Monday, June 22, 2015

3rd Stop on the TeamUP Tour: National Para-Cycling Championships

Chattanooga, TN: National Para-Cycling Championships

Thursday, May 21st:

We arrived in Chattanooga late last night after driving the 6.5 hours from Greensboro. We needed to be here tonight because bright and early tomorrow we have a local news team wanting to do a story on Jill Walsh and Jamie Whitmore, 2 of our TeamUP Co-captains. I'm really excited to be here in support of Jill and Jamie but also quite eager to watch the National Para Cycling Championships as I've never been to a cycling championship before and can't wait to see all the action.

For those of you who've not yet met Jill or Jamie, here's a link to their stories on our Get Back UP Today website--please read!



Before I arrived in Tennessee I did some research so I'd know when and where to be for all of the events. Here's a link that provided all the info I needed but I'm mainly including it for those readers who are interested in becoming a part of the US National Cycling and/or Para Cycling community because this link offers many resources:

For today all I needed to know was where the race course was located since this is where I'll be meeting the news crew, Jill and Jamie this morning. My co-captains texted me saying they were heading to the Volkswagen car plant early to ride the courses and get their training miles done before the reporters arrived.

I'm not a cyclist but as a runner I'd say that today's weather
conditions are perfect for training purposes; not too warm or
humid and great cloud cover.
The course for the Time Trials is part of the same course they use here at the Volkswagen plant to test-drive their cars. It was obvious by all the tire tracks here that the course gets a lot of use. As part of a family with a history of owning VW's it's pretty cool to be here at such a large US manufacturing plant for these iconic German vehicles... too bad I'm now driving my Honda CRV. Here are 2 links to more info about the VW factory here in Chattanooga:

While I wait for Jill and Jamie to get back from their training
ride I take some time to finish my sign. The back of the CRV makes
for a perfect drafting table.
The news crew from local Channel 9 arrives just as Jill and Jamie are finishing their practice rides. I'm so happy to be getting such great coverage this early in the week, especially with all the nationally ranked cyclists in town for the championships. Hopefully this will help spread the Get Back UP message to local Tennesseans, and to let them see for themselves what can be accomplished despite physical challenges.

Lindsay is the photo-journalist, left, and Lauren St. Germain is the reporter/anchor...she
starts the interview with Jamie Whitmore.

Jamie just gave the PERFECT answer to the question, "What is TeamUP" but learned that Lindsay didn't get it on
film due to a microphone issue. AGGGGHHHH!!! She did her best to duplicate the answer but none of us could
remember exactly how she said it the first time. It was still good, just not as awesome as her first take but she went on
to give a fantastic interview. On behalf of everyone in the TeamUP movement: Thank you, Jamie, for being such
a great ambassador!

Jim's getting creative in propping up our signs against the wind. He's going to be
cheering with me for this weekend's events.
We got lucky with the weather this morning; it's windy and cool but there's been no rain and
apparently the overcast skies make the lighting great for Lindsay's camera work.
Jamie is wrapping up her interview while Jill waits for her turn. Greta, Jamie's teammate and roommate
this weekend, has just ridden up after her training ride. Greta has a prosthetic arm which qualifies her for the
para-cycling team. It's pretty amazing to watch how fluidly she maneuvers with the prosthetic, if
you weren't really watching closely you'd never know she's missing an arm.
Jill Walsh takes her turn in front of the camera. I am always humbled when I hear people's "Get Back UP" stories and
even though I know a lot about Jill from being a co-captain with her I'm moved by some of the answers she's giving. It
was clear that she also had an effect on Lindsay and Lauren; I think this was when they finally realized the value
of TeamUP in helping people across the country envision a better life for themselves. You ROCK, Jill!!

Lindsay gives the Thumbs UP for TeamUP as she prepares to risk her life for the cause.
Seriously, she's going to be hanging out of the back of this SUV while Lauren drives it
alongside Jill and Jamie as they ride the course around the VW plant.
They're off! Lindsay, please hang on...we really don't want you becoming physically
challenged as a result of doing this story (but we know a great brace for you should you need it!)
After more than 2 hours, Lauren and Lindsay wrapped up the interviews and we were able to call it a day. I can't wait
to see the coverage because out of all the reporters I've met these last few years Lauren really seemed to get what we
were all about. Thanks, Channel 9, for giving us so much of your time today!
PS: I'm not smuggling a kitten under my jacket, I'm wearing Jim's because Jill inadvertently left hers with her hubby
so I lent her mine for the interviews.
One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that Jill and Jamie are competing in the same events but they're in different classifications so they won't be in head-to-head competitions. You also may have noticed that Jamie rides a "regular" road bike while Jill is on a trike...more about cycles and classifications later in the post!

