Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 7 - We made it to Los Angeles!

Day 7. The day and particular ride we all had worked so hard toward was here. We're riding into Los Angeles today. A little bitter sweet, but exciting just the same. There was a veteran rider that brought much joy and happiness to everyone during the week his name:  Chicken Lady. Getting to our bikes, rubberbanded to the top of our seats were plastic eggs with a message and LifeSaver inside. The message, a simple one, was a perfect note at a perfect time as we got on our bikes for the final day of ALC 10. Thank you Chicken Lady.

Missile Park, Point Mugu
We were told it was going to be an especially challenging 60 mile ride because we were riding out of Ventura and through Malibu on a Saturday which meant lots of parked cars with doors opening by the beach and people everywhere. The road didn't offer much of a shoulder for much of the ride into Santa Monica but did provide plenty of beautiful vistas by unbelievable properties that line the PCH through Malibu and into L.A.

Lunch was across the street from Pepperdine University on the Malibu Bluffs, which made for a nice final break before cycling into the city.
Almost there!
I happily coordinated to meet my wife and sister-in-law along the route on San Vicente with just a few miles to go. As we closed in on the VA Center, more and more people met us along the road until a roaring crowd met us as we entered the Center grounds. Coming around the final turn and into the grounds, I felt a great sense of relief and satisfaction. My 2002 Bianchi Imola had made it and so had I. Phew!

Neil Giuliano (CEO SF), Lorri Jean (CEO LA) and Jane Lynch (Actress)
The final riding total was listed at 550.1 miles. 7 Days. Around 2300 riders, around 550 roadie/support personnel. Oldest participant: 83 years old, youngest, 18. 41 States represented. 11 countries represented. Average calories burned by riders: 3,410. These are the real numbers: 1.7 million people are currently living with HIV/ AIDS nationwide and 33.3 million people are currently liviing with HIV/AIDS worldwide. My $3775.75 fund raising is part of this year's record $13 million raised from ALC 10, to which I am proud. To my financial supporters, thank you, to all of my supporters, thank you.
It wasn't until later Saturday night that I turned to my wife, realizing and then sharing "I just rode my BIKE to Los Angeles, my BIKE!" and the last 7 days had finally begun to hit me. The days ahead I am sure the impact of this experience will hit harder than now. Exhausted, I was grateful for a very nice welcoming dinner at my in-laws home with family and friends.

There are SO many more memories and thoughts and feelings that made up the last 7 days. Bicycling was really, believe it or not, a small part of the whole experience. With time, the bike part will actually play second fiddle to the event, the community of people and new friends I made along the way and the great many moments of reflection I experienced while bicycling as Rider 6145 every mile of every pedal at a time.
Rider 6145 and his bike!
With love, Tad

Day 6 - Back in the saddle and feeling great - Lompoc to Ventura

Day 6. As my tentmate, Neil, explained to me, we all have off days. To sustain 7 consecutive 'good day' rides, is really hard. To get through some of the down moments/ days you have to develop a kind of short-term memory loss and keep the task at hand your foremost thought. Stay in the present. Yesterday was just that - yesterday. Friday's ride took us from Lompoc to Ventura. It was 85 miles that had a little of everything. Paths, roads, highway. A pretty flat day w/ some nice tailwinds. I felt a renewed sense of accomplishment. There was a buzz in the air when we saw the ocean again, nearing Ventura, that we were getting into Los Angeles the next day. Along with living completely in the present, you have the chance to enjoy as much of where you are on the course as possible, not thinking of yesterday or tomorrow. Today we had 2 rest stops before lunch, which came at the 47 mile mark and then 2 more rest stops and a water break before getting into Ventura's San Buenaventura State Beach at mile 85. A highlight was the 'Paradise Pit' at a park in Santa Barbara - a declared Cliff Bar/ PowerAde free zone, it offered sundaes, cookies,etc. It was a true oasis!

