It's Sunday, May 14th and officially Day 1 of Gear Up Florida 2017. It also happens to be Mother's Day. I wake up with a mix of excitement and anxiety. We hit the road and it almost immediately starts to rain. I felt like I was in a war movie and, alongside my brothers, rushing into war. Each of us fights the little voice in our head that tells us we can't keep going. I know I was and it wasn't only when I was tired or out of breath, it was the entire day.
My pace line pushed me through the rain and once we achieved that I felt like I could accomplish anything. I rode harder than I ever had before and surpassed my small personal record of a 40 mile ride with around 80. I was racked about an hour and a half before lunch for holding my pace line back, but I did so maintaining a positive attitude. The positive energy and enthusiasm from the team helped me finish off the day by arriving at Clewiston, FL. Ironically enough, Clewiston High School where we were lodging for the night, was located on Francisco St. It was a small sign and confirmation to me that I am here participating in GUF for a reason: To raise awareness for those of all abilities. I am blessed to have this opportunity.
-Francisco Aquino (Western Illinois University)