Alum bikes 585 miles to support AIDS services
“When I first considered doing the ride, contemplating its scale would literally take my breath away, and it still gives me that feeling,” says Mark O’Brien ’94, who in June completed the 585-mile AIDS/LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. “This is unlike anything else I have ever accomplished.
Co-produced by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, AIDS/LifeCycle “is designed to advance their shared interests to end the pandemic and human suffering caused by AIDS,” reads the mission statement.
Mark O’Brien says several factors led him to take on the ride. “‘Controversial’ AIDS/HIV prevention initiatives like needle exchanges and condom advocacy are no longer being supported by government grants,” he explains, “so it’s up to the private sector to step up and help fund these programs.
In order to participate in the ride, O’Brien had to raise a minimum of $2,500. “The opportunity to raise money for such a worthy cause was definitely one of the factors that appealed to me,” he says. O’Brien created postcards that helped do the asking for him. He says he also got a lot of support from his co-workers at WebSideStory (formerly Atomz), a software company specializing in hosted Web software. He went on to raise more than $5,000.
O’Brien began training in August 2004 with 30- to 50-mile local rides from his San Francisco home. In October, he joined the official AIDS/LifeCycle training rides, which built up from 50 to 100 miles per ride. “This was a big help mentally. During the actual ride, I would look at the route sheet and think, ‘Okay, 81 miles today. I have done that before,’” he says.
The ride itself was quite an adventure, with grueling hills (one is nicknamed “Quadbuster”), stunning coastal views, and plenty of frivolity. At one rest stop, the supporters were dressed like characters from the movie, “The Sound of Music,” and it “included homemade curtain-fabric lederhosen and a performance by Maria and the Von Trapps,” wrote O’Brien in his blog. At one point during the ride, O’Brien even found himself longing for his job. “I am looking forward to putting my hands on my laptop next week instead of my handlebars,” he wrote.
The whole experience also brought some pleasant surprises, says O’Brien, including “the sense of community that is generated by the group training and the ride itself. That was a wonderful gift.” O’Brien has already signed up for next year’s ride.
Visit www.markobrien.com/bike/ to read O’Brien’s training and ride blogs and to see additional photos.
—Elizabeth Kelley Gillogly ’93 is the associate editor of Santa Clara Magazine.