Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Get It Now by John A. Dapper

During my first Team in Training event, the 2000 edition of America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride around Lake Tahoe, I finished over 40 minutes ahead of every other participant of the Palm Beach chapter I was on. If I was an archer with my back to the target, and directing my arrow to the open blue yonder, I could not have been more off the mark.

It’s sad to say that my being obtuse about the real point of TNT did not start with the shallow glory of the strong finish on that Tahoe event day. Oh no, I missed the mark even from the beginning of the season. I showed up to the training sessions with just enough time to get myself ready. I would usually ride alone. When I returned to my car, I would not stay to enjoy post ride camaraderie with my team mates. Oh no, in fact, I usually just waved to the riders who were finishing their ride as I drove on home. To make matters worse, I did not attend any fund raising events nor honored hero parties. My loss.

It gets even worse. I’ll just lay it out quickly to get the self flogging over with. On event weekend, I did not take the team fight. I stayed in a different hotel than the team; consequently, I missed the team photo (probably fitting), I missed the team strategy meeting, and I missed the team starting time. I rode on my own. When I finished I went alone straight to my scheduled massage. Lastly, I did not stand with the early finishers to cheer in the later finishers (my biggest regret).

Before you amass the villagers to gather their torches, steel rakes and pitch forks to hunt me down (though I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading and began to gather the crowd), please read on. I do get it now. I had my George Bailly, “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment. That moment occurred in Seattle.

I stayed involved with TNT after the 2000 Tahoe trip doing two to three cycle events per year (clearly I wasn’t a completely daft as this was one of the best decisions I ever made). Worked moved me to Seattle where I joined the Washington/Alaska Chapter of TNT. There I joined the El Tour de Tucson team and met our honored hero, Patrick.

I didn’t know the roads in Seattle so I stayed with my fellow riders while we trained. I got to hear about Patrick while riding with his mother who was also on the team. I met Patrick at an Honored Hero function I agreed to attend. What a great kid. I remember that he was into Star War action figures and enjoyed playing with his brother. Having a child of my own, I could not imagine what it would be like to deal with such an uncertain future of one’s child. I was amazed by the apparent grace, courage and maturity with which Patrick dealt with his trial and tribulations, with his ups and his downs and at such a young age. I was as impressed with his family. Amazing people.

My “moment” finally occurred on one of the training rides while pedaling next to Patrick’s mother and hearing about challenges with Patrick’s health. It hit me, Team In Training is not about riding bikes, running marathons, competing in triathlons and adventure races or doing hikes. Not even close. Team In Training was about participants, coaches, LLS staff, and family supporters, all tied together by the purpose of raising funds to eradicate blood cancers and better the lives of our honored heros and the too many people they represent. The training and competing we do as part of the Team In Training family are the means to bond us together for the purpose of bettering the lives of others while serendipitously bettering our own (not the other way around as I had once thought). If I wasn’t on that training ride I would not have seen the light and I am now a much better person that I did.

I continued to ride with my teammates for the El Tour de Tucson. I got to know my fellow team mates. I joined them at post ride meals. I flew with them to the event. I stayed in the team hotel and I cheered in the last rider.

That moment has stuck with me. Work again moved me, this time to Atlanta. I joined the Team here. I was again poignantly reminded that the battle continues a few years after meeting Patrick when I received a note about his health turning for the worse and passing.
There is much, much more work still to be done...done together, as a Team.

Proud to be your teammate,
John Dapper is currently coaching the 2010 America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride team and has been involved with Team In Training in a number of roles including participant, mentor and now coach. John brings extensive experience from having participated with various chapters of Team In Training. John has a strong passion for the cause and a tremendous love of cycling.