In my time with Team In Training I do not habitually ponder the word “team”. Thank goodness for people like Debbie Buckland.
Last year she was training for her second go at America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, a 100-mile excursion around Lake Tahoe and a staple for TNT cyclists. On her team was my wife, Carol.
The event is in early June, but the team had been preparing since February. That meant they peddled in freezing cold, heat & humidity, pouring rain – just about everything but snow.
And when you ride through all weathers with people you start to get close through shared experience/fatigue. But you never know how close.
May 12, a few weeks before the event Carol was diagnosed with a brain tumor. If you know her you would not be surprised that, after the neurosurgeon explained how he would remove the tumor, she asked how that would affect her when she did her century bike ride.
But inside she knew her season would end in the operating room and not Lake Tahoe. Her team would have to go without her. Wouldn’t they?
“She had worked so hard -- it wasn’t fair,” Buckland said. “Then I started thinking – just because Carol couldn’t go didn’t mean she had to be left out.”
She secured a headshot of Carol, increased it to life size, laminated it and mounted it on a stick. If real Carol was not going, Flat Carol was.
“Flat Carol was in my carryon bag for the first leg of our trip,” Buckland explained. “But when we got to Houston to change planes I got everybody together for a group picture and Flat Carol came out to be in the pictures. People in the airport starting coming up to ask us what was up.”
Flat Carol was a fixture at virtually every stop the team made from that point – the plane to Sacramento, the bus to Tahoe, bike pick up, packet pick up, the inspiration dinner, the victory party – she was ubiquitous.
She also made the ride, attached to Buckland’s bike but scandalously sans helmet.
Back home Buckland used a software program and created a hardback photo book about Flat Carol’s escapades. The book was given to real Carol at the reunion, along with a certificate for having “the best excuse for missing an event….brain tumor.”
It is that kind of caring and effort that serves as an ample reminder why the word “team” comes first in TNT.
"I kept telling them that I was with them in spirit the whole ride and that the day of the ride I thought of them all day," Carol said. "When they started, as they were climbing the big hills, when they were finishing. And it moved me so much when I found out that they actually took me with them. And I'm looking forward to being there in 3-D this year."
Real Carol has recovered from having the tumor removed and will indeed be back this year with the Tahoe team to ride her century, but Flat Carol has retired. Fear not -- Buckland said the 2010 squad would likely have another two-dimensional team member.
And Buckland assuredly knows what a team truly is made of.
[Note – Last October at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco I fell in step with a woman from Minnesota, like me a TNT runner. As we ran out of Golden Gate Park we swapped stories of other TNT events we had done and she mentioned she did Tahoe the previous June. I told her what Buckland had done and she yelled: “I KNOW FLAT CAROL!” The world can be strikingly small some days. – J.O.]
Accomplished and veteran Team In Training alumni, Debbie Buckland and Carol Osterman are both set to ride in the 2010 America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride. TNT'er extraordinaire and author of this blog entry, Jim Osterman is training and fundraising for the 2010 Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon. Check out Jim's blog and be sure to give him a big "Hell Yeah!"
Team In Training Georgia Chapter is now recruiting for the America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride at Lake Tahoe on June 6th. Contact the TNT staff for details, (404) 720-7842.