Never say never. My friend David Hanson, a former AV200 rider, asked me over 5 years ago if I would ride 35 miles in a ride that started at Emory and went to Madison and back. I told him he was crazy, I didn’t own a bike and even if I did, I would never ride that far.
I haven’t been cycling for long – less than 5 years – and I only did my first century ride in May 2011; all 100 miles of which were ridden in one gear because I didn’t know how to change gears. It’s hard to believe that in 2012, I pedaled over 1700 miles with 1090 of those dedicated to AIDS. I plan to ride another 1000 in 2013 with the AV200 (200 miles), the AIDS LifeCycle (545 miles) and the Charity Treks (425 miles).
One thing is for sure – I don’t do this because I’m a great cyclist. I’m very slow and generally take pride in escorting the SAG vehicles into camp. Hills still make me say bad words and I get to see all of the cool jerseys as other riders pass me. So for anyone out there who thinks they aren’t good enough to tackle the AV200 challenge – you’ll have to find another excuse as this has nothing to do with being a good cyclist! It has EVERYTHING to do with passion and wanting to change the future.
During my 14 days of the year pedaling for AIDS, I’m just a rider like everyone else. No one cares about titles, about politics, about financial status or any of the other unimportant themes we run into during “real life.” When I first signed up for the AV200, I did so because I learned a friend is HIV positive. I started a journey of trying to learn more about it and was quickly confronted with the associated stigma. I asked my AV200 memorial donors last year to tell me about their friend or partner. The words they shared with me changed my future. They ignited a fire within me that I cannot really explain but feel called to honor.
I have been asked why I ride so many miles for HIV/AIDS and there are a number of reasons. First, I believe that an AIDS vaccine is the only way to truly end this epidemic. Second, I believe that I am called to care for people currently dealing with the challenges HIV/AIDS and I personally love and know many of them. Third, I believe that stigma is flat-out wrong. Fourth, the stories of HIV/AIDS victims move me and I want the world to know how special they are/were.
If you have ever seen a mob of cyclists on the road, you are aware of how they demand your attention. By riding together in the AV200, we are collectively raising awareness for an AIDS vaccine. WE are that mob. WE are noticed. At rest stops, you might be asked why you are riding and the door is opened for education and perhaps collecting a dollar or two for the cause. Together, WE make a difference.
The AV200 ride really is for everyone. The relay rides allow for a fun, less stressful ride for anyone preferring a shorter route. There are plenty of Couch to Century training guides to get you ready and the support of the AV200 ride leaders is amazing. They will get you ready and it is NOT a race (I’m proof of that!) but it is a journey and one that will change the way you see the world.