Thanks to Lauren, Lindsay and News Channel 9 for this great story (it's actually a shorter version of the one that ran live, we're still trying to get that clip since it has more coverage of TeamUP and the other co-captains):

Thanks to VW for their sponsorship of the USA Cycling programs, including the Para
Cycling teams.
After the morning interviews Jill and Jamie had more prep work and REST on tap for the afternoon. Tomorrow they've got a few more training sessions followed by official event meetings and scheduling assignments for the weekend races. Jim and I both have work to do but also I'm remaining on-call the next 3 days in case we get more media ops so we're alternating our time between working and sight-seeing as we stay flexible for "breaking news". 

We learned that Chattanooga was named "Best Town Ever" by Outside Magazine for the second straight year so we felt we HAD to explore the city to see why. Again, we didn't have much free time for this but here's a few glimpses of what we found during our short stay...

Miscellaneous photos from Thursday afternoon in Downtown Chattanooga:

The Aquarium sits at one end of downtown along the Tennessee River. Here's a blurb from
the Chattanooga Visitor's Guide:
Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, the Tennessee Aquarium takes you on a remarkable journey from the mountains to the sea to meet amazing animals up close within the Aquarium’s two buildings. Come see for yourself why visitors rate it the number one Aquarium in the country for guest satisfaction!

The plaque in the previous photo is mounted on this wall immediately to my left. There are relief sculptures
 down along this wall leading to the fountains adjacent to the river... commemorate the lives lost along the Trail of Tears. The relief sculptures mentioned above can be seen along the
left side of this shot, about halfway up to the top of the picture. The brick and glass building is the Aquarium.

There's an urban park full of fun sculptures and play spaces adjacent to the Aquarium. These
stairs led straight up then back down the other side over a "concrete riverbed"...

"Concrete river" basin...
Within probably a 6-block radius you can enjoy the Aquarium, The Creative Discovery
 Museum, Chattanooga Visitor's Center, various rock climbing facilities,
The Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga History Center/Tours,
Mystery Theater and much more (including many great restaurants).
A quote on the wall of the Chattanooga History Center.

I climbed up the stairs shown earlier and this is my view of Jim from above...

...and this is his view of me from below.

Time for a bite to eat! We chose this downtown restaurant
for convenience and reputation.

We just wanted something light for now so we ordered two apps to share.

Our selection: Salt & Pepper Calamari and Spicy Tuna Tacos. My review: The tuna tacos were fabulous, the tuna
seared perfectly (and plenty of it) along with fresh veggies and generous portion of avocado...
The Calamari was fine but not spectacular. I found it slightly chewy but the overall flavor was nice, although the
accompanying sauce overpowered the light seasoning of the calamari itself. We would definitely come back to the Bluewater Grill to try more items in the future, the staff was extremely friendly and the restaurant decor was pleasant.

After a few hours working via computers and phones Jim was ready for another stop for
food. In full disclosure, it was after 5pm and he was ready to try a local brew. :-)
We walked over to the Chattanooga Brewing Company and discovered that they had a nice
food menu in addition to the beer selections.

I wasn't hungry yet so Jim was on his own to order. Yes, he opted for another item
bigger than his head! This Spent Grain Steering Wheel, oops, I mean PRETZEL,
 with a side of Beer Cheese Dip was exactly what he was
in search of....I have to admit, the bite I had was delicious.

Time to call it a night as the sun sets in Chattanooga. We fixed dinner back in the room
but I totally forgot to take photos, sorry! We had leftover homemade lentil soup and small
salads but Jim also had his favorite cheese-and-crackers.

Friday, May 22nd:

Today will be another work & sightsee day for both Jim and me, though if I get a media call I'll drop everything and head to the interview while Jim continues with his local reps until they wrap up for the weekend. Our day starts, conveniently, with the free breakfast offered at our hotel...
Jim's on his first plate of ham, biscuits and eggs with a cup of coffee on the side. I didn't
get a shot of it but his second plate was fruit and yogurt with a side cup of OJ.

I actually brought a cooler full of food with me from home (a luxury benefit of driving to an event) but had a bit of
the free offerings this morning before Jim headed out. I had plain omelet with salsa and a side of cottage cheese (which
looks a lot like cauliflower to me in this unappealing photo). 
Speaking of the free breakfast at this hotel, probably the most-asked travel question I get is "How do you decide where to stay?" which is then followed by "Where's the best place to stay in __________?"

My answer is always "It depends." 

