Bicycle

AIDS/Lifecycle 9: Day 7

Day 7- Ventura to LA

Day 7 started off the usual way.  I ate, packed up my tent and headed to yoga on the beach.  I approached the previous class and noticed that the instructor was slower and more calm that day.  I gazed out at the water, waiting for the class to begin.

We practiced facing the ocean.  The instructor stopped a few times to point out dolphins.  Afterward, while all the other cyclists were scrambling to get on the road, we sat on the beach, breathing.

This was it.  We were almost done… but 60 miles is no joke after riding 6 days straight.  My main driving thought was meeting Lynn at the finish line.  I rode deliberately through the ride.  Making decent time.  I took extra long at the rest stops cause… damn, I was tired.  After lunch in Malibu, I started feeling sleepy.  Oh no!  I hadn’t felt that way the whole ride.  Other people said they felt the same way.  I talked to riders with family members who followed by car with coffee drinks.  That reminded me that I had Java Juice coffee extract in my CamelBak.  I guzzled down my instant coffee and headed on the last 17 mile stretch of the ride.

Traffic heavy, this last stretch pulled us through LA and up a hill for our final destination.  I picked up a few people behind me following my pace and passing.  This is the second time this happened on the ride.  I thought it was kind of cool.  It is easy to pass other people when the person in front of you does it.  (It’s also easy to get trapped behind someone who is going slower than you and a racing line of cyclists to your left.  Bummer.)

We pulled up to a stoplight right before we approached our destination.  The cyclist in front of me started to slowly fall to her side (We all know that clip stuck in your pedal fall).  Without thinking, I reached over my handlebars and grabbed her rear rack to steady her.  She didn’t end up falling but was quite startled.  Funny how things like that can happen so close to the end.

Many people were cheering us on as we rode into the LA VA center.  I think I was most excited as I saw Lynn.  I didn’t cry but a huge scream poured out of my gut.

I parked, got my t-shirt and waited around with Lynn.  The closing ceremony was slightly anti-climactic.  They asked us all to ride around the block.  We were riding extremely slow and close to each other when and a rider in front of me tipped over and caused a domino effect, knocking down a hand full of cyclists.  That made a few people grumpy.  The closing ceremony it self had beautiful and sad moments.  I cried.  As the sun beat down on us, I wished I had a hat.

On our way out of the VA, I spent my time trying to convince Lynn to sign up for ALC 10 with me.  We were totally going to do it, but I was tired of standing in lines so we decided to sign up soon after, and we did!

I’m excited for more training and adventure to come and so happy to be a part of such an amazing event.

Bicycle

AIDS/Lifecycle 9: Day 6

Day 6- Santa Maria to Ventura

Photo: Jason Samia

Everything was slower on day six.  Again, I groaned a little bit while getting ready in my tent and again my neighbors asked “How’s it going Fivestar?”  I said “good, but stiff”.  It had all just hit me.  My body finally realized what was going on.  I wanted to leave early but I kept forgetting things.  I left my helmet at the port-a-pottys before walking all the way across camp to roll out at the medical tent, I left my helmet in front of the medical tent after walking all the way to bike parking.

Camp is a big place and takes time to traverse (especially in cleats).  I started hearing warning yells “camp is closing in 30 minutes”.  Tired and optimistic, I hopped on my bike and began to ride.  I was focused, thinking in segments.  “15 miles to rest stop 1.”  I didn’t really have the energy to think past that.  Then at the stop: Port-a-potty, eat, stretch, port-a-potty.

The day felt long but the scenery made it all go down easier.  For a good deal of the ride, we rode along the coast.  I took a really long break taking in the Santa Barbara beach.  It wasn’t far from an unofficial stop on the ride, Paradise Pit.  I wasn’t planning on stopping at the pit, but the signs leading up to it enticed me to stop and eat some vegan ice cream.

