Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gravitec camp 2013

It's 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon and I am about to die.

Let's rewind a bit. I'll leave you hanging in suspense with the question in your mind on whether or not I survived the Sponsor Camp for the 2013 Hagens Berman Cycling team.

Last weekend was the meet and greet- mainly a good excuse to get to know our new teammates and director, but also a chance to learn about sponsors, expectations, and metaphorically pour one out for the homies who couldn't be there.

For those of you with memories like baby geniuses, Danny made a crash at Redmond Derby Days, broke his collar bone, and got surgery. Fast forward 6 months and the plate in his shoulder had to come out. This just HAD to happen last weekend, so instead of him actually being there, Alan created this cardboard cutout of him. Much fun was had. In other news, Steve has papercuts all over his body.

Friday afternoon came the time for 9 cyclists to step far, far away from their sweat pant wearing lifestyles to don some fancy clothes for dinner with the Don. In order to avoid last years parking lot changing fiasco, we all chose to wear nice clothing all day instead of just for dinner. This led to Winger running to the store rapidly to buy laces so he could look just like me.

To avoid cocky statements about who was the best dressed, I'll instead focus on the fact that Cody brought two ties for a one tie sort of weekend. This is something that I have tremendous respect for, and although he only wore one, he was able to hook Stuart up with his extra tie. This is the beginning of a weekend filled with great teamwork and stylish dressing. Meanwhile, Jon "Horndogbrocal" Hornbeck didn't wear a tie. This led Steve Berman to call Jon out at dinner as being the "rebellious one of the group". In a non-related story, Alan sat next to Berman for a brief meal and he wasn't wearing a tie.

I found this picture of Alan at dinner. He slipped the bow-tie on after Berman left.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, here's a picture of one of my teammates in their fancy getup:

That's a picture of David just outside the restaurant. I bet most of you thought that I was going to follow up an "Alan is tall" joke with a "Steve is short" joke, but I flipped it on you. I wasn't going to belittle Steve with a small joke.

Enough about clothing. Friday was an opportunity to hear about:
We are all excited to have Burke Swindlehurst be our DS for the year. Here's an amazing fact about Burke- he has done the Cascade Cycling Classic and the Tour of the Gila more than fifteen times each! It is going to be very beneficial to our team to have someone with as much experience as he does. If you're wondering why we all made the split in a crosswind at Gila, it's because Burke knows about that one house in that one corner that blocks the wind at a 37 degree angle and makes it so you can move up easily before a windy area that always has a stiff 23 mph breeze coming from the NE.

Saturday morning took us to the new Gravitec warehouse. For those of you who don't know, Gravitec is a company who specializes in fall protection for workers whose job puts them at risk of falling from high places. People like window washers, construction workers, and Circ de Soleil acrobats all rely on Gravitec to educate them on how to be safe while working at heights and provide them with protection technology in the event of a fall.

Then there's us.

