The Human Cause

Raising awareness of HIV and AIDS one mile at a time.

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Write 31 Days in the Fight to End AIDS

I’ve been away from my blog for far too long with my writing taking on a life of its own in abbreviated fashion on Facebook. It’s been more than two years since my last post about a freak run-in with my pedal which eventually landed me in the ER with a very painful lower left leg. From the moment of impact, ten days would pass before I felt something was not quite right. My thought was a pulled muscle or maybe a stress fracture from experimenting with trail running on my hikes. A blood clot never entered my mind. After examination and an x-ray, my doctor sent me for a blood test to screen for a blood clot with the parting sentiment, “If it’s a blood clot, I’ll eat my hat.” As a healthy, active individual, I didn’t fit the profile of someone at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), but as both my doctor and I would learn, profiles are not the best tool for diagnosis.

Blood thinners, bed rest and a very slow return to activity was the prescription. The cost was having to withdraw from my third consecutive year as a cyclist in AIDS/LifeCycle. I counted myself lucky that my blood clot had not made its way to my lungs which might have been fatal. I was disappointed I wouldn’t be able to ride, but thankful my health recovered enough for me to participate in the event as a volunteer “Roadie” where I could still be immersed in the amazing community known as “the Love Bubble” for seven days in June.

That year, the event was a record-breaking success raising more than $14 million in the fight to end AIDS. Despite the setback due to injury, I raised $10,000, almost as much as I had raised in my first two years combined. It was a different year, but it was a great year. By the end of that summer, I’d be off blood thinners and back on my bike with not much more than some occasional tightness remaining in my lower leg around the site of the blood clot. I had planned to take the next year off of the intense training and promised my wife I would volunteer as a lunch Roadie with her. I’d continue to ride my bike but more with a focus on fun and recreation than getting fit for seven days and 545 miles in the saddle from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

That was in 2014, our fourth year on AIDS/LifeCycle, and again the fundraising total of $15.6 million was a record breaker. I had a wonderful experience with my wife working on the lunch crew and could see why she loved her “lunchies” so dearly, but I was determined to get back in shape and ride again in 2015. With nine months to train and about 20 pounds to unload, I added some days bicycling to work to log a few more miles each week. Then, one peaceful, misty morning in September 2014, I was in the enjoying my commute when I tangled with a car and my world was literally turned upside down. In a split second, another moment of impact, the universe shifted and life scoffed at my plans.

This past year I’ve been on a journey I could not have foreseen. My focus has been on my healing, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I don’t know where I quite expected to be a year out from my accident, but according to doctors and therapists, I’ve had a remarkable recovery. Writing was my therapist, my pillow to pound, my silent scream; my poems, reflections and revelations brought healing shared in “group” therapy. I have longed to get back to blogging about this very human cause I committed to many years ago, this fight to see an end to AIDS in my lifetime. If I learned anything from this past year, it’s that there is no time like the present, so on October 1st, I’m committing to Write 31 Days – a writing challenge for 31 days in October. We’ll see where this journey leads as we move from summer to fall, the light fading and the colors changing. Seems like there is no better time for going in.

The Ride from the Other Side

I know the moment everything changed. I just didn’t know in that moment everything changed. It was really a beautiful moment. Leaving the last rest stop with another of our AIDS/LifeCycle Team San Diego riders, we were within a few miles of finishing Saturday and Sunday back-to-back mammoth climbing rides totaling 115 miles. As is often the case, we would be the last riders in that day, but we were nearly finished save for a few flat, breezy miles around the bay. We felt accomplished.

It was a simple slip. Making my way to the street to get back in the saddle, my right foot slipped on a metal grate and my left pedal smacked into my inner left calf. I looked down to see if I was bleeding and said aloud, “that’s gonna bruise.” I don’t bruise easily; I knew I had hit it pretty good. I didn’t really give it much more thought until about a week later a bruise did begin to show and I told Carol what had happened.

What came next was waking a few days later with a sore left foot. You know that feeling. Like I had twisted it in the blankets or maybe Birdie had slept on it all night. It loosened up as the day went on, and though I noticed a little tenderness and swelling while changing shoes for my ride that night, it was not at all bothersome on the ride. I even felt as good climbing Torrey Pines as I had felt all season. I awoke the next morning with it sore and swollen so I took an ice pack to work and tried to ice and elevate when I could. It was my short day and I had planned to ride after lunch with friends, but the pain worsened as the day went on. I was thankful for the strong winds that afternoon which I used as an excuse not to ride. Really, it was my foot keeping me out of the saddle. The winds were a blessing.