Almost all of the riding on the entire trip is done in single-file, so much of your daytime conversations while riding are done during very slow passes of fellow riders or at intersection stops/ delays as we wait for clear roads to cross. There is ALOT of communicating between riders while on each day's ride. "Passing on your left rider - thank you," "On your left." "Slowing." "Stopping". "Rolling." "Car back." "Car up." "Car left." Car right." During the morning there are a lot of "Passing on your left, good morning." With the cordial response back, "Thank you, good morning."  It was as if 2300 people had just completed finishing school and decided to take a bike ride to celebrate the class graduation. Kidding aside, all of the hand gestures, constant yelling communications was essential to the success of every day's ride, I'm certain of it. At the end of the day during announcements, an accounting of how 'safe' the day was is share. "Today we had a very safe day, only 4 people went to the hosptial." Of course I'm thinking, "What the hell happened to these four people?" Did they not hear that a car was coming or that the road had sand on it or there was a pothole or debri in the way? As I learned on Day 5, anything can happen at any single moment along the way.
Santa Barbara merchants hosted an incredible "Paradise Pit" break for us. A Cliff bar and PowerAde free zone!

Dinner /Announcement Tent
Back to Day 5 for second...I ran into rider 5759 at camp today. He had 7 stitches to this face under his nose, chipped his front two teeth, had some scrapes on his face and...he was back on the road riding! Now, that's the spirit. He didn't completely remember what happened, so after explaining what I saw, I told him how relieved I was that he was ok and back at it. He was planning to ride partial days but wasn't giving up. Again, it was another reminder that it really wasn't about the actual ride, but about WHY we were riding. I've met a lot of people riding and am constantly reminded and inspired by what has so many different kinds of athletic, social, culturally diverse people riding the same ride, all for their own personal and public reasons. It is a very interesting dynamic of 2300 people doing the same thing - essentially by themselves.

Friday night in camp after the nightly announcements, there was a candle light vigil that led everyone participating from the dinner tents out to the beach. Friends and family of riders and roadies were invited to be part of this as well, as the path out to the beach was outlined by volunteers holding glow sticks. We helped light each others candles and silently walked out to the beach, making a circle, several people deep, that stretched far down the shore. Many minutes passed before everyone had assembled on the beach. Candles raised to the star-filled sky, brought back down and then brought out silently to the surf to be extinguished. This was absolutely amazing with 2000 + people, sharing silent moments of reflection, thanks, prayer and peace. Even though I had rode almost 500 miles to that point, my thoughts had nothing to do with bicycling. They were solely focused on my own family and friends and how incredible they are and how lucky I am to have them in my life, on the people and families directly assisted by the services that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center provide and how fortunate I WAS to be able to be part of all of this.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 5 - Crash and burn. Tough day. Looking forward to Day 6.

A group stretching in the morning before their ride.

Day 5. Things can change on a dime. Four days in. Rides of 85, 107, 66 and 97 miles. Today was the shortest ride day - 40 miles from Santa Maria to Lompoc. Day 5 is "Red Dress Day" on the ride. All riders are encouraged to ride in our AIDS awareness red best, whatever that means to you. There was a lot of primping and posing, smiles, laughter and general good-natured compliments everywhere, toward everyone. To see a single line of red-dressed cyclists as far as you can see was quite a sight.

There was going to be a few climbs at mile 18 and mile 24, but how bad could it be and in total 40 miles. I think I backed off my focus just a little. Didn't drink enough, didn't eat enough. We barely were on our way and at mile 4 a rider right in front of me and another rider (Stuart from Glasgow, Scotland), caught the side edge of his front tire on the side of a raised part of the road on the shoulder, tried redirecting the bike, but lost control of it and spilled hard. I called the emergency services number written on the wristband we wore the whole week, while Stuart tried attending to him. Help came almost immediately and we had to trudge on. I just remember his number was 5759. I hoped we was going to be ok. Stuart and I stopped for coffee to clear our heads, before digging back into the day. No matter where you were or how you were feeling, everyone was encouraging, helping, praising, complimenting and thanking their fellow riders (and roadies) for their efforts, however small or large. If you rode by someone on the side of the road, you'd make sure they were ok before continuing on. People helping people all the time, all day long. The amount of support on the road (and in camp) was second to none.
Lots of weather changes and a couple tough climbs picked at me all day. We all have great days and less than great days. Today was a less than great day for me, but one thing is for sure out here is that you have to have short term memory loss. You work toward the next rest stop, the next break and eventually the ride for the day is over. Tomorrow is an 80+ miler that should be a beautiful day from Lompoc to Ventura through Santa Barbara. Tomorrow I will wake w/ the task at hand, planning to enjoy every pedal of every mile of every moment I'm riding and enjoy the rest stops I'm breaking in. I'm planning on it being that easy. I hope it is.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 4 - Chewing it up, spitting it out. 97 miler - check.

