Anyone who tells me they got where they are on their own, with little or no help from anyone else, is someone I have a hard time believing. We are ALL products of our culture and our environment. Our parents, our friends, our extended families, all interact with each other and in the general society to affect our outcomes and our probabilities. The theme I love to consider is the allegory "A Butterfly's Flap in Brazil Can Cause a Tornado in Texas." And while it's a metaphor, there's definitely some truth to it all. I'm certainly no exception.
This weekend's Texas Time Trial event was held in Glen Rose, roughly 80 miles away from Dallas, which is just far enough to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and highways, but is also close enough that you can make a repeat trip, or do a full day's work and still get out of town and arrive before it gets too late. Glen Rose is home to two great events, the Paluxy Pedal, which is coming up in a few weekends, and last weekend, the TTT, which hosts a 1-lap, a 6 hour, a 12 hour, a 24 hour, and a 500-mile event. The course for this past weekend was a 26.5 mile loop, and given the topography of the area, for Texas, it was an incredibly hilly challenge! Each lap covered 1100 feet of climbing, with gradients surpassing 8%, and the condition of the roads, especially in the first half of each lap, was enough to leave shoulders aching and butts sore. Still, over 300 people attended the event, which only grows in popularity, as these "Ultra" events draw larger crowds of people, most of whom are LESS serious, and just look forward to good rides on a great course, with company. Sure, it's a competition, but it's about pushing yourself as much as anything, and letting the environment, your fitness, and your enthusiasm dictate the results.
I got in to Ultra Cycling at the behest of a friend and client, Michelle Beckley. Michelle is a complete Force of Nature, with a fantastic personality, a bombastic nature, great wit and intelligence, and a level of intelligence and social critique not unlike George Carlin's. Once, earlier this year, she gave me the highest form of flattery, by telling me that I was like the brother that she never had. It made me feel so WARM inside. And honestly, I felt the same way. I've never had a sister, and outside of a cousin whom I was close to in my 20's, I've rarely had female friends that weren't girlfriends. Michelle opened up a new world of friendship, and she came along at the perfect time, since we were both going through rocky times in our marriages and relationships, around 2010, and we started going on these road trips in 2011 that just cemented the friendship, left us laughing and crying and solving the world's problems despite its' best efforts, that the miles just floated by, and the radio strangely never once turned on.
I crewed for Michelle on two events, and in late 2012, she invited me along to attempt my first 12-hour TT in Glen Rose, which I won through sheer tenacity, since it rained, the ENTIRE time. The next year, as we had all dedicated 100% of our time to the success of the studios, I attempted it again, only to fail, as I was unfit, unprepared, and had no real strategy or plan. After 100 miles (I didn't even succeed in completing four laps), I threw in the towel, and instead gave my support to Coach Tracy as she and another client, Melissa Rodriguez, raced the 1-lap. Still - we fell in love with the event, the course, and the challenge, and I swore that I would attempt it in 2014, better prepared than ever.
That's where Michelle comes back in to the picture. Michelle began dating a guy in 2012, and through the past three years, we've really come to appreciate Martin's desire not to compete, but to support. Martin brings and Englishman's sense of organization to the entire affair of an Ultra Cycling Event, and his ability to read his racers' mentalities at different times is spectacular! Together, Michelle and Martin have, in the past two years, lent their support, separately and together, to TWO RAAM efforts, a crazy race across the western half of Texas, and of course, the Texas Time Trials. They recently traveled together to England, Martin's native land, and it's been rumored that they held a Celtic Union Ceremony at a Secret Henge, famous for its' cryptic runes and Solstice Stones! :)
This year's Texas Time Trials was the culmination of four years or more of Michelle and Martin's work. They planned the support for people from around Texas, around the country, and they even ended up providing support to an international Ultra Cyclist, who would have literally been on his own without them. Michelle has been suffering from some hormone and thyroid issues, so her race was placed on the backburner as she did an obligatory lap, and then settled in to her role as partner in Martin's Wonder Tent. Together, they helped almost a dozen athletes, some connected to Cycling Center Dallas, some complete strangers, with food, water, sports drinks, equipment, recovery, cooling, resting/sleep, massage, just about anything one could ask for as they attempted to conquer this course and these times. Here's a breakdown of my own experience with these two, before, during, and after the race.
