Taking One for the Team
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With complete, unabashed desperation, I begged my good friend and cycling buddy Angelica Ocasio to please, please, please do the AIDS/Lifecycle ride with me just a few months ago. I couldn't bear the thought of doing all seven days and 545 miles without a single familiar, loving face in the crowd. Between fundraising $3K, training, and taking time off work to do the ride, I knew it was a huge ask of my friend. But I could tell she was considering it, so I pressed on. When she surprisingly counter-offered with “I'll do the AIDS ride if you do the Gran Fondo,” I instantly screamed “DONE!” while a nervous knot suddenly appeared in the pit of my stomach.

The third annual Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York is one of the most rigorous bike races in the New York City and New Jersey area. For this very reason, I had written it off long ago as a “nope, don't need do that” item. What makes the race so hard is that over the course of 105 miles, you gain a total elevation of 7,000 feet or more (imagine hiking a third of the way up Mt. Kilimanjaro in one day). By the end, your legs will certainly feel like spaghetti regardless if you're a pro or newbie. And while I don't mind climbing hills—it's something that I've been working on with Carmichael Training Systems for the last year—I do mind excruciating, unnecessary muscle pain and tear-inducing fatigue.

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Pain isn't even the half of it for Angelica. That girl has been battling bronchial asthma since birth. Why she wants to climb steep, unforgiving, air-sucking hills beats me, but I'll tell you, I'm so inspired by her determination to not let anything stop her from going after what she wants. Watching her fight her way up (I can't imagine what she's saying to herself to keep calm) is so motivating. And more often then not, when I'm just starting to turn my head back to see where she is on the hill, she's passing me and zipping downhill at 52 miles per hour. Amazing!

The best part is that training for this ride has indirectly prepped us for the AIDS ride. No single day of the seven-day charity ride will be as hard as the Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York, which is great news. So in many ways, we're more than prepared to take on the land swells of California in 16 days. But before we head to the Golden Gate Bridge, we need to cross the George Washington Bridge here to head to the starting line with some 6,000 other cyclists from more than 70 countries this Sunday. Wish us luck!

For daily updates on my training, follow me on Twitter @CDGoyanes.

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