That was Thursday and the pain intensified throughout the evening and into the night. Carol and I were scheduled to leave the next morning for LA for Day on the Ride, a simulation of AIDS/LifeCycle, but as we got ready for bed, I told her I really should see the doctor before we leave town to make sure I didn’t have something serious going on. After that the timeline goes something like this:

Friday 4/19/2013

7:00 am – Called Kaiser to see about appointment with my doctor
9:10 am – Dr. appointment in Pt. Loma
10:00 am – x-rays
10:30 am – x-rays read, negative for fracture or sprain
11:00 am – sent to Kaiser Hospital for blood draw to rule out blood clot
11:30 am – blood drawn; wait for results
12:00 pm – Carol joins me for lunch – still not certain we are heading to LA
12:30 pm – lab results show likely blood clot
1:00 pm – Doctor calls surprised it is a blood clot and will “eat her hat” if it is
1:10 pm – ultrasound in vascular lab at Kaiser Hospital
1:40 pm – clot confirmed in lower left calf at site of pedal smacking
1:45 pm – wheeled to ER; called Carol as iPhone battery dies; no trip to LA
3:30 pm – name called, more blood drawn, taken to ER room “Minor 9”
4:00 pm – ER doc explains clot and treatment; no exercise, i.e., bike ride
4:30 pm – ER nurse administers injection; discharge planner teaches self-injection
4:45 pm – released with a prescription for shots and pills; head to pharmacy
5:30 pm – arrive home exhausted, shell shocked; relieved to be back in Carol’s arms

The next few days I would receive instructions on bed rest (with bathroom privileges, thank goodness), compression stockings, injections, medication regimen and pain management. I couldn’t work until the week-long series of injections was complete. I was visited by home health nurses and had daily blood draws at home followed by consultations with a pharmacist as we tried to get the level of medication right for my body. The medication is supposed to thin the blood and prevent the clot from moving up the vein and into my lungs. Eventually, the clot will be absorbed into the vein wall, but that will take time. I learned I will be on the medication 3-6 months.

I also learned that for one in three people, a clot like this (medically referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT) is fatal and is the cause of more deaths each year than breast cancer, AIDS and automobile accidents combined. People are often unaware they have a clot. This leads to clots moving to the the lungs which is often fatal. Wow. I got lucky. I knew my body and felt something was not quite right and I took action. My clot was caught very early and the likelihood that I will have complications is very small. It was all a little surreal, going from a busy, active, healthy life to one of bed rest in a potentially life-threatening situation but not really being sick or needing sleep. Maybe that’s why I remember the details so vividly; I played them over and over in my head. And, well, I am me. My brain just works that way.

The other thing that happened? I was overwhelmed with love and support. Visits from friends, well wishes from colleagues, grad students and hundreds of Facebook friends (who knew I had hundreds of friends?), food made for us to take the burden off of Carol who became caretaker, and the love bubble of the AIDS/LifeCycle community enveloping me like I could not have imagined. I am blessed beyond words. And lucky.

A seemingly insignificant incident while getting on my bike has taken me off my bike, at least long enough to keep me from riding in my third consecutive AIDS/LifeCycle. I am committed to this cause, to raising $10k, to stopping the spread of HIV, to ending AIDS and to improving the lives of those living with the disease. So now I’ll become a Rockin’ Roadie like my beloved wife, Carol. To quote a friend, I’m going to “see the ride from the other side” this time around. Rather than wallow in my disappointment and think of what might have been, I look forward to experiencing the ride from a different perspective, meeting people I would not have even crossed paths with had I been in the saddle for seven days. Yeah, I already drank the lemonade. Got more? My doctor is gonna need some to wash down that hat.

If Not for This

Been away from the blog for a good long time. We are almost into March and this is the first post of the new year. The academic year is half over at work, daylight saving time and the blooming flowers of spring are right around the corner, AIDS/LifeCycle is just about three months away, and my 50th birthday is in 27 days. 27 days. Time flies, and it seems the older we get, the faster it flies. I had a conversation with my mom over lunch today about how inconceivable it is that I’ll be turning a half century. She is probably the only person in more disbelief than me that I will be this age, especially since I am her “baby” and always will be.

I’m thrilled with the age that I am, the richness of this life and the love that I’ve been blessed with from so many. Sure, I wish I had less physical pain, that my body worked like it did when I was younger. I could have tended my money better, put more away for retirement. And there’s the children I never had.

