545 miles...definitely not a sprint. I like to ride fast. I think it's great fun to get out on the bike, kick into gear, and go flying down the road. One of my favorite rides is about an hour on a local road, ride as fast as I can, and get back totally winded and feeling great. Which reminds of a bit that I just read about the cheetah...fastest mammal on the planet...70 mph in bursts. But if it doesn't catch its prey quickly, the critter lives to tell about it, because the cheetah can't maintain its speed. No stamina, no sense of "going the distance".
So we head out into the streets of Santa Cruz this morning, and it's cool and pleasant. There are about a bazillion stop signs and a bit of traffic, and it took the better part of an hour to get out to where we could really crank up the bikes and get moving. It felt great. In fact it felt so good that I promptly forgot that this was the early part of a 107 mile day (on the heels of an 80 mile day) with five more days to follow. I flew. I reveled. I was having fun. The "cheetah factor" didn't really kick in until after lunch in Salinas, almost halfway through the day, and time to head south down the Salinas Valley. And suddenly my legs didn't want to spin, my butt started to hurt, and all the excitement and enthusiasm kind of slipped away for a bit.
But it's not a race. We're on an incredible quest here, almost three thousnd of us, roadies and cyclists,seeking to cover 545 miles in a week, to raise millions to help fight the battle against AIDS/HIV. To those who deal with this virus and disease directly it becomes a marathon, a lifelong commitment to fighting the good fight day in and day out. And the effort to eradicate it, to support the victims, to educate the uninfected, is an ongoing effort that requires commitment and dedication. No cheetahs need apply for this duty.
There's something special about living in the moment that can get lost if we treat this ride like a race. Suddenly there's no time to take a side trip in Salinas to share the excitement and offer another word of thanks to a couple of guys who stepped up when asked to donate to the event. Joe Mitchell (in the necktie) and Jeff Daughenbaugh (in the surgical scrubs)...just a couple of really good guys, and if this were a race there wouldn't have been a half hour to swing by their dental offices and sneak a few minutes to talk about the ride that they helped support. And there wouldn't have been time to stop for a chat, a handshake, and a hug from Danny and Rita Patterson at the green bridge across the Arroyo Seco River. And what about those seals in Moss Landing...if it's a race, there's no time to stop and watch them leaping out of the water and barking out their seal talk.
Flying down the road on the bike is tons of fun, but taking a moment to stop and appreciate the incredible creation that we are riding through is more important than what time we reach the next camp. The miles of farm land that we rolled through today is a reminder of the real pace that defines life as we know it...there is no hurrying the crop of strawberries or artichokes or lettuce that were being harvested as we rode by. They are ready in their time and at their pace. Life is too short to live it in fast motion. Five nice long days ahead of us to slow down and wallow in the moment.