Monday, June 12, 2017

Race (Kind of?) Report: AIDS/LifeCycle 2017

These last few days have completely changed my life. In so many ways that I can't even begin to comprehend all of it.

As always, a wall of text is ahead. Hold onto your butts!



There is a TED talk about how people need to slow down a little more, and it talks about how there are different types of people: Pre-crastinators, and procrastinators. I'm very clearly a precrastinator. I think about things months in advance, and I anticipate problems before they even arise.

When it came down to ALC, I was worried 6 months prior that I wasn't going to finish. Training hadn't even started yet. 2 months before the ride started, I started packing. At first it was in small increments (picking up a few extra tubes while I shopped, an extra headlamp in case my first headlamp died) - I was so worried that I (obviously) overpacked, even months before the ride started!

Yep, I even used a packing list. It helped no one. 
Surprisingly enough, everything fit into my luggage, which LAX (namely Virgin America) promptly declared overweight and heavy.

I feel sorry for everyone who had to carry this. 
The flight to SF was short, and Bryan picked me up for a day filled with food and fun. I convinced him to eat 4 meals with me before dinner with Kelvin, and to let me get shaved prosciutto in a cone as dessert! I now know why I have to do endurance events - the calories catch up so fast!



The day before the ride, they ask all the cyclists to go in for orientation. I snuck into the 9am session and got to sit with everyone on Team DTLA Riding.

The week prior, we had shipped our bikes up, so we got to check in on them, shop at the camp store (jerseys and hats and water bottles), and then we were off.

I used the rest of the day to spend quality time with my favorite (ok, only) brother. We had dim sum with Bryan, went to the Palace of Fine Arts, walked the Presidio, and then hung out at Fisherman's Wharf.

Yoda and I are besties now. 
Liz, my (AMAZING) tent mate, invited me to TeamOC's dinner, so we spent the evening getting warm and fuzzies with everyone she had been training with for the last few months. Marianne, one of the gals on the team, had us take a picture together but she was secretly recording us the whole time! It was both great and weird listening our candid thoughts.

In retrospect, we went into ALC so full of optimism that it made it such a well-rounded experience. I always tell myself that you only get to live the "first time" once. So true in this instance.

The first of many pictures with Liz! We took a picture every day of ALC. 

SUNDAY. DAY (1). San Francisco to Santa Cruz

 Surprisingly, I slept well the night prior. I think knowing that it wasn't a race really changed things. I got up at 4, packed, and Bryan dropped me off at Cow Palace at the ass-crack of dawn (you're the best!).

It was cold and I started to worry that I didn't pack enough (even though my luggage was bursting at the seams at this point). But I saw tons of familiar faces and I was eager to start the journey.

Mitchel & Jacob <3

The Opening Ceremonies kicks us off, with a solemn reminder of why we do the ride: to bring awareness to those who are suffering from and who have lost the battle with HIV and AIDs. It's a long-term stretch goal to End AIDS altogether, but everything that we do brings us a little closer.

Immediately after the ceremonies, we head to our bikes and ride off into the night! (still morning, definitely not night.)

Roughly 2,500 people all trying to leave the same place at once. 

The course was beautiful. 82 miles of scenic oceans and greenery. Every 10 - 20 miles there were rest stops (as was the trend across all of the rides), which made for great entertainment!

They sang "Kiss" and passed out cookies with Hershey's Kisses in them. I can't even. 

The humor on these stalls kept me laughing for days. These ones were named after GoT houses.

We rolled into camp around 3:40 on Day 1, and I was hooked. Everything about the ride - the people, the views, everything. Even setting up the tent was a great experience!

Day 1, done.


MONDAY. DAY (2). Santa Cruz to King City

Day 2 was scheduled to be the longest day at 109 miles. Also known as Orange Safety Day, everyone is encouraged to wear some sort of orange because of the need to be highly visible (as if 2500 people on bikes wasn't visible enough! :] ) due to traffic, etc.

The day was a blur full of climbs, the Otter Pop Stop!, and a skinny dipping bridge.

He asked me to call him Big Orange. 

By the time we rolled into camp, I was drained. Anything over 100 miles takes a toll on the body, and a constant barrage of heat doesn't help either. Needless to say, the night of Day 2 was a very quiet one for me!

Day 2, done.


TUESDAY. DAY (3). King City to Paso Robles

By Day 3, I'm still feeling awesome. Day 3 is known as Quadbuster Day - We climb a massive hill that never ends, but when it does, it's this amazing feeling of accomplishment you're overcome with.

