So in Year 1 it was David and me, cyclist friends off to ride bikes in queer community and raise money for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. Stephanie was our team co-lead and it was only later I learned how famous she is. Wow, you rode bikes with the Yarn Harlot, exclaimed my feminist knitting buddies. I met Steph’s family (I think that was the year that almost everyone rode) and her friend Jen, our other co-lead. We had a fun first year.
Here’s Jen blogging about the rally at her blog My Sensitive Girl Hole.
Fact 1: PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, raising roughly 40% of its revenues.
In Year 2, I recruited Susan and we joined a team of wonderful speedy young men. Here’s her post about the rally.
Fact 2: Aboriginal persons account for a disproportionately high percentage of individuals living with HIV infection in Canada, as do people from countries where HIV is endemic.
In Year 3, it was Susan and me leading our own team which included Nat, Joh, Cate, Sarah, Val and Vanessa and others too. Go Switchin’ Gears.
Fact 3: Women account for 23.2% of all AIDS cases reported in Canada, according to the AIDS committee of Toronto (ACT).
And this year, Year 4 it was back to me and David. We were on a team with Stephanie and Jenn, lead by the wonderful Barrett and Brandon.
I wasn’t as prepared as I had been in past years. In other years I’d ridden in Arizona, in Manitoulin, or gone to bike camp in South Carolina. In other years, I’d trained with a cycling coach doing weekly interval drills, speed work, and fast rides. This year I’d done none of those things.
Yes, I’d gone lots of training rides but in past years I’d found the bike rally pretty easy. I overshot the mark in terms of training. I arrived at camp in pretty good shape, not too tired, and easily ready to ride the next day. That’s the difference between being able to do it and having it be super enjoyable. Not this year. I knew I could do the distance but that’s about it. It was hot and hard and the days were long. This year I had to work at taking care of myself, eating well and sleeping as much as I could. I was often in bed at 9 pm missing out on social stuff because I knew I needed my rest.
Day 1 is the long slow ride out of Toronto. I rode with David and also with day riders Sarah, Catherine, Joh, and Judy. We all got hot and spent more time on the road than we’d counted on. You can read about Catherine and Sarah’s Day 1 experiences here.
Day 2 I learned an important lesson. Don’t try out new shorts on the bike rally! No more details but day two’s lesson also hung around for a few days.
Day 3 was red dress day. Thankfully also a short day. Recovery time in Kingston!
Here’s our team dinner in Kingston!
Day 4 and 5 were better but also hot and long.
Along the way I spent more time than usual counting kilometers. I needed to know, how long until the next rest stop, how long until camp. Always counting, always looking at my Garmin. Each day it felt like Zeno’s bike ride. Just 40 km left, then 20, then 10, then 5 and pretty soon I was down to counting individual kilometres. So warm!
A confession: More than once I wondered about whether I could summon an Uber with bike racks!
But I did make it to the last day. Here’s our team photo on Day 6.
Oh and we got seriously rained on on our way into Montreal. Wind, lightening, heavy sideways rain. We briefly took refuge at a Shell station.
But we made it! Here’s there photos of my arrival into Montreal. I did it. I raised money to help the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation do its amazing work. I rode my bike from Toronto to Montreal. This is a thing my body and heart can do. You can still sponsor me here.
It’s a moving experience in many senses. The bike rally brings together and builds an incredibly close, loving and caring community. I may not be able to do the six day ride next year but definitely the one day, definitely.
Fact 4: Nearly 1 in 4 of all new HIV diagnoses in 2013 were among youth aged from 15 to 29. Men accounted for 79 percent of all youth HIV diagnoses.