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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Memphis aims to be number one in a family fun, 'Bikes on Broad,' national bicycle competition

Memphis aims to be number one in a family fun, ‘Bikes on Broad,’ national bicycle competition
By:  Michael Lander

There were 85 cyclists in the May "Bikes on Broad" event.  The
theme for that month's ride was "People riding with racks or
baskets."  The event is part of a national competition to
determine the best city for everyday riding in the U.S.

Those who know and love Memphis already think of it as being a great city, and a wonderful place to live, and it is quickly becoming one of the best places in the country to ride a bike.

Now, when it comes to cycling, Memphians have a way to prove that our city is number one by participating in a fun, family-friendly, one mile, national competition by peopleforbikes to determine which is city is the best for everyday bicycle riding in the nation.

This event, known in Memphis as “Bikes on Broad,” takes place on the last Thursday of every month, from April through November in 2015, and it starts at 6:00 p.m. at the Bicycle Arch in Overton Park (at Sam Cooper and East Parkway), travels along the Hampline on Broad Ave., and ends up at the Rec Room (on 3000 Broad Ave.).

Memphis is among a list of about a dozen other cities across the U.S. that are competing to be the best in everyday bicycle riding that includes Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Portland, Ore., Seattle, Tucson, Ariz., and other cities who wish to join in when they can like Austin, Texas and San Francisco.

Each and every person who participates in this family-fun ride is counted at any time on the designated day that it is scheduled to take place.

“Counts are being performed by automated counters in the field and verified through volunteer counters on the day of the ‘Bikes on Broad’ event,” Kyle Wagenschutz said.

The "Bikes on Broad" event is a family-fun, one mile ride
that takes place on the last Thursday of every month
from April to November 2015.  The ride starts at the
Overton Park Bicycle Arch and ends at the Rec Room
where participants can eat, drink, socialize
and/or play games.

Wagenschutz is the Bicycle/Pedestrian Program Manager in Memphis.

In addition to counting the number of those who ride, the city also gets bonus points for those who meet the challenge theme each month.

In April, the theme was cargo bikes or bikes with trailers, in May it was people riding with racks or baskets, in June it was people riding in a dress or skirt, in July the theme was people wearing Lycra or spandex, in August it was kids riding bikes, in September it was people riding in business attire, and in October it was people riding in Halloween costumes.

In the final month of November it will be people riding who have beards.

“Memphis ranked number one in the first month with 56 riders during the specified count time and nine who came with cargo bikes.  In May, we came in third with 85 riders during the count time, 37 who rode with baskets/racks and 30 of which had flowers,” Wagenschutz said.

In June, the city had 25 riders with 17 cyclists wearing skirts, dresses, and wrapped gowns.  In July, there were 32 riders with 18 of them wearing spandex or lycra.

Thus far, the city has been extremely pleased with the feedback that it has received from the “Bikes on Broad” event and, as of the challenge in September, Memphis had got a slight edge over the other cities.

“The response has been very good.  The group ride isn’t about getting a strong workout since it’s only a mile long, but it’s all about having fun, getting some national press, and enjoying some drinks and playing video games at the Rec Room afterward,” Wagenschutz said.

Even Star Wars' Darth Vader, himself, couldn't resist the
good side of the force and joined the "Bikes on Broad"
event on May 28, 2015.

“This is just a fun, whimsical event with no pretenses.  You show up, meet the challenge, and get counted.  We’ve especially enjoyed having whole families join in on the fun, and spending some quality time socializing after the ride,” he added.

Through this and other similar events, Wagenschutz, and the peopleforbikes hopes that it will encourage people to think differently about their bike ride and to do even more of it in the future.

As for the location of this event, the Hampline seemed like the best choice for the city to have it.

“Peopleforbikes asked that the route be chosen along a protected bike lane or other high bicycle route.  Since one section of the cycle track along Broad had recently opened earlier this spring, it seemed like a good choice,” Wagenschutz said.

The effort to paint the cycle tracks on Broad was led by the area's business association.

“The striping of the temporary bike lanes near the historic district was led by the Historic Broad Ave. Business Association in partnership with Livable Memphis.  The subsequent section was recently striped between Collins and Tillman by Memphis City crews,” Wagenschutz said.

To learn more about this event, you can visit Bike/Ped Memphis, go to the event’s facebook page, and to the Revolutions Co-Op website.  You can also click on the following to see pictures from the May, June, July, August, September, and October events.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Memphis architect seeks to make Memphis even better and to help cycling in every way he can

Memphis architect seeks to make Memphis even better and to help cycling in every way he can
By:  Michael Lander

Architect Charles "Chooch" Pickard, who is in the forefront
of this photo, dressed in blue, is an extremely active
community and cycling advocate in Memphis.  He is
pictured during a Dinner & Bikes Traveling Roadshow
event held at the Revolutions Co-Op on Wednesday,
May 20, 2015.

Actions always speak louder than words and the actions of Charles “Chooch” Pickard, on behalf of Memphis area cyclists, could not be any louder or clearer.

