Sunday, June 20, 2010


There are really no words than can express what this experience has meant to me. I hear people saying it was the best week of their life. I hear people saying that it is the best vacation they have ever had. And then I hear people that say that it has changed their lives. Now, I don't think I can say it was the best week of my life, but I know for sure it has changed me forever. And not just the week. Yes, those 7 days left a lasting impression on me, but it was as much the 5 months leading up to that week that changed me. It was the literal blood, sweat, and tears that meant so much. The ride was just icing.
When I signed up for this ride, my motivation was simple. I wanted to see if I could do it. I am a fortunate person. Many things in life come easy to me, and those are usually the avenues I peruse. But this did not come easy. This whole experience was an uphill battle from the minute I got on a bike (unsuccessfully (Kerry and Autumn I'm talking to you)).
But that's the thing. I think so many times in life we become complaisant. We get comfortable and repetition sets in and all of a sudden little problems and stupid issues and things you have no control over become huge. I needed to put things in perspective. I needed to push myself and see a bigger picture.
And for all the time, money and energy (and seriously, blood) I put into this I got back tenfold. It wasn't just riding into closing ceremonies. It was being able to look in the mirror at the end and know that maybe yesterday I was just a skinny blond girl from LA, but today I am a skinny blond girl that just helped raise $10 million to help people she doesn't even know. Not to mention knows how to ride a bike pretty damn well. No one ever likes to think of themselves as self centered or one dimensional and it's nice to be able to definitively and sincerely say "I'm not, look what I did." Even if it's just to yourself.
I had the privilege of meeting so many amazing people. HIV positive and negative. ALC is a community of such overwhelming positivity. It really is something that you have to see to believe.
Autumn said she didn't know what would happen to the blog now. Well, I think that's silly. She is already signed up and ready to go for ALC 10. I am so excited for her to experience all the things that I did this year and I know she will kick ass. And be way more pro than me. I expect every moment to be documented. As for me, I have no idea. Ask me when I finally catch up on sleep and laundry. I do know that I would not have traded this experience for anything from start to finish.
And just so you don't think we have all gone completely emotional on you... please enjoy with love from us ALC veterans.


I heard someone on Day 5 say it was like Christmas. I disagree. Day 7 was Christmas. My shower, my dog, and my sense of accomplishment was so close I could taste it.
I'm not going to lie. Breaking down my tent on the morning of Day 7 was bittersweet. There was a sense of finality about the last morning waking up to my tent neighbor faces and bundling up in everything I had in my suitcase to go to breakfast. It was...almost...sad. The minute my butt hit that seat though, I knew I wanted to get home and off of that thing. Like now.
For me Day 7 was not only finishing the ride, it was going home quite literally as we actually passed my apartment at the one mile marker point before the finish line. I knew most of the ride on the last day like the back of my hand. When we rode out of Ventura into Oxnard I was excited, when we saw our first 310 area code billboard I was ecstatic, and when we crossed into Malibu and Los Angeles county lines I almost passed out with joy. HOME!
The ride was pretty easy that day, although I was in a whole lot of pain. The pain in my shoulder was pretty excruciating and there were a couple moments I actually thought I would have to stop. However the idea of not riding up San Vicente into closing ceremonies was not something I would entertain, so I ignored it. Tara, being the genius that she is suggested that I take down one of the straps of my sports bra to relieve some of the pressure and it helped a ton. Leave it to Tara to think of brilliant ideas that relate to clothing removal.
Once we got to lunch (non sanctioned Malibu lunch) I knew there were a couple hills coming up that were going to be killer. So we skipped them by riding through the colony. These are the perks of riding through your own hood. You know the hill short cuts. I mean, I am generally a rule follower, but by day 7 it's like the last day of school. Behavior is questionable and all bets are off.
From about Cross Creek on I was running on pure adrenaline. I know every foot of that route. I greeted the Gladstone's 4 Fish like a long lost friend. OMG! Will Rogers State Beach, how I have missed you! I even took a hill on Ocean that used to give me nightmares with no problem. I was high on life and ready to be done.
The one final ride up San Vicente was a pretty emotional one for me. It was the street that Autumn and I rode down the first morning we trained (I should clarify: the first morning that I could actually get on the bike) and here I was riding up the very same street to finish ALC. Amazing. It was the easiest ride up San Vicente I have ever had, like the previous 6 days had just been the worlds best warm up for this hill.
Now, the VA is at the intersection of Wilshire and San Vicente so imagine my surprise when we are directed to actually turn down my street. No joke, we rode right by my house. And you know what was outside? Oh, I don't know...everyone I know wearing pink Team Caitlin shirts with signs yelling my name. Autumn had organized the whole thing and made each person a tee shirt to greet me. I love her. It was shocking and wonderful and I cannot even describe it. I pulled over and hugged and cried and held my dog and was in awe of the shirts.
But I had one more mile, so we finally rode into the VA, through the crowds and parked our bikes. It was like no feeling I have ever felt. I highly recommend it.

