Recently, I caught up with another Bay Area customer, Jolene. I met Jolene earlier this year after I recognized our cap and leggings at a cycling event. We chatted briefly and she said that she was training for the Aids/Lifecycle, and that she was doing it alone (YAS, girl! 💪). I couldn't wait to cheer her on virtually on Instagram as she made her way down the California coast: 545 miles in 7 days -- in our shorts and leggings ;)
Jolene: Hey, Alexis.
Alexis: Hey, Jolene. How's it going?
Jolene: Good, how are you?
Alexis: Good, thanks for taking some time to chat. I figured I'd reach out to you, since you finished the AIDS/LifeCycle. I know that was your big goal.
Alexis: So first and foremost, what made you decide to do that ride?
Jolene: I was looking for a challenge, something to train for, and to kind of push me outside of my comfort zone. And then I also wanted to give back more to the community. And so, I felt like this hit the nail on both heads, because I would fundraise, and it would be bringing awareness to my circle of friends about AIDS, and about this issue. And then I knew it was going to be a challenge physically, emotionally, mentally. It challenged me in every way possible.
Alexis: So, before this, were you a cyclist?
Jolene: I got my bike three years ago, because I used to work for a company that would make us do physical challenges ... or, not make us. But it was highly encouraged. And the challenge of the year of 2016 was to participate in a local triathlon. And I can't swim, so I'm like, oh, I'll do the duathlon. But I didn't have a bike. So, I bought a bike, and I started cycling for that. And then it just kind of stuck with me. Until this year, I was not very consistent in my training or my riding. And then this year, I really started to pay attention and be more thoughtful about what kind of training I'm doing, and how I'm becoming a better cyclist. So, the AIDS ride definitely encouraged me to put forth more effort and thought about it. But I started three years ago.
Alexis: Got it. It's always a challenge for us to fit in training for something like this, as it’s such a big commitment. And so, what's your daily life like, with your job, and family? And how did you fit training into all of your other obligations?
Jolene: That was actually the hardest part. Right before the ride, I was so ready to be done, because I was sick and tired of training for it. I was just ready to have my weekends back. I'm very lucky I don't have a long commute anymore. And I ride my bike to work, and do spin classes. And then the other challenge we had was the crazy weather. It rained for the first three months of the year. And so, I had to do a lot of spin classes, and I did weight lifting and stuff like that. And then, when the weather started to get better and it was more consistent, I would do AIDS rides on the weekends.
So, the AIDS/LifeCycle was super great, because they have all these sponsored training rides, starting in October. And then every week, they build upon the last week. They can take you from being someone who'd never ridden at all to completing the entire AIDS ride. But then, as we got closer to the ride, we would do 70, 80 miles long, and then they build in all these rest stops, and it just got to be a challenge. I do have two teenagers. And so, it definitely became a lot harder, and it became kind of an issue. It's hard to work full-time, and then spend one whole day on the weekend getting to the ride, doing the ride, getting home, thinking about the ride, thinking, how am I going to get all my training in. And I definitely felt like I wasn't training enough. But actually, on the ride, it was clear that I did train enough. And I probably trained the right amount, because I didn't come out of training with an injury, and I was able to successfully complete the ride. But yeah, it is a challenge with kids and other obligations. And you just have to prioritize it. So, for me and my family, it was like, okay, I'm going to be doing this, and it's going to be six months, and it's going to be difficult. But I'll get through it. And I don't have little kids. I think that would make it a lot harder.
Alexis: Right. So, the whole ride is 545 miles in seven days, is that right?
Alexis: So, that's a whole week. It's a lot of miles. It's a lot of hours and days on the bike. So, I think it's inevitable that you have time to think, and reflect, and learn. And so, what did you learn about yourself doing this?
Jolene: So, this ride really was a life-changing experience. I did the ride by myself. I wasn't part of a team. I didn't really know anyone else doing it. I knew my tent-mate, because we had worked together previously, but she rides at a slower pace than I do. I think I just learned that if I really want something, I can do it, and that my body is much stronger than I think it is. Cycling is kind of a solitary sport to start with. Even if you're riding with other people, it can be hard to carry on a conversation and that kind of stuff. So, you tend to think a lot, and get inside of your head. And that can be the hardest part. When I would decide to go into that place of, oh no, I don't want to be doing this anymore...or, if you get comfortable. So, the mental side. You have to dig deep, when you're on the 110-mile day. You've got to shift your mindset to do all this, and just really trust that you can do it, and try to pull yourself out of that negative space.
I was really kind of just amazed that, oh yeah, no, I actually can do this. I'm a cyclist. I can hold my own with other cyclists. And there were a lot of younger guys who were on the ride, who would just gun it and go for it. So, they would be on some climb, and they'd be pulled off to the side. And then I would just be trudging along. So, you have to learn to pace yourself. This is not some one-and-done kind of thing. You're days in. So, I thought it was interesting, just comparing myself as a 40-year-old woman with two kids to these 23-year-old guys. I felt like I was doing it right. I came out of my ride with no injuries, whereas, there were people had their bodies covered in tape, and they were just complete messes, falling apart.
