Cycle for the Cause: The Northeast AIDS RideI’ve learned that every Cycle for the Cause is different and it’s usually nothing like you expect it to be. This year, my sixth, was no different.

Going in I knew I hadn’t trained as much as in year’s past. What I didn’t see coming was this ride being the hottest of any yet. Usually we’re chilly in the morning and comfortable in the afternoons. On Friday, it was mild in the morning and scorching after that. Saturday the temperature moderated and Sunday was decent.

Friday, however, saw me exit the ride after only a few hours and around 30 miles.

I felt pretty good as we got underway, but something happened. Some combo of the rising heat, possibly not as much hydration and food, but I felt ill and had to be swept off the course. Not only was I physically not well, mentally I was a mess. Since I’d committed to being caboose for the ride, my brain was working overtime on breaking that commitment. Of course, everyone banded together and made it work, between Lead Dog (the awesome producing company), the riders and the moto crew banding together they got it done.

While I worked on getting myself physically better by cooling down and fueling my body, some awesome folks took care of my mental health too. Mary Kate, Jess and Anusha from Lead Dog were awesome. Jesse gave me a huge hug and encouraging words at lunch and Scott sat down and talked me out of my head. By Saturday I was mentally in a much better place thanks to the wonderful people that make up the riders and crew, although physically was still a bit rough.

Unsure of my ability to accomplish miles, I asked if there was a crew spot available. The Jay and Brian, the film crew, needed a navigator in their fan since driving, following the course and listening to their instructions simultaneously was a challenge. I had a great time working with them and Emily, the driver. I kept us mostly on course (only a couple wonky turns) while Emily got us where we were going and did what the guys asked for so they could capture some great footage. They screened recaps at dinner on day one and two and are making a “trailer” for the ride to be used to recruit riders for next year.

While they were shooting, I got to snap and record some of my own video, which I’ll be uploading after I get home. Most importantly, I got to cheer riders on in some pretty random areas of the ride–between rest stops along the road and even in the greenway bike paths. I really enjoyed that because I know from being a rider that getting that random encouragement can be a good thing.

As always, the ride was full of amazing moments and these represent just a few:

  • The Bald Flyers, the new youth team, was incredible. They are so passionate about the ride and that there shouldn’t be a stigma around HIV/AIDS status. It’s great to see the example they are setting for their peers. The speeches they made at dinner to us and to the public and closing ceremonies were powerful and poignant.
  • I was so honored to be part of Team Kyle this year. They were a team of three when I met them three rides ago, this year they were up to five. They raise money each year in honor of their friend, and their tremendous spirit is why I wanted to be part of their team. My vlog this week, which will go up sometime Thursday, features a clip from team Captain Corinne and it perfectly tells the story of Team Kyle.
  • I met Nick and Yushi last year on their first ride, which they did after only being together a few months. This year, they were back and Nick brought his mom with him as well. That was awesome. Cindy tackled the ride with gusto, even though she swore to me when we met on Thursday that she’d be near the back.

Most importantly the ride made slightly more than $800,000 this year. That’s a wonderful number that will let the LGBT Center in NYC do so many vital things to support the people who need their HIV/AIDS services. I’m proud my contributors brought in some $3,000 of that amount. Special thanks, too, to Team Eagle, who took money out of their bank and contributed to Team Kyle (Kyle was their friend, too) to push the team over it’s minimum before the ride started.

I’d already mostly decided before the ride started that this would be my last year to ride the bike on this journey. I’d rather give the money it takes to ship the bike and give it to the Center, so future participation will always  be crew. And while I know it sounds like the year wasn’t good, in the long run it was perfect  because it was exactly what it needed to be. Plus it all happened in the company of my favorite people.

Click on these links and you can see the recap videos from day one and day two (these were shown at dinner in the evening): Cycle for the Cause Day 1 and Cycle for the Cause 2015, Day 2