.
If improving the health of a community means working to keep three small city parks open, so be it.
“Every little piece of the puzzle counts,” Giles said.