Thanksgiving to World AIDS Day

Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the power of a virus to ravage lives. Thank you for extending compassion to every human being, protec...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Light for Rights this World AIDS Day


World AIDS Day 2010 begins with a promising UNAIDS report "citing a downward trend in new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths over the past decade and stabilization of the number of people living with HIV" (PlusNews). Next, in thousands of events held across the planet, lights will dim in personal and global remembrance of millions lost over 30 years of AIDS. Finally, light returns to focus on stigma and discrimination preventing universal access to all this progress.

Light for Rights is the theme of tomorrow’s World AIDS Day. Shine your light to expose and demand equal access without retribution to HIV testing, health services, employment and personal support for all people and generate human rights progress to last long after the war on AIDS is finally won.

Sneak-peak opportunity to extend life-saving HIV/AIDS services close to home and take one last 2010 tax deduction.

Friday, November 26, 2010

With Thanks for Giving

I'm grateful that last post was made before arriving home since I hit the ground running and haven't stopped long enough to unpack my bike so I'm even more grateful for a holiday break to publicly express my gratitude to all who contributed support for the 2010 NYCDC AIDS Research Ride...

Dear Friends,

Surely you’ve done it. Grabbed a camera or phone from purse or pocket and suddenly you’ve snapped a picture of the ground, your foot or dark interior of your bag. When I finally got around to uploading my ride pictures, there it was, that accidental grab shot screaming its message at me.

My brother was an artist. As a kid, Bret was constantly doodling large-eyed, smiling creatures – camel, giraffe, dolphin, fish, turtle; simple drawings, simple scenes, designed to make you smile. This spring, Mom called to say she had turned Bret’s camel into a wall-hanging for my sister, Tammie, currently on civilian duty in Afghanistan. When she suggested making another into a birthday gift to carry on my ride, I knew instantly it had to be the turtle. Too obvious perhaps to suggest my choice had to do with consistently riding at the back of the pack and pressing through long days, hurricane, snowstorm and heat wave to cross the finish line by dinnertime. My eye remains on a bigger prize, slow to achieve but worthy of persistent effort. This year I didn’t pedal any faster but was inspired by a glimpse of this even bigger finish.

At the eastern edge of the Chesapeake Bay on the last night of this year’s NYCDC AIDS Research Ride, Todd Hawley stood in front of 50 cyclists and crew and shared his 2010 turtle story. Todd had been hired by Dr. Wu to manually test hundreds of drugs, one at a time, for the better part of the year. You see, Dr. Wu discovered how HIV tricks a body’s immune system into the fatal move of accepting the virus into its cells. Now these scientists had only to find a way to teach the body’s T-cells to recognize and turn away the deadly virus. Instead of designing a treatment from scratch, Dr. Wu chose to first try testing the wide array of cancer-fighting drugs already much further along in the FDA approval process (nice shortcut!). Cancer research labs have fancy, expensive equipment to make drug-testing fast and easy but these labs aren’t too keen on introducing deadly viruses into their sterile environment so Todd tested each one by hand; slow, tedious work. On this night, after climbing from a tent at 4:30 each of the last 3 mornings to help mark the day’s cycling route, Todd couldn’t hide his excitement in sharing with those who had solicited his funding that one drug had tested with extremely hopeful results. In his Petri dish, after countless failed attempts, a fraction of the normal cancer treatment dose had successfully shut out HIV.

This is the kind of unrelenting, preliminary research not typically funded by the NIH or similar deep-pocket grant agencies. This research was funded by you. The roughly $100,000 generated by this year’s event will take these inspiring results to the next step on Dr. Yuntao Wu’s FDA path to human trial and treatment to end AIDS. A glimpse of the finish line has been revealed. Sometimes it fades from view, around the corner or over the horizon, but knowing it is there and why we so desperately must cross it will keep this turtle plodding along.