Pickard, who is known to many as “Chooch,” is a preservation architect, urban designer, community activist, a staunch supporter of a cycling, and a long-time resident of the Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood.  He is also a candidate for Memphis City Council District 5, (http://www.justchooch.com).  It is a seat currently held by Councilman Jim Strickland who is not seeking re-election, but is running instead for Memphis City Mayor.

Pickard’s support for cycling is rooted in what he believes that cycling can do for people and for their community.

“As an urban designer, part of my expertise is in understanding the health, environmental, and fiscal benefits of cycling as recreation and for transportation,” Pickard said.

When it comes to cycling, Pickard’s track record has been nothing less than impressive.  He has been directly involved in numerous projects that have greatly benefitted Memphis area cyclists.

“I was the executive director of the Memphis Regional Design Center (MRDC) for four years, from Feb. 2009 through 2013.  At MRDC, I had an incredibly popular email blast that educated the community on urban design and planning that we often focused on bicycle advocacy and education,” Pickard said.

“During my time with MRDC, I was involved in just about every project benefitting cyclists in the city.  I was part of the initial group that decided to tackle the ‘New Face for an Old Broad’ project that helped to turn Broad Ave. into the vibrant neighborhood that it is today,” he said. 

This project started with the team studying the ‘Build a Better Block’ project in the Oak Cliff Community in Dallas, Texas. 

“I was involved in the project from the preliminary planning stages, temporary street design, and the implementation phase and the logistics during the two day event.  I even picked up the paint for the bike lanes from Home Depot and personally painted a good portion of them myself,” Pickard said.

Even though some may have settled with having done only that, it has not been near enough for Pickard.  His dedication to make Memphis a more cyclist-friendly city has been relentless as evidenced by his actions and his participation within organizations that have helped to support and encourage cycling in our city.

“I was on the committee that developed the MEMfix program and was the project manager for their first event, which was MEMfix Cleveland St.  I am also a founding member of the Midsouth Greenways Steering Committee, first organized in 2009, and I have served on the Executive Committee of that organization since then.  We are heavily involved in bicycle advocacy and education,” Pickard said. 

“I have also served on the policy committee for the Community Development Council/Livable Memphis for the last three years, which is also heavily involved in bicycle advocacy and I was very involved in bike lanes on Madison Ave, including recruiting attendees to all of the meetings as well as the bike rally at City Hall put on by Anthony Siracusa,” he added.

As much progress as Memphis has seen in recent years, as far as cycling is concerned, Pickard sees considerably more that still needs to be done.

“We need broader support of a bike lanes and greenways network.  The planned network needs to be completed in a faster timeframe than we currently are seeing,” Pickard said. 

“We also need a better understanding of bike/ped ordinances and a greater effort by the city to enforce and support those existing ordinances as well as improved ordinances that increase the safety of cyclists.  This will take elevated discussions about the benefits of cycling in Memphis.  That includes both education and advocacy with all members of the community from the average citizen at all income levels to our elected officials,” he added.

Even though cyclists experienced a temporary setback in getting bike lanes put in on Riverside Drive, Pickard is one of the many allies who support having them eventually put in on this roadway.

Pickard was not only involved in the planning and the
temporary street design for the "New Face on an Old
Broad" project, but he even picked up the paint and
did a lot of painting himself in November 2010.

“I am 100 percent supportive of bike lanes on Riverside Drive.  There was a lot of confusion and a lack of understanding as to why the city approached the project the way they did and their desired final product.  I don’t believe either of the two proposals that we last saw from the city were quite the right design, but we didn’t get a chance to hash through the proposals properly with the community,” Pickard said.

“From an urban design standpoint, I feel the on-street parking should have been on the park side of the street for pedestrian safety.  Placing the parking on the park side would have eliminated the crossing of traffic between a cycle track (lane) and turning cars,” he added. 

For the most part, Pickard sees limiting factors in several of the design plan options for Riverside, especially when it comes to a sidewalk and the placement of bike lanes.

“It would be very costly to install a sidewalk on the bluff side due to the topography of the bluff and existing storm water and street light infrastructure.  As for cycle tracks (lanes), the design plans should have placed them on the bluff side since it would have served the purpose connecting cyclists from one of Riverside to the other, particularly for those people trying to connect to the Harahan Bridge.  A network of options to access the bridge and the River walk would be preferable than to just have it on Carolina Ave.,” Pickard said.

Whatever design is ultimately selected, Pickard would like to see that it is one that enables people to be able to easily and safely get to the river that has made Memphis what it is today.

“Memphis exists because of the Mississippi River and for decades we have been disconnected from it because of the design of the existing street.  Riverside Drive allows for inappropriate speeds and distance for pedestrians to cross to access the river,” Pickard said.

Pickard was drawn to our River City two decades ago when he came here and saw the unlimited potential that it had.

“I chose to be a Memphian 20 years ago because of the huge potential I saw in Memphis the first time I visited while in college.  At the time, I was studying to be a preservation architect and was blown away by the many amazing vacant historic buildings and the Main Street trolley that had just been installed.  I’ve worked in the community to make Memphis a better city ever since, through many grassroots efforts with nonprofits as well as in the private sector,” Pickard said.

