Sunday, March 21, 2010

Perry's last ride

Word got out quickly after a flurry of emails, facebook postings and blog posts about cyclists leading the funeral procession for Perry on Friday morning. Thanks to John Frame for initiating what started out as a discussion with Taylor that lead to that flurry. Thanks to Nikki for pushing the emails out to the group.

As I arrived for the church services on friday morning, you can imagine the sadness I was feeling. Perry is as good a friend as I have had since my return to Greenville 5 years ago. We had shared a lot of miles together in a relatively short time. Those miles started last year when I committed to ride with the Challenge to conquer cancer crew. It was early August before I met Perry and our first meeting was not even on the bike - it was at a fundraiser called "Comedy vs Cancer" put together by
Bo and Nikki at Saffron's Sidewalk Cafe. He and his wife Toya had come to support Bo and Nikki's fundraising efforts.

As Bo said in his
excellent memorial to Perry, "He was not the most demonstrative of men, so it took some time to get to know him, on and off the bike". As we were at a show, we had only brief opportunities to chat. He struck me as a good guy and I looked forward to riding with him.

The very next day, Perry, Jeni, Ed and I met for what turned out to be the first of MANY rides together. We rode the 60 mile route from the Simpsonville YMCA. Although Bo's comment is correct about Perry not being demonstrative, it was obvious on that very first ride that he did indeed have a competitive streak. It was also obvious that he was a lot smarter than me when it came to cycling tactics.

I learned a lot riding with Perry. That first ride began the lessons. As we approached a hill, the pace would increase and we would all begin to push. In my mind, I was stronger than the others because I would find myself out in front as we pushed through the middle of the hill. However, as we approached the top of the hill, Perry would accelerate around me to capture the hill first. This proved his strength, as well as his cycling smarts. A deep respect grew very quickly within me for him as a rider.

As the miles accumulated on that and many other rides, he would continue to suck me into these little competitions, only to overtake me at the end. I like to think I'm a pretty smart guy, but it took me a while to figure out what was happening. In fact, at the Donaldson Tuesday night rides, he would tell me not to spend so much time out front - sit back and rest for a little while. My hardheadedness would usually get the better of me and I would forget his advice at the very next ride (where he would pull another 'Perry' and hold my wheel until the very last second where he would accelerate past).

Throughout the training rides leading up to the Ride to Austin, I began to know him off the bike. His sense of humor and sly wit, the love he has for his family and friends. His dedication to excellence in everything he did. The respect I had for him as a rider quickly grew into respect for him as a man. We became real friends.

Perry and I, along with Jeni and Ed rode so many miles together, that as our departure date neared, our P3C3 captain Ron ended up putting us together as the Polka Dot team. We were all really pleased.

The trip to Austin holds a very special place in my heart. Seldom does it happen that such a large group forms with such focus and develops such lasting friendships. We had that focus and I am very proud of what we accomplished - the fund raising and spreading the message. I am very glad to have been able to share this with my Polka Dot team mates. And, with Perry's passing, it means so much more that I was able to share that with him.

Earlier this year, Perry and I met for a short ride from the YMCA - ironic that one of our last (outdoor) rides together would depart from the same location as our first ride together. I remember how great it was to see him. We chatted a lot on that ride, but we also fell right into the rhythm that we developed over those many training miles. I could always count on him to be smooth and steady in his riding. Whether we rode handlebar to handlebar, or in a small pace line, I knew exactly what to expect from him. It felt really comfortable. I told him at the end of the ride how great it was to ride with him again. I had missed it. And yes, he did pull a couple of "Perrys" on me that day as well.

With the cold winter, many of our more recent 'rides' were inside with the indomitable Jeni coaching us through a trainer session. The last time I saw Perry was during and after one of these sessions - the Thursday night before he passed. I got the news on Monday when Jeni called. I was crushed.

In hard times, family and friends come together. This amazing group of friends who I also consider family immediately reached out to each other to provide support. Tuesday was the
Missing Man Peleton followed by a celebration of Perry's life at Dustin and Jessica's place. The house was packed and there was a lot of hugging. There were tears, but the overall was a very positive reflection on the man we all knew and loved. We shared stories and remembrances. Taylor was there and he shared with us as well. The love in the room far outweighed the sorrow. It was a very fitting event for a man who was always a very positive and upbeat person.