Thank you for bringing, and sustaining, hope for the journey.
Tracy 

NYCDC AIDS Research Ride 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 4 Remembered

Sitting now at gate 14, National Airport, waiting for my flight home. Directly in my window view is the US Capitol, gleaming against dark, storm-threatening skies. Yesterday at this time, I was coastng past its steps on my bicycle, near our 4-day cycling journey's end.
We began our final day donning jackets as we boarded the Captain Buddy and jetted across the Chesapeake Bay where bikes awaited, along with a drenching rain.
Temps had cooled 30 degrees from Day 3 and not a soul complained as we pedaled to Upper Marlboro for lunch. Afterward, rain was replaced by a constant breeze drying out layers as we put them away for another rainy day.
A new bike bridge trail offered a new, far more scenic route into DC this year. Sadly, rain knocked out my phone, and my camera didn't make it past Day 2, so I'll rely on fellow riders and crew to add pics at a later date. Trust me, the Woodrow Wilson bridge bicycle view joins my short list of spectacular city bridge entrances - the Golden Gate, the GW, the I-90. We completed the day's 60 miles with a spin past the monuments before heading to the finish line, rooftop party at the Post Massachusetts, greeted by family friends and several riders from year's past.
Thank you speeches were made, but held a different tone. Dr. Wu couldn't hide the excitement in wanting to reach his finish line goal of ending AIDS, especially for the benefit of his new ride family who he's witnessed for 3 years now, giving their all to prove the first 330miles are only the start of this journey of hope.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 3 Haiku

12 hour day of heat.
Teamed against the wind - spray me!
Many smiles per hour.

-this haiku jointly drafted in massage room 302 by Liz, Annie and me.

94mi - 6hrs 21min (12hrs. w/ferry time) - 93 degrees

Day 2 - Cape May

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 2 Defies Reputation

Or lives up to it, depending on your take. Search the archives for the back story behind the infamous Day 2 and you'll find an unexplained history of extreme ride weather. In my 12 "day 2"s there has been snow, torrential downpours, freezing rain, tornado watches and temp swings from below freezing to fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot.
We left camp this AM in a marine layer - like Seattle's misty mornings yet warm enough to ride without layers. Soon, 7 of the 10 female riders were keeping perfect pace at a steady clip of 16-18mph. It was exhilirating!
A lesson in flat tire repair ensued before the AM stop and I assisted with another before lunch yet still was eating a sandwich before 11am. Then the sun came out.
Did I say with a vengence?! Accompanied by some rough roads and a headwind of varying speeds, the 95 degree day zapped energy away in no time. Our road crew was amazing - there when you needed that added boost of cold water, chocolate, an ice collar or, my personal favorite, a cold misting from the spray gun.
Eventually all descended on Cape May and straight into the Atlantic. Perfection!
A quick stop at the Ugly Mug, then just a few miles further to camp and a well-earned shower.
Day 2 - 82 miles - done.

Day 2 - PM stop

92 degrees, sunny and hot, but the Atlantic is only 22miles away. Iced down and ready to go!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 1

Atlantic Highlands to Chatsworth, NJ
85.55 miles in 5hrs 55min

Pretty amazing how a route can change by removing only one small thing - drenching rain. The 3rd time must have been the charm as not a single drop fell this year, the day was warm but high cloud cover kept the sun from scorching and the breeze held the crispness of fall in place of summer's exhale. What a difference.
Everyone rode strong, making good time to camp, but arrived spent. The dining hall sounded like summer camp, alive with hungry riders and crew. Then, because it's there in all its nostalgic 50s glory, we played 3 rounds of old-fashioned BINGO. Dr. Wu and a couple of his reseachers had to be taught how to play and, in his very first game, Dr. Wu was the winner!
Along the last few miles into camp, my teammate, Jon, reminded us we'd probably have to get up and ride tomorrow, a reference to last year's bus ride past the first, flooded 50 miles. Since he's right, I'll say good night.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

There's Your Sign

For the record, I already climbed THE hill of this ride. I happened to be wearing my route-marking hat at the time, 2pm and about 85degrees, but I posted route signs for the first 5.6miles of our ride and got to test my bike assembly to make adjustments before tomorrow.
The good news about taking the big hill on Day 0 is you get to ride back DOWN on your return. Half way down I met Grace, the school crossing guard who didn't miss a beat before offering to help us in the morning. She'd be on duty at 7:30 and would happily stop traffic for us as we climbed the hill, turned left, then right and kept climbing.
I'm fed by that kind of humble support - the kind that doesn't hesitate to lend the gift you've got. It's the very best kind of sign. I can't wait to see Grace in the morning!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

So that's how you do it!