For those who want the long answer read here, all others skip below to the next photos:

Mainly it depends upon whether or not I'll have a car because this comes with it's own set of considerations along with some advantages. As is the case this weekend, I do have my car with me so I have to consider the cost of parking it overnight as part of the overall hotel room charges. However, because I have the car I don't have to stay in a "central location" to my planned activities and I can look at a wider variety of hotels and their options.  So, I start with ideal locations and look to see who offers free parking and decent rates...usually I search via Priceline, Travelocity,,, etc. just to get an overview of what's out there. From there I try to book a reservation through making sure I only book rooms that can be canceled up to 24hours before with no fee! This way I know I'll have a room booked early in case the prices go up but I can afford to shop around in the days leading up to my stay. is my favorite because you can see what you get for your price (including bed choice, room style, any freebies, taxes and fees) plus when you book their "book now, pay later, free cancellation" option they make it so easy to edit or cancel the original reservation with zero hassle. Next, I go to Priceline to keep an eye on their Express Deals because even though they don't give you the name of the property they do give you the general location, the star-level, the customer review ratings and list any/all freebies included in the price. You can usually figure out the hotel by cross-checking all info on their main hotel list view, but not always. If I find a decent star-level with a high rating and free parking I'm usually ready to buy it. If I don't see what I'm looking for I wait a few days and keep checking back--these change daily! In the meantime I'll do low-ball bids for star-level and areas that I know are good; the trick is that you can't tell whether you'll have free parking, bed choice, amenity options, etc. so you have to bid low to make it worth it if they add fees for the extras. 

Sooooo, in Chattanooga the downtown hotels were quite pricey this weekend and none offered free parking. I looked instead for the areas closest to the VW plant where the weekend races would be held and found several convenient options through Then I looked at Priceline and found an express deal for a 3-star hotel in the Hamilton Mall area with free parking, free breakfast, free internet, choice of bed and swimming pool, all for a rate that was half that of a downtown 3-star hotel. I bought it without knowing the name of the hotel and was happy to discover that it was a Springhill Suites. So in addition to the internet, breakfast, pool, bed choice and free parking I also got a fully equipped kitchenette--woo hoo!!! I love it when it works this way.

When I learned I'd have a fridge and kitchen I packed up a bunch of fresh foods and pantry staples from home
 so I could cook for myself without having to eat out for every meal, every day.
(There was more than shown here but I neglected to get
photos of last night's meal or of the food in the crisper drawers below)

This was my lunch today, along with fresh strawberries and leftover grilled salmon.
After working in the hotel all day I was able to meet up with Jim in the late
afternoon. We wanted to check out a bit more of downtown Chattanooga since we'll spend the rest of the weekend at the cycling events outside of town. The drive to the Riverfront area was about 20 minutes from our hotel. First stop was a late-day snack at one of the local vegetarian cafes.

I don't know why, but "Sluggo's" sounds more like the name of a butcher shop than a vegan cafe but I'm willing
to give it a try...after all, they have a flying head of garlic for a mascot...what's not to love?

Okay, so this sign looks more "garden-y" but now I'm picturing Sluggo the Garden Slug
as a mascot and that's not making my mouth water in anticipation.

Despite Jim's (often validated) concern about Vegan "Cheese" Nachos we were both pleasantly surprised
by the dish. The veggies and avocado were super-fresh tasting and the 2 versions of vegan cheese were rich
with good flavor. As with most vegan cheese offerings you don't get the same texture as real cheese (raw or melted)
but for this dish the overall balance of textures and flavors worked well.

Next stop for us was to explore the Northshore neighborhood of Chattanooga, one that was recommended by many locals. If you're planning a trip here, don't miss this hip 'hood!

The window shopping was great along the Northshore and many of the boutiques sported decals supporting the cycling championships. The Professional Road Race will run along this street and throughout Chattanooga on Monday (Memorial Day), a cycling event that has become a favorite among locals. 
Here's the map of the Men's and Women's Professional Road Race course, where they'll cycle through town at high speeds despite whatever weather conditions they'll face:

Most of the shops on the Northshore are indie-outlets and small boutiques. This one
 happens to be a combination record/book/local art store.

You can get to the Northshore by driving or by utilizing the pedestrian bridge. This shot is a view from the pedestrian
bridge connecting the Northshore to downtown Chattanooga's riverfront near the Aquarium.

Jim is walking towards the Aquarium on the other side of the river.
To his right are Coolidge and Renaissance parks below.

Sorry, I got distracted by this little precious little face...

A view of Renaissance Park from the 112-year old Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. Renaissance Park was built on 23 acres of historic Chattanooga land as part of the 21st Century Waterfront Plan.

This is the view facing east from the Walnut St. bridge...directly below the bridge is Coolidge Park:
 Opened in 1999, Coolidge Park is a 13-acre public park on the Northshore of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga. The park includes a restored historic carousel, and interactive water feature, a multi-purpose pavilion, a canoe/kayak launch, a floating restaurant, curving walkways, green meadows and river overlooks. The park is nestled below the 112-year old Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge and is named in honor of World War II Medal of Honor recipient Charles Coolidge. More than 30 restaurants and shops surround the park, which is located adjacent to trendy Frazier Avenue.
Fountains at Coolidge Park
(Photo was downloaded from

According to the history marker, the Walnut St. Pedestrian bridge was erected in
1891 and is the world's longest pedestrian, I had no idea!

