When I do Ironman Arizona in eight weeks, my plan is to have a good time, and not necessarily to worry about getting a good time. That day will be all about finishing. But somewhere in the back of my mind, in a tiny little place, where I allow myself to think I might have the ability to be a pretty decent triathlete, I had thoughts of really doing well at this past weekend’s ChesapeakeMan AquaBike.
This race is two thirds of the Ironman: a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike. A great experience and preparation for the real thing.
All I had to do, I told myself, was make it through the swim. If I had a good swim, I knew I could handle the bike portion, no problem. Although I knew, theoretically, that I could swim that far, I hadn’t done quite that distance in open water yet. And that is always a different story from swimming in a pool.
So, my husband and I were there to do the race, along with some other folks from our Tri club. It was fun socializing the night before, and lamenting about the mind-boggling process of sorting out transition bags and special needs bags. And we weren’t even doing a full ultra distance!
The morning of the race, I had my typical nervousness, but for the most part, I was pretty calm. Not to get all religious-y on you, but I had read my devotional in the morning. And its basic message was to quiet my mind and listen for what God has to tell me. And, I have to say, when you’re out in open water, swimming, hoping to make it through and not get kicked unconscious or swim an extra mile out of your way because you didn’t sight properly, you are willing to listen to God, at least I am. I figured He could see where I was going 🙂
So, the swim started, and Craig was near me. It was so comforting to have him there. The first lap of the swim was fairly easy. There was the normal battle to find your own “lane,” yet follow someone else’s feet, so you could have the sense that you were going the right way. And then, there were the jelly fish. Diana Nyad’s words, “Find a way,” were punctuating my stokes. And I knew these jelly fish were nothing compared to what she endured. Somewhere in that first lap, I remembered to ‘listen to God’. I wasn’t in distress at all. I just wanted to be open and receive the signal, as it were. In my head, I said, “I’m listening.”
Right about this time, I thought about crazy people who say that God is talking to them. So, I tried to reassure myself that I didn’t fall into that category, even though I am crazy enough to have signed up for an Ironman. But I digress…
Anyway, I swear -to You Know Who- that right after I said (in my head), “I’m listening,” I hear in response, “You’re going to have to listen to me on the bike also.” Seriously. I’m not making this up. Even if I am (apparently) crazy 🙂 … The message was – don’t go thinking you’re hot shit and can sail through the bike. You’re gonna have to work for that one also. Ok, I thought. I’ll try to be humble.
The second lap of the swim also went well. The jelly fish were worse, though. They were all stirred up and angered by the time we went round again. I was so happy to get to the finishing shoot. Ecstatic, actually. I stumbled out if the water, pulled back the sleeve of my wetsuit, and looked at my watch: 1:29. That’s really good for me! I was so happy. And even better, Craig came out of the water right at the same time (he had actually cramped up at one point. Otherwise, he definitely would have been faster).
I went into the change tent and removed my wetsuit. I took inventory of myself. All good. I went out to my bike and took care of business to get that long ride started! Craig was right there. It was just like we were about to go out for a fun ride. No biggie. I felt great!
I left transition before him, but it wasn’t long before he caught me. I figured I’d let him ride up ahead, and just try to keep him in my sights. If I couldn’t – no big deal. I felt confident.
After a while, Craig was going too slow for me (he had said he was going to take it easy on the first 15 miles or so). But I was in passing-people mode. You come out of the water and you pass people. That’s what you do 🙂
So, I passed him, making a smart-ass remark about how he needed to speed up. Then, at the first water stop, a girl (who is probably a spazz like me) attempted to grab a water bottle on the fly, wavered, veered out in my path, and I had to brake hard, fish tailing, not to hit her. Sheesh! That, I said to her in my head, is why I don’t try to take a water bottle on the fly. I will just pull over out of the way and stop and grab the dang thing and save everyone a lot of trouble. But whatever.
The ride from that point until mile 56 was glorious. The weather was great. The winds were strong but manageable. I rode until my water reservoir (Speed Fill) was empty. Then I pulled over to refill it. Craig had passed me again by then, and that was normal. I had made it past a one-mile section of crappy road, with bumpy pits and gravel humps, and what-have-you. I was just riding along, feeling thankful with how everything had gone so far. Only 10 more miles to go until the bike special needs stop.
And then POW! Like a gunshot! My front tire blew. I steadied myself, pulled over to stop, and I could see that my tube was completely outside my tire, with my tire already half-way off my rim. Sheesh!