Pickard now hopes to take his skills, abilities, and experience to represent those Memphians living in District 5. 

“As a preservation architect and urban designer with experience in planning and development, I can bring a unique perspective as a councilman that we don’t currently have.  I’d like to use my position on the council to continue to work from the top down, partnering with my other grassroots colleagues to tackle these same issues from the bottom up,” Pickard said.

“I have substantially more experience with local government and community service than any of my opponents.  I have participated and led neighborhood revitalization efforts from Downtown to Midtown to South Memphis in an incredibly diverse array of neighborhoods,” he added.

Some of the notable historic preservation projects that Pickard has been involved with in Memphis include the renovation of the U.S. Marine Hospital, the Lowenstein Building, the Lincoln American Tower, the Hotline Building, the Scimitar Hotel, and the stabilization of the Sterick Building.

He currently serves on the Memphis Stormwater Board and on the Memphis Area Transit Authority Board of Commissioners.  He has previously served with the Memphis Heritage, Inc. Board of Directors, and AIA Memphis Board of Directors.

With a long and impressive track record, and an extensive involvement within the Memphis community, Pickard has frequently proven that his actions consistently speak louder than any words ever could.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shelby Farms Park improvements and expansion of its greenline will make it one of the best urban parks in the U.S.

Shelby Farms Park improvements and expansion of its greenline will make it one of the best urban parks in the U.S.
By:  Michael Lander

Shelby Farms Park is currently undergoing major renovations,
which will significantly improve the look and feel of this
popular Memphis City Park.  One of the many renovations
will include turning Patriot Lake (in the background) into
one of the park's key centerpieces for visitors.

If
Shelby Farms Park isn’t already seen as being one of the best urban parks in the U.S., and isn’t already viewed as one of the best places to visit in Memphis, it surely will be after the latest multi-million dollar improvements are made to it over the next year. 

For decades, the park has been an extremely popular location and gathering place for those who live in and around our city as well as for those who are visiting the area.

The
Trust for Public Land’s 2014 list of the most visited city parks in the U.S. estimated 1,784,400 annual visitors to the 34th largest urban area park in the country.

Even though many may choose to drive a car to and from this beautiful city park, one of the best ways to actually travel in, around, and out of the park is by bicycle on one of two existing multi-use trails.

In spite of the construction currently taking place at Shelby
Farms Park, cyclists continue to ride in and around the ever-
popular city park.

The first of the trails connecting the park to the rest of our community was the
Shelby Farms Greenline, which was completed in October 2010.  It currently runs 6.4 miles from Tillman in Binghampton to the intersection of Mullins Station and Farm Road.

Later that same year, Shelby Farms Park was made even more accessible to cyclists, runners, and walkers when the Wolf River Pedestrian Bridge was constructed just to the south of the park, near Humphrey's Blvd.  Almost two years after that, in September 2012, this and the Germantown Greenway were connected with one another thereby extending the trail past Germantown Road. 

The go-ahead for further expansion of the Shelby Farms Greenline came on June 22, 2015 when the
Shelby County Commission, approved a $1,442,236.00 contract to Wagner General Contractors of Memphis for a 4.1 mile extension of the existing trail.

The resolution for this project had been sponsored by the Chairman of Public Works Committee, Commissioner George Chism, and it includes a $95 thousand contingency amount for construction. There was $140,097 in private donor funds for this project, along with federal and state grant funds, and general operating funds included for a total authorized expenditure of $1,560,776.00.  

Cycling is just one of many activities that regularly take
place throughout the park and, even with a considerable
amount of work taking place, visitors still have access
to most parts of the 4,500 acre park.

With this addition, the trail will extend eastward from Mullins Station and Farm Rd to the former railroad depot in Cordova thus making it 10.5 miles long, altogether. 

Construction of a further 2.3 mile eastward expansion from the railroad depot or rail house to Lenow Road should begin sometime around August 2017.

The trail follows along a former railroad line that was owned and operated by
CSX Transportation.  The effort to convert this, and other former railroad lines, to multi-use trails is known as a rails-to-trails initiative.    

Construction for this latest project is set to begin in July and will take about a year to complete.  The funding for this primarily came from a $3.3 million federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program grant that was awarded to Shelby County in 2011.

Click on the following link to view the Shelby Farms Greenline expansion with the Germantown Parkway Crossing.

The Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, (with a public and private partnership with Shelby Country Government), oversees and manages all of the operations within the park and its greenline trail. 

The Shelby Farms Greenline currently ends at Mullin Station
and Farm Rd., but it is expected to be extended to Cordova in
2016.

Over the years, the conservancy has placed a special emphasis on providing cycling-related amenities and access to the park. 

“Improving cycling accessibility has been a priority since Shelby Farms Park Conservancy’s (SFPC’s) establishment.  In addition to building the Shelby Farms Greenline and Wolf River Pedestrian Bridge to connect cyclists and pedestrians into the park, we have built miles of new paved trails to establish a connection between the greenline and bridge to the Wolf River and Germantown Greenways,” Betsy Peterson said.

Peterson is the Development and Communications Coordinator for the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy. 

