Pushing the limits
How does a non-athletic, mother-of-two who’s immersed in a very busy life decide to ride her bike 545 miles down the coast of California?
In my case, it started with the chance meeting with an AIDS doctor who sent me a link to the AIDS Ride, an annual event in which 2,500 cyclists ride their bikes from San Francisco to Los Angeles in seven days to raise millions of dollars to provide critical services to people living with HIV and AIDS.
When I registered for this daunting ride late in 2010, my sedentary life thankfully turned upside-down. The only athletic thing I had ever done had been at the age of 16, when I joined a YMCA camp and rode my bike from San Jose to Yosemite. I didn’t know a soul doing the AIDS ride, but somewhere in my bones I believed I could do it, so I got a thumbs up from my husband and kids, gathered my courage and dug my barely-used bike out of the garage.
Initially, I was most worried about the fundraising component (each cyclist must raise a minimum of $3,000), but that proved to be the easier part, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. Training was the larger challenge, and believe me, it took me physically and emotionally beyond where I thought I could go.
I started riding to Winters and around Pleasant Valley Road when I could, and I joined a Saturday training team in Orinda to start a new and exciting relationship with hills. We started with gorgeous rides along The Three Bears, Grizzley Peak and Morgan Territory, and our grand finale was Mount Diablo. Is there any better way to spend a Saturday? These rides left me exhausted, but exhilarated and inspired. Bit by bit, I was gaining strength and confidence.
When I started riding 60 to 70 miles at a time, I ran into a major problem. At about mile 60, I hit a wall. I got unbearably uncomfortable and wanted nothing but to get off the bike. The fresh air and flowers meant nothing anymore … I couldn’t go on.
Realizing I needed some help with this, I went to my go-to-guy at Wheelworks, Adam Smith. He was excellent in helping me find ways to dig deeper when I hit that wall. I learned something about the satisfaction that comes from pushing through hard miles and finding unexpected energy and resilience when I thought I was at the end of my rope.
Then I started having problems with my left iliotibial band (outer thigh) and knee. Hideshi at Fitness Garage helped me with tape, massage and exercises to do at home. He also taught me to say “I will do it” instead of “I can do it” on the road. Through the help these guys gave me, I learned about the invaluable importance of a support team.
My months of training culminated on June 5, 2011, when 2,500 cyclists from 40 states and 11 countries left the Cow Palace, along with 600 roadies and 250 vehicles. We averaged 80 miles a day and camped in Santa Cruz, King City, Paso Robles, Santa Maria, Lompoc and Ventura before a triumphant arrival in L.A. From the first moment, there was a brilliant synergy of seriousness and playfulness along the way. We raised a record $13 million, made lifelong friendships and had an unforgettable time in the process.
In my heart, I wanted to do the ride again this year, but worried that my kids might be tired of my being gone on Saturdays. When I asked them about it, they said, “Mom, you’re a lot nicer when you’re riding your bike!” So I’ve committed to another ride down the coast this June.