One of the first questions asked about multi-day rides is if we have to haul our own gear. If I'm pedaling, the answer is an emphatic, "no." Sometimes I help pack the gear from storage but am then happy to turn the heavy hauling over to our quite capable camp crew volunteers.

Loaded truck (with me in it) is now headed to the official ride start point.

This post dedicated to my kids, Caitlin and Kyle, who've often worked as hard at setting up, taking down and moving camp as I have riding a bike.

Good Morning Sunshine

40 minutes in a morning garden; she's back together and ready to ride.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Home Sweet Home

For all the packing fuss, one might think I didn't travel much. Alas, Alaska Air seat 7C was my twice weekly commuter seat for nearly 5yrs, though packing for a work week is a far cry from the prep involved in hauling a bike and camp gear on today's friendly skies.
It's been 4months since I last boarded a plane but little has changed. Security lines are longer once you've lost your "gold" status but I still have the rhythm down - slip on shoes, no belt, in and out in seconds. Alaska Air's staff is still the role model of pleasant and professional, and here is seat 7C, waiting to carry me on to Newark and the start of my 12th AIDS ride. Though there'll be no laptop business on this journey, the next 5+hrs will indeed feel like home.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Done and Done

In record time - 3.5hrs. Now what have I forgotten?

Time to Go!

Giving myself 6hrs to break it all down - ziplock and bubble wrap, weighed and measured. Ready, set...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Training Season

Blackberry stop 1

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way through Seattle

Saturday’s forecast had me packing rain gear just in case but the dawned clear, cool and full of sunshine as Mary and I headed out from Log Boom Park on our tour around Lake Sammamish, over Lake Washington with my favorite detour loop around Mercer Island, and along the Seattle waterfront.

Obligatory pit stop at the Bell Street Starbucks offered sidewalk viewings of Alaska-bound cruisers but a different crowd emerged as we continued north to the Elliott Bay trailhead at Myrtle Edwards Park. We’d run headlong into Hempfest!

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can't Get Enough Ferry Training!

Little Trail Hazard

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

Headed for Gig Harbor!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Murphy’s Bike Law #12… or not?!

Chasing dogs only appear when you’re headed up hill. Wait! That’s not a dog! THAT’S A BEAR!!!! 

Not a black bear cub but, precisely as my friend Zummer once described cycling this same area, more like a “teenage bear,” barreling down the hill in our direction, ears laid back, looking over his shoulder at whatever had startled him into a sprint.

Seconds later, he’d gone his way and adrenaline pushed me and my brother, Adam, to the top of that hill with eyes wide for more wildlife signs on our way to Carnation. 

40 miles later, we’d seen several wild rabbits, a tractor show at Jubilee Farm, Camp Korey, a totally cool chicken coop and a large deer (albeit roadkill) before looping back past “Bear Hill” with quite the story to tell.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Important is Not Forgotten

Wall Street crash, earth quake. Oil gushes uncontrolled.
Leaders fall from grace as foreign war escalates.
Deficit, heat wave. Do you have a job?

Amid the distraction of urgent, the important is not forgotten.

The Obama Administration could have pointed to flat lining new HIV infection rates, longer and improved quality of life for the infected over the last decade, claimed success and turned back to more urgent matters.

Instead, the Office of National AIDS Policy went on the road to listen to AIDS service providers, activists, faith-based organizations, doctors & researchers, those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Clearly, complacency was not an option. 

Today, the White House unveiled its National HIV/AIDS Strategy to decrease the HIV infection rate, increase & coordinate care options and expand stigma-fighting awareness, with a 5 year vision that
“The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic circumstance will have unfettered access to high-quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”
Every 9 ½ minutes, one person is newly infected by HIV. To that one, HIV is urgent. We know how to prevent HIV infection and can chose to make care available to every affected person without discrimination or qualification if we recognize that right, to all Americans, is extremely important.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dear Mary,

I cheated. Had my egg sandwich before even leaving the house... but I did put in 25 miles before coffee!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Doing What Counts

"Don’t researchers need funding in the millions to end AIDS? How can the mere thousands we raise make any difference at all?"
Ever wonder the same as you write that $100 check? Maybe you don’t even bother if $10 is all you can afford?

