Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cheering for the Fletcher Flyer Century Team

As part of my quick weekend trip to Asheville, NC, I made a surprise visit to cheer for the Team in Training Fletcher Flyer Century Team. These intrepid souls were going to ride their bikes 100 miles through the mountains of the Tarheel State, all after raising money for the mission of LLS!

A great friend, Susan, and a neighbor of mine, Ed, were on this team. I told no one that I was coming except for Elliot, the LLS staff member for the event. My original intent was just to surprise them on the race course, but Elliot said "Why don't you come by when the team forms up and do a mission moment?" That sounded like a better idea.

The team was getting to the park at 6:45, he said. So I got there at 6:25 this morning. I waited while more and more people showed up for the race, but I couldn't find anyone from Team Virginia. Finally, at about 7:10, I found a few from the Norfolk area, and eventually found the others. Ed and Susan were quite surprised, which was what I hoped for. No leaks!

Susan is awesome. She has done something like 25 events for TNT: marathons, half-marathons, and triathlons. But this is her very first 100 mile bike race, and it earns her the coveted and very difficult TNT "Triple Crown" Award! I will be blogging more about her in a couple of days. We first met in 2005, my first season, and then were on the San Diego team together a year later. We have been fast friends since. Here we are before the race:
Ed and I are neighbors in an "active adult" community - 50 and older. I hear rumors that some of the other people in the area sarcastically refer to our community as "Geezerville". Should I ever hear that directly from someone, I will invite them to do a marathon with me, or a 100 mile bike ride with Ed - their choice. Here I am with Ed before the race:
In addition to being a participant and mentor for TNT, I am also a patient honoree. The goal of patient honorees is to hopefully inspire participants by making them realize some of the things that we faced while going through cancer treatments. I don't know if I inspired anyone today - my job was easy today compared to theirs. I am thinking that I was the one coming away inspired by their dedication to train for 6 months in all kinds of weather on bikes, then show up to pedal 100 miles.

In my 4.5 years with TNT, I have never met with a cycle team, and felt honored to have this opportunity. I asked to be included in the team photo, figuring that no one would mind. Doesn't this look like a great team?
Because things had been delayed and time was rapidly going by, I scrapped the remarks I had prepared for my mission moment, and just spoke briefly "off the cuff". Hopefully, I was able to get across my admiration, appreciation, and thanks to this fine group of people. I snapped a shot of some of the team doing their final preparations, then headed out - by car - to my cheer station 9.6 miles away:
Supposedly, there were going to be three LLS staff members from North Carolina manning the cheer station and I would join them. I was looking forward to meeting them and chatting with them, then cheering together for the Purple People on Bikes. I got to the cheer point - first one there - found a place to park, and walked back to the cheer point. After about 15 minutes and still no one there, I double checked the material I had about the cheer point, and I was at the right spot. But for whatever reason, no one else showed up to cheer! Bummer! But would that stop any dedicated TNTer? No way!

I placed my sign that I had made along some granite steps to a little cemetery. The sign said that I was a lymphoma survivor, and said "thank you" to TNT participants. I also had a section on the sign that said "GO Susan - Triple Crown!" with a drawing of three crowns. It was now about 8:15 and I settled down to wait for people to race by. It was a very pretty and bucolic spot:
I didn't have long to wait. The first cyclists zipped by about 8:25 - man, can they haul @ss!! After watching a few groups, I tried to take some photos of the racers. Here is a group heading towards me and a group after they zipped by at 20 or so miles per hour, going up hill:

I thought it was hard to pick runners out of the crowd but with cyclists, they have helmets and they move so fast that there was no way I could get identification until they were past, and often not even then. Ed moved by me way too fast to get a photo. I recognized him at the last second. Sometimes, the cyclists would come by one at a time, in groups of 2 - 4, or in larger bunches like this one:
TNT participants not only had their distinctive white, purple, and green shirts, but they usually put little team symbols on their helmets: peaches from Georgia, horses from Kentucky, and hog snouts on the front and curly-que pig tails on the back from I am not sure where. Team Virginia had little red hearts on top of the helmets, and when I saw a bunch of them coming, I snapped this photo (zoomed in quite a bit). With pure luck, my friend Susan was right in it - she is towards the center of the picture. It was a thrill to see her in the race:
Of course, since I was looking through the view finder, I didn't recognize her, but she called out to greet me, and it was at that point that I knew she was there as she whizzed by. Note the guy in the photo lined up behind the lead cyclist - he is taking my photo! If I tried that on a bike, I would be in traction for 12 months or so.

I don't know if Susan had time to read my sign, but several people named Susan called out to me "Hey, that's my name!" So I would cheer back "Go Susan!" One woman called out "I can be Susan for you!" That was pretty funny!

I cheered until I was pretty sure the last racer was past. I wish I had been one of a group of cheerleaders as expected but it was a lot of fun just to be there. It was really a great experience to see the cycle team - TNT Virginia, TNT other states (Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Kentucky at the least), and the many participants who were not Team in Training. I hope they all knew that I was joking when I would yell "You're almost done!" and"Ice cold beer just ahead!" :) I was honored to meet our team, chat with them before their race, and cheer them on, and hope that they appreciated one of their patient honorees coming out for the race.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for cheering us all on.
--TNT Georgia rider #5, David

Racn4acure said...

David - it was truly my pleasure. thanks to you and to all your teammates from Georgia and everyone else who put forth the effort to fight the battle against blood cancers. Art