Team Caitlin groupies.
With my parents in my SWEET victory shirt. Too bad there was no glitter on it.
The Pos Peds at closing ceremonies.
MO's piece, slightly more poetic than mine:
ALC pictures:


Day 6 was the first day it occurred to me that this little adventure actually had a shelf life. 7 days seems like such an insurmountable task that it coming to an end was not something I really let myself think about. Night 6 was the last day in camp, and leaving camp that morning was actually pretty sad. But don't worry, I had 88 miles of riding to come to terms with my feelings.
On the morning of Day 6 I was really determined to ride as much as I possibly could. I went to Sports Med in the morning to get all taped up and got on my bike hoping for the best. By mile 5 I was already in pain. And was pissed. I decided to pull over and stretch. I cannot even express how much that helped! What I figured out was that stopping and stretching BEFORE my neck went into a massive spasm was really a good idea. Even if that meant stopping on the side of the road way more than I would have liked. By the time I got to rest stop 1 I thought there was a very good chance that I could do the whole day with this new plan, even if it meant I was the last one back at camp.
Day 6 was the best day of riding for me a far as scenery went. The Santa Barbara area is such a beautiful place with beaches and excellent real estate. So much more interesting to look at than mountains. Sorry. We also road on the freeway again. This time it was a much better experience. The road was actually flat which makes freeway cycling a whole lot easier. And here is the other thing about freeway riding: It seems a lot more efficient than taking some random windy back roads. And I do love efficiency.
The other best part about Day 6 was Paradise Pit in Santa Barbara. This is a non ALC sanctioned event with just the kind people of Santa Barbara organizing, baking and serving each rider as we pass through. I have to tell you that after riding your bike for 5 days, there is NOTHING better than all you can eat ice cream. And brownies. And croissants (I ate 3). I could have stayed here all day and eaten myself into a sugar induced coma but I was in a hurry to get back on the road. It felt as if the pain was something I was actually running from and the faster I went the further I got ahead of it. I realize that this is an absurd theory, but it got me through the day.
Once back in camp I called Autumn (!) as she was slated to come out to Ventura for the evening's candlelight vigil. Not only did she come, but she brought my sister. I generally hate surprises (Really, I'm not one of those people who say they hate them and secretly love them. They genuinely give me anxiety and I hate them.) but this one was totally awesome. It was so fun for both of them to see what I had been living all week, and what Autumn is going to live next year. I think the whole ALC metropolis is something that you really have to see to believe.
When it got dark, we were all given candles in paper cups around them to guard them from the wind for the vigil on the beach. Now this particular night my sister, Autumn, Tara, Ivy, Ethan and I were hanging out with our new friend and tent neighbor Jay. He was with us as we walked down to the beach and sat silently with our candles in the sand. Now Jay is HIV positive. He is also one of the most boisterous, full of life people you could ever meet. On this night however, sitting one the beach with thousands of lights surrounding him it was impossible to mask what he was feeling. And he had no reason to anyway. Tara and I sat flanking Jay, a freind we had only known for 5 days, holding his hands and crying with him. I can olny imagine what he has been through, what hundreds of our fellow riders have been through. But on that night, maybe more than any other night on the ride, we were there for each other in a tangible and meaningful way that is difficult to articulate.
At a point, people began to stand and move towards the ocean to extinguish their flames in the water. This is where the real beauty of ALC came in for me. Tara, Jay and I head towards the surf, still very serious and solemn ready to put out our candles. Tara and I lean down and plant our candles in the sand so the water can wash away our flames. Except for that it doesn't. The wave doesn't come right away and Tara's paper cup starts smoking. At first we all noticed it, but not wanting to spoil the moment ignored it hoping that the ocean would come and put it out soon. But it didn't. In about 30 seconds the entire cup/candle goes up in flames and Jay comes to our rescue by stomping the whole thing out. Of course this happens to us. So there we are laughing so hard we can't even speak after we had spent the last 20 minutes crying. This dichotomy was ALC for me. It was sublimely ridiculous and I loved it.
Ivy called it Pleasure Pit. That name works too.

