Watts Up in Watopia: Meet the Rise and Grind Team

Although I have been on Zwift for a long period of time, it wasn't until 18 or so months ago that I really fell in love with it. It was around that point that we expanded Slowtwitch Indoors into our Thursday time slots: the free-ride based Rise and Grind and Hilly Vanilli. These rides are unlike any other on the Slowtwitch Indoors calendar: you can and will get dropped (as I can attest); there's a lot of banter between ride leaders and sweepers; and more than anything, there's a big sense of community each week between the leaders and the riders.

The 5:35 AM Rise and Grind is East Coast biased, although we see a significant amount of European and Japanese riders joining us. On average, you'll have 100-150 of your fellow riders across B, C, and D categories. In addition to yours truly, here's who you can expect to virtually see every Thursday morning.

Alex Fuller, Atlanta, GA: B or C Group Lead or Sweep
Alex has three young kids (ages 6, 3, and 1), a very supportive wife, and like everyone else in triathlon, a mildly addictive personality. He’s pursuing his two-year goal of qualifying for Kona. He finished in 9:31 at Ironman Florida 2019, but he needs to drop another 30 minutes to get the KQ (and probably pick a different Saturday race; Alex is an active member his church and avoids Sunday races and alcohol).

Alex was one of the inaugural ride leaders. The weekly SlowTwitch newsletter stated it was looking for leaders, and despite never joining a group Zwift ride before, he emailed Dan volunteering to be a backup. The primary leader never showed, so Alex has had the yellow beacon from day 1. Over a year later, he’s still making it up as he goes and making many good friends through the process. Fellow SlowTwitchers are the reason he keeps setting his alarm early on Thursday to ride with friends.

Oh, and of course, he enjoys out-sprinting the other ride leaders. (Editor's Note: he also enjoys making sure I get dropped out of the B group whenever he is leading it.) Alex is our jack of all trades -- leader, sweeper, B group, C group; whatever we need him to do, he does.

Alex is also known for having issues while stationary on board his bicycle. His injuries include a trip to the ER due to a speed bump, scars from the indoor trainer, and falling over at stop lights due to not being unclipped in time. As long as he's moving, he's safe. His full-time career is working marketing for UPS; no, he doesn't know where your package is. Sorry.

Mark Ridings, Gainesville, FL: B or C Group Lead
Mark is a married 46-year-old father of 2 daughters, 10 and 8 years old, and been involved in triathlon, off and on, since 2010. Before that, he was a college wrestler and then college wrestling coach who, upon leaving the profession, proceeded to gain about 50 pounds.

In 2009, he bought his first road bike and started riding with his brother. He lost some weight, got a little fitness, and decided to enter a triathlon. It was "just" a local sprint, but had a blast and decided to keep doing them. He wasn’t real serious about training then, but did a couple of sprints, an Olympic and then finally Augusta 70.3 in 2012. Then, for some reason, he stopped; his weight ballooned, past what it had been before, up to almost 250 pounds (on a 5’9” frame). In October 2016, his brother emailed and asked if he wanted to do St. Anthony’s Olympic triathlon that spring. He said yes, started training, and hasn't looked back: he's been hooked ever since.

When restarting triathlon training, Mark quickly found Zwift and that’s been his platform of choice since. When Dan announced that Slowtwitch was going to start having group rides on Zwift, he joined the first ever Rise and Grind ride on November 1, 2018, and has been a regular participant since. About a month after that first ride, Alex asked Mark if he could help lead. Since then being a part of this ride, and helping leading it, is one of his favorite activities of the week.

Shaun Gallagher, Middletown, CT: D Group Lead
Shaun is your fearless D group leader, and has consistently held that mantle over the last few months, and often has the largest group on the Rise and Grind Ride. He began with triathlons back in 2007, and like Mark, took a several year break after completing his 5th Ironman race in 2014. Social connection has been the key draw of triathlon for Shaun from the beginning.

When he started back to training in 2019, Zwift was an opportunity to enjoy the social aspects of training over the course of the winter and became truly beneficial during the pandemic this year. During the week, his preference for training early in the morning gives him an opportunity to prepare for his day as a program manager for application development at a healthcare provider.

Shaun's long term athletic goal is to return to Ironman events in the coming years.