This is the first in a new series of blog posts and features highlighting races, clubs, and events in the Southeast!
It’s Wednesday morning and the parking lot at the Budweiser Plant in Cartersville, GA is not just filling up with employees headed off to work, but also with men and women in cycling gear who are ready to head out and ride - yes, on a Wednesday morning.
This group is known as the Tri-Geeks and for the past 16-years, they’ve been gathering to ride, swim, run and eat on a weekly basis.
Originally formed by a group of retired Delta pilots, the group is made up of mostly retired and flexible schedule individuals. They aren’t a formal club or chartered organization but they have a long list of traditions that makes training with the Tri Geeks a one of a kind experience.
I’d heard of this group for years and have always been curious to learn more. Fortunately, a few of our all3sports team members are founding members of the group, so I received an invitation — okay I fished for it — but either way, on Wednesday morning I made my way up to Cartersville for my first training experience with the Tri Geeks.
My invitation was extended by Fox Ferrell, a legend in the Atlanta triathlon scene. He’s been racing triathlon for 30-years now with 3 Kona appearances and countless Podiums around the region. At the age of 77, he shows no signs of slowing down.
To train with the Tri-Geeks, you must be invited by a member and the member commits to staying with you on your first day. No one is left behind. The community is as important — maybe more important — than the training you get in that day.
I rolled into the parking lot at the Bud Plant around 8:40 am to find it already full of members. About 25 showed up this Wednesday morning and I was the youngest in today’s group— there were several others in their 40’s on the ride but it’s rare that I get to say I’m the youngest in the group these days so I’ll take it.
Many of the faces were familiar. The Atlanta Tri community is kind of like a big extended family. Over time you start to get to know everyone, even if you only know their face.
I’m a bit out of practice for group rides so after actually remembering to pump my tires with a borrowed pump —I knew I was forgetting something — and getting all of my gear on, Fox took me around to introduce me to the community.
At precisely 9:00, we pulled out of the parking lot and made our way a few miles down the road to the first church.
For the first time in weeks, the weather was glorious. The first 3-4 miles out of the Bud Plant are pretty flat with some easy rolling hills and provide a great warm up. At the church, we all gathered for announcements and a group photo. It was there that I learned that Fox can be a bit chatty — the cue for the group to roll is for a group member to say to Fox ‘are we gonna talk or are we gonna ride?’.
The ride was a long the old 27 mile loop, a route that I had never ridden before. Riding in Cartersville takes you through the rolling hills of north Georgia farmland. We saw only a few cars and they didn’t seem to be bothered by a group of cyclists on the road. The weather was perfect and spring was in full bloom all around us. I spent a lot of time talking with Fox and learning about his history in the sport - more to come in a later article - as well as getting to know some of the other group members.
After second group gathering at about the halfway point with more pictures and more chatting, we were off on a few of the more challenging climbs of the ride. I was a bit turned around as the route was close to the 31-mile route that I’m familiar with but not on the same roads. Finally, I realized we had turned onto one of my favorite parts of the ride - a long stretch of flat road where you can just let you bike fly. I was with a few other friends that I knew at that point and lost Fox as we pushed into a big gear and went out hard.
We caught back up in the parking lot where we loaded up our bikes and headed 20-minutes south to Red Top Mountain State Park. Everyone parks at a picnic area off the beach and heads down to the lake for a swim.
Since the water was still in the 60’s, I wrestled on my wetsuit before hitting the lake. This was my first open water swim in well over 6-months — okay almost my first swim in well over 6-months. With a wetsuit on the water was perfect and there’s nothing better than having the whole lake to yourself on a beautiful, sunny day. Had it not been for the rumbling in my stomach, I could have stayed out there for hours.
After the swim, everyone changes and heads up to the picnic table where a feast has been prepared. Group members rotate meal duties. My plate was filled with homemade chicken salad, quinoa salad, fresh fruit and some of my favorite chips. It was during lunch that I learned of another one of the group’s traditions - celebrating members who had raced over the past weekend.
Anyone who races is required to bring any swag from the race - t-shirts, medals, hats, or any awards. Their results are announced and then their photo is taken. As the day goes on, people begin to head out. Lots of hugs are exchanged and plans are made to meet up for runs and rides throughout the week.
A lot of people inside the industry say that this is a tough time for the sport. Triathlon has been on a decline for the past 5-6 years. The industry has been scrambling to bring new people into the sport. At one point on our ride, I asked Fox about this - what was his perspective on the sport after being involved in it for 30-years.
He said, ‘Oh, I think this is the best time to be in this sport’
It was an unexpected answer, one I rarely hear so I asked why
He looked just nodded his head toward the riders in front of us and said, ‘it’s because of this group’.
If you have a training community or team that you think should be highlighted in our series, email firstname.lastname@example.org with more information!