Eating ice cream makes me happy.
I wasn't the only one that had to take a day off! MO did too!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Whoohoo! Day 5! Red Dress Day! Awesome! Except for that time the medical team told me I couldnt ride anymore and sent me back to camp at mile 11...yeah.
Backing up. Red Dress day is the 5th day of the ride every year and the concept initially was to have all the riders dress in red so it looks like one long AIDS ribbon coming down the road. Fantastic imagery. Well, add in some fab gays and "dress red" day becomes Red Dress day. SO much better! The best way to describe this day is a bike ride meets
Cirque d'Soleil meets Gay Pride. Some people have on a red jersey, some wear a red dress (yes, men and women) but some people's creativity and flair really is outstanding. Being as such, I thought this day needed a longer blog post, with a lot more pictures. I mean, amazing, right?
And lest you think that Red Dress Day is an easy, BS day of riding, please note it is just as difficult as the rest of the days. Only in a dress (or a tutu as the case may be).
The morning of Day 5 was a late one, what with all the costume preparations. It took us quite a while to get out of camp and my shoulder starting hurting almost immediately after getting on the route. At first it was a dull pain that I just figured I would deal with for the rest of the day. But within 2 miles is became a burning pain, and then it started to shoot down my arm into my hand and then, horrifyingly, my hand started to go numb. Well, as I have stated before, numbness is not really good for breaking. Or steering. So when I saw my teammates Tara and Ivy on the side of the road waiting for me, I pulled over and flipped out. The flipping out was partly due to pain, partly due to fatigue, and mostly due to panic that this meant I was not going to be able to ride anymore.
Once my lovely friends saw the state I was in they flagged a sweep car to take me to the next rest stop...against my will. Fortunately the fabulous Princess Sweep team picked me up, complete with tuts and tiaras and graciously swept me to rest stop. Once I got there I avoided the medical tent entirely until Tara dragged me over and made me lay out to the Med team what was going on. Once I did, the super nice Medical person I was talking to pretty much told me I was done for the day, and possibly the next day too. And then...I cried.
The thing was, as much as riding my bike is a pain in the ass, and as much as I would prefer to go back to camp and sit and eat until everyone else gets back, I didn't spend the last 5 months training to sit in a bus. No. Unacceptable. I was going to finish the ride in it's entirety, even if it killed me. But all of a sudden I was told that would not be the case. I was given a hug, a bag of ice, and told to wait for the bus to come pick me up and take me to camp. Thank goodness Tara was in a similar situation, but with her knee so she was there to wait with me. We waited for the bus for an hour and half. In which time we watch hundreds of riders in red costumes eat and chat and stretch until finally the last one left, they closed the rest stop, packed everything up and left. SO DEPRESSING.
The rest of the day was not that eventful. We got on the bus, ate lunch, longingly watched the riders ride by our windows, and got back to camp. Bright side: there were no shower lines.
While at camp I had a lot of time to think and I really had a personal epiphany. I realized that we were not riding to say that we rode 545 miles. We were riding to raise money and awareness and create a community for those living with HIV and AIDS. We were doing this for people who can't ride 10 miles let alone 545. And we are doing it for the Positive Peddlers who thank you for riding for them every time they pass. Basically, I needed to get out of my own head and see the bigger picture. My injury and failure to finish Day 5 were really not what was important. The $10 million we raised was important. My ability to ride was icing.
So after coming to this realization I was able to enjoy my day off. Tara and I took long showers, went back to Sports Med/Chiro (they LOVED us there) and generally had a nice day. And I was pleaently suprised to find out that Day 5 turned out to be the most difficult day of the whole ride thanks to 40 mph headwinds that made riding even downhill almost impossible. Yay for debilitating neck injuries!
I learned two things on Day 5. #1 was sometimes you need to get over yourself. #2 was try not to have a breakdown on the side of the road in a tutu. You look ridiculous.
Tent city + red dresses

Just a little mid ride stretching. No big deal.
Yes, they have cleats attached to the soles.
Red Dress Day goes pee.
Totally appropriate head wear.
This is dedication, even though I really hate crabs.