Rather than focus on regrets, should haves, what might have been and the like, these days I’ve been thinking often about how we each come to where we are in our lives. Each step we take, decision we make, puts us on a specific path. If not for a Type II diabetes diagnosis 15 years ago, then I may not have found cycling, reclaimed my health, traveled all the roads I have and made incredible friendships along the way. Or found my way to AIDS/LifeCycle, to fighting for the end to HIV and AIDS, to knowing I’m saving lives and making a difference in the lives of many.

My past relationship with this blog has been to write infrequent, lengthy posts about life on my bike, in the “love bubble” community of AIDS/LifeCycle, overcoming obstacles, recognizing growth – the stuff life is made of. For the next few months, I’m going to give shorter, more frequent posts a shot. No guarantee. Seems I have a passion and penchant for telling the whole story, at least as I see it.

Stay tuned. On more than one occasion, I’ve had a conversation with someone who shared with me, “If not for reading your blog post…”

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In the Absence of a Cure, Education and Prevention are Keys to Ending AIDS

I am sometimes asked why I am not raising funds for HIV and AIDS here in my own community in San Diego. The truth is Carol and I volunteer for AIDS Walk San Diego every year and support our friends who do the event through donations. We also participate in other local HIV/AIDS fundraisers like Dining Out for Life and support friends raising funds for HIV and AIDS services in other communities. To us, the fight to end this disease is bigger than our “local” community. It is a global fight, and whenever and wherever work is being done to end this pandemic, it benefits us all – it is a battle we should all be waging, locally and globally. Beneficiaries of AIDS/LifeCycle, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center and SF AIDS Foundation, have been at the forefront in battling AIDS and caring for those who are HIV-infected since the earliest days of the pandemic. These organizations have developed programs, funded research, lobbied on the state and national level and served thousands in need. Every dollar they raise ultimately serves the bigger community that is the world. They save lives and give hope to an end to AIDS. I don’t see the HIV-infected mother in Africa or the man fighting AIDS in San Francisco any differently than I see my neighbor. I see them as my fellow human citizens – they ARE my community.

“You’re All So Happy!”

There is such richness in the AIDS/LifeCycle experience, I expect each veteran could fill a good-sized book with our observations and experiences living for seven days in this amazing community. We ride through some of the most beautiful country on the planet, unprotected from the elements, unsheltered from the people we pass on the side of the road. Traveling by bicycle slows everything down, brings sights, sounds and smells up close and personal. So much happens in the course of a day on the ride, so much to see and do, so many emotions and a diversity of people and experiences, there is never a dull moment. And there is magic in getting to your destination under your own power. We climb the hills, fight the wind, endure rain and cold, survive heat and bugs and navigate some pretty treacherous traffic conditions all without propulsion or protection. And apparently, all the while, we do it with a smile.

On our way into lunch in Santa Barbara on Day 6, we were riding on a fairly busy street through a mix of commercial and residential areas. The bicycle traffic was pretty spread out, but there were a few riders just ahead of me and a couple behind. It was a spectacular day, arguably the best weather of any day on the ride. We’d had sun from the time we left camp and only a light breeze on the coast in contrast to the winds we had battled since Day 1. On this day, the skies stayed clear into the night and we could see the stars from the beach during the candlelight vigil. Feeling spunky, making good time, we were on a slight downhill passing through one stretch of homes. A few folks were out on the street waving and cheering. Then we approached a woman who seemed upon us by chance, purse hanging on her arm, car keys in hand as if she were headed to or from her car. She watched us ride on, one by one, and a smile came across her face. As we passed she exclaimed, “You’re All So Happy!”

This ride brings with it adversity from every direction. From losing power at our hotel on the night before the ride to the Day 2 rain-drenched closing of the route and stranding of more than a thousand people to the inability to get my feet unclipped from my pedals on that day (I could write an entire post on that scary incident), we face a multitude of challenges from the day we sign on to do this ride. As in life, we don’t get to choose the circumstances we are handed, but we always get to choose how we respond to challenges. After my second year participating in this incredibly human event, I was reminded again and again that this community is filled with amazingly giving and loving people all coming together for a common cause. Some have lost hundreds of friends, entire communities to AIDS; others like me have not been directly affected but now are touched by association and by all those we have met who have experienced loss or are living with the disease. The grief runs deep and wide, sometimes coming in soft ripples and other times in crashing waves. It is the sharing of this grief, the sadness, the anger and defiance, that brings us together and helps us hang on to what is good in life, that which can be celebrated and hoped for.

