Rider creates 24-hour fund-raiser for AIDS

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2000

Jessica Menendez likes to push the boundaries.

Two years ago, Menendez rode in the 3,100-mile mile California AIDS Ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles -- yet she'd barely put 60 miles onto her new road bike before she left.

Last year, to raise the necessary $2,500 to enter the AIDS Ride, Menendez brought her training apparatus -- the spinning cycle -- out of the gym and into the public. Riders collected pledges or made donations and rode for eight hours at the Hangar on the Wharf ballroom to help raise money and awareness for the AIDS epidemic.

This year, Menendez came up with the ultimate ride to nowhere. Beginning at 8 p.m. tonight and ending 8 p.m. Saturday, riders will take part in a 24-hour fund-raising ride at the Twisted Fish Lounge.

``Most people who know me, know I push the boundaries,'' Menendez said. ``And this pushes the boundaries. One person said this is probably the first 24-hour sporting event in Juneau and I said, `I'm all over it.' ''

As of Thursday, 87 riders had signed up for one-, two-, four-, six- and eight-hour time slots. The event is fully supported, Menendez said, with donations of food, sports drinks and high-energy bars free to the riders. A massage therapist will be on hand to ease aching muscles. To provide motivation and meaning to the ride, Menenedez will give a slide show from the California AIDS ride, and Shanti executive director Ed Lindsell will speak on the epidemic.

For the hardy riders during the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, Native healer Cy Peck will give a blessing at dawn. And, a Juneau Racquet Club instructor will tease the riders with a risque dance.

``She does a Full Monty,'' Menendez said. ``I've never seen it before but I've heard a lot about it.''

Menendez was amazed at people's enthusiasm for the early-morning spots.

``They kind of put a Klondike spin on it,'' said Menendez, referring to the early morning legs of the Klondike Trail of '98 bicycle race.

Each rider has been versed in heart-zone training, where an athlete learns to maintain her heart-rate at a level that doesn't deplete glycogen stores. Each rider will wear a heart-rate monitor, said Menendez, who is a master-presenter in heart-zone training.

Any remaining funds from the ride go to Shanti, a Southeast AIDS outreach program where Menendez is a board member.

``People are really committed to this,'' Menendez said. ``They very much get a feel for what the ride is about. They get a sense of what my training is like.''

The California AIDS Ride runs June 4-10. Joining Menendez is local rider Jim Akins and Leah Magowan, a fitness trainer at the Juneau Racquet Club.

Akins has a quite personal reason for joining the ride. In 1996 he witnessed a fatal car wreck while working as volunteer medical personnel with Capital City Fire and Rescue. A young man had been struck dead while trying to cross Egan Drive near Fred Meyer on an ATV. Akins came into contact with his blood, and later found out the young man was HIV positive.

Months later, however, Akins found the blood had been mislabeled, and he wasn't HIV positive after all.

``I walked around thinking I was HIV positive,'' Akins said. ``I went through six months of HIV testing. That left quite an impression on me.''

Akins learned to appreciate life after that.

``Probably everyone knows someone who's going through medical problems and how devastating that can be,'' Akins said. ``Those of us who are healthy need to realize how lucky we are.''

Menendez will also be riding in the Alaska AIDS Ride from Fairbanks to Anchorage Aug. 21-26. The event spans six days and covers 510 miles. Each of the 1,290 participants must raise $3,900. Joining Menendez is Aimee Olejasz and Fabianne Peter-Contesse, who rode with Menendez in California last year.

The Alaska AIDS ride directly benefits three laboratories in the United States that are involved in finding a cure.

``Each ride is giving in two different directions,'' Menendez said. ``The California AIDS ride is going to support people - their housing bills, their medical bills. The Alaska AIDS ride goes to help find a vaccine.''

During last year's California ride, Menendez was one of four people honored in a rider-less bike ceremony remembering the thousands who've died of AIDS.

Nearly 10,000 people stood in silence on the Avenue of the Stars in Hollywood as they pushed an empty bike across a stage.

``There's usually not a dry eye in the place,'' Menendez said. ``It's to show that until there's a cure, there will always be a bicycle without a rider.''

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