Woah!  What a mistake.  I reached a sugar crash about 5 miles after the cone.  I slowly and deliberately made it to the water stop.  While there, I ran into someone I knew from the group rides who had to sag due to pain from the saddle.  Ouch!  I worked hard to convince her to try, what I believe to be THE BEST SADDLE IN THE WORLD!, The Selle Ldy.  I realize now that it’s probably not good for every person and we all have different anatomy, but it was suggested to me with enthusiasm and I can’t help but suggest it with enthusiasm (though I realize it may seem pushy).

I finally made it back into camp and couldn’t think of anything else but food.  Every day up until Day 6, I’d go back to the tent, shower do laundry before eating.  Day 6, all I could think to do was eat.  So I listened to my body and ate a couple of servings of food.

I took care of the rest of my routine and ran into another training ride buddy.  She came up to me celebrating that we were almost done.  I felt her joy but at the same time was too afraid to celebrate.  We had 60 or so more miles to go and that day was hard.

Photo: Mike Casas

I rushed to get ready in time for the candle light vigil to honor those we lost to HIV/AIDS.  Everyone held a candle and stood silently in a huge circle on the beach.  People began to walk towards the waves and lay their candle in the sand letting the water kill the flame.

After this, I went to sleep, but only after using the foam rollers.

Bicycle

AIDS/Lifecycle 9: Day 5

Day 5- Santa Maria to Lompoc

I woke up on Day 5 kind of stiff.  I quietly moaned as I bent over to pack up my tent prompting my neighbors to ask, “How’s it going Fivestar?”  I told them I was good but sore.  They assured me that Day 5 wasn’t too bad, “It’s an easy day, 40 miles or something like that.”  They were wrong.  The route changed from last year, but even the new 67 mile route was a “short day” in the context of the ride.

The Outfits

Day 5 is Red Dress Day.  Almost everyone wears a dress, skirt or some kind of crazy costume.  I didn’t pack anything for Red Dress Day because the last time I wore a dress was for my sister’s wedding and I still needed to work through some residual trauma.  By the time Day 4 came around, I decided I’d partake in the festivities and borrow a costume.  Lucky every fag brought at least 2 different red dresses, so I borrowed someone’s extra red fringe skirt.  I wore a red bike jersey and rainbow socks.

Apparently, Red Dress Day started out as Dress Red Day.  The idea:  Everyone wears red so that the ride looks like a giant AIDS ribbon across the California highways.  Thanks to the fabulous queer sensibilities of the group, it quickly became Red Dress Day.  Many queers and straights of all genders on the ride sported a red dress.  Extra props was given to the straight men in the crowd for being good sports.  I’d also like to give props to all of us born females who wore dresses in spite of past battles with constraining gender roles.

Riding

Day 5 has been historically “the short day” on the ride, 40 or so miles ending in a big dance party.  This year, apparently, the ride lost some permits, pushing the route off course 30 miles.  It took everyone a while to get out of camp.  People needed time to get their costumes together and take group photos with their teams.  I also ended up leaving a little later than usual.

Very soon after taking off, I felt like I needed to pee. Rest Stop 1 was 18 miles into the ride so I decided to book it.  I spent the first part of the morning passing many people.  I got in a good rhythm even picked up a follower who joined me in fast riding and coordinated crowd navigation.  I felt great at Rest Stop 1.

It was a little more crowded than usual, it seemed like people were really taking their time that day.  After I took care of my rest stop routine, I heard that the rest stop would close in 30 minutes.  I hopped on my bike and carried along.

This is when I encountered the most memorable hill on the ride.  It was difficult but, as described in a previous post, glorious.  I stopped at Rest Stop 2 so grateful for all of my Twin Peaks rides sponsors and Lynn for training with me. I felt at my peak; strong, amazing, invincible.

Nothing but 40 mph headwinds could knock me down from such glory.