Suzi, Sean, Doug and Carin warmly wrapped in mylar and smiles.

So yes, when life interrupts your ride with a downpour, you find cover, move the coldest folks to the center of the huddle, build a community among strangers and shiver through wide smiles! And when gifted with mylar blankets and garbage bags, this community that is built on a foundation of grief and persists on a platform of hope turns Day 2 into Silver Dress and Black Bag Day and struts its stuff with a fabulous impromptu fashion show entertaining the hundreds who waited patiently for transportation knowing many others were stuck out on the road in blustery wind and driving rain. We rose to this occasion bringing out the best in each other just as we have for decades in our fight for visibility, equality and an end to HIV and AIDS. Yes, there’s still lots of work to do, but we’ll whistle while we work – we are ALL so happy!

AIDS/LifeCycle 2013 – I’m Riding for Michael

Riding through San Mateo on a beautiful morning on Day 1 of AIDS/LifeCycle, a man was standing at the side of the road holding up a picture and calling out, “This is my brother Michael and you are riding for him.” I hadn’t taken the time last year to stop and talk to anyone holding up signs of thanks or pictures of loved ones, but fellow riders who had said it was one of the best things they did on the ride. I decided now was as good a time as any and pulled to the side of the road. As we talked, he continued to call out to other riders. He shared with me that his brother had died 22 years and a week ago from AIDS. I asked him where Michael had lived when he died and he said right there in San Mateo. He had such joy as he spoke of the memories of his brother, yet his grief was still palpable after all these years. We shared a hug and he thanked me for riding. I thanked him for being there and I went on my way.

I haven’t lost a sibling or parent or spouse. I expect it is something you never truly get over, but with HIV and AIDS, so many have died in shame and silence, suffering alone and being disowned and abandoned by family and friends. Throughout the week, I was touched time and again by the loss of so many. The grief in this community hangs like a heavy fog, lifting now and then through our shared joy and laughter in the life we are each blessed to be living and the hope that some day we will come together to ride for fun rather than to wage war on this pandemic. Still, the fog is ever looming.

Carol and I were pretty sure ALC 2012 would be our last for a few years. But we are not done. If we do not participate, someone will not get the medication they need to live with this disease, someone will not get the information they need to prevent contracting or spreading this disease, someone will not get the support they need to face this disease and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation will not get the research funds they need to find a cure for this disease. We cannot be done.

We are AIDS/LifeCycle 2013 Rider 1609 and Roadie 8113 continuing the fight to save lives on the Ride to end AIDS.

Backing Down, Gearing Up – Breaking Down, Tearing Up

I can’t believe it’s been a year since we were at this place, backing down our training mileage, gearing up with all we’ll need to make it through seven days outdoors far from the creature comforts of home, making our final fundraising requests in hopes of raising a few more dollars in the fight to end HIV and AIDS. Some of us have started packing, others are shopping for those last-minute items, and others still do not get that in just 12 days, we ride. It will be here in the blink of an eye, these last few days rushing past in a blur like the days, weeks and months of this past year. Where does the time go?

As we get closer to the event and each member of our team comes to terms with why they committed to ride and all that it’s taken to get to this point, our hearts open and we touch those wounded, grief-filled places inside, and for better or for worse, sometimes this happens in the middle of a training ride. In my role as a Training Ride Leader, I look at anything that happens on a training ride as a “dry run” for the big ride, whether it’s a flat tire, road construction, a detour, bonking from not enough food or tearing up in a moment when all of what you’ve been through on this journey comes crashing in and you have no place to hide because you are on a busy street pedaling in traffic and you have to stay tuned in to what’s around you. Those of us who have done the ride know we will all have our tender, raw moments. The more emotional of us may experience tears several times throughout each day (yes, that would be me) and some who don’t see themselves as emotional may find themselves stopped on the side of the road, breaking down and sobbing without warning – or explanation.

Last year, my breakdown came as we rode across the red-ribbon covered bridge into the small town of Bradley (population 120) where the school puts on a BBQ fundraiser for their extracurricular school activities. Rounding the corner I saw a school bus decorated with brightly painted signs to welcome the riders into town. In that moment, I was angry that we are still fighting this disease and appalled that our children are growing up in a world that looks the other way at a disease that continues to take the lives of men, women and children in our own communities and all over the world. I leaned my bike against the back of the bus and walked to the other end for some privacy, sat down and sobbed.