Thursday was the visitation and the line of people who came to pay respects was out the door of the church for hours. The P3C3 family was there in support with several people coming from far away to pay their respects. After, a large group of cyclists gathered at Senior Salsa's Restaurant (next to Ride-On Bicycles where we would go for dinner after the trainer sessions). Again, the show of support was incredible. We took up an entire section of the restaurant. At the head of the table, we left a chair and a beer for Perry. It was very hard as I happened to be sitting next to that empty chair.

It was during this dinner that John Frame approached me about doing something special for the funeral procession. He suggested that we ride our bikes from the church to the gravesite. We spoke to Taylor and made a quick announcement and immediately had more than a half dozen riders.

When I arrived at the church for the service, there were already more than a dozen bikes lined up along the front and side of the church. As we lingered outside the church, the number of bikes continued to grow as did the number of attendees wearing cycling kit of some kind. Perhaps fittingly, the largest number of jerseys to be seen were the Challenge to Conquer cancer jerseys. The family had come to show their support and pay their respects.

The peleton was 30+ riders strong as we made our way to the gravesite. It was a fitting tribute to our friend, brother, husband, father, fellow cyclist. I felt like Perry was riding along - one last long pull before going off the front.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Perry's Funeral Procession - a request

If you are planning to attend Perry Lyles' funeral tomorrow morning at Crossroads Baptist Church (705 Anderson Ridge Road Greer, SC 29651-7639), please arrive at 1030am ready to ride.

What do I mean ready to ride? At a minimum, please wear a cycling jersey. Cyclists are asked to arrive at 1030 to be led into the Church and seated together. The service will begin at 11:00am

At the end of the church service, the cyclists will lead the procession out of the church and form two lines between which Perry will be carried to the hearse.

At this time, there is a contingent of riders (growing as the word spreads) that will be prepared to ride the 3.7 miles from the church to the cemetery.

When you arrive (hopefully slightly before 1030am), please stack your bike at the front (or along the side or wherever you can find space) of the church. After Perry moves through the lines of cyclists, we can break ranks and take a couple of minutes (seriously, we only have a short time here - 5 min or so) to get ready to ride. Please plan the way you will handle this - my personal plan is to have my bike shoes with my bike and only have to change shoes (ok, I will probably wear long pants over my cycling shorts during the service, allowing me to be ready to ride very quickly).

When you are ready, line up in front of the hearse. We'll wait for a few minutes to allow folks to get ready, but we need to leave before the hearse departs. I know the route and the Fire department will be blocking the intersections for the procession. Taylor Lyles will inform them that cyclists will be heading out in front of the procession.

As noted, the distance to the cemetery is 3.7 miles (thanks Nikki!) and we will take a pace that is very reasonable for all riders. Obviously we want the cyclists to stay together.

I am not positive of the exact location of Perry's gravesite, so we'll have to be a little flexible as we enter the cemetery. As we identify the location of his gravesite, we'll have to set our bikes out on the perimeter so everyone has opportunity to come in close during his final resting.

I do hope you can join us in honoring our good friend this way. Please let me know if you can participate.

thank you

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Missing Man Formation

What is the "Missing Man Formation"? According to,: "The missing man formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a flyover of aircraft at a funeral or memorial event, typically in memory of a fallen pilot."

What does that have to do with me? Unfortunately, it has more to do with a very good friend of mine than it has to do with me. I received word last night that my Polka Dottay team-mate Perry passed away.

This was unbelievable news to me, because Perry was the picture of health. He was an incredibly fit individual. I would not believe that his body fat was more than 12%, and I knew how strong he was on the bike. I was in shock when my friend Jeni called me to tell me of his death.

Perry was an incredible individual. His strength on the bike was matched by the love he had for his family and friends. He always had a smile and kind words for everyone - regardless of whether he knew you or not. His death has left a huge hole in our peleton.

In honor of him, I asked my P3C3 friends to join me in honoring him on this first day of the 2010 riding season - the first Tuesday after the clocks change - also known as the first day of riding at the South Carolina Technology and Avation Center (SCTAC - formerly known as Donaldson Center).

I was not surprised by the turnout. Perry was known and loved by many in our small community. As I watched his friends gather, I was filled with awe. To be loved by so many people - it has to be the goal of everyone.

The goal tonight was to honor Perry in a way similar to the military tribute of the 'Missing Man'. We departed the parking lot about 30 strong. We rode in a double paceline formation with the front left position held open for Perry.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but I could certainly feel him riding alongside us. It was an incredibly emotional experience. Perhaps the most difficult 2(ish) miles I have ever ridden.