The Wind

It hit us from out of nowhere.  Twenty three miles to the end, we battled a mean headwind.  People were pissed, but  I totally made it through the second half of the day with the fake-it-till-you-make-it, smile-and-trick-your-brain tactic.  My efforts to proselytize other riders to my method only produced grumpy reactions.  I kept smiling.

It worked.  I rolled into camp just in time to shower and eat.  I even got to practice a bit of my variety show performance, an acoustic cover of the disco classic “Turn The Beat Around”.  Since camp news ran hour late, the variety show didn’t start till 9:30.  I was exhausted and asked myself “what the fuck are you doing?”.  Every other night on the ride I had been in bed by 9:30 and I still hadn’t rolled out.

I got on stage and I rambled a bit asking the audience to represent.  “How many cyclists are still awake?”  Surprisingly more than I had imagined.  Nervous as hell, I stumbled through the song. The audience shared their love with ease.  I didn’t beat myself up about mistakes I made in the performance and focused on the fact I even performed after 412 miles.

Bicycle

AIDS/Lifecycle 9: Day 4

Day 4- Paso Robles to Santa Maria

I remember waking up on Day 4 and thinking, “Am I really going to do another century (97.7 miles) today?”  The strongest impetus for the day was reaching the halfway point between San Francisco and LA.

Hills

A few hills carried a bad reputation on the ride.  Thanks to training in Marin and climbing Twin Peaks, I took the hills quite well.  I was so well prepared, I even forgot to mention the “Quad Buster” on Day 3.  Myself and many of my San Francisco ALC group training ride friends considered the name “Quad Buster” a bit of an exaggeration. The CATSeries training rides consistently lead us over hills of equal or greater difficulty.

Day 4 lead us to the legendary “Evil Twins”, two hills right before the halfway point from SF to LA.  I noticed the first hill, climbed steadily and found myself at the halfway point asking “where’s the other evil twin?”  I expected another climb just as difficult, but it was all over.

Everyone stopped to wait in line and take the infamous “Halfway to LA” picture.  Whoop!

There were, however, some difficult hills that escaped the rumor mill.  Day 5 would bring the most challenging hill that I would personally experience.  Probably because we had been riding for so many consecutive days.  The climb was painful and the downfall so glorious.  I never before understood the definition of glory.

Bonking

I never completely bonked on the ride but came close on Day 4.  I know that most of it had to do with not eating at Rest Stop 3, the stop right after lunch.  I didn’t want to eat a snack, so I didn’t.  Probably a mistake.  They always say “eat before you’re hungry.”  Maybe I was sick of the snacks or just too full from lunch.

I started to bonk about 5 miles to Rest Stop 4.  I decided to get off of my bike and eat a Cliff Bar.  (I brought my own Cliff Bars on the ride to insure that I had a snack that I actually liked to eat.)  I made it to Rest Stop 4 pretty exhausted.  The theme was “Hotdog On a Stick”, which is apparently hotdogs and lemonade franchise.  Rest Stop 4 served us gummy hotdogs and lemonade!  The lemonade brought me to life and “The Hotdog Dance” helped raise my spirits.

I remember talking with a training ride buddy about how the miles were catching up with us.   We chatted with some veterans and apparently there is an unofficial cinnamon bun stop between rest stop 3 and 4.  According to them, the bun really doesn’t taste so good but the sugar carries you through the 20 mile stretch.  We sat in the shady grass until the rest stop roadies yelled that the stop was closing in 30 minutes.  I jumped up to grab my bike from bike parking.  Eek!  In my bonk-hazy state, I accidently parked my bike in the “Bikes to be Sagged” area.  Thank goodness it was still there!  I headed back to camp rejuvenated and ready to ride the next day, Red Dress Day.

Bicycle

AIDS/Lifecycle 9: Day 3

Day 3- King City to Paso Robles

What I remember the most about Day 3 was the heat!  It was a short day (67 miles), but the heat took so much out of me.