The Walnut St. bridge is beautiful in itself but I'm also enjoying its shadow over the Tennessee River.

This is the Market Street bridge which runs parallel to the Walnut St. bridge and is meant for vehicle traffic primarily.

When you have foot drop you tend to spend more time looking at the ground than people without mobility issues...
and sometimes you get rewarded in unexpected ways! I happened to notice these mini plaques, which Jim missed
because he was looking up at all the metal work, and I looked online for more info. I learned that these zinc plaques represent a second round of public fundraising, the original fundraising was a grass roots effort to save this bridge. They
"sold" planks along the bridge with accompanying brass plaques denoting the donor's name. Apparently at some point
they converted all the brass plaques to zinc which adds a nice graphic touch to the weathered wood.

Snail's-eye view of the bridge, you can barely see the zinc plaques on the third tier from
this angle, at the top left of this shot.

Stunning patterns abound thanks to the mix of steel, wood and sunshine.
 I loved learning about the Walnut Street Bridge and its rich history. If you're interested, here's a good resource for the information I found:

As Jim and I made our way back across the river into Downtown Chattanooga we stumbled upon a Friday afternoon festival. We asked some locals about it and they told us that every Friday during the summer they have a music festival called Nightfall, with different bands every week. The main acts get going about 9pm, which we couldn't stay for, but there was plenty to enjoy in the late afternoon:

Food trucks, local artists, craft-brewed beers, live music and great people-watching opportunities
are the main attractions at Nightfall.
This free weekly festival is a favorite for both locals and seemed that all of Chattanooga was making their way downtown. When I looked online for more info on this event it's no wonder they call it a 'city jewel':

"Started in 1988, the Nightfall Summer Music Series has been proudly offering the Chattanooga community a vibrant hub for music and culture for 27 years. Over this nearly three decade period, a wide range of talent has graced the unassuming stage of Miller Plaza. From Loudon Wainwright III, with his smooth folk-inspired sounds and impressively creative and comedic lyrics, to the venerable Alison Kraus, with her sultry old-timey siren’s voice, to the lovable band from Canada, the Barenaked Ladies, to the renowned Béla Fleck and his unrivaled banjo-playing ability, to the raw blues of the Black Keys, to JJ Grey and Mofro, whose swampy Florida funk brings to mind backyard BBQ’s where alligator is the meat of choice. Not to mention countless other acts that fill out a wide spectrum of musical genres—Nightfall has seen it all."

...did I mention the furry attractions? The city of Chattanooga is very
pet-friendly; dogs are allowed in so many of the city's public spaces.
I'm such a sucker for a furry face.

Look at the ears on this little guy!

Sorry, you'll have to indulge me as I get my fur fix.

When Jim and I turned the corner, away from the main stage at Miller Plaza, we were surprised to
see a the street lined with motorcycles. Young and old, in khakis or in leather, hundreds of bikers made their way to downtown Chattanooga this afternoon. We couldn't resist checking out the motorcycles. We estimated that 75% of the bikes were Harley's but there were some other interesting choppers in the mix.

"Not your father's Kharmann Ghia"...

Jill Walsh, we want to see you on a Trike like this after you finish your races! :-)
Time for Jim and Beth to call it a day; we headed back to the hotel to make our dinner and go to sleep early in advance of a long day of race-watching tomorrow.

Saturday, May 23rd: Time Trials Race Day!!

The races officially start at 8am this morning but we were strongly encouraged to arrive early to secure parking at the VW plant. We arrived around 6:45am and were able to park fairly close to the "athletes village" area of the massive parking lot. 

This is the view as you enter the VW grounds from the highway. The sun is just rising on
a beautiful day here in Tennessee. The temps are in the 60's now but expected to climb
into the 80's by mid-day.

As we walk over to the athletes' village Jim spots a man wearing an Allard Blue Rocker...
...and right behind him we find our TeamUP co-captain, Jill Walsh! Turns out that the man
wearing the Blue Rocker is Billy Lister, a great cyclist and longtime fan of the Allard braces.
Billy said he used to live in NJ and got to know
Allard's own Angelina Paez as he searched for something that would enable him to compete
at a higher level...apparently he found it at Allard. :-)

Hugs and coffee for all! We're really looking forward to watching today's events and to
cheering on our co-caps, Jill and Jamie. 
I really had no idea what to expect today since I'm not at all active in cycling events. Jill said that this type of Time Trial event is not exactly set up for spectators but there will be opportunities to see each rider at the starting gate, finish line and possibly one or two spots along the course. While Jill was tending to her trike we took the opportunity to scout out the grounds and figure out where we would position ourselves to see the most action:

The Starting Block. Cyclists will be lined up here according to their classification--more
 about this later in the blog--and start at regularly-timed intervals. (Notice the
VW test-drive tracks on the pavement?)