Day 4. After getting blasted by the sun on Tuesday and thinking about 97 miles today - I wasn't sure about how it would play out. I knew I'd ride light (as few extras on me as possible) and continue to hit every rest stop, drink all the time and stay within my own capabilities. The day started with greeting my bike in bike parking with a flat which was actually a good thing because I could replace it BEFORE starting my ride, instead of out on the road somewhere.
Bike repair/ mechanic station.

Your bike, the various bags you have attached to it, and your jersey pockets have to hold everything you think you need to get through the day. There is tremendous mechanical support at rest stops for bike help, food and drink too at the rest stops of course, but while you're riding you have to manage with whatever you have. At the beginning of the day you were handed a direction map with elevation chart and call outs for rest stops, lunch, etc. If you get a flat tire you change it on the spot. If you have greater issues w/ your bike or yourself, you can be picked up my one of the many support vehicles that are constantly combing the course you ride, making sure everyone is ok. I carry: 2 bottles - one water, one a water down Powerade, a couple mini Cliff bars, a couple GU packs, camera, phone, wallet, map, extra tube, patch kit, sunscreen, 'butter' and bandana. As the day unfolded, the leg warmers and probably your morning windbreaker/ extra layer will get stored in a back jersey pocket. My 'kitchen' of food was always on the right side, my clothes on the left, my phone and map in the middle pocket of my jersey and the rest in bags attached to the bike. Riding 'light' was more mental than anything.

After mile 10 there are 2 "hills" they call the Evil Twins and after that you hit the half way mark to L.A. The climbs were long and there was plenty of complaining on the way up them, but they weren't that bad and at the top, fog firmly in place, an open dirt lot  with signs marking the half way mark to L.A.
275 miles down. Half way to L.A.!

Mary Kay Cosmetics-themed rest stop.
This was a game changer for me for the rest of the day which still added up to 60 something miles to go. The descent down the backside of the second hill was especially cool (and cold) w/ some of my fellow riders getting up to 40 mph. It's really mental riding all day. So many things go through your head and I just felt stronger and stronger as the day went on. Chewing up the miles and spitting them out. You'd feel tired, you'd look down at your legs and they'd just be jamming away, completely doing their own thing while you managed your upper body, seat, neck, arms, wrists, etc. The rest stops were great all day.
A tradition to stop for a cinnamon roll in Pismo Beach.

Lunch at Cuesta College. Afterwards, a traditional (I'm learning there are a lot of 'traditions' to the ride) stop for a cinnamon roll at the Old West Cinnamon Rolls shop in Pismo Beach and then jamming w/ a tail wind the last 30 into camp.
The Pacific Ocean by Pismo Beach.

Day 3 - Sunburn and Highway 101...

Taking an on ramp to get on the highway.

A break after getting over a pass.
Day 3. King City to Paso Robles. 66 miles. Sun, sun, sun. We rode a couple times on the shoulder of 101 and I tell you it's a trip taking an on ramp to the highway on your bike! The sun wasted me but there were great rest stops and lunch in Bradley made the day.
Lunch in Bradley.
The ride into Bradley, a very small community of 120 people that offers us great support of the event, had red ribbons tied to the the bridge we crossed entering the town.
Ribbons line the bridge.
Little touches like this remind us of why we ride. In turn, they offer an alternative to our event lunch by hosting a BBQ for their school's enrichment program by selling hamburgers, chips and a drink. Someone said we raised $10,000 by buying from them at our lunch stop in town. One of the afternoon rest stops was at Mission San Miguel where the roadies put on a 'Jazzercise' class, which was met w/ loud cheers, laughter and lots of camera clicks.
The Jazzercise Show!

I rolled into the Paso Robles Fairgrounds in good shape. The camping / eating layout was really spread out but offered a nice break from the park-like settings to date. People are connecting where they can to outlets to recharge phones to stay in touch with the outside world.

