Monday, July 7, 2008

Unexpected happy news

In the middle of a perfectly awful day at work I got a totally unexpected e-mail from my former TNT cycling coach.

Gary Thompson was my TNT cycling coach during the 2003 spring season for Lake Tahoe's Most Beautfiul Bike Ride.

I remember at so many kickoff's the ovation he would receive from the returning alumni. After having the honor of training with Gary, I completely understood the feelings he evoked.

A couple of things stand out about Gary for me.

When Kelly relapsed in December 2000, I had sent an e-mail to the staff asking them to forward to the current particpants so Kelly could enjoy a birthday card shower. I had just spoken at a TNT info meeting a day after hearing the news that Kelly wasn't expected to live. I was heartbroken. Gary spoke to me after the meeting and told me he had sent Kelly a birthday card. Gary didn't know me or Kelly. He responded the only way he knew how, with compassion.

I don't know if any of the other coaches sent Kelly a card. Gary was the only coach there that evening that came over to talk to me. That said a lot to me.

I was so nervous when I started training, really felt like I was in over my head. Gary assured me that my background as a runner would serve me well for doing a century ride. He patiently worked with me and taught me how to change the rear tire and seat it properly.

When we would go and ride as a team, Gary would always stay with the weaker riders. He would sometimes ride for a brief time with the stronger riders, but his focus was on helping the riders that needed the most support and encouragement. I think the days that we rode 60 miles, Gary would ride 100, if it was 80, Gary would ride 120 doubling back to make sure all of the team made it up a steep hill or needed help fixing a flat or other mechanical issues.

Gary would always remind us before we started our ride of why we were doing this, how our challenges on the bike were minor compared to our team heroes. He would always read a mission moment before the ride.

Gary really helped me believe in myself. He taught me how to climb, to be patient, gave tips on how to descend safely. He was totally there for every rider. I have done 15 seasons with TNT and he is head and shoulders above the rest. A great coach, but an even greater person.

Gary left the chapter at the end of the season and moved to Las Vegas.

Much to my delight I found out today Gary had moved back to Colorado.

One of the best things about cycling is you get to spend so much time talking with your friends.

Welcome back, Gary. I can't wait to go riding again with you.

1 comment:

  1. friends are just the best thing in this life, aren't they?
    love to you all - hope you had a happy fourth.