It was November 2013, more or less. The sky was grey and the weather was chilly. You came out for your first AIDS/LifeCycle training ride. You’d just signed up and were nervous, not sure what to expect. You had cycled before, but never considered yourself a cyclist. And the ALC seemed almost like a dream, far off in the distant future.
But that day, you had the ride to cope with. We, the Training Ride Leaders, told you it was “short” (only about 30 miles) and “easy” or “flat” (the elevation gain was measure in 100’s of feet, not 1000’s). That made you open your eyes and gulp audibly. Kinda cute. You had come prepared — helmet, gloves, two full water bottles, a spare and a pump — but rode the entire ride in one gear.
Almost like magic, a TRL casually asked whether you knew about gearing. When you admitted you did not, he offered some friendly advise. Keep to the large front cog for descents and the small front cog for flats and ascents. Then use the variation in the rear cassette to keep your legs spinning and your pace up. He explained that this will help keep you from getting exhausted.
Later, when he noticed that you looked overly tired at rest stops, or were stopping an unusual amount en route, you admitted that drinking while riding was a challenge. He offered some helpful advice: keep your eyes on the road, feel for the water bottle with your hands, grasp it firmly, and bring it to your lips, squeezing it and not tilting your head back. He told you to practice on the flat, straight portions of the ride.
Despite all this, you came back. Again and again. The courses became more intricate — more turns, more hills, more distance — and thus more challenging. But you surprised yourself by completing each and every ride. When the time came, you changed your own tube (with a little help), you gave yourself the time to rest up before hills so you found it easy to climb them, and you applied the TRL’s advise and figured out the gearing.
On our last training ride, you surprised us all by being the first in to rest stops and the first out — even thoughthe weather was hot and sunny. I overheard you giving advise to another rider struggling with the ride, “Have you drunk enough water? Sounds like you may be bonking.” And that rider gratefully accepted a couple Clif Bloks from you.
You started out in February with about $150 in donations and were dismayed that no one was donating. I read your Facebook posts and emails — heartfelt pleas to support the community and end the disease. Now your fundraising efforts are paying off. You’ve earned your $5K jersey and are kinda hoping for the $10K.
Day 0 is the day after tomorrow. I’m reading on Facebook: you can barely sleep you’re so excited.
So am I. That’s because you’ve made me so proud and I know you’re going to shine on the ride. Doing something to help others brings out the best in all of us, and nowhere has that ever been more palpable than during the love bubble that is the AIDS/LifeCycle.
See you on Saturday.
PS: Now that you’re an ALC convert, consider becoming a Training Ride Leader. Keep that love bubble in your heart all year.