Photo by Kyle Mutter and Winger Studios
The goal for Saturday was to put the riders in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations where we would have to rely on our teammates and our communication skills in order to solve a task or to safely navigate an obstacle. A couple of my favorites from the day were:
  • The wall climb- We were taken to the base of a 15ft wall with a platform at the top and were told "you have three minutes to get everyone to the top. GO". This is the moment when David Fleischhauer carried the weight of the entire team on his shoulders. Look for him to do this more throughout the season, but in this specific moment we decided that the best way to get all of our people over the ledge was to have David squat everyone up on his shoulders. This worked GREAT until there were only two people left at the bottom. One of those was David, who also happens to be the biggest/strongest guy on the team. We were able to get him up, but then were left with no one to boost the last guy up. 
Photo by Kyle Mutter and Winger Studios
  •  Flat changing contest- This seemed pretty normal. Get a bunch of cyclists together doing activities and make them change a tire really fast, right? Sort of. We got paired up with a teammate. Myself and Staz set about making tactical decisions, and then my right arm was abruptly tied behind my back. So was Staz's. All of a sudden, this tire changing contest was two guys with two left arms total. Go! What was cool about this is that there was a lot of unspoken teamwork happening. At least with Staz and I we knew exactly what needed to be done with the tire. In contrast to a task that we weren't comfortable with (ie climbing a wall), we were able to set about doing it and fix problems as they came up. This gives me confidence for the 2013 season. When you put our team in an element that we are comfortable with (bike racing), I think we have proved that we are prepared to work well together. Since y'all are dying to know the results of the race, Staz and I changed the flat in ~2 minutes and 40seconds. We were the second ones to take off the tire, take out the tube, put the tube back in, put the tire back on, and inflate it to 100 psi using only our left hands. Steve and Jon technically got it done first, but as soon as they got to 101 psi their tube blew. Our tube is safe to race on, so who's the real winner here?
  • 100 ft of rope climb- We did this last year, but it is still as brutal and as fun. Climb 100 ft of rope using one strap on your leg and an ascender and your puny little arms will hurt in the morning. Guaranteed.
Photo by Kyle Mutter and Winger Studios
    • Tight rope walk and Commando crawl- Two methods of getting across a rope at a height. The first was a ~25 foot shuffle across a gap on a rope 35 feet in the air. You stood on the rope, tried to be as smooth as possible, and supported yourself with another rope above your head. The commando crawl was a little different. You hugged the rope on your stomach, and inched across it staring anywhere but directly at the ground 35-40 feet below you. Never have I seen anyone move their arms as fast as when Colby fell off and was dangling by just his arms. He jungle gym'd across the rest of the rope quite rapidly to safety. Now I'm convinced that I'll never have to do any heavy lifting the rest of the year. He's in charge.
      Photo by Kyle Mutter and Winger Studios

    Photo by Kyle Mutter and Winger Studios

    Finally, the moment you've all been waiting for. My death or near-death experience (which one is it?!?!). At the end of the day we were given the chance to do the 15ft wall climb again. This time we were wearing our harnesses. The first time we failed miserably- we needed to get 10 guys up and over the wall in 3 minutes or less. We got 9 guys up in about 7 minutes. This second time around, we were supposed to get 12 guys over the wall in 3.5 minutes.

    Instead of just David doing squats, I helped him carry the weight of the team. We held the team on our shoulders and would not budge. By doing two at a time, we were rapidly getting guys to the top and soon were left with just David and I at the ground level.

    I did a wall sit and David climbed up my thighs, onto my shoulders and was grabbed by someone at the top. The ~10 guys at the top all pulled David up halfway so that he was held in limbo. Half his body dangled off the wall like some Rambo ice-climbing movie. I was able to just reach David's foot, so I grabbed that and began walking up the wall, Mission Impossible style. Soon I reached his harness and was able to climb up that until I was close to the top. Trouble- I had nowhere else to climb. As I dangled off of David, I saw Cody lean over the side and grab on to my shoulders. Since he's Canadian, and Canadians know a thing or two about lugging heavy objects, I just sort of assumed that I could let go of David. Unspoken teamwork. I released my monkey grip on David's harness and as the rest of the team pulled David up and over the wall, I hung 15 feet in the air, the only thing keeping me from the Felix Baumgartner freefall to the ground below was Cody. This is where I learned that Cody J Campbell has the upper body strength of 11 cyclists or at least 1.5 adult males. I expected to hang there until Cody got some help from the other guys, but instead he started pulling. Cody single-handily saved me from imminent sore ankles, good footage for @WingerStudios, and probably a different ending to my blog post.

    Here are some more photos from Kyle Mutter and Winger Studios:

    Dude, sup Danny?

    Yes, this is a cycling team. Yes, these were not cycling-related activities. But if you take an athlete out of their comfort zone you introduce a new dimension to their interactions. Instead of facing problems that we've all seen before, we were forced to: communicate better, think outside of the box, use each others strengths and weaknesses, and rely on people that we just met.

    How many of you would jump off a 40 foot structure with only 8 people ensuring that you didn't splatter on the ground? And of those 8 people controlling your fate, you've known half of them for less than a day?

    Standing 40 feet in the air about to take that jump, I did not hesitate for a second. Thank you Gravitec for turning a group of strangers into a much closer team.

    We are all excited to get out on bikes and try to drop each other. Sorry, I meant work well together.

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