Photo: Mike Casas

By this time, I was sure that self care during rest stops was essential for this kind of endurance event.  My rest stops usually included the following:

  • “Eat before you’re hungry.” The ride provided many snacks, most of it junk.  They did, however, always carry orange slices and “crack bars” (peanut butter and jelly graham cracker sandwiches).  After a few days, rest stop 1 busted out with the amazing “mystery bagels”!  I never really felt like eating their packaged treats but when they took everything and mixed it with peanut butter and jelly and spread it on a sub-par bagel, something magical happened.  I was really thankful for that snack.
  • “Drink before you’re thirsty.” Every rest stop had water and Powerade.  A lot of rest stops also had ice, which helped a ton on a day like Day 3.  To keep cool, I dipped my scarf it in ice water and wore it around my neck.
  • Port-a-potty.
  • Stretch. As a recommendation from my yoga instructor, Skeeter from Yoga Kula, I did at least one sun salutation at each rest stop.  I feel like this really helped to sustain me through the long days.  Downward dog, forward bend and cobra really helped to stretch my back… Plus the short meditation helped me regain focus and energy.  I also tried to stretch my quads and IT band at every rest stop.

    Reaching for a quad stretch Day 1. Photo: Bob Katz

All of the rest stops were full of enthusiastic roadies who always prepared the rest stops with creative themes.  Rest Stop 4 seemed to always be the most extravagant.  On Day 3, Rest Stop 4 really saved me.  They set up The Price is Right themed performance.  I used this time to sit in the shade, take off my shoes and socks, ice my neck and just relax.

When I got back to camp, after completing my return-to-camp routine, I claimed my 15 minute massage at the massage tent.  All riders are eligible for one sometime during the ride. The line was shorter than expected and I even got an earlier appointment by waiting around and filling in for a no-show.

The massage therapist asked me where it hurt.  I said my shoulders and my thighs.  He practiced some deep tissue massage on my shoulders.  It hurt so good.  After that, he moved to my thighs.  I screamed loudly.  He asked me if I had been using the foam roller.  Truth is, I had used it once on the ride so far.  He walked me over to the foam rollers outside of the medical tent and told me to roll out my IT band, my quads, my calves, the inside of my thigh from my groin to my knee.

Enduring the pain, I followed his instructions.  He came back and told me to repeat this every evening and every morning of the ride to save me from getting an injury.  I did exactly what he told me and had no injuries on the ride.  Infact, I felt great through Day 5 at lunch when I really started feeling it.  I’m sure that all of my training, rolling out, yoga and stretching, all kept me feeling good.

Later on that night, I started to get a menstrual related migraine.  (I’ve been having period related migraines on and off for a long time.  Traditional Chinese Medicine cured it at one point, but they started coming back.  I need to go get treated again.)  I had the tent to myself this night, since my tent mate decided to stay with a friend in a hotel.  If I catch a migraine early, I can usually cure it with a heating pad and over the counter medicine.  So I packed some Walgreen’s Heat Wraps and Excedrin Migraine.  When I woke up the next morning, I still had a slight migraine, but killed it with an overdose of caffeine!

Bicycle

AIDS/Lifecycle 9: Day 2

Day 2- Santa Cruz to King City

Photo: Bob Katz

Day 2 was the longest day of the ride, 107 miles.  This would be my longest ride ever.  I felt good about the mileage because in the month prior, I had ridden two centuries at 100 miles and 106 miles.  I worried about the logistics more than the mileage.  I had to figure out how to wake up, eat, stretch, gear up, pack up and leave camp.  I knew it was going to be a process, but I kind of wish I had a little more practice before having to squash 107 miles by 7pm.

someone's cute tent decorations

My morning routine started out like this and pretty much stayed the same throughout the ride.

