Monday, June 10, 2019

Ride Report: AIDS/LifeCycle 2019

It's been a little over 48 hours since we crossed the finish line for the 2019 AIDS/LifeCycle ride, and yet, here I am, a ball of feelings because I miss my friends from the ride.

7 days. 21,000 feet of elevation climbed. 561 miles this year! and 33 teammates that have become lifelong friends.

When Mark introduced me to the Hot Wheels team last year at ALC, I was surprised by how warm the welcome was. I met Brian, the captain, as Mark and I were waiting for our massages, and we sat and chatted for a bit. Later that night, I was introduced to the rest of the team at dinner and was lucky enough to talk to them and see them on the ride.

I was so happy to have a few more friends on the ride. Fast forward a few more months to a Disney Tri Team event at Hamburger Mary's, where Mark asked me to officially join the Hot Wheels as a member. ME?!!! I was so excited that I said yes on the spot.

By August of 2018, it was official. Brian made an announcement on the team page, and we were off! Truthfully, I was a little hesitant about ALC19. I had done the ride 2 years prior, with a lot of support from my family and friends. Fundraising was a breeze, but I could tell that donor fatigue was setting in. Still, I made my donation page and I let it sit. It wasn't until my good friend Travis donated (without prompting!) that I decided it was a sign that I should ride once more.

As the months drew closer, Mark and I started talking about the great times we've had in the past on the ride and how we could make the ride even better for 2019. "What if we were tentmates?" he says.

The smile that formed on my face couldn't have been any bigger. I was elated! THINK OF ALL THE THINGS WE WOULD DO!


I'm going to apologize in advance as I normally am very verbose in my recaps. Being the forgetful person that I am, I often look back at these posts not only to remember my adventures but to share my feelings about them! Please feel free to jump around as you see fit - these are my memories that I want to share with you!

The Ride:

This year was my third year with ALC. The first year, my boyfriend (at the time) and I had just broken up, and Liz and I were paired up. I had such a great time that when it came time for my second year, I truly enjoyed the ride for myself and not for anyone else. The short hospital stint broke my "ride every day" rule and I ultimately came onboard the third time as my redemption year.

Friday (Day -1)

Since my flight wasn't until later in the day, I spent the morning working. Matt was on drop-off duty, so we made our way to Manhattan beach, did a short stroll, swung on the swings, and then headed to the airport.

So romantic.

When I got to the airport, I had to check my luggage in, so I went over to the kiosk, printed out my tag, and brought my bag over to get weighed. I was 4 pounds over. 4 pounds meant an extra $70 to convert into an oversized luggage bag, so I reached into my big bag and pulled out... 64 facemasks, which I proceeded to shove into my carry on.

Instantly, I was under the limit. Who knew masks could weigh so much?!

I strolled over to security, where my carry bag was stopped and searched for .. you guessed it! 64 face masks. It was mortifying. TSA stopped me and asked me why I was traveling with so many cosmetics items! I obviously told them that I was headed up to a spa retreat and needed to provide for my friends.

They let me go, and I met up with Jason before we boarded the plane.

The flight to LA was uneventful, considering many of the other members of the team were held on delays the night before. Jason and I checked into our hotel rooms and immediately headed back out for a late meal at New England Lobster and Eatery:

Yes, I ate a whole lobster. Yes, it was delicious.

Jason and I parted ways soon after, and Bryan picked me up to spend some quality time together. His roommate, Alex, who stays in hiding except to see me once each year around this time, also joined us!

We had ice cream at Smitten (obviously)

while we waited for our names to be called at Amano.

Amano was YUMMY.

Lots of little plates so we didn't stuff ourselves silly, but delicious nonetheless.
I called it a night rather early, as I knew Day 0 would be a long day.

Saturday (Day 0)

Jason and I left for Cow Palace bright and early Saturday morning - it was almost time!!!!

We met up with the rest of the team and filed in line as we waited to enter CP for our Orientation meeting.

For the next two hours, we listened to safety speeches, walked through what the week would look like, and signed our lives away.

Then it was time for check in! We got tagged, received our bike numbers, and walked the ALC village for a little bit before tending to our bikes and prepping them for Day 1.

We pulled all of the saran wrap off our bikes (for their safe journey up the coast the week prior) and applied our participant numbers, emptied out our water bottles with anything we may have stored, and moved them to their proper locations before saying goodbye to the team.

My brother picked me up from Cow Palace and we met up with Bryan and Alex for dim sum at HL Peninsula.
I'm a huge fan of asian food, so it was nice to be surrounded by familiarity.

Clearly I have an obsession with ice cream - Kel and Irene and I ended up at Marco Polo Italian Ice Cream for another round of icy goodness :)

I took a quick nap and then headed over to Cafe Mason for our team's dinner. We had such a great time and received so many presents!

Here's a recap from me and Mark:

I am so enamoured by these men (and one other woman!) and couldn't have asked for a better sendoff to start the ride.

Sunday (Day 1)

I couldn't believe it! Day 1.
San Francisco to Santa Cruz. 82 miles. 4700 elevation.

We had our opening ceremonies, where they announced that this year we fundraised a record-breaking $16.7MM!

