I pulled on my bright green chili pepper socks. I purposefully selected these exact socks for this ride because I was already feeling rocket-hot and I hadn’t even left the house!
This past Sunday I packed up my gear and drove out to the country for a small organized ride (3 others who also are training for our 545 mile ride in the AIDS/LifeCycle).
The weather was utterly fantastic, a cool start and warming up to 75 degrees F. The sun peeked through the clouds as the wind picked up just a little. It felt so good to get outside and ride my bike again after last weekend’s disappointing outcome and I even saw the beginning of the wild flowers coming out too! It was just a hint, but a clear indication that Spring is around the corner.
I was soaking it up, and we were FLYING! Well, I felt like we were flying.
19, 20, 22 mph!
It feels pretty amazing when you can go faster than the recommended speed on local signage.
I was feeling like hot stuff. I never ride that fast, but this day was special, and I WAS CRANKING IT OUT!
Until I wasn’t.
We stopped at a local gas for a quick rest and snack before heading out for the last 10 miles of this 40 mile loop. The plan was to head back out for another 16 for a 56 mile day.
I mounted my bike and we headed down the road. We turned the corner, right into the headwind and my legs screamed in outrage!
Oh, right. I don’t ride 19, 20, or 22 mph. Ever. That was a tailwind and somehow I didn’t realize it. Now it was time to pay my dues for the earlier speed fest.
I should have known, it is always more windy in February. And there isn’t much to slow a huge headwind barreling down the grassy fields while riding out in the country. But I was chili pepper hot! And clueless.
35 miles, I knew there would be no second loop for me.
38 miles, the countdown began. Just 2 more miles until the car (and the glorious chocolate milk at the car that was beckoning my return).
39.2 miles… just keep spinning.
39.7… you’re going to make it. Just move your legs. It doesn’t matter how slow. Just Move Your Legs.
40 miles. Car. Chocolate milk. And a hug from my team leader. I needed that.
To be fair, it was one of the fastest rides I’ve accomplished! Average speed was 15.2 which is ~2 mph faster than I was last year. It’s great progress! Hard earned progress.
I’ll be back at it next week, more miles, but not nearly as fast. And thats okay. It’s not a race, it’s a ride. And the purpose of the ride isn’t about my speed, its about the cause. Good reminders.
Today is another drizzly riding day, but I’m staying dry in my car as I am volunteering for SAG support in a training ride series I participate in. SAG is an acronym for Support And Gear. Today I will be part of the vehicle support team that can help carry tire pumps, medical kits, and can transport cyclists back to the start if they run into mechanical trouble or just run out of steam.
I’ll admit that I would rather be on my bike with everyone else, but I’m so appreciative for others who volunteer thier time to support all the rides that I have been on so I feel great that I can give a little of that bike love back to others.
But not to worry, I’ll be back in the saddle logging the miles tomorrow. And tomorrow is already looking like a lovely spring day in Texas!
Yesterday I moaned heavily about missing a training day due to rain, and instead I went to spin class. As we discussed spin class is just not my thing.
Today the rain has passed and I celebrated by heading outside for a great day!
Now, after a 1.8 mile ride I’m driving an hour back home.
It’s 36 degrees with a 16 mph headwind and 89% humidity. I’ve been informed that the feels like temperature is 26 degrees. Let’s be honest, mother nature just schooled me big time! Living in Texas, I’m not appropriately prepared for these conditions no matter what my pride says.
So I’ve found my motivation to go back to spin class.
Advice asked, advice received. Thanks mother nature. It’s just what I needed.
Spin Class is an incredible workout! It is hard, effective for training, and I hate everything about it. Not just a mild dislike, but a full on 60 minutes of loathing.
I love riding my bike because I get to be outside, to see nature, feel the breeze, hear the sounds of birds chirping and the wind rustling tree leaves. I get to make friends with nature! The fact that I can propel myself somewhere brings me a sense of incredible freedom and joy.
Spin class takes all those wonderful things about bike riding and shoves it outside the gym doors.
IT’S HARD. I get that this is the point. But if we are being honest, I never work as hard as i do in spin class on a normal ride.
