Paul Schindler's AIDS Fund Raising Ride Summary
Posted July 5, 1997
Thank you for your support. Because of you and your contributions, I was able to complete the 1997 California Aids Ride 4. June 1-7, 1997. Seven days. 570 miles. 2500 other riders. Together we raised 9.5 million dollars. I raised about $2,800 before the ride.
Not all of you are interested in the day-by-day, blow by blow report. I've been back for a week now, and I have a pretty good idea of what people's main questions are. And, I believe, most of you are interested in what I learned, what I took away, from the ride. Turns out the lessons I learned on the ride are probably applicable to life as well.
- Everything is 80% mental. A simple look around camp each night indicated that maybe, at most, 20% of us were physically prepared to ride that far in that short a period of time, as indicated by our finish times. This was a ride, not a race, let me emphasize that. But that means the time it took us each day was indicative of our physical condition, not some super-human race effort. There was a spread of five hours every day. The people who finished in the first hour or two were the real athletes. The rest of us (myself included) finished every day not because we were really in good enough shape to ride a bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but because we really, really, WANTED to finish each day. Which doesn't mean we didn't have to train--training made the difference between finishing each day in agony or in comfort. We still had to ride the ride. But it was desire that made the difference. You can do amazing, unbelievable things if you want them badly enough.
- You want the best backup crew in the world, but in the end, when the rubber meets the road, it's you that make the effort. We had 500 volunteers, a medical team and a fleet of trucks and cars supporting us. They carried our gear and tents, set up five rest stops each day, cooked our food, and supplied a hot shower each night. Clearly, I couldn't have made the ride without this level of support. But none of the volunteers could push the pedal down one more time in the middle of a blazing-hot county road in the nether reaches of the Salinas valley. Only I could do that, 10 hours a day.
- You can be in the moment for long periods of time. The nature of our work forces most of us to spend a lot of time thinking about the future. On the Aids ride we were told, regularly, that daydreaming, or even thinking a lot about anything other than the road ahead, was dangerous, possibly fatal. I succumbed now and then, but I spend most of the seven days of the ride right in the moment. It was less boring than I expected. I did not achieve nirvana, or particular enlightenment, but I can honestly say it was the most complete "vacation" I have taken in adulthood, in terms of clearing my mind of my normal professional concerns. It was a pleasant experience. Perhaps some of you can achieve it under less strenuous circumstances.
- CMP is a swell place to work. Many of you who are reading this are CMPers and might well view this as sucking up. It isn't; it's just the plain truth. More than half the $2,500 I raised in order to make the ride came from CMP itself and from CMP employees. My job was affected by an internal reorganization just 10 days before the ride. At no time did anyone in my chain of command suggest for an instant that I should do anything other than take my long-planned week of vacation in order to participate in the ride I had trained for since January. For this I am deeply grateful. I've been at CMP (on and off) for 18 years, and I hope to be here another 23 at least.
To answer some of the most common questions:
I was not saddle sore, nor sunburned. I did get heat rash from wearing long sleeves the first few days of the ride. For the first four days of the ride, my legs felt like they had been worked over by a ball-peen hammer every night, but that got better the last few days. I somehow managed to maintain a positive and upbeat attitude the whole time. I wouldn't say I had "fun" in the traditional sense, but I had one hell of a unique experience, and one that is vouchsafed to but a few. I wasn't miserable, that's for sure. With one exception, I woke every morning raring to go (as I awake every morning of my life).
The trip did not affect my bad knee, because bike riding is low impact. I didn't lose as much weight as I had hoped during training or the ride, but I am in terrific shape. During the trip, I drank between 40 and 50 liters of Gatorade. The temperatures, thank goodness, were about 20 degrees cooler every day than last year, with highs in the 80s rather than the 100s, and some breeze most days (Day 7, Ventura to Century City was cloudy all day, foggy along the coast, high of about 75. Great!). I slept like a baby (if you sleep on the ground, it helps to have a decent pad, and to be physically exhausted).
That's it for the summary. There is a much longer document describing the whole ride in detail at www.schindler.org. If you'd prefer, I can e-mail it to you or send it via paper mail.