  1. 4:30am Wake up.
  2. Get dressed in my riding gear except helmet and shoes.  I kept my clothes in my sleeping bag, as everyone suggested, so that they were warm in the morning.
  3. Go to the port-a-potty.
  4. Get in line for breakfast/Get in line for coffee/eat.  After the 4th day, I had a harder time waking up, so I took advantage of Java Juice coffee extract in my water bottle first thing in the morning (wayyyy better than the coffee provided by the ride).
  5. Go to the port-a-potty.
  6. Pack up the tent/gear.  Put on shoes and helmet.
  7. Stretch. The first 2 days, I searched around for the yoga class that they announced would be in front of the medical tent.  The announcements were wrong.  Only the sports medicine people were leading stretching at the medical tents.  This stretching was sufficient but not the same as yoga!  From Day 3 on I joined “Daddy Witch’s Yoga Bitches” for a half our condensed yoga session.  This was AWESOME, one of my favorite parts of the ride.  After my free 15 minute massage on Day 3 I included using a foam roller as part of my stretching routine.

    Photo: ALC
  8. Fill my CamelBak with water and water bottle with Powerade (the official electrolyte drink of the ride).
  9. Go to the port-a-potty. (They were pretty gross by this time.)
  10. Go to bike parking and get a route sheet.
  11. Ride off!

This was pretty much my morning schedule every morning on the ride.

The Day 2 route was full of unofficial stops including skinny dipping!  It was a pretty hot afternoon and I really need a pick-me-up.  I found the bridge (somewhere around mile 80) that everyone was talking about, climbed under it and got naked.  There were maybe about 15 other cyclists in the river and I joined them.  One minute after I got in, a ride official came down and called us out of the water.  He stated that a bus full of kids crossed the bridge and the bus driver called the police.  The police then called the ride and the ride pulled us out of the river. I think one minute was just enough, though I would have liked to stay longer, to jump start my second wind.

The next unofficial stop came up quickly, The Cookie Lady.  Apparently this woman cooks thousands of cookies for us every year.  So amazing.  I decided to get the vegan oatmeal cookie.  Super good!  While I was chowing down, I overheard some cyclists who pulled in saying that skinny dipping was closed because of some other cyclists who ruined it for everyone.  I got a bit defensive. I felt like we were well behaved and parked appropriately. I told them my version of the story about the complaining bus driver who was offended by our nudity.  I hoped to somehow deflect their anger away from fellow cyclists, but I don’t think it worked.

There was a rest stop soon after the cookie lady.  I went for the port-a-potty first.  At this point, I was carrying my CamelBak in with me to the port-a-potty.  Gross, I know.  I thought it was perfectly safe because I was using my amazing pStyle to pee standing up, so I felt totally aware about where my bag was going.  Unfortunately, somehow, the mouth valve of my CamelBak fell of INSIDE the port-a-potty and fell on the floor.  Yuck!  Needless to say, I never carried my CamelBak into the port-a-potty again.

Good thing that the port-a-potty’s were probably the cleanest I’ve ever experienced.  I used some anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, handy wipes and water to disinfect my mouth piece until I felt secure about it.  I got so focused on disinfecting my mouth piece that I forgot to refill my water!

I was about 15 miles from camp and all I had was half a bottle of Powerade.  I tried to convince myself that it was going to be okay.  If I really needed to, I could flag some other rider down for water.  Chances are they may have more than what they needed.  There were also rumors about a magical tail wind on the last 10 or so miles.  I was optimistic.

The tail winds were real and I was flying down the road at close to 30 mph on  the flats.  Four miles from camp, my left foot started cramping.  I’ve been experiencing foot cramps on some rides over 80 miles.  Usually I just stop and stretch or massage my foot and I can continue.  I absolutely had to stop to stretch.  Other than my foot and lack of water, I was feeling great and ready to get into camp.

After parking my bike at camp, I immediately asked people where to find water.  I got pointed in one direction and when I made it there, they pointed me back in the same direction.  I really really needed water.  So I pointed at a random gallon of water and someone just gave it to me.  Phew.

Now for the approximate rolling into camp routine.