This past Sunday driving to the site of our training ride, I was thinking about the heroes in my life, the people who fight for what’s right even when they are waging battles of their own. One friend who has been undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer the last several months came to mind. An educator, mentor, husband, father, dedicated son and friend to everyone, he is there whenever you call, even through a frightening, life-threatening illness. He supported our participation in AIDS/LifeCycle last year with two separate donations. I certainly didn’t expect he would be in a place to support us again this year, but through all his battles, he tells me I’m his inspiration and he gives yet again. He is my hero and my inspiration and he brought me to tears on my drive on Sunday morning and even now again as I am writing this.

Sunday’s ride was a flat, easy recovery ride around the bay and out to Sunset Cliffs. Our team had ridden 96-100 miles the day before and it was time to just relax and spin out the legs. For some of us though, it turned out to be quite the emotional workout as we struggled with our own feelings and life situations that day. Talking with a few of my teammates made it apparent we were all in that place of looking at the ride and how it seems to permeate every aspect of our lives from the day-to-day rhythm of things to the grief we may feel about losses not even remotely related to HIV or AIDS. We took a little bit of extra time at the turnaround point on Sunset Cliffs, took a few deep breaths and then got together for a photo.

I felt a sense of cleansing and relief in that shared moment and hopped back on my bike for the return. Not even five minutes later I was reminded the tears are never behind me. Pedaling down Sunset Cliffs Blvd. on our way out of Ocean Beach, Carin and I were having a seemingly simple conversation about what jerseys we will wear each day on ALC. The jersey she is wearing in the photo above is from last year and has the names of donors and those living with HIV or lost to AIDS. I have a similar Team in Training jersey that bears the names of souls lost to cancer, most are friends and family I have lost, but Carin’s dear friend, Devorah, is also remembered there. As soon as we started talking about that jersey, we both broke into tears and then I started a heavy cry. She asked if I wanted to stop and I said no. I got it back together almost as quickly as it came on, but there it was. And there it will be for some time, preparing to leave for the ride, arriving in San Francisco into the community of compassion and hope that will hold me and my extended family for seven days and will continue to sustain us during the letdown in the days and weeks following the event. We are full of grief and hope, anger and determination, but most of all, we are love. And we will triumph over this human disease.

$76,000 of Courage and Determination

This past Saturday, 23 riders came out for Team San Diego‘s training ride, one of our last few rides before we head to San Francisco to begin our journey on AIDS/LifeCycle 11. It was a gray morning, though not as chilly as it had been in weeks past, and the forecast called for sun, so we were all looking forward to a beautiful, though long day on the road. For some, the 80 miles that was carefully laid out on the route sheet represented their longest ride ever. We’ve been slowly building mileage so physically, we are prepared, but let’s face it: 80 miles is still 80 miles.

After months of training and fundraising, some of us have hit that wall of burnout. At this point, it seems all we do is go to work, train, eat, sleep, ask everyone we know to support our efforts, and get up the next day to do it all over again. I can speak only for myself, but the house is a mess, the weeds have come to visit our yard en masse, all the projects we have started around the house have been on hold for months, and friends and family – well let’s just say I’m glad they love me because they don’t see much of me these days. Physically and mentally, we are all exhausted.

It is this exhaustion, this need for a boost as we scratch and claw for the proverbial finish line, that forces me to return to WHY we are all doing this. Why did we each say “yes” to this challenge? Why do our donors say “yes” when we ask for their support? Why do our bosses grant us the time off when for some of us, June is the busiest time of year? We do it to save lives, to bring an end to the silence, to find a cure, to prevent new infections, to give hope and quality of life to those living with HIV and AIDS, to end this pandemic. On the hardest of days, during the loneliest of miles in the saddle, when I haven’t slept well or don’t feel my best as was the case this past week, this is what keeps me going. Being surrounded by a community of people who care, who have the courage to take on this challenge and find the determination to continue each day brings me strength and resolve and reminds me why I said “yes” once again this year. We are making a difference.

As our riders began arriving on Saturday morning, I checked in with each of them to see where they were with their fundraising. The minimum to participate is $3000 and almost everyone had already reached their minimum or was within a few hundred dollars. Of the 23 riders who showed, 21 of us are participating in the ride this year, and to date, we have raised $76,000. Yes – $76,000. And that’s not all of our team. And we’re still not done.

Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Clearly, she knew a thing or two about courage and determination and the power of “yes” – and this selfless, loving community I have come to know as family. Say “yes” my friends. Yes.

