Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Time to Ride by Julian Cowart

Coach Julian with his wife, Catherine,
and son, Lawrence.
“Daddy, it’s not wake up time. The sun is still asleep”, said my three year old, momentarily befuddling his intensely drowsy father. He was right, and sitting on the side of a strange bed in Peachtree City, I was overwhelmed by the urge to heed his advice. But a glance at the desk brought my jersey into focus, the Team In Training jersey soon to be on the backs of so many remarkable friends. It was time to ride.

I have had the good fortune to wake up next to my beautiful wife most mornings for the past six years as well. More mornings than I care to recall, however, the rail of hospital bed separated us as she fought through her latest treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But on the morning of August 29th we rose together, along with our son, to be a part of the Team In Training that has meant so much to us, that has raised, nationally, over $1,000,000,000 for blood cancer research.

After overwhelming the stunned breakfast steward at our hotel, the green and purple swarm rolled south, to East Coweta Middle School. Local and regional rides generally abound with warmth and energy, and the Wilson 100 proved an excellent example from the moment we were shepherded though our arrival by the multitude of volunteers. The team coalesced on our blue minivan, a mix of multi event veterans, century virgins, supporters, and one tricycling three year old. Our venerable coach called the team to order, and following the reading of “Close the Door When You Leave”, our traditional inspirational poem, we were off. As the team turned right and headed out for mile one, my son implored his mother to push him along with us on his tricycle. His mother later informed me of his immense disappointment when he could not keep up.

Our ride followed some roads southwest of Atlanta, roads we had seen in our training. As the miles passed by we settled into the pace groups forged over the season and passed the miles singing badly and telling bawdy jokes.

When hunger or thirst arose, we soon found ourselves under the care of locals wielding water and peanut butter sandwiches. After chattering along the chip seal from Greenville to Warm Springs, team members glared at the Warm Spring Wall that had proven such a formidable training foe, enjoyed the support of the Team In Training SAG stop, and turned for home. Enduring a torrential downpour at mile 65, a flat tire soon after (the changing of which was truly a team event), an uncooperative rear derailleur, and an unplanned extra hill climb, we powered through the closing miles of the ride. As made our last turn towards the finish, our first time participants moved alongside each other at the front of the pack, and we followed these newly minted century riders across the finish.

Barbeque, beverages, hugs and pictures closed our Wilson 100. Following my group’s arrival, our teammates rolled in to rousing cheers until our final participant, struggling through injury but unbowed, turned left into Coweta Middle School. She too was feted with hugs and pictures, testament to the enduring power of fellowship and support.

Close the Door When You Leave

I never asked you to visit ... at least I don't believe I did
Maybe...I don't know
It's so confusing

At any rate, you're a rude guest
You take my energy, rob my sleep, and with a stick
You swirl and distort my dreams

All right, you are here --- for now
But understand
There are two places that are forever off limits

You may not tread on my spirit
You may not occupy my soul

I have heard of your visits to others
I know the damage you leave in your path
The wanton disregard for innocence, value, and what some would call fairness

Also, I hear that laughter confuses you; that good foods make you feel bad, and
That nothing causes you more distress than an autumn sunset, the forever blue of a summer sky,
Or the unconditional radiance of a child's smile

Listen and understand
You might pilfer my closets, empty all the drawers, and trash my house
But there are two places forever off limits

You may not tread on my spirit
You may not occupy my soul

Do not mistake my nausea, weakness, and pain as signs of your victory
They are simply small dents in the armor I wear to fight you
Instead, look deeply into my eyes

They will once again remind you that there are two places forever off limits

You must not...

May not...

Will not tread on my spirit

You must not...

May not...

Will not occupy my soul

Copyright © 2000 by Michael Hayes Samuelson
Author of "Voices from the Edge: Life Lessons from the Cancer Community"
Longstreet Press,

Julian Cowart first joined Team In Training in 2005 and has completed almost a dozen events with the Team. Now a coach for the cycling program, Julian is leading the Team at the 2010 Six Gap Century Ride.

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