Lloyd Carrera is riding in memory of his brother. Keith McManus, Randy Welsh and Saify Talib are doing it because of all the good it will do.
They are four of the more than 1,000 people who'll participate, June 19-22, in the four-day, 330-mile Tour de Friends bike ride from Raleigh, N.C., to Washington, D.C. The event benefits those living with HIV/AIDS and other life-challenging illnesses.
Each rider must raise $2,500 minimum. To contribute, go to www.tourdefriends.com and click on "Donate to Rider." Donations may be made by typing in a particular rider's name or to the cause, in general. The form may also be downloaded and mailed.
"It's very important that people help," said Talib, 38, of Clifton's Cavalier Woods community. "This isn't just about one disease or the other — it's about helping the afflicted. We often forget that we have comfortable lives, but I want to be able to help those who don't."
He's a clinical researcher in emergency medicine at George Washington University and is still about $1,400 from his goal. So this Saturday, June 14, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., he and Welsh, also from Clifton, will be outside the Starbucks in the Colonnade Shopping Center collecting donations.
The event was formerly the Tanqueray AIDS Ride, but it's now put on by Food & Friends. Proceeds benefit three health-service organizations, Food & Friends in Washington, Fan Free Clinic in Richmond, and Alliance of AIDS Services — Carolina in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
This is Talib's first time as a rider. He's ridden a bike for a couple years and has been training for this event since last year. To prepare, he takes spinning classes, several times a week, at Washington Sports Club and also does cross training with weights and elliptical machines.
"I'm so blessed in my life in so many ways, and one of the best things I have is my health," he said. "Many don't have that, or the means to get help."
McManus, 32, of Fair Lakes, is an information technology manager for Cable and Wireless, and he's participating for the second time. He heard about the ride from a friend and, he said, "It's a great physical challenge and it's an exciting thing to do to help other people."
He started training, two months ago, running and going on weekend training rides with other participants. And he'll be riding on a nine-member team. "Generally, on Sunday mornings, we'll go on rides together," he said. "Now, I'm probably riding about 100 miles a week, but we'll go for shorter rides, right before the event, so our bodies are more rested."
McManus said the toughest part of the AIDS ride is inclement weather: "The first year, it rained on the third day." But the actual event makes it all worthwhile, he said. "There's a great spirit during the ride, and a lot of laughing and joking, so it makes [things] go by really easily. The camaraderie is pretty powerful."
Although doing such a long ride can be difficult, said McManus, "The people you meet are awesome. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and are people you might not have had any interaction with, otherwise."
Welsh, 45, of Clifton, is an employment specialist whose father died of cancer. And he's grateful to the organization in Cincinnati that provided meals to his parents during his father's illness. He's riding because Food & Friends does exactly what made his dad's last days a little easier.
This will be his first AIDS ride. He entered after one of his clients — the chief financial officer of Food & Friends — told him that organization was sponsoring it and asked if he'd like to participate.
"I've placed people in jobs there and I like what they do," explained Welsh. "They feed three meals a day to more than 1,300 people living with life-challenging illnesses [including breast cancer and Alzheimer's] — and it's all done by volunteers."
He rides a hybrid bike — a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike — and goes on 60- 80-mile rides on the weekends, weather permitting. But with all the rain lately, he's gone to spinning classes, five or six times a week. He says the toughest part of the training is the time commitment.
The most daunting part of the ride, he figures, will probably be the second day — when riders are expected to cover 115 miles. But McManus said spinning has greatly improved his endurance. He, too, is looking forward to meeting new people and helping the cause.
"People normally associate HIV and AIDS with the gay community, but the fastest-growing segment is the black and Hispanic population," he said. "So this event will help raise awareness that AIDS and HIV affect lots of different segments of society."
Lloyd Carrera, 42, of Springfield, is also an employment specialist, but he places the deaf and hard-of-hearing in jobs. He's riding in honor of his brother Larry who died at age 40.
"In the last 20 years, 438,795 people died of AIDS in the U.S., alone," said Carrera. "My brother was one of them. He came to live in my family's home, where we cared for him until his death. He joined my father, who had died just a year and a half before."
He participated in the ride, last year, for the first time. Upon learning of it, he said, "My heart was touched and broken, revealing suppressed memories of a brother's love still within me. The ride not only helped me deal with his death, but gave me a reason to keep his memory alive by helping others suffering with AIDS."
With each turn of the pedals, said Carrera, he remembered Larry, who was "the wind against my back. With each beat of my heart, I thanked God for his life and mine and remembered the thousands of people the ride would help. It was my brother's and father's faces I saw through my tears as I crossed the final finish line on Father's Day 2002 in Washington, D.C."
When he first started bike riding, last year, he couldn't even ride a block. Now, he can go 107 miles. He trains every weekend, riding 60-80 miles a day. The most difficult part, he said, is "going up hills." But like the others, Carrera says the actual event is wonderful because the riders become a major community.
"People are loving, encouraging and supportive of one another," he said. "And they help others push past what they think they can do." Exuberant onlookers also help. "Sometimes, school children come out with flags and cups of water and cheer us on. They make us feel like heroes."
Besides, added Carrera, "It's not just money that's being raised, but also an awareness of AIDS and HIV and the importance of reaching out to people in need and being more accepting of those who are different."