Why We Ride: Texas 4,000 Tales from the Road, Part II
I ride for solidarity, for my family, for love, for access, for hope, for understanding, and most of all for all the people who are invisible.
I’ve made it this far. I still cannot fathom how far I have come on this ride. To say that I saw myself in Canada at this point in time a few months ago would be a lie. I struggled immensely with training and preparing for the summer ride. I have never been physically active prior to training for the ride. After I got accepted to the team I began to run to get my body prepared for being active. I could not run more than a mile, and I struggled with pushing myself.
However, I continued to persevere and went up to a 5K and then a 10K. Eventually, I worked my way up to running my very first half marathon in February 2014. I never, ever would have thought that I would run 13.1 miles in two hours and seven minutes, but I did it. Then, came training for the ride. I realized that I was in love with running and had a huge obsession with the “runners high.”
Everything changed for me when I started to get on the bike. I had a particularly tough time at first because I did not have the shoes necessary to clip in with, so I was riding with toe cages, which made riding incredibly difficult. I rode with those for about a month and a half, and then learned how to clip in a week before our half-century test—a 50-mile ride in five hours or less. As our rides began to get longer, my anxiety before Saturday morning rides increased. I would wake up every hour on Friday nights in a hot sweat with nightmares of all the things that could happen to me on the bike. Saturdays became something I dreaded.
So many of my friends and teammates were so confused as to why I would sign up to cycle 4,500 miles to Alaska if I was deathly afraid of road cycling and miserable while doing it. The summer ride is said to serve as a metaphor for the fight against cancer, struggling each day but continuing to push yourself and get through it. Every moment I suffer on the bike I remind myself of the pain others feel in real life. The pain of not knowing how you are going to pay your next medical bill because you do not have access to health care. The pain of hiding your diagnosis from your loved ones because you do not want to burden them. The No. 1 cause of death amongst Latin@s in the United States is cancer.
I am riding for my community, my ancestors, and my loved ones. I struggle on the bike each day because I know my abuelita is struggling through cancer treatment simultaneously in Houston. I had such a hard time during training, and I legitimately was not sure if I would even make it to the summer ride, and yet here I am more than 40 days later in Vancouver, British Columbia– cycling across the country. I have climbed mountains, I have ridden through the desert, and I have ridden against coastal head winds. Do not get me wrong, I have struggled a lot. I am definitely one of the slower riders on my route, but I have come such a long way. I have discovered that I am a strong climber thanks to the calves I developed from running. I never would have thought that I could ever lead a group ride, and now I lead every day.
As I ride day in and day out, I have come to realize the power of laughter. On some of our most difficult days, I use humor to get me through. When I am struggling I rely on my teammates to help me through and there is something incredibly special about the bond you feel when you realize that we are hurting together. I am often the one to dread riding and joke about how much I hate being on the bike, but I am reminded of the reasons why I ride. I ride for solidarity, for my family, for love, for access, for hope, for understanding, and most of all for all the people who are invisible. For a world where we can find a cure for cancer and make treatment available to everyone– because cancer affects all of us. The ride is almost over and I cannot help but think of how powerful I feel to have made it this far. I am proud of myself and the strength of my body because I deserve to be. I am nervous of what Canada has in store, but I know that I will get through it. Never forget who you’re riding for.
BY ANDY ESCOBAR