It was approximately 315am when the nasty screech began. Being in a hotel, the immediate response was to start pawing at the alarm clock beside the bed. Only I’d never heard an alarm quite like this. No matter the buttons I pressed, the sound seemed to get louder. The coma I was in subsided enough for my brain to realize it was definitely not the bedside alarm. It was the fire alarm, and I did not want to get out of bed. I laid there for a few minutes and the screeching increased.
Not wanting to feel like a total idiot if the hotel was indeed on fire, I threw on a few of the multitude of lululemon hoodies and things I had laying around and made my way downstairs. Standing in the hotel lobby and then outside with the rest of the team, staff and media assembled for the next few days of camp, I looked around and wondered ‘is this a joke? a test?? team building???’ People seemed to be just a bit too happy to be standing outside at now 330am in parking lot. I looked around for our team boss, Kristy Scrymgeour, and she was nowhere to be seen.
I started to think this was some sort of Bjarne Ris “team-building-harden-the-f***-up” kind of drill, and I was not amused. The fire truck arrived and I wondered if they were a part of the whole charade. The fire truck left and we were all allowed back in the hotel, up to our rooms and with great relief, I knew I was wrong on the team-building.
So many times with various teams in the past, I’ve endured professional forms of the exercises meant to build trust, unity and togetherness in a team. You know what, it doesn’t work. It does not transfer into the suffering we’ll do in races and the true nature of people that come out in difficult times. No, the artificial settings are much like testing in the lab. People are able to be something they are not in these controlled environments and often are the first to crack or only look for themselves when challenged in real time. Believe me, cycling will throw every challenge in the book at the individual and the team. It will teach you about life and make you face the darkest corners of your being.
Team building is done through hard work. It’s done through training as a unit and racing as a team. Winning and losing and learning as a team. This all begins at camp and we’ve been fortunate enough that in our daily schedule, hours have been alloted for time on the bike.
We’ve had some epic rides but yesterday takes the cake. It all began with Ina…
“I think we need to do the 200 tomorrow…” was all I remember her saying after pulling into the parking lot. We’d just finished a 160+ kilometer training ride. Another long one that saw us finally stopping for the obligatory coffee stop a mere ten kilometers from home. We made the same mistake a few days earlier towards the end of a 170km ride. For some reason, the stops have been few. One of the best things about epic rides is where you stop, what you eat and how much coffee you ingest to get you going again. Everyone comes into the gas station or coffee shop with different levels of hunger and different ideas of fueling for hours on end of riding.
I’m on the heavy fueling side of the eating scale. That afternoon, buzzing off copious amounts of caffeine, Ina’s idea seemed like a good one. “I’m in” was all I said.
Later that night, Ina informed me she managed to convince a few of the others to join us. It’s only December and there are varying levels of fitness and desire to ride, not to mention some wounded soldiers with winter colds. Understandably, not everyone was up for a rather unnecessarily long ride. With races no longer than 140kms, a ride of this distance is really just for fun. Fun in a rather sick kind of way only creatures of endurance can understand.
Yesterday, eight of us Spcialized-lululemon girls and Brett, out local guide, masters racer, flower-shop businessman and human GPS set out with the rest of the team who planned on shorter rides.
The epic took us north through Pendleton Military base (passports required for us foreigners) and then after a long series of twists, turns, bike paths and a stint on the Pacific Coast Highway, we entered a canyon that gave me instant deja-vu. I knew I’d been there before. It was the one cool stretch of riding I found last winter on the painfully boring coastal rides I did while training at the track in Carson, staying in Seal Beach.
Along another bike path and then another canyon, we swapped turns with the goal in mind of a whole foods stop in none other than botox-central, Laguna Beach, CA.
Ina commentated in the parking lot about the women with puffy faces and lips. We chatted it up with the parking lot attendant (who was, by the way, sporting a bow tie!) and were informed by the young guy that we were indeed the highlight of his day. Ina seems to up the volume of her english voice so it was pretty funny to listen to her remarks. It was a scene from the OC or Laguna Beach or whatever the reality show (reality?) based in our re-fueling town. We all noted how unfriendly the whole foods was , promptly realizing we were perhaps the freaks with our matching team clothing, helmets and general spaced out nature after four hours of riding and at least three more to go. Yes, we were the odd-balls in the parking lot getting in everyones way. I imagine the comments made in our direction were not so kind just like our views of the varying stages of plastic surgery. For each their own, I guess.
Which leads me to the fuel of the stop. Because of these long rides, I think we all needed some solid food to stomach the calories needed to go the distance. At least I did. I looked around inside and made choices I knew very well I could pay for with either cramping or puking when we began riding again. A tamale, some sushi, a small chocolate bar, coconut water and yes, the necessary coffee. I remember eating my sushi looking over at Brett with his energy bar saying “look at what you’re eating and look at me, haha!!” He looked down at his sterile looking ‘energy’ bar and said, “screw this, I’m going back in for some real food!”
After our fill of over-the-top people watching, we rolled out of town and back down the coast. Team director Jens was perched on one of the hills for one last water, food and clothing stop and then we were on our own. Met with the confused gaze of Ronny, our other director when we flew by the hotel a few hours later, not one of us questioned the mission we were on. A 200 kilometer ride cannot end a tenth of km less. Southward bound, we dropped Brett off at his left-hand turn home, the end of what was his longest ride ever. I think he was glad we were still there as he confessed feeling ‘shivers of fatigue’ more than once the last hour.
Finally, it was time to flip back up to the hotel. The six of us (newbie on the team Lauren did turn into the hotel when we passed by but we forgave her, it’s her first time out of Australia on the bike after all…) tempo-ed it back while the sun set to our left. A glowing purple and pink made for the perfect setting to the finale of our 200km epic. A ride we did not have to do but chose to do. Just because. We did it as a team and are closer because of it.
Team building 101 on the bike. The best kind of team building there is.
Riding back into town as the sun set
yes bad photo but I needed it as proof that we actually had a 9-5 day!
Crazy Ally after 200km
Ina and Amber eating with, yes, their helmets still on
I think Evie was hungry!
Ellen always with a smile