The 2008 NYCDC AIDS Research Ride raised nearly $100,000 for Dr. Yuntao Wu’s innovative HIV research at George Mason University. Your contributions through me and those raised by 23 other cyclists kept Dr. Wu’s lab fully staffed through the next summer, completing important work that ultimately accelerates their research by as much as a year.

The scientific among you will enjoy delving into the details behind each step leading closer to a therapy to stop HIV. But if your eyes glaze over just getting to the end of the title, scroll past the summary to see the ride credited for its generous funding.

Last year’s event nearly doubled our funding, moving Dr. Wu ever closer to delivering a short-term therapy to freeze HIV and end the destruction of human T cells that leads to AIDS. According to Dr. Wu, "We have at least three papers that were supported by the 2009 NYCDC AIDS ride. One paper is now in review and the other two will be submitted by the end of the summer."

With the NIH, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett-size money in the game, my young teammate wasn’t the first to wonder aloud if our impact could matter to an AIDS researcher. Over the last two summers they’ve marked my route, served lunch and cycled beside me 330 miles down the eastern seaboard, and around the nightly campfire, Dr. Yuntao Wu and his lab staff ooze with excitement over the progress they’re making with that $100, $500, $50, $10...

We'll be there again this September. Thanks for making it count!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Take the Test, Take Control.

Fellow Boomers! Pay attention!

Today is National HIV Testing Day. Think you aren't at risk? Think again. New AIDS cases in the 50+ age group are growing at twice the rate of younger age ranges. Twice the rate.

Safe sex messages traditionally target young singles yet a growing number of sexually active singles are women past mid-life - newly single in a Viagra world and past the age of pregnancy scares. The CDC estimates 1 in 5 Americans living with HIV do not know their status. Don't be one of them.

HIV testing is simple, safe and secure. Get tested, be well, and fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rear View Mirror

2009 was a headwind; a relentless gale that stopped forward motion and set far too many reeling at their losses. I took my turn at unemployment, went back to clipping coupons and started investigating formerly unheard of options like “walking away from a mortgage.” Cyclists quickly learn the best way to catch a break against a headwind is to fall in behind another cyclist. I’m grateful to those whose support gave me shelter to regain my strength.


The pause gave me time to look around. Disease, disaster, poverty know no headwind. Annie lost her job and made plans to swim for pancreatic cancer research. Shawna walked for breast cancer and a half dozen more spent weekends training for Leukemia & Lymphoma triathlons. Ian, Tony and Suellen cycled for AIDS services on separate coasts while Scotty and Dave rode to fight cancer. Two friends took time off to help Haiti earthquake victims and a greater than expected share of fellow job-seekers expressed the not terribly lucrative desire to explore non-profit careers.

I lowered my fund-raising expectations for the first time in 15 years and was humbled by your generous response. Generosity doesn’t always come in the form of a big check. You gave from the heart despite your own headwinds and I was inspired.

This fall, I’ll repeat the 330-mile cycling journey from NYC to Washington, DC in support of Dr. Yuntao Wu’s innovative HIV-fighting research at George Mason University. I’m back because I believe Dr. Wu will end AIDS. His research led to the discovery of how HIV gets into T cells, causing them to die. Now Dr. Wu is zeroing in on short-term therapies that help T cells recognize this deadly virus and keep it out. When T cells don’t die, the immune system never degenerates to AIDS. How cool is that?!

Dr. Wu’s theories to stop HIV are proven and his dedication to the fight is as solid as his commitment last summer to participate in the bike shoes of a cyclist along the eastern seaboard, headwinds and all.
Times are still tough, but I won’t lower my expectations for I finally see what you saw. Even as we duck behind others to carry us past the brunt of the storm, a quick glance in the rear view mirror reveals a long line of others counting on us to do the same.

Dedication

The post I had in mind took on a life of its own this weekend, right under my nose, as not 1 but 3 fellow AIDS riders came to Seattle to raise the bar on cycling for a good cause.