Mark and I start the day with a video while we're prepping by our bikes -

It's a private video so I can't share it outisde of Facebook - but you can find it online!
I'm so excited! Mainly because I don't know what I'm in for. Jacob and I spend a majority of the morning riding with one another - we get to the top of Quadbuster and cruise down to the City of Bradley, where the kids of the school put on a fundraiser every year to raise money for their extracurriculars. Last year, they raised $40,000 because of us. How insane is that? I wonder what they raised this year...

Day 3 also took us through a military base, Mission San Miguel (so beautiful! and original architecture from 1797!), and a Disney-inspired rest stop complete with characters! I spent much of this time trying to keep up with Martin, who pushed me to try harder and to pedal faster.

I'm drained, but there are rumors of a root beer float stand at camp, and I'm jazzed again. I love anything with ice cream in it!

Since we got back to camp so early, I wandered on over to the medical tent to see what they had to offer. Sunburnt and sad that the line was an hour long, I did a face mask while waiting for an acupuncture session (yes, they offer it at camp!).

She also put needles in my legs but by this point I can't feel anything. 
Day 3, done.


WEDNESDAY. DAY (4). Paso Robles to Santa Maria

Day 4. I'm starting to feel the fatigue in my legs and in my sit bone.

I failed to mention this before, but the "roadies" on the ride are the best part about the ride. They are the backbone of the ride as a whole and handle all the things we can't do ourselves. The roadies that took my luggage from me in the morning were the best: Becca, Kaytee, and Cheryl made me smile every morning and made me hate life a little less at night.

To top it off, their costumes every morning constantly changed!

The other truck always coordinated with our truck, so the boys got in on the fun too :) 

Day 4 was the halfway point! There were 2 massive hills called the Evil Twins that you had to conquer before getting to the halfway point at mile 17.

True to form, a jumping picture is always in the cards.

I was so eager to get to halfway. It was a dream come true to know that I had cycled (at that point) more miles consecutively than I had ever done in my life. Halfway to LA meant that I was equally as far from the beginning as I was from the end, and the symbolism in that was enormous.

Martin and I waited for the rest of the group to come up so we could get a quick picture. After being inland for so long, we finally made our way back to the ocean, and with that, the sweet, sweet taste of...

Cinnamon rolls. Those things were like crack. Coupled with an ice-cold coke and was done for.

After 88 miles, we rolled into camp, and Day 4 came to a close. But! During dinner time, Jared texted me this video and my heart swelled to 3 times its normal size:

Some of the team recorded a short clip reminding us that we only had 3 days left. I could feel the love from nearly 300 miles away.

Day 4, done.


THURSDAY. DAY (5). Santa Maria to Lompoc

Day 5 is historically known as the shortest day, but for some reason this was my most (and least) favorite day, all rolled into one. Most favorite because it happened to be Red Dress Day: red is the color of solidarity for those who are affected by HIV and AIDS, and seeing everyone in their colors was amazing. Least favorite because my body was starting to give on me. Looking back, we spent roughly 40 hours on our bike through the course of the week. That's like a whole week of work... on a bike! Factor in the whole "Winnie doesn't wear bike shorts" thing (tri shorts for the win?) and you've got a very sore Winnie by Day 5.

My Lemon ladies!
The Minnie Band
The tutu crew.

Martin's mom is literally the cutest thing. She came with bells and whistles to cheer us on!

The course was short and sweet. I loved that we had so much time at camp to actually enjoy it! We all sat on the grass, ate, rolled out, and eventually Patrick and I did face masks as we waited for the Talent Show to start.

Day 5, done.


FRIDAY. DAY (6). Lompoc to Ventura

Day 6. I'm excited. only 2 rides separate me from Los Angeles. I can't wait!

By now I'm totally immersed in this love bubble. When we first started the journey, I couldn't understand why everyone called it the love bubble. And then it dawned on me - every day, we were living in this world that we had created for ourselves. The one that motivated us to wake up at 4:30 every morning, dragged us out to our bikes, and schlepped us over from point A to point B. I was constantly surrounded by love. The nicest people I've ever met - who would tell me that my hair looked good, or that I had enviable calves - were also the people who pushed me to be a better me and allowed me to live in my own thoughts for the day. It was this serendipitous blend of being able to be alone but surrounded by others. Definitely a great feeling. 

