Wanting to get to know some of the people who I'll be spending all of my time with during the upcoming AIDS/Lifecycle event (ALC), I reached out to three female repeat riders to learn about their personal experiences with making the trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles. What they told me is so exciting, hilarious, heartwarming, and inspiring. Can't wait to meet them face-to-face at the starting line on June 2nd!
Debi Farber Bush, 50
Why she rides: “I was involved in the AIDS Service Organization from the late '80s to 1997 and lost a lot of friends to HIV-related illnesses. I understand the prejudice, ignorance, and fear that surrounds HIV/AIDS because they are similar to what I experienced when I was morbidly obese. A friend of mine did the ALC ride one year and I wanted to join him so badly. But I weighed 350 pounds and didn't know how to ride a bike. Last year, I finally had the experience of a lifetime on two wheels. People said I couldn't lose the weight without surgery, but I found a great trainer, worked harder than ever, and took small steps toward achieving my goal. I dropped 200 pounds and learned to bike!”
Leaping over life's hurdles: “On day five of last year's ride, I took a nasty fall, hurting my knee. My hopes and dreams of finishing the ride were shattered. I felt like I had failed. I cried for a while before I could “embrace the suck,” as my coach says, and the major pain. After spending the day in the physical therapy tent at camp, I was miraculously cleared to ride the next day! I'll never forget biking into L.A., where people lined the streets clapping and cheering. I thought, 'These well-wishers have no idea what I've been through to get here—the weight loss, the training, the aches and pains.' I experienced every emotion possible.”
Advice to SHAPE readers: “Learn to 'embrace the suck.' You can do this by stepping outside your comfort zone, wrapping your arms around a challenge, and working with it.”
|Megan Minkiewicz, 38
Hometown: Bend, OR
No. of years participating: 6
Why she rides: “I learned about the ALC ride from a poster in a bike shop. I had done the Avon Breast Cancer Walk four times and was looking to get involved in another charity while challenging myself physically. At the time, I was doing triathlons and I really loved cycling, so it seemed like a good fit. What started out as a personal goal has become a part of me. It's my favorite vacation. One week a year, all I have to do is ride my bike and be outside. I love everything about it and could not imagine my life without it.”
Noteworthy highlights: “On my first ride in 2006, I met Team GutterBunnies, a group of guys who had bunny ears hanging from their helmets and bunny tails on their saddles. They would later become my teammates and my most treasured friends. On my fifth ride in 2011, we had this hard climb with 1,200 feet of elevation gain. I knew there was no way I could make it to the top without stopping. As I pedaled uphill, I noticed a few riders zipping back down. Next thing I knew, a friend who is HIV postive had come up to me, put his hand on my back, and began pushing me. He said, 'I came back to help you because without you I could not do this ride. Without your fundraising, which helps support the services that I need, I would have died. I love you.'”
Advice to SHAPE readers: “You will be in awe of how supportive people are. Tell people about what you are doing and why. I am always amazed at the amount of money that I can raise. Plus, doing the ALC will make a cyclist out of anyone!”
|Kelsey Mercier Adams, 31
Occupation: Family nurse practitioner
Hometown: Portland, OR
No. of years participating: 3
Why she rides: “During this volunteer event, I met people living with HIV who depend on the services provided by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation to stay alive. It was a powerful reminder of a dear family friend who we lost to AIDS in the late '80s. Soon after the event, I started noticing ALC fliers in restaurants and coffee shops around San Francisco and Marin County. I considered signing up but was concerned about the financial commitment of meeting the fundraising minimum, which was then $2,500. It took some time and a lot of riding—I worked up to my first 100 miles with my friend Bob—before I decided to take the plunge.”
Most unforgettable moment: “On day five of the ride, many participants wear red. I was impressed by some of the men’s outfits (mostly dresses). One guy attached cleats to a pair of five-inch red patent leather heels, so that he could clip into his pedals and still look fabulously stylish. Being part of the line of cyclists traveling down the road and disappearing into the horizon to form a red human AIDS awareness ribbon is a great way to share the message.”
Confidence-booster: “Knowing that I can survive seven days of cycling while sleeping each night in a tent makes daily obstacles seem less daunting."
Advice to SHAPE readers: “The people who do the ride are just like you—all different ages, fitness levels, and from all over. Like any new endeavor, break up training and fundraising into small goals to make the whole process less overwhelming. You just have to make the commitment and know that the ride will be one of the most challenging but deeply rewarding experiences of your life.”
For daily updates on my training, follow me on Twitter @CDGoyanes.