NO COASTING. This makes me so sad. If you stop pedaling your bike in spin class, your computer/metrics-counter and the wheel just flat-out stop. There is no hum of a tire coasting on the road to celebrate your past efforts. Just the sound of silence (not in a pleasant Simon and Garfunkel way either).
YOU DON’T GO ANYWHERE. All that sprinting and you end up right where you started.
YOU’RE INSIDE A GYM. No nature to take in, no sights to see except my own ugly, exercise face in a huge mirror. Could we at least point the bikes toward a window?
I will admit that the music was cool today. Mardi Gras themed Zydeco music for the occasion. So there was my silver lining.
Anyway, tell me, guide me, teach me please! How do you motivate to get through spin class when the rain clouds are around?
I do. It was the first year I volunteered for the AIDS/LifeCycle. I stood in the parking lot on a chilly San Francisco morning and watched rider after rider kickoff for a 7 day, 545 mile trek over the hills and valleys of California to ride to LA. All this to raise money to support the fight against AIDS. I thought, “These people are nuts! 545 miles is SO FAR.” And I immediately put it on my bucket list.
Since then I have moved away from California, but I had never forgotten the “Ride to End AIDS“. So, this past June, 10 years from that fateful day, I got on my bike at the San Francisco Cow Palace and started pedaling down the Golden state to raise funds that support the life-saving services offered by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
This ride, and the journey up to it, changed me for the better.
It changed me physically
I trained for 8 months gradually adding mileage and hills to my riding regiment. I gained a lot of muscle, came to feel healthier than I’ve felt since my days as a kid, and I earned the most ridiculous tan line on my thighs you’ve ever seen. My bike shorts are about 3 or 4 inches longer than my normal shorts, so I’ve gotten to show off that tan line a lot!
I got stronger, I became faster and there were days where I felt like a well-oiled machine racing up steep hills (then stopping for pie afterward)!
It changed me mentally
There were so many good days! I saw beautiful scenery during the Winter, Spring and Summer. I came to appreciate how amazing a bit of shade feels from a passing cloud, and how refreshing a few drops of water from a rogue sprinkler feels on the hottest of days. These reminders helped revive my soul.
While riding my bicycle I got to see so much of my state that I would not have likely visited otherwise. Small towns, open fields and pastures. Places that cars see as a means to an end. But I got to really see these places, to smell the sweet scent of wildflowers on the breeze, and talk to dozens of cows as I coasted by. It was wonderful to let my mind quiet, to hear the gentle hum of my bicycle tire gliding across the road, and the birds chirping in the leaves overhead; a freedom that only two wheels can offer!
But there were long days too. Sometimes it would require a 1.5 hour drive to our training ride destination, 6 hours of active riding (like I said, I’m still not the fastest rider, but I keep moving!) plus more time for breaks and rest, plus another 1.5 hour car trip home. It was hard to get up at 4:30 in the morning for those training rides, but I had the support of my friends and loved ones so I got out of bed.
And there were hard days. When I first started riding again it was hard to sit on the saddle, because it is a hard saddle! And it was even harder to get back in the saddle the next day! Ouch Ouch Ouch! But the pain went away, and I got stronger.
But the hardest was my very last training weekend in May, 2 weeks before the big ride. I expected to ride at least 150 miles over Saturday and Sunday, one last training push before my bicycle was shipped to California. I had just come off a rest weekend and knew that if I could bust out this 80 and 70 mile day, I would be totally successful on those California hills! But it didn’t work out that way. Instead I eked out a mushy 40 miles that Saturday, and a painfully slow 30 miles on Sunday which felt even worse. I. Was. Devastated! I was supposed to be at my prime, but that was it, training was done. My confidence was absolutely shot. How was I possibly going to make it the 109 miles required on the Day 2 route?!
I got on the plane anyway. I went to California and I set my mind to do my best. I promised myself would go in my sous vide style: low and slow. After all, it’s a ride, not a race. And so I set off and kept pedaling, and pedaling, and pedaling. And I rode 109 miles on day 2!
The hard days have shown me how much I am capable of, even if it is a slow journey.
