As most everyone I know is probably already aware of this, last week I participated in the AIDS/LifeCycle. A 545 mile journey on bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles in an effort to raise money and awareness and to end HIV/AIDS. The proceeds directly support the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the folks living with HIV/AIDS supported by those non-profit groups. I chose to participate in the ALC initially as a personal goal for fitness and to face fears and step out of my comfort zone. Once I learned more about the event and heard stories of why others participate I came to understand it’s a whole lot more than just an extreme fitness challenge. The minimum goal is to raise $3000.00, I ended up raising $4,234.25.
When I was first introduced to the ALC we were meeting our friend Philip Diaz at the finish line last year. Cindy convinced me not to sign up there on the spot but to wait till later in the year, just to make sure I’d had time to think about it and that it wasn’t on on impulse. But I think I had set my intentions on it because that November I did sign up. And this was before any training or before I even owned a road bike! I was considering doing the ride on my mountain bike. On the ride itself there were plenty of mountain bikes, cruiser bikes and even a couple of fold up bikes. One rider I know did it on a fixed gear bike! I started training on my mountain bike but quickly decided I should get a road bike. Our good friends at Bay Area Bikes gave me their ALC discount on a Giant Defy 2015 and I entered the world of road cycling for the first time this March. I trained with the East Bay WildCats, an ALC training group (not a team). I met some super nice folks and really enjoyed our training rides in the East Bay which I was told are more challenging than the ride itself.
As the ride itself got closer I began to get nervous and started saying “what did I get myself into”. I was also equally excited and felt I’d done plenty of training. I’d gotten a ton of great advice on what to pack, how to pack and what to expect. Most of it was very helpful. The first day’s ride from the Cow Palace through Pacifica and to Santa Cruz felt great. Through some mixup I ended up tenting alone that night. The next day’s ride inland from Santa Cruz to King City was quite a challenge. Not only was it 109 miles but it was super windy. At one point I was riding at about a 30 degree angle just to keep going.
To be fully accountable I didn’t ride every mile. I ‘SAGged’ a couple of times and I caught a few sweep vehicles on a couple of the days. For me it wasn’t the physical challenge, that got to be too much but rather my anxieties and fears that took over. One of my challenges is downhills and another that the East Bay rides didn’t quite prepare me for was riding on the freeway. And of course bridges. I did end up facing a lot of my fears and rode over most all the bridges and overpasses and the freeway riding turned out not to be so bad. So I’m satisfied I ended up facing a lot of my fears.
A lot of the days blur together, even on the ride I wasn’t always sure what town we were in. In the town of Bradley we were greeted by probably most of the population of 120, selling us hamburgers to raise money for school activities like music, sports and the usual stuff not covered by the budgets. Day 3 was the ‘quadbuster’ and the climbing was no problem for me, as was day two ‘the evil twins’. Day 5 was red dress day. A short riding day, only 42 miles but there was some climbing. But it was super cold and I’d wished I’d dressed for it! Also it was the day we got to Lompoc and Cindy reserved me a room so I got to ‘princess’ one night. Day 6 was Lompoc to Ventura and turned out to be a real nice day, especially after the frigid day 5. I was really comfortable getting back to the beach. I think my years living in Alameda make beach areas especially comfortable. Once we got through the mountains it was smooth sailing down the coast. Camping in Ventura was on the beach and the candlelight vigil was held. I stood out on the beach waiting for the main throng of people to hold the vigil on the beach but I got too cold and tired and called it early in the tent. Day 7 was an amazing ride all along the coast to Santa Monica and on to LA. I took it as slow as I could and hung back at the rest stops and lunch so CIndy could have time to reach the finish line before me.
But I could only hold back so much, I waited till the kaboos (a red van that signals the end of the route. if you stay back enough for the kaboos to catch up, you get SAGged!). I think I might have been one of the very last riders in, not because of my ability but because I was waiting for Cindy but alas, I had to beat the kaboos in and rode in before she had a chance to get to the finish line. However my brother Books and his family was there, waiting patiently for me and cheered me on to the end!
I’ve been asked a lot since the ride if I’d ever do it again. I have to say my answer is that I’m never one to say never and though I’m very glad I did it I doubt I will again. For one thing it took great effort and many hours of training that took me away from Cindy most importantly but also cut into making music. And also, Cindy and I want to do a lot of traveling and I’d much rather pick something that we can do together.