This is going to be one heck of a post. Actually, it’s not a post, it will be an experience. You have been warned. You’ll laugh; You’ll cry; You’ll question your life; You’ll want to buy Jack Kane bikes over the others; You’ll probably think Shakespeare’s true successor has finally surfaced (and this is only part one!)… The word “EPIC” may whisper from your lips like “Rosebud”.
Part 1: Packing, the Drive-Up, and Day-One Expo
Day 1: The Drive
A true driving baller emerges.
Preparing for USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Burlington, Vermont was a little stressful. It was my first trip as the Jack Kane Custom Racing Bicycles Marketing Manager. Not only that, but I had already partnered with a great company, Endurance Films, to help support their age-group racing team and failure was not an option. There was a lot of work that had to be done: create a new brochure, design a new banner, update our business cards, decide which bikes, repair stands and tools to bring, complete the Endurance Films Racing team bike (which was a completely different process, which you can see here), ensure Jeff, the team mechanic could fit in the van, and, oh yea, pack clothes so I would be presentable. Upon completing the above laundry list, it was time to get on the road. The race was on Saturday, August 20, but we had a sixteen hour drive from Jacksonville, North Carolina up to Burlington, Vermont and had expos Thursday and Friday. We picked up the van Tuesday night and somehow managed to pack seven complete bikes, five bike frames, three bike repair stands, two tool boxes, four bike stands, one table, three suit cases, and two grown men. I did not get into bed until 1:00 am and I had a 5:30 am wake up call. I was already contemplating, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Of course, 5:30am came way too quickly, but I trudged to the van and drove to pick-up Jeff. Little did I know had Jeff not accompanied me on this trip, I might have been thrown into the lake with bike components strapped to my legs.
If you think concrete boots are bad, imagine being strapped into shoes that aren’t Zoot or Newton triathlon shoes, covered in Body Glide, forced to chug non-electrolyte enhanced water, defiled to wear a non-aero tri suit, weighed down by hundreds of cogs, cranks, and maybe even a bar plug. But more on that later.
We departed Jeff’s home at 6:35 am sharp.
Our mission: Avoid all traffic in D.C., New York, and anything with Jersey in its name. Jersey, you’re welcome to take offense. One word– Snooki. I digress.. With Jeff’s twenty-six years of Marine Corps training and my New England driving back-ground, we were a force to be reckoned with. He worked the Garmin Nuvi GPS like Christopher Columbus. We avoided all traffic except for a few minutes in one section of D.C. From there, it was all Jeff navigating. We stopped a couple times for food and gas (The minivan had surprisingly decent gas mileage). I tried to remain calm whenever I encountered sorry excuses for drivers… I didn’t want Jeff to become worried he was the co-pilot for a madman.We pulled into our HQ at 9:11pm. We drove 924.5 miles in one day. I was in a Zen-like zone and drove the entire distance. Sure, my boxers left an imprint on you-know-where, my right calf received one heck of a work-out, and my pride took a hit because of the mini-van, but this is how Legends are made. Bed never felt so good. We wanted to get at least one ride in during our trip. If you know eastern North Carolina, areas like Jacksonville are completely flat and we were not going to be denied riding our bikes in the Adirondack mountains. [hr]
Day 2: 30 Mile Ride, Meeting Some Amazing People, & Jeff Shines
The morning came too quickly, but on these types of trips, that’s how it goes. We ate breakfast and suited up to go ride. These were the first hills I rode since November 2010 and they felt great. I hurt, but I felt good. We cranked out a brief 30-miler.
We stayed in Plattsburgh, New York which is across Lake Champlain from Vermont. We crossed the lake via a ferry. Over the past four months in North Carolina, I do not think we have had one complete day below ninety degrees and 10000% humidity. This weather was amazing. We were outside in a cool seventy-eight degree day and not sweating immediately.
Arriving around 1:30 pm gave us plenty of time to set-up before the official start of the Expo at 3:00 pm. I had quite a few phone calls with Danny and Eric from Endurance Films and it was great to finally meet them both. They are great guys and have a true excitement about working and filming USA Triathlon events. It cemented for Jack Kane Bikes that this partnership was (and is) going to be a great element in both of our companies’ growth. Please check out Endurance Films training videos. They will keep your indoor training rides from being monotonous and utterly sucking your soul.
We started to meet the Endurance Films Racing Team (EFRT) as they arrived into town. These are great people. They are very friendly, personable, and have a grassroots excitement about being a part of this team. It got us even more excited about the team.
Then, I had my own personal physical therapy session. One of the team members, Laura, happened to be rehab guru, so of course I did what every other person does in this situation, I asked, “I have this problem with my knee”. I hate being that guy, but that guy needed to say something. I proceeded to get educated on what I need to resolve my issues. It turns out my toes are the roots of my issues because ever since Laura helped me out and made me aware of my technique issues, I’ve been 90% pain free. FLIPPIN’ SWEET!!! I hope it continues.
Now, for the most important part of this entry, the team mechanic: Jeff. He should have a book written about his experiences this weekend alone, but in the preservation of keeping the internet from crashing, we’ll shorten it. Mechanics are the typical un-sung heroes of races and shops. To be honest, I did not even anticipate the tremendous amount of work Jeff would have to do. On day one alone, he built up five bikes, fixed the work of several shoddy mechanics, problem solved numerous bike issues, and maybe even questioned the meaning of life. But that’s a question not to be asked. This all happened in just our little section of the Expo room. (Don’t worry, I pumped up some tires)
Meanwhile, I embarked on my own journey. One of the team members forgot his bike shoes for the team ride. So, we went to find his hotel.
Well, let’s just say, three people, a mediocre map, a GPS with a PIN code, and an unknown penchant for adventure, would lead us to get lost, miss our turn due to a “dead” dog in a car window, and get stuck in traffic.
Regardless, we zeroed in on the hotel, nabbed his shoes, and got him back for the team ride. Mission Accomplished.
I was half-expecting Jeff to be withered away by the time I got back, but thankfully he survived (like I said, twenty-six years in the Marine Corps!). Jack Kane has been in business for thirty-eight years. He has seen the cycling and triathlon industries explode and he has never stopped being a student of industry. Thus, he knowledge far surpasses most people (not meant to be an insult), but he doesn’t gloat about it (that’s my job). Where am I going with this? I’m saying this, he knows he needs to surround himself with great mechanics to further support his business and his brand. Today was a prime example of Jack Kane’s never-ending demand for sound mechanics. When a title sponsor partners with a bike company sponsor, it wants to know its riders will be taken care of better than anyone else. Jeff corrected the work of other mechanics to ensure our athletes (and a few non-team members) bike’s operated the way they are supposed to at a race. That’s what Jack Kane Custom Racing Bicycles does. DELIVER.
When all was said and done, we were fortunate to drive back (and ferry) home to a great sunset.
Brand Marketing Manager