AIDS / LifeCycle 2015

“Half a plate of eggs please,” I said. The roadie looked at me funny. Yes me, 5′ petite girl just asked for half a plate of scrambled eggs. It was day 6 of LifeCycle at 5:04 AM and my body was craving more protein. He loaded up my plate. I ate that along with a yogurt, soy milk, and fruit. Ready to ride another 60+ miles today.

Phil was the one who got me on the bike again after years of avoiding my road bike which just sat in my room, tires deflated. I had fallen off every single ride (which about totaled 8 rides in the past) only to finally learn it wasn’t me but my clips that had to be fixed. After taking me on rides through Sausalito and San Francisco, there was one ride in Berkeley that I went with him and Rory and it was (in my mind) a challenging one. “How are these hills compared to LifeCycle?” I asked. “Since you can do these hills Nicole, you can totally handle LifeCycle!” Rory said with a smile on his face. I decided to sign up.

AIDS / LifeCycle (ALC) was an amazing experience. We raised over $16 million for HIV / AIDS organizations to support the life-changing services for those suffering with the disease and the main goal: end this epidemic. I am super grateful for those who have supported me on this ride from start to finish – so Thank You…words are not enough to express my gratitude. It’s unbelievable when you encounter a community filled with hope and one where nothing is impossible. We all rode from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise awareness of HIV / AIDS and to raise money to support the SF AIDS Foundation and LA LGBT Center – those hills may be tough, the miles long, and the days tiring, but all was and is worth it.

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Morning of the first day…I had stayed at Chapello’s the night before and at 4:00 AM had woken up to a card on the door handle from him and Lisa. “This week is the test, but also the reward for many months of hard work, sacrifice, and consistently showing up. Trust your training and your willpower, and you can’t help but succeed. Lots of love and cheers!” Those words were exactly what I needed to hear. I was about to embark on a journey, and I opened the door to blackness to discover a cold San Francisco early morning with Jasmin picking me up and already Lan and Kaitlyn in her car. We were off to Cow Palace. The opening ceremony was moving. So many people gathered together for this cause. After the ceremony, we got on our bikes and journeyed to Santa Cruz. It was myself, Noah and Drew. Noah and I had trained a lot with Ryan (our ALC captain) and the South Bay Blaze group during our weekends, and Drew and I had biked with each other on our Tahoe trip. The first day we biked 81 miles to Santa Cruz and Tom joined us for a bit of the ride as well.

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4:45 AM wake up. OMG. That was early. I stood in line for the porta potty on the 2nd morning of the ride. It was then that I realized I would be using these plastic bathrooms for the next 6 days. What a delightful smell that would be.

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Best tent mate!

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Drew, Noah and I became ride buddies for the full journey to Los Angeles. And when you ride with people for 6+ hours and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with them, you get to know them well. So thank you guys for encouraging me to keep pedaling when I was tired going up that hill, for making me laugh along the route in that hot (day 3) or freezing (day 5) weather, and for always putting a smile to my face. You have seen me cry (okay, so it was just allergies, but still), energetic, bubbly and laughing out loud, tired and upset. You have been there each pedal stroke of the way. Whether it was going up that hill and Noah right behind me encouraging that I was almost there, or Drew worrying about me not getting enough electrolytes or food due to skipping a rest stop, or “LEFT SIDE! STRONG SIDE!”, or even talking about frozen margaritas. These guys were awesome. I have heard from many (mainly Phil, Rory, and Ryan) that when you’re on ALC, it’s pretty much no filter. “My ass is hurting!  Butt butter at the next rest stop! My butt is so sore right now!” On day 5, “OMG guys I gotta shave!” I said, and Ryan, Phil, and Noah looked at my legs when we were foam rolling and were like, “Come on Nicole, look at MY legs!” Haha. So guys, thanks for helping me pitch the tent each day since we got in early. “Struggle city. Population –> Kokomo!” Noah, you were right, we should have listened to you in what to wear / not to wear for layers. Drew, thanks for pumping my tires day 6 and 7 when for some reason my arms had no strength in them. And seriously, I can’t wait to sing songs with you along another 70 mile ride whenever that may be 🙂

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Our Box team had become a family. Ryan was an amazing captain, always making sure everyone was a-okay on the ride, leading our team strong. It was so great to finally experience LifeCycle with Zai who I always heard amazing stories from after ALC and was the first person to ever tell me about it. AP and Lorie were the best roadies ever – I still think roadies have a harder job than the cyclists! Kaitlyn and Nik were a dynamic duo with such positive energy. Lan was an awesome tent mate and has provided me with ALC advice since the beginning, and if you ever want to laugh – well just talk to Lan. Lynn (who lives in Germany), thank God she has friends everywhere or we would be lugging around our suitcases in Russian Hill if we didn’t run into her friend from college. Tom was a super cool guy to ride with and super grateful for Lizzie hosting brunch at their place in LA. Miles, I can’t believe he stopped at Box to pick up my jacket for me. Mel had a smile and encouraging word for everyone whenever I saw her. Dylan and Brian – have you seen the pics of them from Red Dress Day?! Those guys are hilarious. John – who said “why not?” to trying out Mberry + lemons and limes. Maura, who even taught some yoga to Boxers at ALC! Rachel, who walked into camp each day with a huge smile on her face saying, “I did it!” passing her positive energy along to us. And Bikrant, who when I rode with him was a combination of a steady and strong rider on the bike. It was great camping, riding, and living a full week with this team.

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We had seen some beautiful places along the California coast. I saw a lot of farm hands which struck me hard. Lorri at the dinner program talked about how one year she was talking to a worker along the fields who asked about all the cyclists. After explaining to her the cause these cyclists and roadies were a part of, the lady went back to the rest of the workers and they gathered a little over a dollar to contribute. That spare change was their livelihood and they were willing to give it up for others who needed it.

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We got to eat some delicious food – from fried artichokes to strawberries to cinnamon buns.

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It’s a ride I’ve been training for since January timeframe – and but seriously, what am I to do with myself now that I’m not going for a 70+ mile ride on a Saturday?! 😉 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles. We’re now forever LifeCyclers. So what can you do to end this epidemic? Let’s continue to fight against HIV / AIDS and win the battle.

Take a look at this recap video (my friends Ryan and Zai are in it as well!)

There are stories heard where loved ones were lost and where people felt abandoned. The struggle is real. As we go on in our daily lives, let’s not forget. Let’s continue to remember, continue to embrace what’s possible, continue to live every second of every day.

Hope that you fall in love, and it hurts so bad
The only way you can know is give it all you have
And I hope that you don’t suffer but take the pain
Hope when the moment comes, you’ll say…

I, I did it all

I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places, the things that I did
With every broken bone, I swear I lived

Ride On 🚲

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