“There will also be a separated use trail around a newly expanded Patriot Lake – The Promenade for walking and the Cycle Path for faster traffic,” she added. 

The Shelby Farms Greenline offers some beautiful scenery
to its visitors, especially in the spring when things like
wisteria is blooming.

Even with an enormous amount of construction, and fewer cycling amenities yet in place, the greenline and the park, itself, still sees a considerable amount of cyclists.

“The average number of cyclists we see ride through the greenline is right around 500 per day,” Peterson said.

Tracking the number of cyclists is done with
Eco-Counters that are placed at the parks entryways.  The counters provide the conservancy with data that includes the time and type of traffic (whether it is an automobile, pedestrian, or a cyclist) coming in and out of the park.

One of the more recently added amenities to the park, and to the trails, were four
bike repair stations.  The stations provide a raised bike stand, an air pump, and a few tools for minor repairs.  Conway Services helped to provide funding for these.

Shelby Farms Park is not only popular with runners, walkers,
and cyclists, but also with those who, among other things,
like to go boating or fishing, too.

“The response from the cycling community over the bike repair stations has been overwhelming positive.  Many cycling groups use one of the stations as a meeting place and they all appear to be getting used regularly.  Before, if a cyclist had a breakdown, they would have to wait for someone to come help them, but now they are able to do the repairs themselves,” Cameron Mann said.

Mann is the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy Development Manager.

For those without a bicycle, they need not worry because Shelby Farms Park also offers the chance for visitors to rent one if they’d like.   The park plans to expand this
rental operation with a new facility that will be located near the new Visitor Center in 2016.

Visitors to the park will find a new enclosure for the buffalo,
which gives them more area to roam than what they
previously had.

In addition to the two trails leading to and from Shelby Farms Park, there are miles of trails in and around the 4,500 acres within the park.

“Shelby Farms Park is home to more than 40 miles of trails that SFPC Park Rangers work to maintain.  This massive and ever-expanding trails system is also maintained with the help of volunteers, grant funds, and our park members,” Peterson said.

The
Mid-South Trails Association assists the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy with maintaining, restoring, and improving any existing trails.

“The Mid-South Trails Association is a local organization, recently granted their 501(c)(3) non-profit status that helps SFPC maintain safe and healthy trails, particularly the unpaved trails in our Lucius Burch Jr. Natural Area,” Peterson said.

The temporary visitor's center is currently inside a trailer
(to the right) with a new one expected to be built
overlooking Patriot Lake by the fall of 2016.  The
park's Woodland Discovery Playground is on the
left and it was completed in 2011.

“SFPC received a $40 thousand grant from the
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to restore our most popular unpaved trail – the Tour de Wolf.  The renovations include remedying erosion, rerouting the trail to provide views of hidden lakes and wildlife areas as well as constructing boardwalks over low, wet areas.  This work is underway and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015,” she added. 

On the other side of Shelby Farms Park, across Walnut Grove, is
Shelby Farms BMX, which is managed by track operator, Brian Donnelly.  The track and the facilities were completely rebuilt in 2014 with a new registration and concession area.  Riders of all ages and abilities are welcomed to compete after they receive their USABMX membership. 

The Wolf River Pedestrian Bridge was constructed and opened
up for public use in 2010 and it provides a means for people
to travel to and from Shelby Farms Park and to its greenline
with miles of beautiful and natural scenery for those to see
who traverse it.

Along with many places and ways to ride a bike, the park also offers opportunities to go boating, fishing,
horseback riding, a woodland discovery playground for the kids, a chance to experience a treetop adventure, a place to watch buffalo, to play paintball and laser tag or disc golf, to visit an Agricenter, and more.  It also hosts special events throughout the year.

“We hold a
duathlon on the trail in March and we have the Memphis Outdoor Festival and race in October.  We are always looking into options for races after our trails are fully renovated and we are looking into major events to host in the Heart of the Park, in general, once that opens in the fall of 2016,” Kate Phillips said.

Phillips is the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy Facility Sales Manager.

Cyclists riding in and around Shelby Farms Park have
four bike repair stations available to them should they
pull a flat or have other minor repairs that they need to
do on their bikes.

The park is currently in the second stage of a four stage enhancement and renovation project that is known as the “Heart of the Park.” The $52 million budget covers all phases of the construction.

The first, known as the “Green Phase” created a new main entrance, new trails and roadways, and a new buffalo pasture, and more. 

The second or “Blue Phase” includes an expansion and rehabilitation of Patriot Lake from 52 to 80 acres and making it a new and vibrant centerpiece for the park.  Overlooking the lake will be a new visitor center with a cafĂ©, gift shop, a large porch, and a
Farm-to-Table restaurant.  This second phase is scheduled to be completed in a little over a year.

“The
Heart of the Park enhancements are on schedule and on budget and it is expected to be completed and to open by the fall of 2016.  People can watch this exciting project take shape by tracking phases of the construction on our website at http://www.shelbyfarmspark.org/heartofthepark,” Peterson said.

