It’s been a week and a day since my last ride to end AIDS and HIV, a ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The sky is a little cloudy, and so is my mind, from enjoying another fantastic Oysterfest. Both events are truly my annual favourites, both bring a huge appreciation of community and love of my fellow humans.
This year’s AIDS Lifecycle ride held a special meaning to me, since it was my fifth year in a row and the event’s 10th anniversary. Like other years, it provided an opportunity for me to prove myself physically, while challenging myself emotionally to admit my limitations and the aging and maturing that has taken place over these past few years.
For the first time, I rode myself to absolute exhaustion, by trying to hold on to the wheels of many younger and faster riders, and finished this year in doubt of next year’s ride.
I was completely spent at this year’s finish and could not be lured by the beautiful shirt that was offered with an early registration. Is Bob just getting weak?
Certainly, I could have done a better job of training… who needs to work and be solvent, right? And during the event I could have eaten better, rested more and focused on maximizing efforts to maintain my caloric needs, replacement of precious electrolytes and done a better job of “pacing,” rather than just going "balls out" whenever the mood struck, or when a group came racing up from behind and I opted to grab on to their slipstream and give chase.
And then there were all those times I rode past rest stops and cut short lunches to press on and get in with the top 10 to 20 riders on most days. Ego. Machismo. Afraid of letting go.
Yes, we all age and we all have to be honest with our bodies and admit our limits. Each year, hundreds of riders in the AIDS Lifecycle ride 545 miles with AIDS and HIV. These “Positive Pedalers” are the true heroes of the event. They are the ones who are most challenged by the rigors of miles, hills, winds and their health.
These riders are truly inspiring when you consider all they endure throughout their lives; be it from the uniqueness of their disease, the prejudice of society, the ignorance surrounding all things AIDS and myriad issues that few of us challenge ourselves to appreciate. They are my heroes. It is an honour to accompany them on these epic rides, to share the experience that comes with riding, bathing, eating and camping together. The laughs were plenty. The humour sustaining. The emotions deep and shared.
2,800 riders and a staff of 500 plus volunteers joined together to raise over $13 million dollars for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. Yes, a staggering success by many measures, but not enough to achieve the ultimate goal of finding a cure for HIV and AIDS, educating the public, treating those who suffer, and providing for the measures to prevent new incidences of this continuing epidemic. We all have an opportunity to be involved and I guess riding the ride is my easy way out. It gives me a justification for all the hours I spend out alone and spinning, all the time I spend not working with others, all the times I drive my wife crazy not dealing with the “honey do list.”
I guess I’d be out riding right now if the weather was nicer, and I didn’t still have saddle soreness, or an urgent need to thank all the wonderful people who provided support for this and past years’ rides. They are my heroes too. Each year I go around asking many of the same folks that have donated in the past. To them, a thousand thank yous. And to the many folks who donated for the first time, I hope they know how much their support means to me and the foundations that received the net from this huge event.
My butt may still be uncomfortable on a bike, but my body is in some kind of peak condition. My heart rate is low, I lost five pounds, maybe, and I really want to go riding… a lot. But I won’t let myself be lured by the beauty of my elegant Italian De Rosa road bike.
I must quell my addiction to cycling. I must return to normal life and address the 47 messages on my answering machine, face the overgrown lawn, and busy myself with the many letters of thanks that I should write to all my patrons and friends. The bike can wait.
My fanny can do without the saddle for now… and I can put a smile on Susan’s face by installing that outdoor shower she has been patiently been expecting, for, what, two, three years?
So, dear editor, please indulge my hope for understanding... and my poor writing, punctuation and prose. Pass on to all that this rider feels blessed, by all.
Bob Ornelas is... like you don’t know?