After months of fundraising and (somewhat inadequate) training, I have completed my eighth and final year of NorCal AIDS Cycle. When I did this ride for the first time back in 2011, I had no idea how it would take over my life. I calculate that in the past eight years I have raised over fifty-thousand dollars for the cause. At the beginning of this year, I made the decision that this would be my last NCAC. It is a difficult time of the year for me to properly train, and the process has becoming tiring.
However, I was fully committed to this year’s ride, and the beginning of the ride came right on time!
Day One – West Sacramento to Auburn: 88.25 miles/+2,432′ The ride began this year at Crocker Park in downtown Sacramento, early in the morning of May 10th. Weather conditions were perfect… not too cold, and we briskly rode through Woodland to our first rest stop in Knight’s Landing. This rest stop is one of the most entertaining, located the quirky “Stingrayz Marina.” The next section of the ride continued north on highway 113, then cut across at Nicolaus to our lunch stop in Lincoln. I was pretty tired when I got to lunch, and was definitely ready for a break.
After lunch I settled in with a group of riders as headed towards the foothills towards Auburn. We hadn’t noticed that we had missed an important turn, though it was very enjoyable, but we ended up adding a few extra miles to the day in the process. The last part of the day is a challenging climb up Ophir Road to Auburn, to our camp at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. After getting camp set up, I had a shower and massage, dinner and then bedtime.
Day Two – Auburn to Colfax loop: 14 miles/+2,052′ Day two is a rather short but very hilly day. I was concerned about how little hill training I’d done, so already had some anxiety about the day. On top of that, I’d had thigh muscle cramps in the middle of the night, and my legs were still very tight and sore.
I somehow managed to squeeze out the morning part of the route, but it was definitely more challenging than usual. After our lunch at the Colfax train depot, I hit the first hill out of town, and it became obvious that I was not going to be able to finish the day. I was disappointed, but knew it was the right decision. As I get older, listening to my body has become a priority!
Back at camp, a massage therapist showed me some stretches to help alleviate the tension and pain in my thigh muscles. They proved to be just the ticket for the challenging day three, coming in the morning.
Day Three – Sacramento Valley loop: 73.49 miles/+2,278′ This is probably the most difficult day of the ride. A long fast descent from Auburn back down into the valley took us through Newcastle, Granite Bay, Roseville, Loomis, another lunch stop in Lincoln, then a climb from Camp Far West towards Auburn. I felt good in the morning, my mood only marred by a flat tire in Loomis. I managed to ride most of the day, but between the heat and my tiredness from the previous day, cut it short, and I sag’d back to camp.
Saturday evening is “Friends and Family” night, and Sharene joined me for dinner. Following an entertaining show from the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus, we gathered for a short candlelight vigil to remember those we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS. I went straight to bed and sleep came quickly.
Day Four – Auburn to Sacramento: 50 miles/+1,130′ Our last day, and we are heading home. The route took us out of Auburn, with just a couple of more uphill sections, and then a long descent on Auburn-Folsom Road to Beals Point at Folsom Lake. After the rest stop, most of the ride takes the American River Bike trail downtown, and back to Crocker Park. After a rest break, snacks, photos, and greeting our fellow riders, we had a parade to the West Steps of the State Capitol, for our brief closing ceremony.
And then home, for a shower and a cold beer, and my own bed!
I want to give my deepest thanks to my NCAC friends… those with whom I rode, and those who supported us as crew, especially my River City Roadies teammates Jane Anne Cooper and Gayle Monroe. These friendships are deep and one of the reasons I have returned year after year. I also want to thank the River City Food Bank for sponsoring our small-but-mighty team. And especially a big thank you to all who supported my fund-raising with your dollars. My fund-raising goal exceeded six-thousand, six-hundred dollars this year, which is the point, after all!
And next year?? I am standing by my decision to be finished riding NCAC. However, because of my daughter’s recent diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, I will be participating in the MS Society’s “Waves to Wine” ride. Stay tuned!