Shelby Farms Park has a small bicycle rental place near
Mullins Station and Farm Rd.  This will remain in its
current location, but an additional bike rental facility
will open with the Heart of the Park in the fall of 2016.

The price for the renovations to the park has not come cheap, but when it is finished, the conservancy staff is confident that visitors will think it was well worth the expense.

“Park improvements made to date are part of the first phase of the Shelby Farms Park Master Plan, established in 2008.  The $70 million project includes the Shelby Farms Greenline (in 2010), the Wolf River Pedestrian Bridge (also in 2010), the Woodland Discovery Playground (in 2011), the gateway signage and major tree plantings, and the Heart of the Park, which is currently underway,” Peterson said.

“Additional improvements to trails, the Greenline Gardens, and our lakes are funded through grants or are part of park operations.  We work hard to privately raise more than $2 million each year, more than 75 percent of our annual operating budget, to keep the park clean, green, and safe,” she added.

The iconic "I Love Memphis" mural can be found along
the Shelby Farms Greenline.  Remnants of the rails, and
the wooden railroad ties, can still be found left over
from the days that rail cars traveled along these
tracks.

Shelby Farms Park has had a long and fascinating
history, having begun with dreams of a commune in 1825, later becoming a penal farm from 1929 to 1964, and is, today, one of Memphis’ most beloved and frequently visited parks in town. 

With all of the work being done now, and in the years ahead, Shelby Farms Park has a very bright future ahead as it becomes an even greater attraction for cyclists and others from Memphis and beyond.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Triathlons can be very rewarding and can bring out the best in those who do them

Triathlons can be very rewarding and can bring out the best in those who do them
By:  Michael Lander

Chris Mueller is on the Memphis Thunder Racing
(MTR) team that was started in 2003.  This image
of him was taken during the 2013 Rocketman
triathlon.  He has been a triathlete since 2006.

Triathlons have been described as being grueling, strenuous, exhausting, and sometimes even torturous. 

In many ways they can be a test of human endurance that requires great stamina, commitment, discipline, perseverance, and endless hours of training.

In spite of the challenges of it, or possibly because of it, triathlons are more popular than ever. 

Chris Mueller, Ward Collier, Lindsay Reed, and Casey Katz are among the hundreds of triathletes who reside in and around Memphis and who live to compete in triathlons.  Reed and Katz belong to the Terrapin Racing team, Mueller is with Memphis Thunder Racing, and Collier is on the Los Locos Triathlon Team.

Mueller has been a triathlete for about 9 years, Reed for 8, Collier for 7, and Katz has been one for over 4 years.

These and other triathletes participate in triathlons, which are a continuous multi-stage event that consist of swimming, cycling, and running.  The order and distances of each of triathlon can vary. 

Each triathlete competes with one another, in whatever category that they are in, (based on age, gender, weight, whether they are amateurs or professionals, etc.), for the fastest overall completion times, which includes the time that it takes them to transition between each of the events.

The way that each of these triathletes got into the sport is not unlike the way that many others are drawn into it, themselves.

“It was an evolution of my social circle.  I started out as a runner and then I got into cycling.  When I saw some folks from one sport also in another, we got to know each other better and they convinced me to start swimming,” Reed said.

Like Reed, Katz, too, was a runner and she got into triathlons after she sustained an injury.

Ward Collier, with the Los Locos Triathlon Team,
participated in several 70.3 races every year and
the St. Jude Half Marathon in December.  The
Rebel Man in Oxford, Miss. is usually his first
race of the year.

“I was waiting on my leg to heal from running injuries and picked up cycling and swimming to stay healthy.  I then decided that I needed to do a race, because doing all this work with no competition seemed silly, but nowadays, I almost enjoy the training and fellowship more than the competition,” Katz said.

For Mueller, it was a simple invitation to be part of relay that was the beginning for him.

“A good friend asked my brother and me to join him in a triathlon relay.  We did it for the experience, but I never really saw myself playing in that world.  Just before the race started, he warned us that we wouldn’t be able to go long without doing one solo.  He was right and my wife still hasn’t forgiven him,” Mueller said.

Collier got into triathlons because he was just looking to venture into other sports.

“I just wanted to try something new so I started swimming, then I borrowed a friend’s bike, and signed up for a race, and it went from there,” Collier said.

After finding their way into the world of triathlons, the time that it took for each of them to get to a competitive level was approximately two years. 

“It probably took me 2 years, locally, to become competitive, but I am still striving to be more competitive at bigger races,” Collier said.

Reed was also able to get at a competitive level in about the same time frame.

“At first I just wanted to compete against myself and within a year I was catching my friends.  I got my first hardware, a year after that, in 2009,” Reed said.

Katz, likewise, found that she was able to bring herself to a point where she was competitive within just a couple of years of getting into it.

Casey Katz is on the Terrapin Racing team and has
been a triathlete since 2011.  She became a
triathlete when she experienced leg injuries and
turned to cycling and swimming to stay healthy.

“The first year I just wanted to be able to finish.  Then, I wanted to go faster.  Once I moved up my age group, I realized that I had to really put in some work to be competitive and I didn’t let go,” Katz said.

Mueller took just a little longer to see results, but he was able to achieve success within his third year.

