Let me start by saying this … Asheville is a beautiful place. I have never really been in the mountains before, so it was awe-inspiring to me as we drove in on Friday, so see these ominous blue shapes rising in the distance, then completely enveloping you as you drove in to town. It was a bit unnerving to be honest, but spectacular at the same time. We had left on Thursday in the early evening with the idea of driving half way then getting up on Friday and driving in the rest of the way. Jacksonville traffic (Lord how I don’t miss that traffic at all) slowed us a bit and we ended up staying just south of Savannah. Made for a longer rise the next day but still much less than it would have been otherwise.
We got into Asheville around 3:30, got checked into the hotel, and then changed and went out for a quick ride with the Team. I will be honest and say that I did not think it was a good idea. For one, we had been sitting in a car for 5 hours, and two, the heart was just not in it, but we decided it was good to be part of the team and headed out anyway for a planned 20 mile easy ride.
There was nothing easy about this ride. Immediately when leaving the parking lot you are on a climb, a long one, about 2 miles. By itself hard enough, but having no warm up ability the heart rate spiked immediately. I managed it OK but I know that Jennifer had a hard time with it. Her past injury to her legs require a bit more warming up before hitting the hills and this did not help her at all. We got to the connection to the Blue Ridge Parkway and I called it there for us. There is no need to push through this when the ride was going to be hard enough. At this point there is just no added benefit. This is where a warm up ride at the venue can be a double-edged sword; it can be confidence building or breaking. This was the latter.
After a long and sleepless night we spent Saturday relaxing, driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, seeing the waterfalls and Sliding Rock …. just taking our time and relaxing. It was much-needed as our batteries felt recharged. We went to the Team in Training dinner, which is always motivating. Out of the 77 TNT riders in the event we raised over $284,000. That’s a huge amount. Jennifer and I were also given our Triple Crown awards (meaning we have completed with TNT a triathlon, a marathon, and a cycle event). Apparently now, according to my college friend Shannon, I can now be put to pasture to spend the rest of my days eating hay and spreading my seed.
I will enjoy it.
The morning of the Fletcher Flyer ride was beautiful. A nice, cool 66 degrees (we never see that in Florida in June) and bright sky. We met in the lobby for pictures then hit the road to the ride start, about 40 minutes away in Brevard, NC at the Oskar Blues Brewery. Jennifer and I had planned on doing the half century due to the training issues we experienced over the training cycle, so when the start sounded the rest of the team took off and left us to our own devices.
It is very hard to do a ride like this and not be taken in by what is around you. I feel bad for those riders so intent on time and pace that they don’t take the time to notice and appreciate the area they are riding in. It was breath-taking in parts, and not just because of the climbs.
The ride was hard in portions, but the training we did in Clermont more than prepared us for the hills we faced. The difference in my opinion was the length of the ascents, some places going steadily up for 3-4 miles, but at no point did I feel I could not accomplish the climb. This is a huge testament to the coach’s training and foresight. I would dare say we were a bit OVER trained for the hills we faced, but better to be over prepared then under right?
We were feeling pretty good the whole time, and when we came to the split off for the half century and the metric century Jennifer stopped me and told me she thought she could do the metric. I didn’t like the idea of her going it alone, but I wasn’t as sure as she was that it was doable for me, so we parted with the promise that she would let me know when she came to the SAG stops. I finished the rest of the ride on my own, picking up a group here and there, especially a mother and son. The son was 16 and this was his first time on a road bike and they had completed 55 miles. Very cool I bet to ride with your kids like that.
I got to the final SAG and partook of the cold watermelon they had available. They also had apple pie with ice cream, but … ick. Let me say, though, that cold watermelon is a godsend. I got back to Oskar a little over 4 hours for the 50.88 miles. Right at a 12 mph average pace, which was faster than I thought I could do it. Jennifer rolled in about an hour later, giddy with the fact that she was able to do the century. Personally I had no doubt she could do that. She always races strong regardless of the training she had. She is a very strong person.
We ate and sat around talking until the team came in around 5:30, then headed out to the hotel to get cleaned up and meet for dinner.
And this is where the issue started.
John’s Advice for Coaches
The dangerous thing about having a long drive home is having far too much time to think things through. First, let me say that a century ride is a HUGE accomplishment, akin to a marathon for a runner and a half or full ironman distance triathlon for a triathlete. As someone who has completed both of the latter events I can attest to the amount of training and effort that goes into these races. Unfortunately I had some issues with this event and I could only get the 50 in, which with the issues and training I still feel was an accomplishment.
But this is not about me.
Not only does Jennifer raise money for this cause, she spends many, many 18+ hour days treating patients with this disease. She has, all told, raised over 75k in addition to her daily work over 8 events with TNT, including being Woman of the Year last year. This daily devotion to the cause has its downside when it comes to actual events, especially the training during the week, but even with that she was out there every weekend giving her best effort to do this century. Often, to the point of collapse. After a hard experience Friday she went out there Sunday with the idea to do the half century with me. She felt so good at the split that she decided, and completed, the metric century. She was feeling very good about this as I wrote above, almost giddy after the ride, and it was nice to see this in her again. Then, after dinner, a handout was given to everyone regarding the “why” of doing a century. In this article, at the end, there is a statement that went:
“Let me say that a metric century is a cop-out”
If I had seen this quick enough I would have snatched it out of her hand before she read it. I looked over at her and watched as the happiness she felt with her accomplishment vanished from her face. It made me heart-sick. All of that effort gone with the stroke of one sentence. In my case, I could not care less about what some writer thinks about these distances. They are not on my journey, and to be blunt I have completed marathons, 70 miles rides, and half ironman distances more than once. I have no issues with my ability. Let me also say that I am 100% certain it was not intended to hurt Jennifer, but I feel I have to say that in NO way should her completion of the metric century be considered a “cop-out”. It was not, and in fact, with her experiences, it was an accomplishment. All I can say is that I witnessed someone go from prideful to defeated in a matter of seconds because of one errant line in an article.
My advice for coaches is this: be mindful of the people on your teams and how you both present accomplishments, and yes even failures. An athlete is more fragile than you care to admit, hell that even WE care to admit, and a bad race, a bad experience, an errant word in passing, can go a long way to derailing any accomplishments to that point.
I will end with this. This has personally been my best experience ever team wise with TNT. I loved my experience, the training, the information, and the overall feeling I had the past 18 weeks, and I will be back next season.
Now … let’s bring on the triathlons.
Some pictures of the weekend are below. You can also view some additional video at the Fat Slow Triathlete YouTube Channel located HERE.