Most unexpected thing that happened: It changed my heart
The best part of my experience, over and over again I got to see the best of humanity. I was continually overwhelmed by the generosity of friends, family, and even strangers along the way.
People gave their support in so many ways: some were able to contribute to my fundraising goals, a few committed time and knowledge to help coach me, others volunteered to support training rides, and they were all joyous cheerleaders who encouraged me all through my training. There were even people came to cheer for all 2200 riders, every day, in big cities and in tiny towns during the AIDS/LifeCycle. People showed up with handmade signs, some waved and many yelled thank you for riding!
All of these people are the best of humanity. I feel so lucky and humbled to get to see these examples of people helping and supporting each other. We are all part of the AIDS/LifeCycle Love Bubble! And I can’t wait to do it all again in 2018!
Has riding changed you for the better? Share your story in the comments below!
Help end the isolation and stigma of those who live with HIV.
Help increase the resources available for education, prevention and care.
Help end the transmission of HIV.
In June of this year I rode my bicycle 545 miles as part of the 7-day cycling event called the AIDS/LifeCycle. It was one of the most impactful experiences I’ve ever had. It was physically challenging, mentally exhausting, and at times heartbreaking. But it wasalways inspiring!
Over this past year together we raised $14,333.98 to help those living with HIV and AIDS. That is INCREDIBLE! Throughout my entire AIDS/Lifecycle experience I was continually humbled by your support, kindness and generosity. And something else happened that I didn’t necessarily expect. Over and over again, so many of you shared your memories and stories about your friends and family who died from AIDS. I will always be grateful that you shared this part of your life with me.
One story, of many, that comes to mind occurred in April. While at a friend’s BBQ I talking about the upcoming ride and a man my near my age, someone who I had only met in passing, shared with me a story about his lifelong friend from who died of AIDS in college. He said “It’s 2017. I can’t believe this stupid disease is still here.”
I couldn’t agree more. So I have signed up to ride 545 miles again in 2018, for the 25th anniversary of the AIDS/Lifecycle. I will ride with the stories and memories you’ve shared with me, and I will ride to honor all of those people who have died from AIDS.
My goal is to raise $10,000 to help fund the life-saving services offered by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. But I can’t do it alone, so I’m asking for your help again.
$10,000 can make a HUGE difference! The services provided as a result of this event mean the world to those who receive them, and your support means the world to me!
Every Monday morning in the office when I’m heating up my oatmeal I’m asked, “What did you get up to this weekend?” Before I can respond, my co-workers add, “You went for a ride, right?”
Now that the weather is finally cooling off I’m out on my bike a lot more. It may not be a big ride, but I love getting out and seeing the outdoors from my saddle. My typical ride at the moment is about 30 miles on a Saturday or Sunday (weekend cyclist extraordinaire!) and it’s the highlight of my weekend, even when it’s hard (or really hard, or cold, or windy, or any other unpleasant descriptor).
So why do I love it? When I’m on my bike, I feel free! I love hearing the road and my tires connecting. I love the smells; the pine trees outside, someone cooking dinner, even the terrible smells (skunks fit this category nicely) because it reminds me what life is like outside my comfort zone. I love how empowering it is to know that I can transport myself to new locations just with my bike and my legs. And I want everyone to experience this joy!
I believe every person should get to feel this freedom. And it doesn’t matter if we start large or small, weekend riders or seasoned experts, as long as we keep going.
I remember picking up my bike again after a long hiatus just two years ago and I could barely make it 3 loops around the flattest section of paved roads in town. Each loop was just a mile and I was huffing, puffing and nearly collapsed as I slogged through the last turn. It was humiliating! What happened to my sweet youth that let me roll freely without breaking a sweat? But I went back the next weekend. This time I left my pride at home and geared up with my snail themed socks (if you can’t be good, at least you can look good) and made it 6 loops. Slow and steady progress! We all have to start somewhere, the trick is to just start! And I kept at it, little by little, mile by mile. This past June I rode 545 miles from San Francisco to LA in a charity bicycle ride called the AIDS/Lifecycle. IT WAS AMAZING! And now, I’ve signed up to do it again in 2018!
I’ll be tracking my training and progress here, so check back for updates. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you – why do you ride?