“For the first year or two, it was rewarding just to finish in the middle of the pack.  While I am still not consistently on the podium, I began to challenge for podium spots and hardware starting in the third year,” Mueller said.

As with any athletic sport, training is essential to success in triathlons, but when and how triathletes train can vary from person to person.

“I typically train around twelve hours per week.  It’s usually 3 – 4 sessions of each sport.  I swim in the mornings or sneak away for a lunch full of chlorine during the day.  Sometimes, I do group rides, other times I do more focused efforts.  Saturdays are for long rides and Sundays for long runs,” Katz said.

Reed has specific goals that she sets for herself each week, but is flexible in her training regimen.

“I try to get in 2 rides, 2 runs, and 2 swims during the week and a long run and ride on the weekend.  I kind of make up my training on the fly and have no structured plan.  It’s mostly a matter of what I feel like that day or what my group is doing,” Reed said.

For some triathletes, like Mueller, the training is determined by when and how he can get it in.

Lindsay Reed is on the Terrapin Racing team and
has been a triathlete since 2007.  She tries to get
in 2 runs, 2 rides, and 2 swims in during the week
with a long run on the weekend.

“Not unlike many other athletes, I travel often for work and have 3 kids with busy schedules.  This means that a lot of training is squeezed into whatever spot I can fit it in.  I am generally training 6 days a week, but some of those are of much higher quality than others,” Mueller said.

Collier finds himself in a similar situation as Mueller.

“I train 5 to 7 days a week.  My sweet spot is early mornings as I try to balance triathlons, family, and work.  I get most of my training done while my family is still asleep,” Collier said.

For the most part, when given the option of riding and training alone or with a group, Mueller, Collier, and Katz are open to doing either one.  Circumstances, however, for Collier often dictates, which of these he does.

 “I ride alone and with a group.  Recently, I have done more training alone because it has fit my schedule and workout structure, but I love getting out and training with my teammates,” Collier said.

Katz feels much the same way as Collier does.

 “I enjoy riding and training alone and with a group.  I enjoy getting into my own head when I run or if I need to hit a specific pace.  Track workouts are fun as a group because everyone is suffering along with you.  Long runs invite conversation and make it so you keep the pace easy.  My long rides are typically done in a group and I prefer to ride with those I know their ebb and flow, which comes with chasing and racing with each other.  Lately, I’ve been doing more specific workouts, which I’ve had to do alone,” Katz said.

This is an image of Chris Mueller, with Memphis
Thunder Racing, in the cycling stage of the 2013
Rocketman 70.3 race.

Mueller is also open to riding and training alone or with a group and sees an added benefit when being around others, especially when it comes to riding.

“Riding in groups allows development of strength, handling skills, and social bonds, which are all equally important to me.  I personally do most of my riding and trail running with groups then flex my own time for road running and swimming.  Groups of competitive individuals will tend to push each other to greater accomplishments,” Mueller said.

Unlike the others, if given the choice, Reed would prefer to ride and train with others.

“I almost always ride and train with a group.  I don’t like to ride alone in case I get hit by a car, never to be heard from again.  I love group rides and they’re great for short, intense efforts plus lots of different skill levels to chase and learn from.  I also prefer to swim with a group so someone can keep me accountable for showing up at 5 a.m.,” Reed said.

When it comes to bikes, Mueller has a Felt F2 road bike that he uses for the bulk of his riding, training, and racing.  It is a normal high-end carbon fiber setup with the additional feature of Shimano’s electronic gear shifters.

Collier owns a new Cervelo P3.  It is a time trial bike with aggressive geometry. 

Reed has a Pinarello FP3 for group rides and mountain routes and a Trek Speed Concept for triathlons.  She doesn’t see anything different about the bikes, but the engine that drives them.

Katz  has a Cannondale Supersix Road Bike and a Trek Speed Concept 7.5 TT bike.   The road bike is comfortable enough for commuting, but is designed to be more for competitiveness and faster geometry.

Ward Collier is on the Los Locos Triathlon Team and
has been a triathlete since 2008.
 
Throughout any given year, each of the Memphis area triathletes have certain events that they regularly try to compete in. 

Mueller does a handful of triathlons with an occasional half or full Ironman.  His favorite race is the Dragonfly.  He also likes to do a lot of trail running in the winter, but he tore a calf muscle in the spring so he has been focusing more on his bike racing with MTR Cycling.

Collier loves doing a few 70.3 races every year and the Rebel Man in Oxford, Miss. is usually his first race of the year.  He also tries to run the St. Jude Half Marathon in December.

Reed loves to do the Gulf Coast Tri, the Dragonfly, the MightyMite, the Liz Lavelle Road Race Series, the St. Jude Bike Ride, and the St. Jude Marathon.

Katz used to do 3 to 6 half marathons and 1 marathon every year, but she admittedly likes to switch her focus and she now competes in more triathlons, about 3 to 4 sprints, 2 – 3 Olympics, and 1 to 2 70.3 races.  She also tried her first road race and time trail race last year and this year tried her first crit, which is a bike ride on a short course.