Perry, you are already missed my friend. May you rest in peace.
Perry Lyles - 1963 - 2010
RideStrong my friend!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spinners REPRESENT! Day 6 of the Greenville Spring training series

Wow! What a great day of racing! The weather was nearly perfect (some wind late in the day) and the Greenville Spinners brought it to the table and kicked some serious butt!

I arrived at the final race of the spring series near the 2nd half of the Cat 4 race. There was three Spinners out there working the peleton - Tim, Clark and Robert. When I arrived, they were just coming through for their final lap.

What a sight when they came around for the sprint! Since I had been otherwise occupied in the morning, I wasn't sure who was out there, but what I saw when they came across the line was two Spinners' kit at the front! Clark and Robert brought it home for the top two podium spots! What a great job by those guys. Really great to see team-mates getting those podium positions.

The cat 4 race results from Day 6 of the Greenville Spring training series - Spinners Represent!
As for other races that the Spinners were involved in, the race in which I would normally be participating had just one of my Teammates representing - Ed (my Polka Dottay team-mate from the Austin Ride) rode to finish with the peleton.

Where was I? I was taking a chance that I would be able to stay in the Spring training series ominium top 10 without racing at Donaldson today. Instead, I represented the Spinners in an off-road triathlon.

These off-road tris are a little different from the traditional tri - the off road tri (of course) includes three events - a trail run, a flatwater paddle (kayak or canoe) and a mountain bike ride. I had signed up for this event weeks prior to signing up for the spring series, so I decided to get out there and have some fun. After all, there will be plenty of opportunity to get out and ride laps around Donaldson center this summer!

I loaded up my boat and my mountain bike saturday afternoon, so I was ready to leave bright and early sunday morning. I was about the 2nd person to arrive at the event site, and immediately met a first timer as she was off-loading her boat. She asked me a few questions, and we had a nice chat. She would be doing the 'sprint' event, while I would be doing the 'endurance' event. I outfitted myself in my Greenville Spinners Racing kit so I could represent the team.

What's the difference? The sprint event is a 3 mile trail run followed by a 2 mile paddle and a 7ish mile mountain bike ride. The endurance event is a 5 mile trail run, followed by a 4 mile paddle and a 12ish mile mountain bike. When I had checked earlier in the week, the field for the endurance event was only about 20 participants (women and men). When I asked about it during packet pick-up, they told me the field would be about 35 participants. A good number of peeps waited until the last minute to get signed up it seems.

The two events would start together and follow the same course for the first ~1.5 miles of the run (and the last mile), the early part of the paddle and parts of the mountain bike. This made it interesting as I was doing my event - At times, I wasn't sure who was doing the sprint and who was doing the endurance.

Another of my Spinners team-mates was also there at the off-road tri. Abhay came out with his rowing skull and his mountain bike to give it his shot.

The run started on an uphill, but thankfully, my buddy Pip suggested a warm up so I started off feeling good. By the time we crested the climb, a clear seperation had formed between the top 10 or so runners and me. My first mile was 7:24, which was a bit faster than I expected - especially with that hill. Pip was up in that front pack as they pulled away from me. I could hear some peeps behind me, but it was pretty spread out.

The run came through the transition area on it's way up to a trail called Grinder. You can imagine - this trail is aptly named. It is a long grinding uphill about a mile long. Not terribly steep, but you feel it - every step of it.

We came out on a paved road for a short distance before plunging back into the forest to run down the Clemson Freeride Club's downhill course. It's pretty fun to run down that course.

Before we arrived at the boat transition (about a 1/2 mile from the boats), the leader of the sprint race was already on his bike and heading out. Super strong effort from that guy (he did end up winning it).

I arrived at the transition with three other runners from the endurance race. The three of us ran together for most of the run. I got suited up with my camelback and my pfd and jumped in my boat.

I knew I had to make up some time on the boat - I would only be able to make up so much on the bike. As there were many peeps from the sprint event out on the boats for the first half of the race, It was difficult to tell who was who, although the speed differential was somewhat obvious.

The sprint boaters turned right at the 2nd bouy, but the endurance competitors kept straight to round a third bouy before turning back to the takeout. As I came around a point of land, I could see the endurance competitors spread out in front of me. I counted the boats and I found that I was in about 7th position (or 6th maybe). One of these peeps was the woman who was right behind me for most of the run. That put me in 5th or 6th place at the end of the boat.

I ran up to the bike transition and began to get myself squared away. The woman was staged just a few bikes away, and I saw her take off slightly before me. I got on my bike and gave chase. As far as I knew, no-one had escaped on the bike in front of me (from the endurance event - i.e. left the boat after me, but made a faster transition).

