A bike ride across California changed his life

By Emily Cochrane | 

Miami Herald

Jeff Patrick likes a challenge.

Over the past few years, the 46-year-old has biked from Boston to New York and carried a Special Olympic torch across the Port of Miami bridge. A year ago, the Bank of America strategic solutions delivery director stumbled upon the AIDS/LifeCycle Ride to End AIDS, a seven-day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

“It was too good to pass up,” said Patrick, who raised $7,000 for HIV/AIDS research and patient support. Within months, he had already signed up to do it again — and this time, he’s joined by his husband, Allen Putman.

“He lived vicariously through me last year, so I’m glad he’ll be there,” Patrick said. “It’s a tremendous experience.” Three days into the trip on Monday, the Miami Beach couple have completed more than a third of the 545-mile journey.

“Here we are,” Patrick wrote on his blog Sunday. “And there’s no turning back.”

'THAT'S THE CHALLENGE'

Patrick never thought he would contemplate biking across California once — let alone twice in two years.

“If someone had told me two years ago I did this, I would tell them ‘you’re crazy,’” the New Jersey native said. “But that’s the challenge.”

The trip consists of seven days of biking, with four stops and a lunch break every day. Each bicyclist only has a bike, helmet and a daypack with water and supplies to change a flat tire until the day’s final stop. There, they’re met with trucks that carry their supplies — change of clothes, dinner and tents — and set up camp for the night.

“It’s grueling,” Patrick said. “But I think it’s a tremendous experience.”

Since he started training a year and a half ago, Patrick has dropped 57 pounds. Putnam, who joined him for training sessions early on, has lost nearly the same amount.

It’s brought us even closer, because it’s something we’re both passionate about,” Putman said. “It’s time we can spend together, memories and experiences we can talk about after.”

Their regime is simple: healthier meals, sessions with a personal trainer three times a week, and indoor cycling classes at Flywheel Gym in Miami Beach six days a week.

Most people, Patrick said, can’t believe that he only trained indoors before taking on the California hills and heat. He said he’s able to modify his bike to mimic the road conditions, and he feels more comfortable in the gym.

“Here, they’re pushing you to do it harder and harder,” said Patrick, who noted he doesn’t have to face the dangers of cycling on Miami roads.

The weight loss is just a bonus compared with raising money for HIV/AIDS research and patient support.

Putman rides with two mentors from the University of Kentucky in mind, both of whom have died from HIV/AIDS. For Patrick, it’s for the people in his life he never knew were fighting the disease.

“For me, the older I’ve gotten, the more appreciation I have for the community, and I feel the need to give back,” he said.

Both men are hoping to raise about $10,000 by the end of their bike ride Saturday. Instead of a registry at their March wedding, they asked for donations to their rides.

Patrick said hearing the stories of those impacted by the disease were the most powerful moments of the trip last year. It put his discomfort into perspective.

“I think I can withstand a little pain and chafing on my legs,” he said. “Because it’s nothing compared to what people with HIV go through.”

BANK OF AMERICA ROLE

Maria Alonso couldn’t believe it when she heard Patrick, an old colleague, was participating in the ride. “God bless him because I don’t know that I could do 545 miles, let alone a bike ride,” said the Bank of America Miami market manager.

The Bank of America corporate team was the largest corporate participant last year, Patrick said, and has raised more than $774,000 nationally for the AIDS/LifeCycle program. This year, the team encompasses nearly 50 Bank of America employees who are either riding or volunteering.

The team, Patrick said, is really what helped put him at ease during the ride last year.

“Knowing there’s one way to San Francisco and it’s 545 miles on a bike and this two legs, it’s a little disconcerting,” he said.

Strangers from Bank of America branches across the country became friends as they exchanged stories and shed tears together. Patrick is still in touch with some of them today.

Putman noticed the change in Patrick when he returned.

“You could tell he was touched at a personal level,” he said.

It’s the personal impact of the journey that Putman is looking forward to this year.

“I suspect I will cry a lot,” he said.

6/9/2016


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