Aside from winning, each triathlete has things about the sport that they enjoy the most.

“I love that the challenge of the triathlon is never ending.  As a triathlete, you always have opportunities to learn and grow across disciplines, to take on new challenges and distances and to pursue excellence in individual aspects,” Mueller said.

For Collier, it is the quest to learn more that he likes most.

Casey Katz, with Terrapin Racing, was a runner
before she became a triathlete.  She used to do
3 - 6 half marathons and 1 full marathon a year,
but now competes in more triathlons, sprints,
Olympics, and 70.3 races.

“What I enjoy most about triathlons is the puzzle and figuring out how to be fast, how to nail your nutrition, how to transition faster, how to run off the bike and the overall challenge to get better and find ways for improvement,” Collier said.

With Katz, there are a myriad of reasons that she enjoys triathlons.

“What I enjoy most about triathlons is the unpredictability and the friendships that come with it.  You never know what is going to happen on race day - the storms, traffic, heat, humidity, blisters, and who knows what else.  I also love the stories of others and how someone might beat you out of the water, but you catch them on the bike.  Then, they catch you on the run.  It’s just a fun game.  It’s like rolling dice and advancing ahead to the finish,” Katz said.

For Reed, she enjoys the simple aspects of what triathlons can offer.

“What I enjoy most about triathlons is the competition, the friends, and getting to eat a lot,” Reed said.

When it came to deciding which triathlon team that they wanted to join, it was a relatively easy choice for each of the four triathletes.

“Immediately upon relocating to the Memphis area 8 years ago, people I met recommended Memphis Thunder Racing.  As soon as I began participating in group training events, it was an obvious and natural fit for me,” Mueller said.

Collier became interested in his team because of the speed of their members.

“I had seen the Los Locos team at races and they all seemed fast.  I got to know a few guys and started training with them.  I knew a lot of people on the team so when they asked me to join, it was an easy decision,” Collier said.

Lindsay Reed, of Terrapin Racing, started out as a
runner and then got into cycling and was convinced
by friends to also try swimming, which led her to
becoming a triathlete.

Reed joined her team after she had become friends with several of their members.

“Several Terrapins were among the groups that I trained with and we quickly became friends.  Gradually, I started training and hanging out more with them.  They’re a fun bunch and so it was an easy fit for me,”
Reed said.

Like Reed, the Terrapins appealed to Katz because of the people whom she met.

“The Terrapin personality really stood out to me.  I wanted to be fast, but still have a ton of fun.  I wanted this group to share their experiences and to help me reach my goals,” Katz said.

Each triathlete is at different stage in their sport and they all have different goals for the future. 

“I want to qualify for Kona and to have a good foundation of training and skills to build on and to become a speedy endurance monster.  Mostly, I’d like to see how everything comes together in a structured training plan so that I use those skills to become a coach,” Katz said.

Collier, himself, for now, is looking for nothing more than speed.

“I want to go to Worlds and 70.3 Worlds and that means in order to qualify, I will need to get a lot faster,” Collier said.

Reed is looking to focus more on her swimming.

“I want to swim better.  It’s the one area that I haven’t seen any progress in for a while,” Reed said.

Mueller has goals for now are to be able to remain competitive and to help others achieve their goals.

“I really enjoy the challenge of competing in international venues - first completing Ironman 70.3 in Switzerland and then the Roth Challenge (the world's largest iron-distance triathlon).  One elusive goal for me thus far is to commit a season to Xterra (off-road) triathlons.  Also, my boys all finished a kids triathlon now and there is a special pride that comes with seeing that.  Otherwise, my goal as a triathlete is to stay healthy and competitive and to help others get involved and excel at this great sport,” Mueller said.

Casey Katz, of Terrapin Racing, trains about 12 hours
per week with 3 - 4 sessions in each sport.  More
than anything else, she enjoys the friendships and
the unpredictability of triathlons the most.

For those who are contemplating the thought of getting into triathlons, themselves, each of the Memphis area triathletes has some advice and suggestions on how to do just that. 

“I would recommend that people just do it.  It seems daunting, but the first time you do it you will either love it or hate it.  My first triathlon was Xterra Memphis and I finished second to last and I was in love,” Collier said.

Katz offers similar advice.

“I would recommend people do it.  It’s never too late to start and doing multiple sports is way more fun than doing just one,” Katz said.

Reed suggests finding a group to helping someone to get started.

“I would recommend finding a good group to train with.  I like having others to benchmark against.  It hurts less if it’s a social event, too,” Reed said.

Mueller offers 3 simple recommendations in getting started.

“Getting started in triathlon can be intimidating, but I recommend 3 simple recommendations : (1) Swim – If you don’t have a swimming background, then this is what trips people up so join a masters (adult) swim class or find a coach and start swimming real distances.  (2)  Read – There’s a lot of good information from veteran competitors and coaches.  (3)  Find others and join a team or club – This can help you learn the jargon and the tricks of the trade.  It is especially helpful to begin biking with groups for building strength, handling skills, and social bonds,” Mueller said.