The race barriers are the same style used in all the marathons we run, without the VW banners of course.
They've got the start and finish line areas lined with these barriers as well as the section of the
course immediately adjacent to the parking lots and athletes' village areas. This definitely kept the
riders safe from pedestrians wanting to cross the course but it made it difficult to choose where to spectate.
Once the time trials start you can't cross back and forth from the starting line to the
race course so we had to make our decision soon.

The athletes' village is to the right of this view, in the parking lot closest to this start line area. The athletes will ride over
from the"village" along the road closest to the VW plant in the background. They will then make
their way up this road towards us before pulling into the starting line rails (the solid white barriers on the left)

I'm standing up on the hill adjacent to the finish line (it's behind me and to my right as I'm standing here).
You can see the athlete's village on the left with VIP and media parking on the right.
Jim and I are parked one more lot over to the right,the closest we could get without team or media
credentials, but it's only a couple hundred yards to all the action.

We've scoped out the entire area and have a basic game plan for cheering the riders today.
Now we're in search of Jamie whom we haven't seen since the TV interview on Thursday.
We spot her team truck, Twenty 16, and guess that she's around here somewhere.

Jill is making last-minute adjustments to her trike. 

One thing I hadn't really thought of was how difficult it is for these athletes to travel to events. If they fly they have to crate their bikes in pieces and then "build them" once they get everything unpacked. We heard a few nightmare stories about the damage the airlines have done to this very-expensive
equipment, in addition to the stories of bikes not showing up in time for the competition--yikes! 

For those reasons Jill opted to drive here from Syracuse, NY--a 900 mile trek that took approximately 16 hours. (Jamie was coming in from California so she chose the airlines instead). 

Jill poses with my sign before she heads out to warm up.

As Jim and I are walking to find Jamie I hear someone call my name. I was
pleasantly surprised to meet Ruth Campbell Cook, whom I've only known
through Facebook until now. Her husband, Richard, has CMT
(Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder) and Ruth learned about the Get Back UP Today
campaign through our relationship with the CMTA. She noticed my sign and
then recognized me and called out. What a treat to finally meet her in person!

Ruth and Richard Cook are great ambassadors for Getting Back UP. Richard rides as part of the
Challenged Athletes Foundation team, can't wait to cheer you on this weekend, Richard!

I love this!

We finally find Jamie warming up under the cover of shade. She'll be starting about an
hour earlier than Jill today so she's getting herself focused for the race.

For the readers who may be as clueless as I was about cycling events I've decided to include some information that will help you to understand what's going on here this weekend. This event, as indicated by its name, serves as the US National Professional Cycling Championships for able-bodied cyclists and para-cycling competitors. The national championship is important on numerous levels because it helps to determine the national rankings for athletes competing against each other for sponsorship money and also for spots on the Olympic team. Both Jill and Jamie have been named to the US Women's National Team for 2015 but in order to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio next year they have to maintain their elite status at least until the official Olympic teams are announced. This means that wins here, and in upcoming World Championships, are critical for them both as they're trying to gain enough points to remain in the upper echelon of their fellow competitors. 

The national championship will consist of 2 events, the Individual Time Trials on Saturday and the Road Race on Sunday. Here's a brief tutorial from Wikipedia about each:
An individual time trial (ITT) is a road bicycle race in which cyclists race alone against the clock on flat or rolling terrain, or up a mountain road such as Alpe d'Huez (in French: contre la montre – literally "against the watch", in Italian: tappa a cronometro "stopwatch stage"). There are also track-based time trials where riders compete in velodromes, and team time trials (TTT). ITTs are also referred to as "the race of truth", as winning depends only on each rider's strength and endurance, and not on help provided by team-mates and others riding ahead and creating a slipstream. The opening stage of stage race will often be a short individual time trial called a prologue.
Starting times are at equal intervals, usually one or two minutes apart. The starting sequence is usually based on the finishing times in preceding races (or preceding stages in the case of a multi-stage race) with the highest ranked cyclist starting last. Starting later gives the racer the advantage of knowing what time they need to beat (and also makes the event more interesting to spectators). Competitors are not permitted to draft (ride in the slipstream) behind each other. Any help between riders is forbidden. The rider with the fastest time is declared the winner.
Road bicycle racing is a bicycle racing sport held on paved roads. The term "road racing" is usually applied to events where competing riders start simultaneously (unless riding a handicap event) with the winner being the first to the line at the end of the course (individual and team time trials are another form of cycle racing on roads). Road bikers are called "roadies" among one another.
Race distances vary from a few kilometres to more than 200 km. Courses may run from place to place or comprise one or more laps of a circuit; some courses combine both, i.e., taking the riders from a starting place and then finishing with several laps of a circuit (usually to ensure a good spectacle for spectators at the finish). Races over short circuits, often in town or city centres, are known as criteriums. Some races, known as handicaps, are designed to match riders of different abilities and/or ages; groups of slower riders start first, with the fastest riders starting last and so having to race harder and faster to catch other competitors.