We set off, and slowly made our way through the streets of SF! It rained for 15 miles, there was intense fog, and we made it to lunch at 10:30am!

#WinTheMark recap here:

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence blessed us, we said hello to the rest of the Hotties, and then we were on our way to complete the journey to Santa Cruz!

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For those that don't know, we usually have rest stops every 15 miles or so (for many people this is about one stop per hour unless you ride faster...)

Each rest stop is captained by a team, and each team makes the rest stop special. Rest Stop 4 has always been my favorite rest stop over the years, and this year was no different!

I knew I'd die by Trojan. BRUINED.

We pulled into camp shortly after at Harvey West Park, where we set up our tents and enjoyed the rest of the evening. Mark even unboxed our gift bag from the night before!

Obviously we did a recap and facemasked.

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As mentioned in the video, Colty's bike was run over by a State Trooper!

Cannondale saved the day and saved the bike as well, but HOLY MOLY.

Monday (Day 2)

Day 2: 110 miles, 3000 elevation gain, Santa Cruz to King City.
Does anyone else see the girl behind me in the picture? CREEPY.

Safety PSA from #WinTheMark:

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We had lunch in Salinas before heading back out onto the road. Day 2 is mostly inland, so it brings new meaning to "Strawberry Fields Forever"...

We also can't forget my favorite stop of the day... the Otter Pop Stop!

By the time we got back to camp, it was LATE. We were exhausted, but definitely wanted to share a recap:

Artichokes, Otter Pops, Skinny Dipping, and Distance.

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and a description of the ending of day 2:

Can't stop me from a good facemask, so here's day 2's beauty pic:

Tuesday (Day 3)

Day 3: 66 Miles, King City to Paso Robles, 2600 elevation gain.
Day 3 is Quadbuster day - a massive hill that some people do multiple times because they have thighs of steel.

My thighs are made of turkey so they're a little soft.
They mean well, though.

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Day 3 is also when we ride into a little town called Bradley and visit the kids at Bradley Elementary!

I had a blast. Here's our recap:

As we exited Bradley, we rode through Camp Roberts, grabbed ice and caught a show at Rest Stop 4 (again, my favorite!), and suffered the last 10 miles in 105 degree heat over to Paso Robles.

We were so hot we ended up getting a hotel for the night. Hear more about "princessing" here:

Wednesday (Day 4)

89 Miles - Paso Robles to Santa Maria - Elevation 4800 gain.

By Day 4 I was exhausted. I felt like we had so much left to do but every part of me hurt!
Day 4 was a big day, though. It marked HALFWAY TO LA! and the notorious Evil Twins climb, which was a series of back-to-back hills that never seemed to end.

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We were so excited!
On the way into Santa Maria, I met 2 lovely friends... ALPACAS!
So adorable and so curious.

Oh but wait - there's more! I rode so hard I snapped my shoes - BOTH OF THEM - and had to actually buy new shoes during my lunchtime on the ride!

Brings new meaning to Beast Mode, doesn't it?

The rest of the way back to Santa Maria was slightly uneventful, minus the part where I cried my eyes out as I rode past the site of the accident I was in last year (see last year's ALC post). Luckily, I have great friends like Mark who will hold me and hug me while I cry and celebrate life's little achievements, like making it into camp in one piece.



Catch our Recap here!

Thursday (Day5)

Red Dress Day!
Santa Maria to Lompoc - 41 miles - 1800 Elevation gain

Red Dress Day was so amazing! Last year I didn't get to do RDD so this year I knew I had to make it special. Look how great we looked!

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These girls are everything.

When we finished our ride, we quickly got ready and took our team photos!
These came out so nicely.

... and true to form, I forced the team to do face masks with me because... well, because I'm me.


Friday (Day 6)

Day 6 - Lompoc to Ventura - 89 Miles
Finally, we were back to the coastline!

The days seemed longer and longer, but I was so excited to arrive in Ventura because... Boyface drove through California ON A FRIDAY to see me!

It was just what I needed to get myself through those last two days.

Which brings us to...

Saturday (Day 7)

Loved the team and loved the experience, but I missed my comfy bed and the smell of clean clothes!

Mark and I BOOKED it on the way back to WeHo.

The Troubadour opened their doors to us and let us wait in the confines of what felt like a second home to me - a stage that legends like Elton John, Axl Rose, and AFI all graced!!

We waited until the rest of our team showed up, grabbed a few photos together, and then headed in to the finish line!

Finally - we made it into LA!

And the best part of coming back home to LA? Unlimited Snickers and Hot Cheetos :)

It feels like I highlighted every moment of my trip, but I know I missed a bunch of memories that I will hold in my heart for a lifetime. I am grateful to have met 33 wonderful individuals who let me into their team and welcomed me into the community.

I ride not only as a challenge for myself but to bring awareness to HIV and AIDS. Together, we can work to find a cure.

ALC sent out a very touching recap video today - and both Mark and I finally found out what we were interviewed for! We make appearances 3 times in the video, and I get to say the final words.

It is heartwarming, touching, and I've probably shed more tears than I can count this week.

Thank you, ALC. I'm sure I will see you again.

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