Cycling is a journey of ups and downs just like life! Enjoying life, protecting those I care about and challenging myself is what I love to do!
My cycling journey began in my early 20’s single and living in Los Angeles. My trusty mountain bike and I would ride the Santa Monica Mountains, rush down to the beach, and glide along the Strand through Venice and Marina Del Rey taking the ocean air.
I even used my regularly schedule mountain biking window as my cover when buying my wife her engagement ring. Once we were engaged we decided to move back to the central valley to be closer to family and eventually start a family of our own.
Our life was in for many ups and downs…In 2008 our very successful construction company was crushed by the economic collapse and I had to look into other career options to support my wife and new baby.
I took a job with New York Life in May 2009 starting primarily as a Life Insurance agent. I loved helping families so much that I worked and studied my way into financial advising as well.
In 2011 after years of dealing with a torn ACL my wife was looking for a way to get back in shape and was introduced to WOW (Women on Wheels), a large women’s cycling club that trains new cyclists for the Valley Girls Ride Metric Century.
I continued to mountain bike ride by myself on and off through the years at the local parks since road cycling seemed so foreign to me and I couldn’t get past the tight clothing.
Watching my wife train and ride with so many new friends was very intriguing to me. One day she suggested I start training with Parkers Team CVCCA, a charitable organization that teaches and trains cyclist for a century ride at the end of the season. They raise thousands of dollars for local charities every year! I was interested and figured it was time I conquered my fear of the cycling shorts!
Knowing how much bikes cost these days I decided I would not invest too much money initially on equipment just in case it didn’t work out. So I began my search for a bike and found one on craigslist for $350. Score! I had no idea what I was buying, if it was the right size or even how to shift the gears at that point. I remember taking it out on my first test run not even sure where my hand placement should be. Clipping in was not even an option at this point! Once I did decide to get clips I remember falling over at a major four way intersection in front of God and everyone, boy was that embarrassing!
Off I went to the Parkers Team introductory meeting at the local Library. They introduced us to the 4 charities our fundraising would benefit. The coaches spoke about the training and support we would get. I joined Parkers Team and 2012 and began my journey!
Those next few months were quite challenging as I pushed my mileage higher and higher. I formed a great relationship with a cyclist who mentored me through the season bonks and all. I pushed so hard in the heat I would have to take long hot baths after the rides to soak my tired and sore muscles and then take a 3 to 4 hour nap just to try and recover. I have an amazing wife who gets it! Training was 2 days a week and I begin to meet some amazing people of all ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds. I was blown away by all the old-timers who dominated us on the road. Just trying to keep up with them I was daunting. One time I was struggling to climb a hill barely able to catch my breath at a crawl and two fellow riders passed me casually on my left side chatting away like it was no big deal. I squeaked out with the little breath I had, “You guys are amazing!” One of the riders looked back to me and said, “We’re twice your age as well!” It was quite a humbling experience.
Saturday morning rides steadily increased 25, 40, 50, 75, 90… I was on my way and the Century was right around the corner.
The Cambria Century came and was easily one of the most challenging physical experiences of my lifetime! 8000 feet plus of climbing, 30 mile an hour headwinds and first century… I mentally quit at least three or four times. At about mile 80 or so we were presented with a steep winding climb that I had no interest in doing. I was spent after battling 30 miles an hour headwinds for a couple hours. Normally I clip along at about 19 miles per hour but with the headwinds our pace line couldn’t break 8 miles per hour….brutal! My friends somehow convinced me to take the final climb and I did it. On the way back from that climb, about 25 miles from the finish, we got a back wind that carried us all the way to the finish line at about 25 mph without even pedaling. Next was Lighthouse metric century on the coast and a few months later my second season of Parkers Team had come. Having some miles under my belt I went into my second season much more confident but still learning tons from my club. I started doing small upgrades to my bike and equipment and later that year completed my second full century America’s Most Beautiful Ride, the Lake Tahoe Century.
It’s Not “If” You Fall, It’s “When”…
We participate in a very fun and engaging sport however it can also be a very dangerous activity as well. Now that I was plugged into the community I was occasionally hearing about fellow cyclist being hurt or worse killed in accidents. I personally was run off the road in my second year and my friend behind me was hit and knocked into the medium (she’s ok). Helmet cracked and banged up we loaded her in an ambulance to get checked out. These tough circumstances always seemed so far away but now I experienced it personally and my friend was rushed to the hospital. Thank goodness she was ok and was riding a couple months after.
Thanks to social networking I was now following many of my fellow cyclist friends. I also had a buddy from college I kept in touch with on Facebook who was heavily into the Triathlon community. I would see pictures of him competing all the time on with all of his buddies. One day I received an email from my friend informing us that our Tri Buddy had been in a severe bicycle accident while competing during a Triathlon. He basically lost control of his bike and went over a cliff. He lived through the experience however is now paralyzed. It hits hard that someone that was so strong and so fit now cannot walk. Thankfully he has an amazing attitude and is now competing in para triathlons. His journey is inspiring.
Just this year, 2016 another tragedy hit way too close to home. One of my friends who I have been riding with since I started Parkers Team was in a bicycle accident. She had an accident while riding, fought hard but unfortunately we lost her about a month after her accident.
Helpless and scared feeling hit me again especially now that I was married with two children and the primary breadwinner of my family. If they lost me I know they would be taken care of financially because I deal with life insurance and investments every day but what about my friends in the cycling community? Are they being taken care of? Are they set up if they had an accident and couldn’t work or even worse if they lost their lives taking part of their favorite past time?
At this point time I’ve been working in the insurance and financial services industry for about eight years. Most of my close cycling friends knew what I did but not everyone in the club. I was trying to think of a way to reach them offer my help and not be pushy and make them feel like I’m taking advantage of our club relationships. During the last couple years, I have also made many clients who are heavily involved in Ironman events and marathons. All these active people taking care of themselves and enjoying amazing hobbies I thought there’s got to be away to help them and their friends!
One day while sitting in church and not paying attention I was struck by a thought. Why don’t I create a company that services people who enjoy these types of activities, people who have been taking care of themselves, have gotten healthy and have improved their lifestyles. Through the years of working in insurance I’ve noticed many people do not review their plans regularly. Often times once you start cycling or running or swimming your health improves dramatically. Didn’t know if all these people knew about that. What if I can help them put them in better plans and save the money now that they are healthy and active. So in 2016 my wife, and I started Active Life Insurance Solutions. Our tagline is “Rewarding Your Healthy Lifestyle”. We want to be a resource to everyone who’s taking care of themselves and needs to protect their family. We offer life insurance, disability and health and financial services. Now I have a way I can do what I love and service the friends and community I ride with. Now we are working on spreading the word on what we do and who we are. We are on social networking and also going to many cycling, running and triathlon events around California. Please visit us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/activelifeins/ or our website www.activelifeins.com and let us be a resource to you and your friends and family!
See you on the Road!
Edward & Michilyn Gonzalez
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