So, in addition to all the information above, there's more you need to know about this weekend's events because it gets more complicated. Not only are the athletes classified by gender, they are also competing in categories according to their competition experience and success. Rather than try to explain it myself I'm borrowing from an article on that really helped me to understand:

Are you with me so far? Brace yourself now because it gets even more complex when you bring Paracycling into the mix. In paracycling athletes are classified according to gender, specific impairment and level of specific impairment; they may race the same course as all other cyclists but  only directly compete against cyclists in their specific classification.
Jim gives the thumbs-up; he has a thorough grasp now on Jill and Jamie's classification
and has a good idea about what we're going to be watching today and tomorrow.
Here's a fairly brief summary of the various classes:


An ATP2 hand cycle
An AP2 handcycle
WomenWC1 - WC5WH1 - WH5WT1 - WT2WBTCB
Para-cycling classes, as defined by the UCI,[13] can be decoded easily. The first letter stands for the gender (M for men, W for women). Subsequent letters stand for the sport division (C for Cycling; H for Handbike, T for Tricycle, B for blind or visually impaired - also known as TCB for Tandem Class Blind).[13] The final number is the class in that division - with the lower the number, the greater the degree of impairment.[14] Therefore WH3 stands for the class Women's Handbike 3.[13]


Athletes have a physical impairment that prevents them from competing in able-bodied competition but still compete using a "standard bicycle".[14]

Handbike or Hand Cycling

Athletes have lower limb impairment that necessitates use of a hand-operated cycle.[14]There are four classes of hand cycling. H1 is for tetraplegics with severe upper limb impairment to the C6 vertebra. H2 is for tetraplegics with minor upper limb impairment from C7 thru T3. H3 is for paraplegics with impairment from T4 thru T10. H4 is for paraplegics with impairment from T11 down, and amputees unable to kneel. H5 is for athletes who can kneel on a handcycle, a category that includes paraplegics and amputees.[15] In hand-cycling classifications, H1 and H2 can use an AP1 and AP2 handcycle, H3 can use an AP2, AP3 and ATP2 handcycle, and H4 can use an ATP3 handcycle.[16]


Athletes have an impairment which affects their balance.[14] They compete with a three-wheeled cycle called a tricycle - three wheels providing more balance than a standard two-wheeled cycle.

Blind/Visually Impaired, also known as Tandem Class Blind

Athletes who are blind or visually impaired. They compete using a two-person cycle known as a tandem, with a sighted "pilot" in the front seat. Under UCI rules, a professional cyclist must not be active for 24 months in any UCI Tour in order to apply as a para-cycling pilot. [14]

One last item to share with you is that Jill and Jamie do not compete against each other since they are in different classes as described above. Jamie is a C3 and Jill is a T2.

WHEW! Trust me, it was a lot for me to take in too before my first-ever experience at a bike race. Now that we're all in the know, I'll get back to the event...

The ITT's today will take place on a 19.2 mile course with riders going out every 2 minutes. Here's a link to the course map if you're interested, it also shows the road course for the paracyclists but I was unable to get a distance for that circuit:

This is Jamie's roommate and Team Twenty 16 teammate, Greta Neimanas.
This is Jamie shooting out of the the starting gate...Go, Jamie, Go!

I couldn't believe the number of riders wearing Allard braces on the course today. I'm so excited to see people
Getting Back UP and competing at such a high level despite their impairments. (Unfortunately, I never got his
name but hoping I'll get it later from Jill or Jamie.)

Go, Blue Rocker, Go!

Jill makes her way to the last 6K of the course. You obviously can't appreciate speed via a still photo, but Jill was
flying through her time trial.

Another shot of Jill Walsh and her Blue Rockers.

I missed Jamie coming across the finish line, she was a lot faster than she thought she'd be so
by the time I made my way to the finish after seeing Jill start the race Jamie had long finished.
Here's Jill though as she crosses the finish line.
Although I did enjoy this entire Time Trials experience and I learned a lot about competitive cycling, I will say that Jill was right when she told me it's not the best spectator sport. Basically, you can only watch one rider at a time and even then you see them only briefly during the entire 19.2 mile race. I saw Jamie only twice, at the start and in a blur as she rode through the mid-section of the course. I was watching Jill start when Jamie finished so I missed her there. I was able to see Jill 3 times: at the start, the middle and as she crossed the finish line. So for the 8 hours I spent out here today I saw about 75 seconds worth of my co-captains in action--but it was totally worth it!!