Alexis: Right. So, I guess that leads me into the next question. You can't help but learn about people when you're surrounded by that many people for that long, and you're all doing the same thing. It can bring out good things, bad things, whatever. So, what did you learn about other people during your seven days out there?
Jolene: Well, that lesson of people who can't pace themselves. I think that's the really big one, especially when you're doing anything that is remotely athletic. But also, I've done other rides where people aren't very friendly, and they're more about themselves, getting up the hill as fast as they can, or whatever. They have their own goals, and they're very focused on themselves. And that's fine. Everyone has that from time to time. But for the AIDS ride, the goal is the bigger picture, and we're just a part of it. And it was really amazing. Even if you pulled over to the side of the road, just to stop and have a sip of water, people are like, "Are you okay?" And people were constantly checking in with you, encouraging you, making you laugh. It really is like everyone said, like, "Oh, don't worry about it. You're going to be in this kind of love bubble for the next seven days." And I do feel like that was actually the case. Because, there might be the guys that would race to the top or whatever, but for the most part, people just wanted everyone to finish. And it was this cool experience to be riding with all these people, you don't know them, you don't know their names, and they're pulling over if you've got a flat tire. Or they'll help you, or offer assistance. So, it was fun in this day and age to experience that. Because I feel like, in our everyday lives, people are just busy, and they're always on their phones, and they're so wrapped up in their own lives, that we don't have that sense of community.
Alexis: Mm-hmm. So, if you had to sum it up, what was the best part, and what was the worst part? Like, camping. I don't know. Do you hate camping?
Jolene: Yeah. The worst part was the Porta Potties. And they were actually really clean, but there's something really hard about going to the bathroom in a Porta Potty for seven days. I think the best part, for me, was really just crossing the finish line, knowing that I did it, that I rode every single mile, that I trained for it. I set my goal, and accomplished it. I was proud of that. And like I said, I was by myself. So, it was kind of a doing my own thing, just do that whole thing alone, without the support of a team.
Alexis: Yeah. So, I think experiences like these can be transformative, and sometimes it's not so tangible. So, would you say that the AIDS ride changed you in any way, or made some kind of a lasting effect on you?
Jolene: I think so. I definitely have more confidence in my physical abilities. In the past I have never liked hills. I always think, yes, I can avoid them. And then I would also be fearful of them. I would make them out to be worse than they actually were in my head. And now, there's no way to get up to the hill, but to just hunker down and do it. And so, I don't fear the hills anymore, because I conquered so many hills on this ride. And actually, living with the East Bay, we ride hills all the time here. I just realized that chances are, the hills that I'm going to do, wherever I am, are not going to be any worse than a hill I've already ridden. So, yeah, it was kind of a cool thing to come to terms with, and I'm not afraid of hills anymore. I can do it.
Alexis: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. And I think definitely climbing is such a metaphorical thing for life.
Alexis: It's just, there's no way to do it but just to do it. And you have to steady yourself, and you can't blow up. And you have to just sit there and be patient. And for me, that's something that translates into life. You've just got to get to the top. You can't rush it. You just have to accept it's going to be slow, and it's going to be hard. And you just have to do it.
Jolene: Exactly. And I think one thing that I've always kind of done on hills is, I don't stop. I don't stop on the hill. I just keep going. And even if I'm in my granny gear or whatever, it's like, you just have to keep moving. And yeah, definitely it's a lot like life. There's going to be ups and downs, and it's going to be fun sometimes, and terrible other times. But you just keep going.
Alexis: Yeah. For sure. So, that said, would you do the AIDS ride again?
Jolene: I definitely would do it again. I would like to do it with a team, or at least a couple of other people. Because there's a certain amount of loneliness that comes from doing something like that when you're with 3,000 other riders, and you feel alone. It's a deeper loneliness. And it was hard at camp because I would go get food, and then I would go sit down at the table, and there would be teams on either side of me. And they were all having a great time, and talking about their experiences, a lot of memories and all of that. So, I just didn't really fit in. And I can also be a very shy person. So, that was a challenge. So, if i were to do it again, I would love to have at least a few people. I also really loved getting to ride for seven days, and loved not having to think about anything other than getting on my bike and ride. I didn't even have to think about what I was going to eat. I just ate whatever was in front of me. And so, I would love to do another ride like the AIDS ride, but in a different country, or a different part of our country.
Alexis: Got it. All right. Well, that's it for my questions, unless there's anything else you want to add or say.
Jolene: No. Yeah, that was great.
Alexis: Well, thanks for taking the time. And I hope that I see you somewhere sometime soon again!
Jolene: Yeah, definitely. All right, well, you have a great rest of your weekend.
Alexis: All right, thanks, Jolene.