The 11th annual AIDS/LifeCycle is fast approaching! From June 3 to June 9, 2,500 cyclists will ride their bicycles from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise awareness and funding for HIV/AIDS services at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
SheWired has compiled some inspirational tales from women who are heading out on the open road with nothing but a metal frame and two wheels to get them from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Here are the first two profiles of your SheWired Editors Boo Jarchow and Tracy E. Gilchrist who are riding in Lifecycle for the second year in a row!
As a type 1 diabetic, I have a constant reminder of the importance of staying healthy, even with a lifelong illness that requires daily treatment. The increasing cost of healthcare is a major concern for myself and other people living with incurable illnesses.
It has been quite the journey preparing myself for the big ride. Aside from training to ride my bike all those miles, I have had to learn how to manage my diabetes while going through such intense exercise, and planning how to manage the ups and downs over seven straight days of riding nearly 100 miles each day.
But the benefits to my heath and knowledge are so minor in comparison to the great impact the funds and awareness I raise will have on the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and the people who love them.
I came of age and came out in the 80s. Of the first pride events I attended in New York City and in Hartford in my home state what continues to resonate for me was the activism around HIV / AIDS. The government was silent around the issue while I, like so many others, watched friends and customers at they gay-owned café where I worked, fade away because of the epidemic. While lesbians back then were so understudied and considering that there were virtually zero statistics on transmission rates and therefore thought myself not susceptible, I was profoundly, irrevocably influenced by the times.
A cycling enthusiast on and off for many years in 2008 I leapt at the opportunity to put the road bike I’d just spent too much money on for someone of my means to good use and I signed up for my first AIDS Lifecycle. I was moved by the generosity of my sponsors – some of whom I hadn’t seen or heard from in years. They opened their hearts and wallets to support the cause. The seven-day event was of course transformative. Generosity, kindness and raucous good humor abounded for every mile of the journey. Just when I thought I couldn’t pedal another stroke, often, some guy in a tutu would ride by and shout the familiar, “looking good rider!"
Last year I endeavored to pedal 545 miles down the California coast again. At a stop in Santa Barbara a dad with his two sons summed up the reason why it’s still important to ride – to be out on the road and visible. He saw my bike, my rider number, my jersey from reaching the $5,000 goal and he thanked me for riding. He said he’d lost his brother to AIDS back in the day. His recognition of why I was there and what I was doing encapsulated the need for visibility that 2,500 cyclists and 600 roadies winding down the California Coast provides. When elementary school students in tiny California towns write letters to the riders to be safe and to “avoid glass” on the road, I know we are making a difference.
I had barely unclipped from my pedals at the finish line in Westwood on the 7th day when my girlfriend insisted we head right over to the 2012 Lifecycle registration table and sign up. My first instinct was to wait to see if I really wanted to make the commitment again. But in the end, I knew that Lifecycle had become a part of me, and that, even as I fairly hobbled to the registration table after seven days on my bike, it was what I was supposed to do.
It’s been a terrific year of training. Lifecycle is now a part of me and I’m proud to be a part of this family of loving, kind, funny people. Thanks to all of the training ride leaders – selfless people who spend hours on their bike educating new riders and who never leave a rider behind – who’ve helped me get into the best shape I’ve been in for the ride – Doreen, Chris, Beth and Leslie, Mel, Tony and Augusto.