We had a little time to kill after the last of the Time Trials got underway. The awards
ceremony is up next after a lunch break for the riders.

I think this is the men's C-3 group but I missed the announcements and many of the earlier awards.

I did make it in time to see the Men's C-2 group. Left to right is Richard Cook, Aaron Keith and Billy Lister.
2 more Allard braces make the podium!! Congratulations, gentleman!

Jamie takes first place to become the national champion! Way to go Jamie and
Blue Rocker!

Jill Walsh and her Blue Rockers won first place in her division--YAY!!

Jill congratulates Caroline Jacobs and her service dog.
Jill hopped off the podium and into the line for free that's how to celebrate!

2 National Champions, 3 Blue Rockers--way to go, ladies!

I'm sandwiched between 2 champions! So proud of my 2015 TeamUP Co-captains, and
we're all happy to show off our braces.
Thank you, Allard, for helping us Get Back UP.

Since former NFL player Roger Craig autographed my sign I felt I needed to get the
newly-crowned USA National Cycling ITT Champs to sign as well. Jill adds her "John Hancock"...

...then Jamie follows suit.
By the time the awards wrapped up we were all ready to be out of the sun. Jim and I were exhausted after being out here since 6:45am and we weren't even competing! By now it's after 2pm so we planned to make our way back to the hotel for the day...we'll have another long day at the road races out here tomorrow.
When Jim and I got back to the hotel I finally had time to read the morning paper. Look who I find!
(Jill Walsh)

Feeling slightly guilty about not exercising, especially after being so inspired by the paracyclists this morning, Jim and I opted for a late afternoon run. We did an easy 5-mile run (with a few walk breaks along the steeper Chattanooga hills) and then found a restaurant close to our hotel for a light meal before calling it a night. There wasn't much near us so we opted for the Bonefish Grill:

Ahi Tuna Sashimi with wasabi and pickled ginger.

Flash fried calamari with peperoncinos and sweet-spicy Asian sauce.

Steamed Edamame with sea salt.

Sunday, May 24th: Road Race Day!!

Today's race is in Enterprise South Nature Park "situated on 2,800 wooded acres that were previously a part of the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant property. The property’s heritage has been preserved in the concrete magazines used to store explosives during the days TNT was manufactured on the property. The Park offers miles of walking paths, bicycle paths and off-road biking trails. There are areas for picnics and a small lake that attracts deer, turkeys and other park inhabitants giving visitors an opportunity to view the animals in a natural setting." 

The park is adjacent to the VW plant and offers paved and off-road trails from 1 mile to 20 miles long depending upon the trails selected. The Road Race course is a loop of about 6 miles I think (I never could get an answer to the exact distance) where the riders do anywhere from 6-9 laps, and from all accounts there were plenty of steep hills and tight turns throughout.
 (See here for more info on the park:

The first races start at 8:00am but Jill and Jamie's heat won't begin until 10am. We arrived early, about 7:30am, due to the shortage of parking in the actual park and by the time we caught up with Jill it was close to 9:00am.

Jill and her teammates warming up before the Road Race.

We finally got to meet Jill's husband, Greg Walsh, who flew in last night to watch Jill
race today and to accompany her on the long drive back to Syracuse tomorrow.

I know Jill rides a three-wheeler, but does she ride with 3 legs?
By the way, Jill rides in the trike division because of the balance issues she has due
to her Multiple Sclerosis. MS has also caused her to have foot drop in both legs and weakness
in her left hand. Her trike is rigged so that she can do everything with her right hand only,
very impressive! 

Jim and I brought chairs out today knowing we'd be here for several hours watching the
different races. Thanks to tips from the race organizers we learned that this corner was one
of the better viewing spots. Behind me (in the direction Jim is looking here) there's a long
downhill where the racers will be coming towards us, then they'll make a left turn before they
reach that "200" sign in the distance.

We knew what time this race started but since we had no clue how far we were from the start,
or how long this course loop is, we had no idea when we'd see our friends. Finally after
about 20 minutes we started seeing the cyclists. At the time I took this shot there had
already been about 4 groups of riders go by (there are many different classes of racers all
on the course at the same time, unlike yesterday's time trials). While Jim was taking
photos at the turn I was visiting with Ruth and a few other spectators about halfway up
the hill. Finally I hear Jim tell me that my co-captains are near...this is Jill on her first lap.

Go, Jill, Go!

It looked to me like both these competitors had AFO's on (ankle-foot-orthoses) but I couldn't tell for sure.

