Sunday, September 4, 2011

As I write this, Leslie Newman -- a friend from an earlier life who has been coaching me via e-mail since last spring -- has no doubt finished his 100-mile ride for the day, the "Tour de Valley" in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I've lost track of the number of 100-milers ("centuries") he's ridden this year. (And his average speed for them is usually over 20 mph.) In between his centuries, he takes short rides -- 3o or 40 miles -- after work in the evenings.

This is a guy who, several years ago, was in an auto accident and messed up his knee so bad his doctor told him that from then on he'd better settle for riding his bike no more than an easy five or six miles at a time.

Leslie has been giving me unstinting coaching and support from 3000 miles away ever since he learned about what I was hoping to do. A small example of his determination to support my effort is the "care package" from Hammer Nutrition Products he shipped me last week. (Extreme Endurance Fuel, Rapid Endurance Fuel, Recovery Drink, Electrolites.) I had told him that Hammer products weren't much in evidence in my neighborhood -- so he shipped me a bunch. (I tried some of them out last Saturday, and I think they're going to cure me of my peanut-butter sandwiches.)

But more important than the care package is the information he's given me, drawing on his experience to answer questions on subjects from tire pressure to recovery time, from pacing to hill climbing. Any time I had a question, I'd ask Leslie, and he'd fire back an answer. He recommended a couple of great books on cycling (such as Friel's The Cyclist's Training Bible) and countless useful websites. But most of all, by fielding all my questions, he's enabled me to compress a few years' experience into a few months, and in this particular project of mine, time is literally of the essence.

I've known Leslie for ... let's see ... about 40 years. He grew up with my kids, in rural Virginia. We lived on opposite sides of a creek about a quarter of a mile wide, and Leslie used to swim over to visit. He was a great kid, and we were always glad to see him. He'd ride his bicycle with our kids, too. They didn't go to school together, because we lived in different counties, but they spent a lot of time together, and when the idea of a bicycle trip together came up one summer, Anne and I gave our blessings. Somehow, we felt that Kevin, Sean, and Leslie could look out for themselves. I believe they went all the way to West Virginia. The only details I remember was that Kevin's bike kept breaking down, and that they had a fantastic tail-wind on the way home.

Anyway, I figured it was time my readers knew a little more about the "Leslie" who's been signing those useful comments to my blog over the past few weeks. My "secret weapon" should be a secret no longer.

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