On Sunday, Scotty completed the first of 4 century rides (that's 100 miles each!) in the Livestrong Challenge Series for cancer research. Follow his journey on to San Jose, Philadelphia and Austin and his goal to raise $5000 for cancer for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

This morning, Chad and Toby departed Seattle over our most scenic local, mountain pass training route for the Big Ride - the really BIG RIDE Across America. So far, they've raised over $12,000 for the American Lung Association and will be pedaling (er, peddling?) to increase that amount on their 7 week journey to Washington, DC.

Would cancer or lung disease be cured without their efforts? Perhaps. But I tip my helmet to anyone willing to sacrifice their own comfort - of body or pocketbook - to lighten the load of another.

"Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as ever you can."
                        

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ferry Loading Training

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

International District

Seattle

The Artsy Entrance

No cars allowed.

Leaderless Lid Lingering...again

Never fails. When riding alone I always make one or several detours around the Mercer Island lid before finding my way back to the bridge trail.

My Highway to Seattle

I-90 alternate. Ditch the car, baby!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day in Action

One year ago I was coaxing her back into a training regimen to join me on the 2009 NYCDC AIDS Research Ride. My sister, Tammie, found one of very few acceptable excuses not to return to DC with me this year by taking her recreation prowess to the troops. Specifically, MWR Entertainment Specialist at Bagram AFB, shuttling entertainment to our soldiers all across Afghanistan.

This Memorial Day, as we remember those who gave their lives in service to our country, I also salute Tammie and all who strive to motivate the living to serve another day.

Follow Tammie's adventures and find out how she spent Memorial Day 2010.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Celebrate That

Seems appropriate to return to blogging a new cycling season in earnest today, the 15th anniversary of Bret’s passing. Though I’ll never again experience May 5 without some sense of loss, there is more to celebrate in each passing year.

Today’s HIV testing is fast, easy and more readily available on a global basis than it was in the early 90’s. Once detected, treatments are less expensive, far easier to manage – think a few pills per day instead of handfuls of pills 3x a day – and much more effective.

Though some have experienced HIV levels reduced to undetectable amounts, no one can yet claim to have a found a consistently effective weapon against HIV and its fatal course to AIDS, particularly when paired with the dual hurdles of poverty and access to regular medical care. Still, a diagnosis no longer comes with the automatic 12-18 month death sentence Bret received. More of those infected with HIV are living longer, better lives.

Today, I celebrate that.

In memory of
Bret Marshall Granato



Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Voices of Friends Vanished and Gone"*

Plugging in the earbuds on my mile walk home along the streets of San Francisco, shuffle mode. The Boss breaks into "The Streets of Philadelphia"...

Flashback 1980... telling Dad I'm moving across the country to California. "San Francisco? Isn't that where all the gays are?" A remark reflective of emerging focus on a mysterious new disease appearing on that scene.

Never could bring myself to see the movie but for 3-1/2 minutes on the streets of San Francisco, the haunting tune transported me through three decades of my own image reel, seemingly sourced in a single ironic prophecy.

*Bruce Springsteen

Friday, January 1, 2010

Status

Last night, I lost mine. Weekly air commuting never won me any brownie points with Al Gore but it did earn me MVP Gold status on Alaska Air. For 5 years I delighted in short-cuts through SeaTac security lines, first class upgrades and no change fees but this year I was grounded, so begin 2010 as a mere MVP.

Interesting how status is so often used to categorize treatment of people in general; an easy way to conserve the time and energy of considering their value as unique individuals. HIV status is no exception. In fact, it proves the rule in striking and often frightening ways.

Such stigma is attached to an HIV+ status that creative screening methods had to be introduced in countries where even walking into a testing facility could mark you for shunning. The developed world was rightfully stunned by Uganda's recent consideration of a bill that essentially forces HIV status declarations in an effort to imprison and even put to death individuals accused of homosexuality. Yet those stunned individuals need look no further than their own neighborhoods to witness an HIV+ status causing a family, church or community to reject their own at precisely the time their support is most needed.

Society will never eliminate the need to categorize certain treatments by status. I’ll miss jumping to the front of those security lines but lucky for me, Alaska Air delivers top-notch service to every passenger despite their member status. In all cases of status, whether economic, societal, legal or otherwise, we must be diligent to never lose sight of individual self-worth.