In March of 2008, a friend asked me to join her in riding Tour Dallas, a 30-mile bike rally in and around the Dallas area.
It was my first time on a bike since I owned a pristine pink Huffy as a child, and I was more than just a little intimidated that chilly morning as we headed out of the AAC parking lot with thousands of other riders.
Crazy, maybe, but I convinced myself that riding a bike was just like … well, riding a bike.
Ask anyone that knows me for a description, and a sort of theme always seems to appear.
I am stubborn, determined, and “a little” competitive, and it shows in my work and hobbies.
I began marathon training simply by putting one foot in front of the other, and ran countless miles and several marathons.
Although I’d never been particularly athletic, I found strength in running, seeing the sun and my shadow, and training to reach a goal.
By the time I’d pedaled to the end of the Tour Dallas route, I’d not only fallen in love with cycling, but established a new challenge for myself — I would train for the Hotter than Hell 100, held in Wichita Falls at the end of every scorching Texas summer.
With that goal in mind, I clipped into the pedals of my Trek, started pedaling, and never stopped.
On the best days, cycling is my meditation. With the familiar sound of “clipping in,” I find mental clarity in pushing my body. I know every inch of the concrete and asphalt around White Rock Lake and delight in the summer heat and breeze coming off the water.
On the worst days, when my legs feel like jelly and even kids with training wheels pass me by, I believe that Beyonce and Lady Gaga on the iPod can be considered a performance-enhancing drug.
In just more than two years of riding, cycling has become such a part of my life that even my vacations include a bike rack and a route map.
I own more bike shorts than jeans, have tan lines that never fade and my friends all roll their eyes at my persistent Facebook posts about cycling.
This year, I will be participating in my third Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, riding two days and 180 miles across the Metroplex with the singular goal of improving the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS.
The Lone Star Ride stands out among all the cycling events in which I participate, and I find it the most motivating and meaningful.
The route of the two-day course is as challenging as any you’ll find in North Texas, but the ample support of crew members — whether directing traffic from motorcycles, refilling Gatorade or providing a much needed laugh — truly makes the LSR experience unique.
When I roll out this September with two hundred plus riders and as many crew members, it will be to make a difference as an athlete, an activist and an educator.
I ride for those who cannot, for those who the AIDS Outreach Center, Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Services Dallas provide much needed support, and to reduce discrimination directed towards people with HIV and AIDS.
I ride for a future of the Lone Star Ride in which, not hundreds, but thousands of cyclists work together to raise awareness and funds.
For two days this fall, I ride because “riding a bike” is a far greater event than just pedaling. Won’t you join me?
Suzy Smith is a member of Team Sabre Flyers. Donate to her online at LoneStarRide.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.