That spade. That Freeplay spade. What does it mean? A quick Google led me to a definition of a leaf representing life on the cosmic tree. Other meanings were strength and wisdom. And then there was death. Geez, let’s forget about that last one! Now I need to read up on cosmic trees…

Last week was the kickoff for the 2016 Freeplay team. The plan was for a run, swim, and team meeting. I showed up for the run at Sac State (my alma mater!) and immediately met Mary, who had made the extremely-early-morning drive from Monterey, a favorite place of mine. Soon others showed up. Dang, there are some fast women on the team. I was hoping for a reasonable pace (reasonable on MY terms!) and thankfully that spade – which can also be a symbol of luck – was on my side and the group (about seven of us) kept it to a conversational pace. During that out and back along the Parkway bike trail, I got to learn more about Erin’s formerly hardware-filled wrist, saw that Kelly can throw in some nice butt kicks (note to self: get flexible and do some plyometrics!), heard about Marsha visiting a podiatrist I know from high school, and couldn’t get over the fact that Sara had already put in a three-hour training ride – starting at 3:00 a.m.! – then driven to Sacramento for the team shenanigans. Sara, one of our I’ll-make-you-feel-like-a-slacker teammates.

Most of us headed from the trail to the pool. I arrived first and was happy to see 2015 Freeplay pro Robin Pomeroy was joining us. Robin’s humble, kind, generous personality makes up for the fact that I feel like I’m dog-paddling through mud when she’s in the lane next to me. When some of my other new teammies showed up, Kelly decided to throw in a little main set for us. Sara – she of the three-hour ride and 90-minute run – had done 6,000 yards the night before, so she held to an “easier” pace. Still fast. I’m betting chasing four young kids around is part of her training regimen. I hopped in the hot tub after the swim. For just a minute. Okay, maybe two, because it felt so good. Well, what’s a few more minutes…I’m sure Stephanie is busy getting the meeting set up anyway.

Next stop on this scavenger hunt for fun times was a short drive to the first 2016 tElise Folsom Bikeeam meeting. The official greeters were Smyth, Slevin and Elise, the Freeplay pups. Upon arrival we each got a cool shirt from sponsor Folsom Bike. Ace team photographer (and Freeplay cofounder) Sean took some photos; Elise had a dogged determination to not be left out, although she stopped short of hounding us.

Team Director Stephanie kicked off the meeting with a fun quiz (leave it to a teacher), along with a little get-to-know-your-teammies roundtable. I learned that Kimberly teaches skiing (hmmm…maybe I can get some pointers…), Jaimee used to ride dirt bikes (can YOU ride like a girl?), and Gina is about to face her biggest endurance event this year: suffering through having her oldest daughter leave home and head off to Cal Poly.

After Stephanie did the directorship stuff that Directors do (it was a meeting, after all), we got the chance to practice not blinking while Sean took team photos. As we all headed our respective ways, I’m sure there was a collective feeling of gratitude for the day and for what’s to come. For me, it was prepping for a day in the mountains with Freeplay on my mind.

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