Cray Cray Red Dress Day. Ivy, Caitlin, Ethan, Tara.

DAY 4: 97 miles

After the fun that was Day 3 I had to really check myself on the morning of Day 4. Following several self affirmations and deep breaths I was ready to have a good day. And I did! Like Day 3, Day 4 started with a big hill (0r two). Unlike Day 3, The Evil Twins did not make me want to chuck my bike off a cliff. Hooray!
The Evil Twins are a set of hills that are a lot less steep than Quadbuster, but a lot longer in milage. At the top of the second hill is the half way to LA mark and much celebration. I was worried after my experience the day before that I had lost my hill climbing talents. My experience on The Evil Twins relieved my fears though. I rode up those hills with my new friends (!) Karl and Frank and we sailed up with no problem. It was much easier than I thought it was going to be. When we got to the top, I was thinking "was that it??"
I am not sure why The Evil Twins required a name but the huge mountain on Day 1 didn't, but whatever.
Once we all reached the top of the second hill we got in line for the HALF WAY TO LA picture. The line took forever. Seriously. I think we waited for an hour and a half. But we had to get the picture, right? I think it was worth it, even though it took so long we almost had to be swept home because rest stops were starting to close, which made me SUPER nervous. I HATE being late.
There was also a nice long descent. About time.
The unfortunate part about Day 4 was my shoulder really started to hurt. If you have been keeping up on the blog (which you obviously have) you know that I have had shoulder/neck issues for some time now. I have been working on it with a PT, Dr. and Acupuncturist, but I knew it was only a matter of time before it would start to bother me. By rest stop 4 on Day 4, I was done. Thankfully my friend Marni was there when I decided to take the bus home with 15 miles to go. She assured me that it's OK to take the bus when in pain. The ride is about challenging yourself, not killing yourself. You don't want to jeopardize the whole rest of the ride because you wouldn't take care of yourself one day. This is a hard thing for my type A personality to accept. But I took her advise and got on the bus. And when I got back I went to the Chiro/Sports Med tent and based on what came later, thank goodness I did.
All in all Day 4 was a pretty good day. The weather was nice, the ride was nice, and I learned about recognizing my own limits. Just a normal day in the neighborhood.
Crays make it half way

Line for the picture. Longest line of the whole trip.


When LA tries to go camping.


I am not going to lie. Day 3 was my least favorite day of riding. My distaste for Day 3 was three fold: Quadbuster, freeway, cross winds. Gross.
After two really long days, a 67 mile day seemed like it should be positivly easy. There was one catch. The most feared hill of the ride, Quadbuster, was right at the beginning of the day. Now, I have tackled some pretty big hills in my training. Probably hills more demanding than Quadbuster. But please keep in mind that when I was killing myself on the way up to the conservatory or wherever, I had not spent the two days previous on a bike covering about 190 miles. This adds a level of difficulty to any hill that it is not easy to prepare for. And aside from that...the hill was long and steep and I did not like it. I heard a lot of "it's not that bad" and "it's easier than they make it out to be." FALSE. This hill sucked and in what was probably 15 minutes that felt like about 2 hours I made it up that crap hill. I stopped twice to catch my breath and swear, but I did not walk, which was what my goal was. So, good for me.
And another thing. Once you get up to the top of this mountain, you think there is going to be a nice decent right into a rest stop, right? FALSE AGAIN. I don't understand how it's even geographically possible, but there was almost no downhill to what was a seemingly endless uphill. Unfair.
The second nasty part of the day came when we went on the freeway the first time. When I tell people I rode my bike on the freeway they always assume it's some back country highway, or that lanes were shut down to accommodate us. No such luck. We are riding bikes on the 101 freeway. As bizarre as that sounds...thats as bizarre as it was.
As scary as that is, the freeway part was not the bad part. The bad part was the quality of the road. The lanes seemed as if they had been repaved recently. I am pretty sure the shoulder, however, had not be maintained since 1932. There were cracks at least 2" high every foot. Horrible. I don't have a mountain bike! The Skinny Bitch is not equipped to take on terrain like this! But don't worry, if you fall, it's not like you will fall into heavy oncoming freeway traffic...oh wait! When I returned to camp that night I told the Bike Whisperer that if my ovaries are damaged from this ride due to poor terrain, she owes me one baby which I will collect in 5-7 years.
The third and final nail in the coffin for day three were the cross winds. Headwinds are great, tailwinds are hard, but crosswinds are going to knock you flat on your ass on the side of the road. They were so strong on he last leg on the ride that I felt like I was leaning horizontally into them, straitening up when a car comes by and blocks them, and then immediately leaning over again when it passed. I mean...seriously. I do not weigh enough for this.
The landscape was not really my thing on Day 3 either. A lot of rolling golden fields etc. etc. Not that I don't appreciate it, but I bores me a little. It was also really hot, but I probably only noticed that because I was so cranky from all of the other elements of the fun day.
Now that that's all out of my system, I can say I did enjoy some things from the day. Our lunch stop was in Bradley, California and the entire town puts together a BBQ/fundraiser catering to ALC which funds their sports and scholarship programs for the year. It was great to feel like you are helping out yet another group of people, and I got a cheeseburger. What's not to love?
Also, I got into camp pretty early Day 3 and was actually able to relax a little which was awesome. You cannot know how amazing just sitting on grass and stretching feels in that situation and finishing at 4pm meant I had some time to do that. And I had time to eat TWO dinners! Very luxurious.
In all, I can say that if I do the ride next year (ummm...right) I may get sick for Day 3. Just saying.
Cheeseburgers in Bradley

