Mark posing for a photo

Given that this month’s theme is kids and family, the accompanying photo may not make much sense.

The truth is: I don’t have kids. And family gets a little tricky as the majority currently resides in the Philippines. My closest family member is 110 miles away and the next closest isn’t even the same state.

But in Bakersfield, I’m surrounded by family.

That’s because family isn’t always blood. These are former strangers whom you bring into your life while they bring you into theirs, essentially adopting one another. That’s why so many of us consider our closest friends family – because they are.

That’s where the picture of me in my tights comes in (keep in mind that Bakersfield Life Magazine is not responsible from any trauma or loss of sight that may have come as a result of viewing said photo). That image is the result of the help and support of different “family members” over the course of a year.

On July 26, 2018, a close friend hooked me up with a bike that got me into cycling. A co-worker answered all my questions regarding my new endeavor (and trust me, there were a lot) and on May 27, I started riding with the Kern Wheelmen Recreational group. The group, which organizes group rides every weekend, expanded my riding horizons, taking me on routes I didn’t know existed and terrain that would challenge me mentally and physically.

So when Kern Wheelmen Vice President Craig Pauley mentioned he was signing up for the Cool Breeze Century, adding that it’s “a great first century,” I knew that had to sign up as well.

What is a century? Essentially, it’s a 100-mile bike ride – the benchmark distance for cyclists.

It was always on my bucket list but I was in no hurry to cross it off as a century is no easy feat. But I’m surrounded by encouraging people and they convinced me that I can do it – that I’m ready.

And so on Aug. 17, at 6:30 a.m., Craig and I set off with dozens of other riders from Ventura to Santa Barbara and back, regrouping at rest stops to eat and discuss the stretch ahead. The Cool Breeze was Craig’s first century four years ago and he was guided by someone who had done it before – now he was doing the same for me. That direction helped me overcome a broken chain and my first crash – both took place inside the first 30 miles and within a 10-minute span.

After 6 hours and 27 minutes, 4,147 feet of climbing and 4,714 calories burned, I crossed the finish line.

Of course the accomplishment is something I’ll remember forever, but I won’t forget the people who made it all possible. Thank you all for letting me be a part of this this thing called family and making today’s moments into tomorrow’s memories.

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