Phones charging at camp. Photo Courtesy ALC 10.
Tomorrow is a 97 miler to Santa Maria as we climb the famous "Evin Twin" mountain passes AND pass the half way point to LA. Rolling, one pedal at a time.
Hanging with my gear.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 2. The Central Coast

The tent grid
Getting out of Santa Cruz
The overnight bike lot.
Day 2. This was a biggy for me. Training for ALC 10, my longest ride was 65 miles. Yesterday of course I broke that personal record by getting to Santa Cruz, which was 85 miles. Today was going to be 108 miles. I got out of camp and on the road by 7am. There was incredible amounts of traffic to get through in Santa Cruz before the long straight aways through lettuce, artichoke and strawberry fields that led us all to King City.  There were 2 rest stops before lunch, which came at the 47 mile mark for the day, in Salinas. The afternoon had 2 rest stops, a water and bathroom stop before getting to the San Lorenzo County Park. At about 3pm and about 60 miles into the day, I started feeling the effects of 'the seat' and quickly made a new best friend in Chamois Butter. I had been told a lot about this 'instant' reliever and quickly embraced its power. Day One was a very polite, "Excuse me, pardon me" kind of day. Day Two - still very polite, very cordial - but make no mistake - there were elements that clearly reflected that the honeymoon was over. ''Buttering up," getting to the massage/ chiropractic table, the medic's tent, seeing guys plugged w/ IVs and wrapped in foil from dehydration, made it very clear - this wasn't going to be all fun and games. I made it into camp at 7:20pm. I was a little concern that I would get 'sagged' for not getting into camp on time (it was posted that you had until 7pm. to ride into camp and you spend a lot of the day doing math calculations in your head over your speed, distance, elevation speed averages, break times, etc). Riders could throughout the whole event be picked up from anywhere on the course and forwarded to the next stop/ camp - for whatever the reason or that they couldn't get through the days ride by the close of the day. I vowed to never be sagged, never walk my bike and never give up. After getting into camp, I felt a huge sweep of confidence that I could meet my physical goals and ride every mile of every day to Los Angeles.

Riders helping a stranded car in Gonzalez.

Camp at night.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Orientation Saturday and Day 1 Sunday - Opening Ceremonies and then off toward Santa Cruz - 85 miles.

Orientation Day on Saturday was at the Cow Palace, which is also where we take off from Sunday morning. On Saturday, I dropped off my bike, watched a mandatory safety and general information video and got all the necessary paperwork, rider number stickers, tent/ gear location chips, questions answered, etc. taken care of. It rained all day, which added to the nervous excitement for the following morning. They also staged the 30th Anniversary Red Ribbon Photo taken with available riders/roadies participating in the shot, commemorating the event and anniversary.
I spent the rest of Saturday packing my bag, filling it with riding clothes, food, bike repair tools and supplies, sunscreen, etc. Each went into their own large zip lock bag for easy access and organization.

30th Anniversary photo taken at Orientation Day. Photo courtesy of Stephen Busken and the ALC 10 Event.

Day 1 was great. Up at 4am. Lisa drove me to the Cow Palace and got there by 5:30am. I brought my gear bag to my gear truck "G" and met my tent mate Neil. Opening ceremonies followed inside the middle of the indoor arena.
It was both touching and inspirational. Rob Thomas' "Now Comes the Night" played as a procession walked through the riders standing on the main floor featuring a riderless bike, in memory of all the riders, lost to AIDS, and because of HIV and AIDS, won't be joining us in ALC 10. With a record $13 million dollars raised from this event, we were congratulated on our fund raising efforts and a declaration that the ride was on (w/ stable weather for the first leg to Santa Cruz), we grabbed our bikes and out we rolled, all 2300+ of us.
85 miles later, I got to Santa Cruz around 5 after 4 rest stops and lunch, eating the entire day and going through 6 water bottles full of Gatorade and water. Big winds getting out of Half Moon Bay, but then things picked up the rest of the way. If Day 1 was an indication of the kind of roadside support and cheering we will receive throughout the week, it will be an unbelievable experience. People came out and stood in the most random places along the road, highway, off-ramps, sidewalks, everywhere cheering us on. It instantly gives you a push to roll on, no matter the mile, the hill, how you're feeling.
Along the road toward Santa Cruz. (I'm the one in red w/ yellow sleeves)

Lunch today was at the beach.
Tomorrow is our longest one-day ride at 107 miles. We've been told to get some rest!

My tent (G-77) and my tentmate's and my gear.