Another lap for Jill. I know, it looks a lot like all the other photos
I have of her from this race, but you can tell by the shortening of the
shadows that it's later in the race. I think this is Jill's 3rd lap but I'm not

Jim got this shot of Jill making the turn. At this point in the race she's tucking her left arm close to her body,
so all her shifting, braking and steering are controlled solely with her right hand.

Jamie Whitmore is tucked behind the first cyclist and Billy Lister is close behind.

Another pack of riders comes flying down the hill into the turn. On the first lap
all the cyclists were tighter together ( I think the different classes must have been staggered at the
start line) but by the 3rd and 4th laps there's much more distance between each classification.

Billy and Jamie have swapped positions.

This is Richard Cook making his way towards the turn. Ruth told me he's not having a great day physically but
he seems to be holding up well in the final laps.

I love this shot of Billy and Jamie with their Blue Rockers on.

This time we see Jamie and Greta at the turn.

Billy's riding solo now...and we have absolutely no idea what position anyone is in. We're just enjoying the action
as they all whir by.

Jamie's in Beast Mode, looking great into the final lap!

I couldn't believe how fast the handcyclists were going, and I was amazed to see the variety of different bikes. Here's a
link to a bit of knowledge I gained by speaking with some of the racers out here today:

As incredible as it was to watch these athletes fly by me on each lap, it was even more
astonishing to see them out of these racing bikes and in their everyday wheelchairs or
 prosthetic limbs. They looked extremely "mobility impaired" until they're on the bike,
it's almost as if they're magically transformed into elite athletes in the blink of an eye.
 (As a refresher, check out the classifications info I included earlier in this post to see
what impairments are common in the 4 classes of hand cyclists.)

Jill uses her body for steering, momentum and control heading into the turn. The trikes are known for being far
more difficult to maneuver than bikes. Jim and I wondered why they don't have 2 wheels in front and one in the back, like
one of the motorcycles I featured earlier in this post. It seems that they would be less likely to topple, but then I'm
no engineer.

Jill yelled to us on the last lap that "This stopped being fun a few laps ago!"  She was semi-kidding but the heat
really does a number on her MS and she's ready to be done. She looks great here though!

Richard Cook is hanging in there but Ruth tells me he doesn't look as strong as he usually does in this event.

After about 1-1/2 hours the Road Race was over and we headed to the awards area
where we waited about 45 minutes before finding out how everyone did. In the meantime
the cyclists took time to change (at least change shoes, prosthetics, braces or wheelchairs where applicable) and to cool off before the awards ceremony began.

Jill's running shoes are awaiting her.

Here comes Jill after crossing the finish in the Road Race. She hadn't expected the 
course to be as tough as it was and the heat really took a toll on her.  
Despite the heat, Jill manages to be all smiles after a quick cool-down.

The winners of the women's tandem races (where one member of the team
is blind or otherwise visually impaired).

Crazy sock winners?

As I mentioned earlier, it was amazing to see the difference in mobility when these
guys are racing vs. when they're in their "regular" wheelchairs.

Jill finds a sole patch of shade while Greg makes sure she's recovering okay.

More Allard bracing on the podium!

TeamUP Co-captain Jamie Whitmore takes first place in the Road
Race... does her teammate (on TeamUP and TeamUSA), Jill Walsh!
So proud of you both!

Billy Lister and Aaron Keith back on the podium in Allard braces
alongside CMTA and CAF athlete Richard Cook. Congrats again, gentlemen!

I think it was worth the exhaustion, Jill.

Each classification winner gets the Stars & Stripes jersey along with a medal and bouquet of roses.

Way to go, ladies--you ROCKED it this weekend with your clean sweep of 1st place titles!
Wow, what a great experience we had this weekend at the USA National Cycling Championships. Jill and Jamie are now the 2015 National Champions and remain in the hunt for the 2016 Olympics. We'll be supporting you all the way!

Despite the fact that Jim and I weren't competing in any event this weekend, we are completely worn out after our long days in the hot sun and are ready to hit the road back home. But before leaving Tennessee we had one more stop to make. When I told Jill and Jamie that we were stopping off in Athens, TN to visit a fellow member of TeamUP they asked me to deliver a special gift...

"Kent Teffetelle, honorary captain and official TeamUP DJ, I present to you these
Champion bouquets on behalf of your teammates Jill Walsh and Jamie Whitmore."

Kent was so gracious to invite Jim and me into his lovely home during our brief time in Tennessee
--thank you, Kent, it was so nice seeing you again!
Jill and Jamie, Kent was truly appreciative of the flowers, especially since he had been reading my posts
on Facebook throughout the weekend and knew immediately what they meant. 

Kent, thank you again for your hospitality and for making time to visit with Jim and me.
It was also a special treat to get to talk with your mom, you both are such wise, strong
and determined individuals!

We've had a great 4 days in Tennessee but we're happy to be heading home for a bit. It's a gorgeous evening for a
six-and-a-half hour drive...