It took a few minutes, but I caught and passed the woman (who ended up winning first overall for the women in the endurance event) and kept chasing those in front of me. This first two miles was on a fire road and there was a good number of sprint event peeps out there. The only thing that made it obvious who was doing the endurance was their relative speed - we were traveling quite a bit faster than the sprint folks who were out there (because the fast guys / gals in the sprint event were already out on the singletrack part of the course).

I can't say for sure if I passed any of my endurance event competitors during this initial fire-road portion of the ride. I was tucked and in the big ring going about as hard as my legs and lungs would let me go. These fire road portions of the course had to be taken advantage of.

When I crossed into the singletrack and onto the Lawrence trail, I noted a rider behind me (to be called red shirt because of his red jersey). Anyone I saw on these trails was an endurance participant, so I knew I had to do what I could to overtake and prevent myself from being overtaken during these periods.

I learned a little about this guy on the climb up lawrence trail - I am a stronger climber than he is. I pulled a larger gap on him on this little climb coming out from the five forks intersection. He was a better mountain biker though as he reeled me in a little on the flatter portions of this trail.

There were periods where I was riding in the middle ring on the front and the smaller cogs on the rear. When I was in this configuration, I began to hear rattling from my rear hub! I was also having a bit of trouble shifting - thankfully, there was no ghost shifting, only imprecise shifting - I could live with that.

When we turned to go up collarbone, I could see two or three other guys in front of me. I was trying to count, but I was unsure of where I stood because of the confusion of the shared courses. These guys became my next targets and I dispatched two of them on this climb up collarbone. The third would fall (as in I would overtake him) as I rode down the dam road.

The Dam road was really fun. Once again, I was in the big ring and pushing for all I had. A big part of this fire road is downhill, so the speeds were probably over 30mph (maybe as much as 35mph). As I approached the intersection with the lake trail, I looked back to see two guys behind me - blue shirt who I passed on the dam road, and red shirt who had been following me since the lawrence trail.

Red shirt had passed blue shirt and began to gain on me quickly as we made our way along the lake trail. As he was getting close, I came upon a root system that stopped me in my tracks. I tried to quickly get out of his way, but was not able to. He had to stop, and because I felt I owed him, I told him to go ahead and pass me.

Luckily for me, his body chose that moment to cramp up on him. I waited for a moment, but when I realized he wasn't going to be able to pass, I continued on my way. I think blue shirt passed him at this point.

The rattling in my rear hub was getting worse - I can remember clearly thinking "ride it until it breaks!" The shifting was getting worse - It's critical to be able to cleanly shift into the proper gear when on a technical trail and I was fighting the imprecise shifting.

We were overtaking a number of the sprint competitors on this trail, and they were really great about moving off to the side to let us pass. since I was in the front of this little 3 bike train, I would call out "rider coming behind" and the would pick a safe spot to pull over for me (and the guys behind).

As we began to run out of lake trail, we came upon another root system that hung me up. Blue shirt was able to get by at this point, but I felt pretty confident that I could catch him on the fire road if I could just keep him in sight.

He exited the singletrack a few moments before I did, and red shirt exited a few moments after I did. I was in chase mode to catch blue shirt when red shirt pulled up next to me. We chatted for a short time before I let him pull a little in front of me. I pulled a roadie on him and began to draft. He pulled for a bit as we passed by blue shirt, then he pulled out to the side and told me "I think I'll let you pull for a while". Who was I to argue - turn about is fair play (only later did I talk to a friend of mine who told me that drafting was usually not allowed in traditional triathlons). I don't think it was an issue, I pulled him for at least as long as he pulled me.

I knew the course, and so did he. He had gone to school at Clemson and started mountain biking on these trails. I knew we had one final climb on this fire road before the trail went down hill to the finish.

I opened it up on him a little as we made that climb - the strength I have gained from road riding payed huge dividends here. As I crested the hill, I looked back to see I had pulled 10 or so bike lengths on him. At the top, I clicked it over to the big ring and started hammering. He was working hard to reel me in, but the gap appeared to hold steady.

I crossed the line with that gap intact. I was pleased. I felt I did well - perhaps in the top 5. Red shirt, blue shirt and I chatted a little as we made a cool down ride up the hill (same as where the run started). It was great fellowship.

When I got back to the bike transition area, I hung up my bike and started to get out of my biking gear. About that time, I looked up to see Pip crossing the line. He was about 5 minutes behind me. Great result for him.

