Marty Growdon participates in AIDS Lifecycle 7
Each rider must raise at least $2,500 in order to participate. Growdon contributed $3,500 donated by friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues. Overall the event raised more than $11 million dollars including the money contributed by corporate sponsors.
The ride began at the Cow Palace in San Francisco with an opening ceremony that included cyclists entering the arena with banners in memory of those who died of AIDS.
Growdon said he was struck by the great variety of people who participated in the ride. He is a retired teacher, a Lassen County Sheriff’s Chaplain and assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel Westwood. During the event, he often rode the daily legs of the ride with a group of cyclists who worked as probation officers. One woman who was riding had lost her mother to AIDS when she was pricked by a needle while tending a patient as a nurse. A heterosexual couple who participated had met at an HIV support group, fell in love and married. His tent-mate was a Christian in his late 50s who had immigrated to the United States from Bolivia about 40 years ago. Growdon said it was great to have someone to pray with each morning and night.
People ride every type of bicycle imaginable, he added. There are the elite riders, such as the bicycle racing team that road a hill participants call Quad Buster four times, as well as those who trudge along. The oldest rider was 82 years old.
“The ride made me look at life differently. I would be riding up a hill, hurting and see a rider in front of me who is HIV positive. That person could go into full blown AIDS any time and he takes a myriad of drugs daily. So it makes you take a look at what you have and where you are and it makes you want to share,” said Growdon.
The riders who were HIV positive were identified by an orange flag on their bikes.
The route opened each day at 6:30 a.m. and riders had to complete the leg by 7 p.m. or they were transported to camp. At breakfast a map of the route was distributed that identified the rest and lunch stops. At each rest area there was food, medical aid and bicycle mechanics available to help participants. One day volunteers from a small elementary school were at the lunch stop selling the riders cheeseburgers, chips and drinks to raise money for athletic equipment, field trips and art supplies. Representatives of Fed Ex, one of the main sponsors, returned to the school to get the list of items needed and purchased everything.
Outside of Santa Cruz, a woman who is known as “the pie lady” parked along the roadside to serve slices of pie to the riders. In another area “the cookie lady” had tables of cookies waiting that she and friends began baking in February.
Many offered encouragement along the route each day, cheering as the rider’s passed. School children wrote letters that were copied and distributed and some routinely parked along the roadside at steep grades to spur riders on, such as an elderly couple that would beat drums for inspiration. Two female cyclists would race ahead of the pack and do cheerleading routines with pompoms.
The more fit riders tried to get to the campsite early so they would not have to wait in a long line to shower. Growdon was able to keep a good pace and finish each leg of the ride. Two days of the event the leg was 100 miles or more. Although his longest training ride in Westwood was 40-miles due to the cold spring, the fact he has been an athlete most of his life was helpful.
He is hoping to do the ride next year with more hill training to make it just a little bit easier. Until then he is able to wear the victory T-shirt he received for completing AIDS Lifecycle 7.
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