Sometimes, triathlons can be more than just about
winning.  They can sometimes be about creating
memories that can last a lifetime.  For Chris Mueller,
one of the more special and memorable experiences
for him was when his middle son grabbed his hand
and they crossed the line together during his first
half Ironman.  Today, he is happy and proud to see
all of his boys showing interest in the sport with
all three having completed a kids triathlon
themselves.

Triathlons may be grueling, strenuous, exhausting, and sometimes even torturous, but they can be equally rewarding, gratifying and life-enriching for those who do them.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Retired Air Force, Air Guard and FedEx pilot loves cycling and shows no signs of slowing down

Retired Air Force, Air Guard and FedEx pilot loves cycling and shows no signs of slowing down
By:  Michael Lander

Billy Privette has been fully retired for over a
decade now, but that hasn't slowed him down
any.  He is active and enjoys riding his bicycle
five days or more each week.  He believes
that it, and a healthy diet, have kept him in
good health and in good shape.

Seventy-two-year-old Billy Privette may be retired, but he isn’t ready to ride off into the sunset, unless he just happens to be doing that on his bicycle.

Privette is an avid cyclist and has been throughout most of his life.  From his childhood through most of his days now, he still rides as much and as often as he can.

“I have ridden bicycles all my life, more intensely over the last 30 years in order to keep in shape and to save my knees from other activities like running,” Privette said.

Because he frequently traveled around the world, he has had the opportunity to ride a bike in most of the places that he spent any time in.

“I regularly rode in Narita, Japan, Anchorage, Alaska, Los Angeles, Calf., San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in Memphis,” Privette said.

Before he retired, Privette served his country as a pilot in the military and then for Federal Express.

“I was active duty military for seven years and three months and flew rescue helicopters in Vietnam, missile support in Grand Forks, rescue in Goose Bay Labrador, and C-141A aircraft out of Charleston AFB, S.C.,” Privette said.

Privette lives near the Wolf River Greenway
and is a frequent visitor to the trails, which
he thinks is one of the best quality of life
improvements that the Memphis Metro
area has has experienced in recent years.
 
“I was also assigned to Columbus AFB, Miss. to train as a T-38 instructor when I decided to resign my commission and fly for Federal Express instead.  I later joined the Tennessee Air National Guard where I spent 15 years and retired as a Lt. Col. in the 164th Combat Support Squadron,” Privette added.

“At Federal Express, I flew the Falcon (DA-20), B-727, and DC-10 and I flew for 30 years at
FedEx in all crew positions.  I retired from there on December 31, 2002,” Privette said.

These days, Privette is enjoying retirement, and time with his friends and family, and getting all the time that he wants to ride one of two bikes that he owns, both of which were made in the 1980’s.  He has a
Bianca, which is an Italian racer and the other is a Japanese-made Centurion.

“I normally ride four or five days a week for 10 miles or more either solo or with some friends.  Bicycles are a great way to get exercise and to see the terrain at the same time.  I also use them for quick trips to the store,” Privette said.


Privette, like many other Memphians, enjoys
the beautiful scenery that can be found on
the ever-burgeoning bike trails in and
around the city of Memphis.

When he does ride with others, it is often with his friends like those he knew from FedEx and those he worked with at the Tennessee Air National Guard, which include retired Brig. Gen. Rita Works and retired Col. Gary Jewell.

Privette especially loves the
bicycle trails that Memphis and surrounding areas now have.

“The trails have been a fantastic quality of life improvement to the Memphis area and they can help promote a healthy lifestyle for everyone of all ages.  In the future, I look forward to crossing the
Wolf River, the Mississippi River, riding the "Trail of Tears," and returning to my home in East Memphis,” Privette said.

In addition to riding for his own health and the simple pleasure of it, Privette also likes to ride and occasionally run for charitable causes that are near and dear to him.

“I enjoyed the
St. Jude Bike Ride last year since it is one of my two favorite charities.  The other one is the Church Health Center.  I was the team captain at the St. Jude ride for a team, which I named the ‘Gray Falcons.’  I rode my first century (100 mile) ride during this 24-hour event and my three-man team raised $4,625.00.  I have already registered for the 2015 ride and I am really looking forward to doing it again in late October,” Privette said.

Privette (in the center) posed with his former
military colleagues in the 2013 Meritan
Midnight Classic Bike Tour.  Col. (Ret.)
Gary Jewell is on the left and Brig. Gen.
(Ret.) Rita Works is on the right.

In many ways, it is remarkable that Privette is even riding at all.  He was sidelined in 2010 when he experienced a potentially catastrophic and life-altering bicycle accident.

“I had a collision about five years ago that put me in the Med for two days.  I suffered a concussion, amnesia, six broken ribs, a broken shoulder, a broken jaw, and I received 23 stitches above my left eye.  My balance was off for six months from dislocation of the otoliths in my inner ear.  I got back on the bicycle in about a month and have been riding ever since,” Privette said.

Even though some people may have given up cycling after such a traumatic incident as he had, neither that nor retirement has slowed him down any. 

Privette has remained fit, thin, and in very good shape and he attributes that to a healthy diet and an active lifestyle, which, for him will always include a bicycle.