Somewhere in there, I walked over to the folks doing the scoring. I asked how I did overall, and they said I was 29th overall (sprint and endurance competitors). She asked if I was in the endurance race, and told me that I might have gotten third place! Third!! I was stoked, but I was trying to keep myself from getting too excited before she finished with the official results.

Abhay came in while I was at my car getting my bike squared away. He had fun, but he had trouble with his racing skull that delayed him for about 10 minutes on the paddle.

We hung around for the results and I was super-stoked to find that I actually came in 2nd overall for the endurance event! What a great way to finish a race.

JD takes 2nd overall for the Clemson Off road triathlon!!

And what about the spring series for me? Without racing today, I dropped in the ominium standings from 6th to 8th place. I'll take that - a top 10 finish in my first ever road racing series, to include a win.

Cat 5, 35+ ominium standings as posted at Donaldson this afternoon.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Making choices - Day 5 of the Greenville Spring Training Series: River Falls

It seems to me that when it comes to racing, you have a choice. You can sit in and let everyone else do the work, or you can get out there and make a race of it. After last week's win, I really didn't want to 'sit in to win', I wanted to make something happen out there at River Falls.

I felt a little nervous going into the race despite the preview ride I did on Thursday with a number of my Spinners teammates. I understood the course and I was prepared for it. We had three spinners lined up in the Cat 5, 35+ group. The field was about 25 to 30 riders.

As we stood at the start line, I looked over the field and saw 6 riders from the Spirited Cyclist team. I knew these guys were serious. Two guys from the Harris Teeter team lined up near the front.

Today was different from all of the other races so far. A break went and it stuck. After cresting the climb for the second time, two of the spirited cyclist guys attacked and pulled a gap quickly. I saw it happen, but didn't react quickly enough. Although I was near the front of the pack at the bottom of the hill, they had hit it really hard. This was my first mistake - letting them make that gap. I set off in pursuit to see about reeling them in.

Half way between turn 1 and turn 2, I was still gaining, but I could see that one of the two had dropped off the pace. I managed to get past him and was within 200 meters of the leader when I decided it would be better if I had someone else up there with me. Looking back, that was my second mistake. I should have just kept at it and made the bridge.

When I became absorbed back into the peleton, I realized how foolish these two mistakes were. This guy's five team-mates were doing a textbook block on the peleton. They would get out in front and sit up. Taking up the whole lane and coming over on other riders to squeeze them out.

I wasn't interested in a 'sit in' mentality, so me and my team-mate Hudson started kicking the pace. We pushed it pretty hard, but those guys kept trying to block us. They would ride in second or third position and as soon as Hudson or I rotated out, they would sit up and do their best to block us. We had another guy or two occasionally get out in front, but it seemed they would drop off the pace and no-one would come in to help out. Of course, Hudson or I would be right there.

So, while the rest of the peleton was sitting in, the Spinners began to dismantle the field. If no-one else was going to work, Hudson and I were going to punish them as much as we could. Hudson worked super hard out there and was always there when I needed a break. When I could sense him slowing up, I would get out and do what I needed to do. We drove the pace up to nearly 22 mph in those last two laps.

I had something happen to me several times today that hadn't happened before. It seems I was a marked man. At times when I found myself recovering in the pack, two of the spirited cyclist guys would single me out and block me directly - one to my front and one squeezing me to whichever side of the road I found myself on. I didn't exactly catch on to this immediately, but by about the third time it happened, I figured it out and decided I wasn't going to play by their rules - so what did I do? I got back out in front and continued to hammer the pace.

In order for me to get past them, I had to do some squeezing myself. As they tried to squeeze me, I drifted towards them. Nobody wants to crash, so they would give way. It was pretty interesting, and I suppose I should take it as a compliment that they would see me as that much of a threat.

With all these hijinks going on, it was still Hudson and I driving the pace. The field had completely shattered and there was only about 10 guys left in our chase group. We did what we could, but the break stuck and the Spirited cyclist guy won the race. The teamwork by those guys was textbook. Their tactics were very well executed. I have a healthy respect for this team and the way they worked together.

How did it play out? Despite the work I had done on our preview of the course - finding my markers on the climb so I would know where to begin my sprint - On the final climb what remained of our original field started earlier than I thought. I let them go - mistake number 3. When my marks came up, I was on the gas, but it wasn't enough to take back more than a few positions.

How do I feel about this after last week's win? Today I had a choice to make - sit in and go for a group ride and go for the sprint (like last week), or get out there and try to make something happen - make a race of it. For better or worse, me and Hudson got out there and made something happen. There's a lot of satisfaction in that, even if it only results in 7th place.