By Glenn Gullicksen, May 22, 2014.

Local cyclists will ride for a cause during California's AIDS Life/Cycle

Those who have done California's AIDS Life/Cycle say the 545-mile coastal bike ride to raise funds and awareness for HIV/AIDS agencies is life-changing. Several cyclists from Arizona will be risking saddle sores and a few tears when the physical and emotional marathon from San Francisco to Los Angeles is conducted June 1-7 for the 13th year.

Here are the stories of a few of the local cyclists.

Daren Mitch rides to make a difference

The way Daren Mitch sees it, riding in Life/Cycle is an opportunity to make a difference for those living with HIV/AIDS.

"This means somebody will get their medicine, someone will get the help they need," Mitch said. "We all do our bit to help the community. This size platform is so much more impactful."

After hearing about the ride from friends for years, Mitch is riding in Life/Cycle for the first time.

"This year, I finally said I'm just going to do this," said Mitch, 47, who works as director of ticket operations at US Airways Center.

That meant Mitch had to go to work to prepare for the weeklong bike ride. "I haven't ridden a bike seriously for many years," he said. "It's a huge challenge."

He's been training with Christina Catellanos, of the five-member Slippery Pigs team, an Arizona group that has participated in Life/Cycle in past years.

Mitch said his training includes riding about 60 miles a week, including a long ride on the weekend.

As part of the training, he recently went to California to do a 70-mile practice ride that Mitch called "really eye-opening," covering terrain more difficult than the South Mountain trails he's done. "It was night and day compared to what we have in Phoenix," he said.

That caused Mitch to sign up for spin classes a couple of times a week. He's also been hitting the gym to do other cardio and weight training.

Mitch has been studying the Life/Cycle route and sees a three-mile uphill trek known to cyclists as "the quad buster" as one of the biggest challenges. "It's also one of the things that excites me the most," he said. "Some people have to walk up the mountain."

Fundraising is another hurdle for the bikers. "One of the things I was most concerned about was how I was going to raise the $3,000," Mitch said. "It ended up being one of the easiest things. I reached out to individuals and groups. The support was overwhelming."

A month before the event Mitch had exceeded the fundraising minimum by $2,000.

Mitch said much of the money goes to people don't have the means to pay for HIV treatment, which can cost up to $20,000 a year. "It means life or death for some people," he said.

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