Update 5/16/12: Team San Diego has now registered 35 riders and roadies who have raised a total of $122,484.54 in the fight to end HIV and AIDS. With 18 days before the ride, we’ve set our team goal at $150,000. Please help us reach our team goal and our personal goal of $6000 by making a donation at our Team ReaganHarlow page. There is power in numbers!

What’s Blocking the Blogging

Nearly two months have passed since my last post here. Plenty has happened and no doubt, I have lots to say. I had an incredibly full, celebratory birthday month in March, and yes, I’ve been spending more and more time in the saddle – nearly 600 miles since my Leap Day post. The last three months at work brought a colleague’s retirement, new job responsibilities and a new colleague to train, all during the busiest time of the year in our unit. Indeed, life is good and full, but even with the busy and blessed life that I am living, time isn’t the issue when it comes to blogging.

The problem isn’t time or inspiration. The problem is working on the computer, the actual act of the typing. I have work-induced repetitive strain injury in the form of chronic elbow tendonitis. In 2005, I was out of work for a year with this and other computer-related injuries. It is also what kept me off my bike for several years. I won’t go into the depressing details of being in the worker’s comp system. Suffice to say after spending thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to get the treatment I needed, I returned to work, changed the nature of my job and s-l-o-w-l-y regained my health. I hadn’t had more than occasional soreness until the change in jobs shifted my work from meeting with students in person to interacting more through email. Sadly, my pain has returned and I find I have to be very judicious in how I use the computer.

So for now, my typing is reserved for work and my posts are limited to the short stories and comments I share on facebook. I’m working to dial in my voice recognition software at work and rethinking how I have posted to my blog in the past. Fortunately, the tendonitis isn’t having an impact on my cycling, and in fact, any activity other than typing is good for using the muscles in a different way. There really is so much to share about time on the road, watching new riders come into their own as cyclists, the successes of friends and the richness of human stories. Stay tuned. I’ve dealt with this and other injuries before. I’m determined to not let this injury keep me from sharing the ordinary happenings of each day that make this life extraordinary.

Leap Forward – It’s Time to Eat, Rest, Ride

It’s been several months since I’ve written an update to this blog. What can I say? Life happens. I could list all the things that have kept me from writing, all the ways I struggle to say what I want to say without writing my own little novella each time I put my fingers on the keys, but in keeping with my new approach to blogging, I’ll cut to the chase – and I’ll try to keep it brief.

It is Leap Day, and I find myself on the eve of the month of March which holds so much for me. First, it is my birth month, and in keeping with the tradition introduced to me by my dear friend, Claire, I intend to celebrate for the entire month. And it is the month we get back some hours of daylight. For a cyclist, that means more hours to be out on the road, especially on the weeknights after work. More reason to celebrate. And then there is the coming of spring. Who doesn’t like spring? It is my favorite season bringing with it what I love most about San Diego weather: sunny and 70s. We haven’t had much rain this year, but because the usual winter cloud cover has been absent, we’ve had colder days and nights. It’s been the chilliest winter on the bike that I can remember. Jackets, full-fingered gloves and arm/leg warmers have been put to good use on almost every ride the past few months. I’ll keep them in my gear bag for another couple of months, but soon, they will hibernate until fall. Yet another reason to celebrate.

Indeed, March is marvelous month – always. This year, though, the best thing about March is I am actually able to ride. Last year, I was still recovering from muscle damage resulting from a statin drug I was taking to lower my cholesterol. It was a difficult time. I wasn’t able to be out with my team getting ready for the biggest ride of our lives and I was hurting. At that time, I didn’t even know if I would be able to do the ride at all. This year is different. Our training for AIDS/LifeCycle has started and we have been building mileage slowly for the last six weeks. I’m excited to meet new riders almost every week and I’m really enjoying my role as a Training Ride Leader. My body is feeling good and I’m finding my rhythm, becoming accustomed once again to the ritual of packing for a ride, leaving a warm bed in the wee hours of the morning, eating a bigger breakfast than I do any other day of the week, coming home to refuel and rest before getting on with the day and then preparing to do it all again the next day. Eat. Rest. Ride. Repeat.

Yes, cycling season is in full swing, and by the time the ride rolls around in June, this will all seem so routine. That is why we train. It’s not just about getting our bodies ready for 545 miles. It’s about getting our heads around doing it day after day for seven days, when we are tired and sore, cold and wet, and emotionally spent from the highs and lows of the event itself. It’s about being ready for anything that might get in the way of making a difference, of saving lives, of getting it done on the Ride to End AIDS.

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