On this ride, we got to coast through Santa Barbara. The coolest part was the fact that the city of Santa Barbara sponsored an unofficial rest stop called Paradise Pit - complete with fresh fruit, ice cream (!!!) from McConnells (!!!), and a toppings bar! The mayor of SB even came out to thank us.

Livin' the ice cream dream. 
Day 6 was also the last night we'd be camping. We ended up at the San Buenaventura State Beach, where the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence graced us with their presence and held a candlelight vigil to remember those who have lost the light because of HIV and AIDS. A very somber experience, but eerily beautiful.

Day 6, Done.


SATURDAY. DAY (7). Ventura to Los Angeles!

Day 7 was a glass case of emotions. I was so excited to be in familiar territory again. The team felt the same way, because Brandon called me in the morning to tell me I was late and everyone was waiting on me to leave! I had to rush to roll out with everyone, and I was afraid that I had left something behind.

Do you think we have a strong cellular signal?

But finally, a day where I knew where I was going. Ventura, Oxnard, Pt Hueneme, Santa Monica, West Hollywood! What a blur.

Brandon and I rode a majority of the route together, trying to meet up with the rest of the team in West Hollywood before riding in together at the finish line at Fairfax High School. It was ethereal.

I texted Joyce to let her know I was a mile out, and my excitement mounted.

As we started to hit the stoplights, familiar faces popped up! Katy was the first person I saw that I KNEW! I was so surprised and so happy she was there.

I saw Alice, Robert, and Jared as we were rolling in - more excitement!

And as we inched closer and closer to the finish line, I was so surprised to see SO MANY people who had come just for me: Patrick, Lisa, Letty, Stef, Kathryn, Zulema, George, Chelsie, Steve, Donyelle, Albert, Jaime, Joyce, and Phil!

A part of me died crossing over that finish line. Letting go of everything that had built up inside of me and coming to terms with this overabundance of love. I couldn't handle it. Tears streamed down my face. We did it!

Team DTLA Riding!

I cried in Chelsie's arms for a good 5 minutes. I was so happy to be back and so happy to share this special moment with the BEST people in my life.

I couldn't have asked for better friends. Sometimes life deals you a bad set of cards, but all my cards played out correctly.

One of my favorite people in this world. I couldn't have done this ride without you, Patrick!

So much to come home to: 7 bouquets of flowers (and sunflowers, to boot!), 3 king sized Snickers bars, desserts, Tamales!!!, and 30 bags of hot cheetos from my brother in San Francisco because he knew how much I love them. Not to mention the 4 pizzas and the cookies and ice cream we enjoyed poolside later in the day!

Day 7, Done.


SUNDAY. No more days. Just Thoughts.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention any of the bad things about the ride - the idea of showering in a truck, having to use antibacterial wipes and germ-x in place of a sink with soap, sunburns in places you didn't know could burn, and soreness and pain in places you wish wouldn't hurt.

But those were so menial in the grand scheme of things. Until last week, I was never able to put my life on pause. I've always been a GO GO GO kind of person. Some say that intensity gets me in trouble (I'll agree to a certain extent) and others say that it's my best quality.

7 Days.
545+ miles.
21,000+ elevation climb. (Mt Everest is 29k feet!)
14,000+ calories burned.
A lifetime of memories.

Thank you to the loving friends who wrote me numbered notes to read EVERY DAY of the ride. I had so many I had to spend the last night reading most of them because I couldn't get to them all each night.

Thanks for FaceTiming me every day to ask me where I was and how I was doing and for following me on my journey. 

Thanks especially to all of my donors for getting me to the starting line in the first place: Derrick, Abel, Nelson, Lynn, Angela, Diane, Stephane, Rob, Nick, Hymie, Jim, Alisa, Steven, Kathryn, Bernie, Sam, Elisa, Alison, David, Leon, John, Susan, Christy, Diane, Bree, Howard, Carol, Sean, Steven, Anna, Jehanne, Dennis, Robert, other Robert, and James!

Additional thanks are in store for my friends who were willing to donate on my behalf to Jesus so he could get his ticket to ride: Alice, Diego, Jared, Joyce, Letty, Mark, Patrick, Rich, Sevana, Stef, and Zulema! 

Thanks should also go to the Walt Disney Company for matching many of the donations from my co-workers, and to Chipotle for hosting a fundraiser that donated 50% of proceeds to ALC!

If my heart could get any bigger, it definitely did these last few days. What a life-changing experience. I can't wait to do it again next year.

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