  1. Park bike.
  2. Inflate tubes with air. (A tip from Lynn, so I wouldn’t have to do it in the morning).
  3. Use port-a-potty.
  4. Go to tent and get stuff for shower. (Most days the tent was pitched by my tent mate who was a roadie and got to camp early.  I usually packed up the tent since she had an early shift to work.)
  5. Wait in line to shower/shower.  The showers were designated as either women’s or men’s.  I didn’t see any option for people who would prefer a non-gendered shower, though I didn’t ask.  I can’t say they didn’t exist for sure.  The lines for the women’s showers were long but moved pretty quickly.  Once inside, the showers were divided into little curtain closed stalls.  The hallway outside the showers is where we had to get dressed.  This was the biggest challenge… putting your clothes on and not getting them wet on floor.  Gross.
  6. Do laundry.  The first day I did my laundry in the sink.  This was actually against the rules but there weren’t signs on every sink.  The easier (kind of) thing to do was use the assigned laundry setup with buckets, laundry detergent a hose and a drain.  I had 4 pairs of shorts for the ride and I didn’t feel like recycling them without washing them.  The challenging part of doing laundry on the ride is drying your clothes.  Day 2 I was definitely not back in camp in time with much direct sunlight left.  So drying usually took me 2 days.
  7. EAT!  The veggie line always shorter than the meat line.  Dinner tasted great (even though they were a little heavy on the fake meats and pepper).  I always went back for seconds.
  8. Camp news.  Always very funny but always too long.
  9. Port-a-potty.
  10. Got ready for bed.  Prepared everything I was going to wear the next day.  Put in my ear plugs and passed out.
Bicycle

AIDS/Lifecycle 9: Day 1

Oh my!  It’s been almost 3 weeks since I joined 1900 cyclists on a 570 mile bicycle ride From San Francisco to LA for the AIDS/Lifecycle.  I originally intended to blog from the road.  I even made a DIY iPhone bicycle mount to easily capture photos and video while riding.  After one failed attempt of daily blogging, I gave up and decided I had to focus on my basic needs.  Eating, sleeping, stretching and going to the bathroom.

The night before the ride I ate with Lynn at Big Lantern (General Meatless Chicken, YUM!) and got this fortune.

(Damn iPhone 3g has horrible micro focusing)

“A new adventure awaits you this weekend” was an understatement.  Doing the ride has profoundly changed my perspective on life and has helped me question where my energy is usually spent.   All the momentum, love and life generated by this ride makes me want to do more, be more involved in community and take more chances.

Day 1- SF-Santa Cruz

Day 1 started with opening ceremonies.  We all had to be there at the crazy hour of 5AM. My tent mate, Jynx, gave us a ride to the venue.  I’m happy that Lynn came along to see me off.

Opening ceremonies is pretty much a blur, as is most of the ride is at this point.  There was stretching, inspirational speeches, lots of crying and hugging.

Probably one of the most hellish moments of the ride was all 1900 of us leaving at the same time from The Cow Palace.  This was pretty much a cluster fuck.  The ride seemed to spread out a bit before lunch time, but until then, it was pretty frustrating trying to ride with so many people.

We rode down Skyline, as I generally do on my southern rides with Lynn.  I’m so familiar with the terrain that I can use it to my advantage.  Speed up on the downhill to help with the following climb.  Forced to abandon individual riding style and technique, I stayed single file with my fellow riders.  Passing was allowed on the highway but only within the shoulder, so passing wasn’t always an option.  I learned how to wait for an opportune moment, but bike traffic was one of the common challenges on the ride.

I felt pretty good throughout the 80 mile ride and made it to camp to find that my tent mate had already set up the tent.  (sweet).  I took care of showering, eating and writing a blog post on my iPhone which was immediately overwritten by the older version of my blog when my phone synced to the internet (bad program design).  I will assure you that it was 100 times more poetic than now (I even including a in depth comparison between my tears and condensation collecting on my eyelashes).  This was my last attempt at mobile blogging on the ride.