As a 12-hour event racer, I started off waking up around 4am, eating a full Breakfast Fajita from Sonic, two cups of coffee, and then making my way down to the tent. To my surprise, Martin, who had stayed up ALL NIGHT to cover the cyclists out on the course, doing their 24 hour or 36 hour events, was joined by ANOTHER client and friend, Meghan Birmingham. Meghan is a talented cyclist with untapped potential, and upon our suggestion, she took it upon herself to DRIVE DOWN TO GLEN ROSE, AFTER a Friday night commitment (She's a Violist with the Dallas Grand Opera), and she did her part to help Martin get through a long, muggy night. She actually ended up staying until late in the morning or early afternoon, and was a critical element in the first half of my race.
So here you are, with volunteers, some of whom are family, some of whom are friends, and many of whom are actual strangers, getting together for a common purpose - to ensure that their athletes and family members involved in the event stay fed, hydrated, conscious, are put down on mats to rest if necessary, perform minor to moderate maintenance on bikes, lights, kits, helmets, etc. They have to be on their toes and stay sharp mentally, so that they're ready with every lap.
Sadly, Michelle only lasted one lap, but she immediately swung in to "Mother" mode, as she and Martin, along with Meghan for the AM and Lee Ann, a friend from Wisconsin, combined resources under two tents, three cars, four folding tables, and EIGHT bike racks, to cover all of these racers. At one point, they had about 12 competing racers that they were assisting. Their payment? Several placings, including my own First Place, followed by multiple high fives, a few thank you's.... and then, like the wind, the majority of the racers simply disappeared, off to their rooms for showers and recovery in prep for the Awards Ceremony. Tracy and I quickly got them regrouped and we all worked to help these two priceless individuals get all the tents folded and descended, get the chairs put away, the tables folded up, and the bike racks taken care of. It really upsets me when people come with expectations that they're going to be coddled. I don't mind that at the studios, where it's my job to ensure that everything is taken care of, from setup to teardown, but out on an event, where help is actually akin to a natural resource, everyone has to chip in and do their part. Martin and Michelle did the majority of it, but NO ONE could have had much success without their willingness to give up a weekend of riding, and instead count minutes, Calories, Ounces of fluid, other racers, monitor radios, provide first aid, and the ever-present encouragement that comes from the sidelines.
In a word - they COACHED. Martin and Michelle COACHED. They MADE the weekend. They got assistance from Meghan and Lee Ann, but they COACHED. They had clipboards with lap splits. They had a Race Plan for EACH RIDER. They had SEPARATE CONTAINERS OF FOOD AND DRINK. They had us keep our wrappers in our pockets, and when we came in for Pit Stops, they pulled the wrappers, replaced them with more food, and then counted the calories consumed. They recorded average power, average lap splits, Ounces of hydration, etc. They kept me cool with 1-Gallon bags of ice that had the corners nipped, so that when the stuff melted, it would melt down over my back. They replaced my helmet. They replaced a wheel that I felt was giving me too much trouble as the wind grew. They secretly counted the minutes between their athletes and their athletes competitors, and knew when to challenge us, and when to remain silent. They were positive. They took the longer-distance cyclists and put them down on a cot so they could sleep. They TIMED the sleep. They RECORDED the sleep. When a cyclist came in with a bleeding elbow, they pulled out a full med kit and helped calm the athlete while wrapping it up. They were the leaders, the managers, the coordinators, the cheerleaders. They sacrificed mental and physical energy and sleep so that WE could compete. They made it so that ALL we had to do was just... Ride.
I've been a professional coach since 1993, and have spent many a time in their position, but this may have been the first time in recent history that I truly was on the receiving end of something so powerful. Michelle, Martin, Meghan, Lee Ann, and several others transferred that energy to myself and the other competitors, and in the end, it wasn't just my victory. It was a TEAM victory - I just pedaled.
So here's to the CYCLING CENTER DALLAS TEAM. Thank you for being such great crew and coordinators, thank you for COACHING me through this, and thank you for ALL you've done over the years to make this weekend so successful. A famous quote from Dr. Charles Garfield, a well known Sports Psychologist is, "It's not the night before that matters, but ALL of the nights before that." Martin, Michelle, Meghan, Lee Ann, the Race Directors, and many, many others, made this weekend successful, and it was their consistency and preparation that made the difference. I remain grateful, and I am flattered to have been YOUR athlete and student this past weekend. Here's to MANY, MANY more success stories, with you as Cycling Center Dallas athletes, AND Coaches.