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 Barbara Schwerdt, a first time rider, and Carin Scheinin, riding for the second time.
My name is Barbara Schwerdt and I'm 50 years old. I currently live in North Hollywood, CA. I learned about the AIDS/LifeCycle ride in October 2010 when I sponsored a rider $1.00/mile for ALC 10. I sponsored him because I lost my very best friend to AIDS in 1998. I had never heard of ALC before and was happy to support the cause. When I first moved to California I didn't have a car, so I rode my bike everywhere. From that I became somewhat of a cyclist, riding for fun on weekends, and was even able to accomplish the famous Rosarito to Ensenada ride, a 50-mile bike ride in Mexico. Then, my bike was stolen in 1994 and that was pretty much the end of my cycling.
But just before my friend left for ALC 10, he challenged me to ride in ALC 11. I found the proposition hilarious since I didn't even have a bicycle, AND, I had become quite the couch potato over those 25 years! However, I'm always up for a challenge, so I went and bought a bicycle, joined a gym, and even persuaded my husband to do the ride. I started training in July 2011. I ride a 2012 Specialized Dolce, which I had modified to accommodate 27 speeds instead of the 24 speeds I bought it with. I also had a professional fitting done which was by far one of the best investments I've ever made!
So ALC 11 will be my first ALC ride. What got me to ALC 11 was the challenge to ride. What keeps me training for ALC is a number of things:
1. The challenge itself: I had no idea I would enjoy the process! I remember my first ride - it was 5 miles, and that seemed like A LOT of miles on the bike. NOW, we're doing 50-mile rides on a regular basis! I'm more fit than I've ever been! And, my husband and I have a great way to spend quality time together.
2. Telling others about what I'm doing and why: 20 years ago AIDS was the "new" disease, and I believe relatively misunderstood. Today, education and awareness about the disease is even more important since new people are being infected every day. The statistics are staggering!
3. The COMMUNITY of riders and supporters I've met along the way: Just last week a ride leader took the time to set a pace for me on a particularly difficult hill we were climbing. Why do those ride leaders give so much of themselves? I don't know, but I can tell you they, along with everyone else I've met through ALC, are the most giving and selfless folks I've ever had contact with. And it doesn't seem to end. With each and every single person I encounter through this process, I am continually moved and inspired! My cyclist rep, Marni Zimlin has been there for each and every step of my journey, and for her I am most grateful!
4. My donors: I think it's astounding that I, as a first time rider, have raised over $5,000.00! And each and every penny goes to the cause. It just doesn't get any better than that!
So in summary, ALC has impacted my life in more ways than perhaps any other single event ever has. And it just keeps getting better! What I've learned is if you just "show up," you can do anything you want! And as I ride this year I'll also be celebrating 25 years of sobriety!
2012 will be my second AIDS/LifeCycle. I rode in my first ALC last summer in 2011 and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. One of my best friends rode in ALC9 and that sparked my interest. I didn’t take up cycling until I started considering doing AIDS/LifeCycle in June 2010, so the idea of riding from San Francisco to LA was daunting to say the least. It felt like a really big challenge and for a great cause, but if I’m honest about why I initially signed up, it’s because it looked like a lot of fun. I was just drawn to it. I am incredibly fortunate to have not lost anyone close to me from AIDS, so I'm not quite sure what compelled me to become so committed to giving back to the HIV/AIDS community. I have volunteered with San Diego AIDS Walk for about six years, though I never really thought about raising money or raising awareness about HIV/AIDS a year-round effort until AIDS/LifeCycle came into my life.
There are so many young people, myself included, who have never known a world without HIV/AIDS. That's so sad to me. I just have no memory of a time when AIDS didn’t exist. My parents lived in San Francisco in the 1970s and saw their friends just disappear. It's hard for me to even imagine that, but I want to do whatever I can to break that cycle. I think that since AIDS has been around for so long -- for many young people's entire lives -- we sometimes forget that it still exists and still takes too many people from us.
My attachment and dedication to ALC really started once I began training and after I started meeting the amazing people involved in the cause. Being involved in ALC just feels like the right thing for me to do. There is so much humanity in this organization and in the people involved with it. Riding in ALC is like being a part of the most caring, giving, encouraging world. It’s the world we hope to have – except, of course, without HIV or AIDS.
Through my involvement in ALC, I met so many incredible people who have been living with HIV/AIDS for decades, who had just learned their positive status, who had lost lovers, partners, children, parents, people struggling and grieving and searching. I am proud and humbled to have met so many heroes through AIDS/LifeCycle and they inspire me daily. It's such a testament to the human spirit that an amazing, positive, hopeful, beautiful community has emerged from such sadness, grief, pain and sorrow. I can't even really imagine our community without the way that AIDS rallied it together. And yet, I can't help but think that it's so incredibly unfair that we have lost so many bright lights to this disease. I don't know how we can wrap our minds around the number of people we've lost as a human race.
I thought ALC would be a one-time thing for me and even told people that I couldn’t sign up again since I had such a busy year this year and it really does take a lot of time to train and fundraise. But I loved the event so much that I signed up for ALC11 at Closing Ceremonies last year before I even loaded up my gear. I also decided to become a Training Ride Leader this year, which means that I help organize and lead the training rides in San Diego and act as a mentor to new riders. Although that’s also added to the time commitment for ALC, being a TRL has been very rewarding. As a newbie last year and a new cyclist, I think I’ve hopefully been able to offer this year’s newbies a sense of hope that they can learn the cycling skills, conquer their fears, and have an amazing ALC experience themselves…just as my TRLs last year did for me.
Read more profiles of the women of AIDS Lifecycle here.