70 miles of this? Really?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DAY 2: 107 MILES

I think the morning of Day 2 was one of the more difficult moments for me of the entire ride. It's when the insanity of what you have set out to do really hits home. You get off your bike after day one, througouly satisfied, feeling good, and no sooner have you contently fallen asleep than you have to wake up it all over. Only this time for longer. Are you serious. You are tired, you are cold, you are sore. You think: There is no possible way I can do this. For instance, as I was riding my first 20 miles through some farmy looking land just south of Santa Cruz I considered faking an illness. I thought of what I would say to donars, friends and family when I unceremoniously bailed and flew back to Los Angeles, where I BELONG. But I made it to rest stop one. And this is where I realized my most vital ALC strategy: I cannot look at the day as 100 miles, or 10 hours. I have to look at it as how many miles/hours it is until I can stop, refill my water bottle and eat another pop tart. And that is exactly how I functioned for the rest of the ride. "8 miles to more food" or
"15 miles to sun block reapplication."
Now, Day 2 was my first century. I had several opportunities to participate in centuries before the ride, but to be perfectly honest I just had no interest in doing so. And I have to say that unless your century includes fried artichokes, otter pops, and home made cookies, you can keep it. This is my kind of 100 miles. And each of these little (non official) stops are not only what made my first century doable, it made it fun(ish). And a woman baking 3,000 cookies for all ALC riders and dancing bear fairies (don't ask) handing out otter pops is also what makes ALC such a wonderful experience. I was so glad that, even though I was alone and too shy to actually make eye contact with anyone most of the time, I stopped at every one of these stops and experienced them.
At the "otter pop/water stop" there was also an additional attraction worth mentioning. Tucked back in what looks like a parking lot is a lovely old mission that every year lays out a blank alter cloth and asks ALC riders to leave thoughts, prayers, and musings. Once all the ALC riders sign it, and the madness it packed up for another year, the mission uses the alter cloth for the rest of the year. This simple gesture is really the kind of thing the ride is all about. Bringing people from all walks of life together for a cause that transcends all social groups, lifestyles and geography. It was beautiful to see.
I also have to say that the dancing men in tutus handing out icy treats in front of the mission housing said alter cloth is also what ALC is all about. An ludicrous balance of ridiculousness and sincerity. A big dose of purpose, with just enough humor mixed in to keep you going. That juxtaposition would continue to appear throughout the week.
I have to confess that it wasn't until about mile 60 that I really realized that by completing all 107 miles today I actually would be able to say I had done a century
(plus 7). I know that seems obvious, but I was preoccupied with a couple other things, OK? I never, in a million years, thought I would be a person that would say "Oh, yeah. I've done a century." Things like that are for people that do marathons, or triathlons, or The Amazing Race...not me. Except: yes.
Setting up the tent that night wasn't so bad. I was on a century high.
People who ride bikes like fried artichokes.


Michael seems to have slacked days 2 and 3, but here are the ALC pictures: