The journey isn’t an easy one. In fact, giving up was on Fred Gransee’s mind many times throughout his training and even during the AIDS Lifecycle ride itself. But there was a purpose for each mile ridden, each dollar raised.
“Anytime I felt like there was self-doubt or anytime I ever felt there was a moment I was in over my head, I went back to friends and family that I’ve lost,” he said. “I sat there and thought of how fortunate I am to be able to do something like this and suck it up and stop feeling sorry for myself.”
Before his first ride three years ago, Gransee had never been on a cycling bike outside of gym spin classes. “I kind of laughed at it at first. 545 miles is nothing. I go to spin class all the time. I got this,” he said. “When I got on a real bike and not a spin bike, it made all the difference in the world.”
It was several friends who talked him into the ride which starts in San Francisco and ends in Los Angeles. The seven-day ride takes riders through a variety of terrains and elevations, but unlike many competitive rides, it’s not about who finishes first.
“You see people come together pushing others on and supporting one another to finish the ride,” said Gransee. “When you do the AIDS Lifecycle, there’s something called the love bubble. For that one week, it’s 3,000 people who don’t judge you on your race, creed, your nationality, your social status or how much money you make. It’s all truly love.”
Gransee is part of Team Fubar, based out of Los Angeles, but since moving to Atlanta, he’s has recruited several locals to join his team. Last year, the 115 person team, raised $950,000. This year, their goal is $1,000,000. They’re about halfway to their goal, but there’s still one month left to go until riders line up and ride for a cure for HIV/AIDS.
He’s also had to train with a different mindset and set of goals in order to compete with that of California’s unique geography. “I know what the challenges are. I know the elevation changes I’ll face in Los Angeles versus here,” he said. “For me, I step it up with endurance rides. I try to pick up as much elevation here in Georgia as much as a possibly can. I also lean on spin class to make up for challenging myself with the endurance and elevation gains.”
Emotion is abundant on this ride. Spectators and riders alike know it’s a test of physical, mental and emotional vulnerability. “It beats you up. You get to certain points where you’re just so tired. Your body starts to ache but you just push through. You just know that the end is in sight,” said Gransee. “But it’s peaceful and serene. It gives you a lot of time to think. It gives you a lot of time to dig inside of yourself and make sure you’re really doing this for the right reasons.”
Even those on the sidelines have a connection to the mission of each rider. “There’s a lady every year that sets up a chair along the route. She has a poster with a picture of her son that passed away from AIDS. She’s there every year,” he said. “A bunch of us always make it a point to stop and give her a hug. She cries and we cry. She thanks us.
Growing up in the ’90s, Gransee saw from Kentucky a world divided in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. “Just seeing how people treated other people who were affected by the disease,” said Gransee. “It was something that when I went into college and into med school, that I decided it was something I wanted to continue to focus on and see how I could contribute in the future.”
After his first ride, Gransee learned that together with his teammates, a cure could come quicker than many could imagine. That’s what keeps him and many others riding every mile and raising every dollar, so AIDS Lifecycle can soon become a ride of the past.
To donate to Gransee’s goal, visit his AIDS Lifecycle page at: www.tofighthiv.org/site/TR/Events/AIDSLifeCycleCenter?px=3371362&pg=personal&fr_id=2110