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Taking on the Race Across America: Talking With Team4HIVHope 2011, Part Two

December 22, 2011

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Olivia Ford: Do you have any advice for other HIV-positive folks who might be interested in cycling?

Jim Williams: The important thing is to speak with your medical care providers if you've got any questions whatsoever -- just like you would if you were starting any exercise program, whether it be starting out at the gym, or starting swimming, or anything else; and just as you would if you had any other disease, say, diabetes or a heart condition. It's not limited to HIV.

A lot of towns, not just big cities, have local cycling clubs and racing clubs. You can look those up. If somebody's interested in starting to cycle, that's a great way to do it. Or go to a local bike store and ask the guys in the bike store about it. They know more than anybody about the racing scene.

Carol Hyman: And as far as not necessarily racing but just cycling, Positive Pedalers are starting chapters all over the country. And even in places where there aren't chapters, there are people. So I would go to their Website,, and get in touch with those people. As Jim and Don said earlier, they're an incredibly open, warm, wonderful community, and are very supportive. They were very supportive of me when I was a beginning cyclist, helping me get stronger and get to be a better rider. They are a great resource.

Olivia Ford: In closing: How do you "come down" from an experience like this? Do you miss it, and is it challenging to return to a regular routine? Is it just a relief to get it over with? Or are you already planning for your next big event?


Jim Williams: Can we say all three? Yes; yes and yes?

When you do an AIDS ride like AIDS/LifeCycle, there's actually this syndrome participants call PARD: "Post-AIDS Ride Depression." Because for six days, you're in this really fabulous, caring community of people; and you're working toward the same cause. That's kind of what this race was. Regardless of the little meltdowns here and there, everybody was working really well together, and working toward a common goal. And it was a great experience for those six days. And all you did was just focus on cycling and getting from Oceanside to Annapolis.

But at the same time, when it was over, it was like, whew; it's over. And we've already started preparing for next year, as well. So, yes, yes, and yes -- for me, at least.

Sandra Smith: I remember being so thrilled that it was over and we could all go to bed in a real bed, and be clean when we got there. Then when I got home, I think it took me close to 10 days before I quit waking up in the middle of the night saying, "Why aren't we moving? Why aren't we moving?" I was clearly recovering from trauma!

And probably Day 2 or so of the race, I remember thinking, I want to go home, and I never want to see these people again in my life. It was so hard the first couple of days, getting everything feeling like it was all going right.

But then, when we finally settled in as a team and things started moving better, and everyone got over that first experience with exhaustion and being stinky and stressed out, and everything started working again -- then it really started to be more fun. And by the time we got to Annapolis, I just couldn't wait to do it again. It's like: OK, now we know how to do this. Let's go do it again. After I get some sleep, though.

Jim Williams: Day 2 was actually the worst day for me, for some reason. The second night was the hardest night for me. That was when the demons came out and I was on the bike at 3 o'clock in the morning, thinking, Why in the hell am I doing this? But that was the only time that I felt like that.

Don Smith: I have to say, after leaving the group, it was a really dramatic change. I left after we had this wonderful group brunch, where we made speeches. It was just a really warm environment. I'd also had a crew that took care of me for the past six and a half days; and then suddenly I was on my own in a van, driving across America. I had no idea where I was going. I had to fend for myself. I had to get my own gas, get my own food, navigate. I thought, I don't think I like this. I need help!

Olivia Ford: Everybody could use a Team4HIVHope-style crew following them and supporting them through life! Now, is there anything further you want to share with our readers?

Francisco Liuzzi: Here's one thing I thought was kind of funny, and interesting. Of everything about ths whole trip, the thing people ask me about the most is the food, and what you eat every day. On any given day, you could eat anything -- and I do mean anything: multiple cheeseburgers, Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets, multiple chocolate chip cookies, three or four Snickers bars, as much quinoa as you want, as much soda and juice and Gatorade as you want; you could throw in regular candy bars at any time. What else? It didn't matter.

Jim Williams: Filet O' Fish!

Francisco Liuzzi: McChicken, Filet O' Fish, whatever -- all day long -- and every time you looked in the mirror, you were skinnier. Every time. It was amazing.

Jim Williams: We couldn't get enough calories in us. We had to end up relying on the nutrition drink Ensure.

If the time station or exchange was at McDonald's, a crew member would go get me two Filet O' Fish sandwiches, and then I'd have two more.

Francisco Liuzzi: And wash them down with a milkshake.

Jim Williams: Yeah, exactly.

Francisco Liuzzi: I mean, it's the only time I've ever seen where you literally can eat whatever you want. At 8,000 calories a day, you'll lose weight; all you have to do is not sleep and ride a bike as hard as you can all day long for six consecutive days.

Jim Williams: And we didn't have to fix any of it ourselves. We had the crew. They would always say, "What do you want to eat? What do you want to eat? What can I get you? What can I get you?" It was wonderful.

Don Smith: They would come up with such wonderful things, like a Southwest casserole with beans and rice and chicken. It was just the most delicious thing, and they cooked it all up in an RV, which was phenomenal.

Olivia Ford: The crew should put out a cookbook, an RV cookbook, with high-calorie meals, for riding 3,000 miles across the U.S.

Don Smith: That's not a bad idea.

Jim Williams: A RAAM cookbook: That's a great idea.

Francisco Liuzzi: Foods that can be cooked on a stove that will bounce the stuff around as you're driving.

Jim Williams: And will eventually end up on the floor.

Olivia Ford: Well, everyone, it was such a pleasure listening to you. We really appreciate your taking the time to talk about your experiences!

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Check out Part One, and read about how Team4HIVHope was received by the cycling community and others as a team of gay, predominantly HIV-positive ultra-endurance cyclists.

For more information on the team, see the team's website, its blog on, or on Facebook and on Twitter @team4hivhope.

Olivia Ford is the community manager for and

Copyright © 2011 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
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This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
Taking on the Race Across America: Talking With Team4HIVHope 2011, Part One
More Personal Accounts of Bike Rides to Raise Funds for HIV/AIDS

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