Here's a short report. They did so well and were giddy with their achievement. I will try to distill my thoughts about the whole project over the next couple of weeks. I really hope I can inspire other instructors to try something similar (but maybe not so ambitious - I couldn't believe how hard I crashed in the couple of hours after it was all over.)
Toss Out Your Elephants
Here's a brief update on our trip. It was marked by laughter, tears, breathtaking views and amazing personal achievement. Everyone made it safely around the Trail. One person had a bike failure that we couldn't resolve so only got to ride for the first day and a half. Two people rode every centimeter of the way. Others found that they eventually had to walk part of a 6 km 11% grade and many of them opted to walk down the 12-13% grade descent. They successfully conquered the other two major climbs.
I rode sweep on the two most challenging days. That allowed me to stay with and support the back markers. It was incredibly affirming to hear them talking about and see them using material they had learned in my classes. It got even better when they started chanting the catchphrases I use to crystallize some of the most important concepts.
Here's my favorite story from the trip. One of our late spring training sessions was structured as a warm-up, a 6% hill (the most they had done to that point), skill development on other hills and a return to the 6% hill to put into practice what they had learned. On both times up the biggest hill one rider really struggled and complained that "A herd of elephants is sitting on my chest." I know her capacity for work because I see her in my classes 2-3 times per week so doubted that she was experiencing true physical difficulty. We spent the next few weeks talking about the source of the elephants and she finally seemed to accept that they were "in her head".
On the last day of the Cabot Trail trip I was riding with her on an 8 km section of 7% grade. She and other riders chatted all the way up and were suitably impressed by their ability to do so. When we neared the top I asked her "Do you have any elephants today?" She replied that she had packed up the elephants and put them away. We rode in silence for about a minute. Then she added "No, that's wrong. I didn't pack up the elephants. I tossed them out. I don't need them any more."
I will write much more after I have had a chance to let the events of the trip and our entire training journey settle into perspective. But I know now that I will treasure forever the opportunity to help toss out some elephants.