But I remained calm. I got this, I said. To God. Yes, You are giving me a little challenge, but I can handle it. Craig helped me practice changing tires so many times after my recent bout of flats in Indianhead. So, this is no problem. Piece of cake.
Some guy from the race pulled his car up to make sure I was okay and watched me finish the job. He said, “Wow, you’ve obviously done this before.” I felt so good about myself. I got on my merry way. Hey, now I’ll have a story to tell., and Craig will be proud of me. I’d lost some time, but no big deal. I can make it up.
Another mile down the road… POW! Again! Crap.
I’m thinking, it must be a pinch flat. I must have done something wrong. I jumped off my bike. Some nice man pulled his truck over to make sure I was okay. I said, “Oh yeah, this is my second flat. I must have done something wrong when I changed it a few minuted ago.” I also explained how I’m not supposed to accept help or I’ll be disqualified. I turn to pull my second tube off the back of my bike. But it’s gone! It fell off. I had it cinched down with a Velcro strap, but it didn’t hold. No tube. Crap. What do I do now?
At this point, I’m not thinking clearly, although I’m starting to understand what God was talking about. I throw my bike in the ditch off the road, and start running back to find the tube I dropped. Cyclists are riding past me, wondering what the heck I’m doing. A car or two or five go by. I’m running in my cycling shoes. It can’t be more than a mile. I can do this. Eventually, it dawns on me that cars have probably run my tube over a few times by now. Some people in a car come by and ask if I need a ride. They are spectators waiting for their sister to get to that part of the race. I decide, sure, I’ll accept help. I’m not going to win anything anyway. I may not even have a tube anymore. So, they drive me a bit further down the road until they can find a place to turn around and take me back to my bike. And just where they stop – there’s my tube!
I jump out and grab it. We are all excited. Maybe I can still change my flat and finish the race! The tube was fine, but the valve on the stem was jammed. Maybe a car tire had hit it after all. But the girl in the car had some tweezers that I used to get it unstuck. We get back to my bike, I thank them profusely and start changing my tire. I still wasn’t thinking about the possibility that the tire itself was damaged. I don’t know why. The SAG people show up and say, “Are you #508?” (Apparently, I’m famous now, as the crazy triathlete who was running down the road the wrong way with bike helmet and bike shoes on…) “Yes,” I say, “I’m ok now.” They offer to pump up my tire so I don’t have to use my CO2 cartridge. They start pumping it, and POW! Again! SHEESH!
I pull the tire off and turn it inside out, I scan it and see nothing. Finally, I see a spot with white dust on it and brush it off. There is the gash in my tire. This must be what blew when it hit whatever it was the first time. Why did I not realize this before?! The SAG guys have no spare tires, but they make a patch with a piece of cardboard and electrical tape. They tell me they are going to only put in 100 pounds of pressure (instead of 120) -so it won’t strain the patch. Maybe this will get me through. I thank them and get going.
I ride conservatively to the special needs stop (about 9 miles from what was my “danger zone” of flats). I’ve already decided this is not going to be a leisurely stop. I have 45 miles to go with no tubes and a patched tire. I spray on some sunscreen at the advice of the rest stop volunteers. The look on their faces convinced me it was a good (if not futile) idea. I must be quite pink by now.
I head out on the second loop. And, let me tell you – all that flat tire stuff that had happened … That probably wasn’t what God was talking about. No, it was the crazy wind machine that got turned on for that second loop. I couldn’t even get in my aero bars for a good 20 miles because I felt the wind would blow me over. It was CRAZY! I was doing all I could to go 15 mph. I saw my average speed slowly going down from 19.5. Darn, I was really proud of that. Yes, this had not been the day I was hoping for. I got to the last 20 miles, though, and it was beautiful. I took it easy, hoping/praying my tire would hold. And it did.
But even finishing an hour later than I had wanted, I did finish. And that ended up being a triumph. I did this race for the experience, and I got plenty of that! I learned a lot. I am more confident, even though I’m also more aware how easily flats can happen – anywhere, at any time (you just don’t think they will happen in a race, but they do!). I’m glad I did it.
I did not necessarily have a good time, and I did not get a good time. But I still had angels who helped me out. And I had my husband there when I really needed him to be around, and I had great friends around to talk to afterward.
And I got a lesson to be humble and expect the unexpected, even in your strongest portion of the race.
Until next time… -ookgirl