I remember this weekend so well. A year ago, week one of Wildflower training with TAG, and I was terrified — of being slow, of panicking on the bike, of being socially awkward and in over my head.
I was back there this past weekend, standing in the Sports Basement parking lot with 40-plus expectant triathletes, going over gear bags and bike turn signals and wishing I’d worn a different shirt. Only this time, I was holding a clipboard.
One of my favorite things about how TAG is structured is the Captain role. Captains are people — not coaches, not necessarily great athletes, just regular people — who have gone through the training before and join the program again in a semi-leadership role, basically to say, “Hey, I was where you were, and I was just as freaked out, and I survived it, and I’m still here and ready for more.” I leaned on the captains hard last year, especially the one who also didn’t know how to clip into her bike when she started TAG. Having people who had actually been there — and recently! — calmed me down after tough workouts and made me believe I could actually do this crazy, ridiculous thing I’d signed myself up to do.
And now I’m one of them.
It was part luck, part scheming, but man, I am so happy to get to be a part of this group in this way. I had a lot of reservations — a lot a lot, I’m not even going to find all the posts in the archives that prove it because there would be too many — last year about group training, and being coached. I got angry at the whole situation a bunch of times, angry at being told what to do in front of other people and at needing to be told what to do in the first place. But then there were all those fabulous weekends toward the end when everything clicked — when I first rode the Wildflower bike course with Neil yelling encouraging things out his truck window, when I laughed to the point of ugly-crying with my training partners during an impromptu round of Win, Lose, or Draw, and when on race day I was constantly spotting members of our little group among the thousands of unfamiliar faces. When I realized the beauty of the program was going through it, all of us starting where we were and ending together.
I hope I can be for someone what the captains were for me last year. I hope I get to write goofy and encouraging emails after big weekend workouts. I hope I can help people figure out which $200 items they really need or how to decipher a swim set. I know I can at least be everyone’s biggest cheerleader, because that’s a role that comes naturally — I’m always going to be the one high-fiving at the run turnaround, I’m always going to be the one who says I know you can ride up that hill and mean it, even when I don’t think the same of myself. I’m never going to be ZOMGINSPIRATIONAL for my speed or my skill, but I can be a great jogging partner, clipping-in-is-hard sympathizer, and fear-getting-over-er, and I’m so excited to be all of those things for the next 10 weeks.
So, I’m back on the wagon, doing Wildflower workouts while not committing to Wildflower or any other spring Olympic just yet. I’m excited for the training, though. Saturday was TAG’s traditional short, slow bike ride, designed to get the group accustomed to riding together and on roads with cars in a gentle way; someone told me we covered about 8 miles in 45 minutes, which sounds about right. Sunday, we swam in the gorgeous outdoor pool I’ve missed so much, then went for a little part-trail run.
And I chased the TAG workouts with a bike ride with Michaela and Karen, proceeding directly from Novato in my sweaty run shirt and wet swim hair to downtown Fairfax, where we set out for the cheese factory (or, rather, cheese factories). Unlike the first time I did this ride, when I stopped at only one of the two cheese factories on the ride, we tasted amply at both. We also managed to find the Cross Marin Trail that winds through the state park on the return trip, cutting out several miles of terrible road in favor of a flat, wide, gorgeous bikes-only path. I want all of my riding to be on the Cross Marin Trail; if only it actually crossed Marin!
Just as with the first time I did that ride, the wind was insane; I think I handled a bit better this time around, but that could be the effects of riding with two people I’ve met only recently as opposed to my husband, who’s well accustomed to my freakouts. We made good time, tried at least 12 different cheeses, and knocked off seven cat-5 climbs over 38 miles like it was no big deal — and I still got home in time for the Oscars. My kind of weekend.