One Rider’s Reflection on the Ride for AIDS

aids_ride_chicagoI was just one rider on the Ride for AIDS, a very small part of an amazingly good thing.

The Ride for AIDS Chicago was mostly about raising money for HIV/AIDS awareness and services (and raise money we did, to the tune of nearly $750,000), but it’s about more than that too.  The Ride brings out the best in people – from a civilian car racing up a hill to tell us we made a wrong turn to the selfless crew members who stood in the sun all day just to cheer us up a big hill or make sure traffic was clear in a busy intersection.

A lot of us on the ride started out as strangers, but leave great friends, having experienced a truly unique and exhilarating weekend of heat, hills, and Oreo cookies. The thing is: it’s not altogether pleasant to ride your bike 200 miles in the middle of July. We could all go on about what an amazing experience it was (and it was), but there are parts of the ride that totally suck.

Sunburn, a bladder full of Gatorade, and burning legs and lady parts isn’t my best idea of fun. What really brought the Ride together for me was the fact that I never doubted I could finish.

I first signed up for the Ride on somewhat of a whim – I’m an Associate Member of a new women’s motorcycle club in town and the membership got involved as members of the RFAC Motocrew. It kind of went like this:

Motorcycle Chicks: “Oh, and, hey, Lauren, you could ride your bike, too! Wouldn’t that be great?”

Me: “Um, yeah, sure.”

What really pushed me over the edge was a chance to “do over” a previous attempt in the four-day ACT Ride out of Madison, WI nearly 10 years ago.  My miserable showing at that ride was due to immaturity, lack of training, a not-good bike, and a bad attitude. I finished that ride, but only just barely, and saw this as a chance to conquer my demons with a long charity ride.

Sounds good in theory, but when I went out for the first training ride in March I had some serious doubts.  That 24-mile ride nearly broke me, but every Saturday I’d head out to the training rides, add a few miles, and break myself all over again.  I was always the last rider, being dragged up to the finish by the training coaches Yvette Prior and Tony Torres, and usually slept the rest of the day. By the time we got up to the day of the ride, I was fairly comfortably riding up to 80 miles, but that settled my nerves none for the 2 days and 200 miles I had ahead of me.

The funny thing about training is that it works.

aids_ride_chicago_2The first 50 miles of Day 1 felt great. The last 50 miles of Day 1 felt horrible. The first 50 miles of Day 2 felt ok. The last 50 miles of Day 2 felt amazing. As I crossed the finish line, Yvette was there to greet me with a medal, and I was safely in the middle of the pack – not last, not suffering, but strong.

I might as well have won the fucking Tour de France.

The Ride is about the fight for AIDS, absolutely, but for me it was also an intensely personal experience that had a lot to do with me. In spite of the cheers and amazing support of crew and fellow riders, there are moments on the Ride where all you have is yourself, that tiny seat and the road beneath you. It’s a clear metaphor that I can conquer anything if I really try, and one that everyone should have the opportunity to witness…

…and you can, because registration for RFAC 2014 is opening sooner than you can say “Gatorade”.  Keep up with the Ride on Facebook for reflections from this year’s ride and first-hand info on the next.

Click here to make a donation!

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About Lauren W

Lauren Warnecke is a Chicago-based dance writer, educator, and freelance dance professional. She holds degrees in Dance (BA, ’03) and Kinesiology (MS, ’09) and is currently a full-time Clinical Instructor for the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at UIC. Created in 2009 as a platform for dance-based discourse, Lauren owns and operates Art Intercepts, a dance blog and online resource actively promoting the use of evidence-based practices in dance training and performance with the goal to improve and elevate artistry, dance education, and dancer health. She is a contributing author/blogger at Dance Advantage, 4dancers, and the Huffington Post, and an arts contributor at The L Stop. Lauren freelances as a production/stage manager, choreographer, media relations specialist, and grant writer, for small arts organizations and is a Certified Personal Trainer. She is a master composter who likes to dig in the dirt and bake scones.


7 Responses to “One Rider’s Reflection on the Ride for AIDS”

  1. how do i become a member

    Posted by Trina Morrow | August 10, 2013, 8:14 pm
  2. Hi Trina, Do you mean a member of the motorcycle club? You can visit for info about it!!

    Posted by Lauren | August 14, 2013, 10:24 pm


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