I'm posting this in hopes that the string of bad-luck I ran into, won't
happen to anyone else this season...
Do you ever have one of those weekends that you should have just stayed
in bed? Not me. I'm generally fortunate enough to wind up with the
"long stick" more often than the "short" one. That is, until I went to
Looking back, the string of events started on Saturday morning. My
family and I stayed overnight in Holbrook, whose claim to fame is they
are the closest city to the Petrified Forest National Park. The plans
were to go through the park and head on down to Phoenix (about 4 hours
southwest), go through packet pickup & drive the course. As events go
(when you are traveling with a 4 month old and a 3 year old), the day
started a little (well a lot) slower than I had planned. It was 9:30 am
(mountain daylight time) so we decided to head straight for Phoenix.
Note: it wasn't until Saturday night when I called for a wake-up call
that I found out that Arizona was an hour behind New Mexico. I actually
knew that Arizona didn't go on daylight savings time, but I didn't know
what time zone they were in. The drive down was pretty uneventful
except by the Aztec Monument National Park turnoff, it sounded like the
van was being pelted by BBs. Turns out we drove through a large bee
swarm at 75 mph. Have the killer bees moved into Arizona? In any case,
we were glad that the windows were up.
When we got into Phoenix, we did have a little trouble finding the race
hotel, but the Wyndam had rolled out the red carpet for the racers. I
opted to stay at a hotel closer to the race site, so I picked up my
packet and we walked over to the Olive Garden for lunch. Unfortunately
a couple hundred or so participants also had the same idea. So we
packed up the van and headed for the La Quinta. Found a great place to
eat-- Marie Calendar's. After lunch, I looked at my watch, 4:15, wholly
cow! We need to get checked in and head right out to Lake Pleasant (the
last course briefing was at 5:00 pm). We zipped around town, like the
proverbial chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off and made the "20 minute
drive" (according to the La Quinta receptionist) in 45 minutes. When we
tried to drive to the lake, the gate had been closed. It was 5:15 (in
our minds-- 4:15 in reality). We assumed the park closed at 5 and had
missed the last course talk and headed back to La Quinta.
It was great to find out that we actually had an extra hour to sleep
in. I got up early and did my pre-race ritual of pumping up my tires
and warming up on the bike at the hotel. Everything seemed to be
working great. Okay time to go up to the room and load everyone into
the van. As I was putting my bike into the van, I heard the ominous
hissing sound of my rear wheel going flat. This was my first race on
clinchers and I had obviously not paid the proper homage to the wheel
gods. I got about halfway through fixing the flat and then I looked at
my watch. Oh no, I've got 45 min to make the 45 min drive to the race
site or they are going to close the roads on me. I got my wife to drive
(probably faster than she's ever drove before) while I finished fixing
the flat in the rear of the van.
We made it to the race site (barely) and were one of the last few
vehicles or so to park which put me close to a mile away from the
transition area. For some perverse reason, I had forgotten to bring my
large transition pack, so I got to "race walk" with my wetsuit, bike and
transition gear. I got marked and found a spot in the transition all
with about 15 minutes before the race start (I'm now well over an hour
behind my typical schedule). I had just enough time to ride the bike
for a couple minutes to make sure everything was working. Slapped on
generous portions of lip balm, Body Glide & (been-in-my-duffle-bag TOO
LONG so it won't work) sunscreen. Slipped into my fullsuit... okay I
actually had to stuff myself in-- extra 10 lbs of Christmas cookes, I
guess. Got out my swim cap. There was no opening. You got to be
kidding. Fortunately, I was able to do a controlled rip...
I got in the water as the pro waves were going off. Wow, that water was
cold. I tried swimming & kicking hard to warm up. I was sure glad I
was wearing a fullsuit. The 30-39 men was the third wave (behind the
pro men and pro women). The gun went off, and I got into a pretty good
rhythm and was able to stay near the front for the swim. Got out of the
water and first I couldn't find my zipper. I kept telling myself, gotta
get this thing off before I dries off. Find the zipper and start
running up the ramp. Get the wetsuit halfway down, then trip. I almost
do a faceplant. I'm thinking to myself-- nobody in the world would
guess that you've been doing this for 10 years. Get the wetsuit off and
from then on have a pretty fast transition. It looks like I'm in 4th or
5th in my wave.
I'm e***d about the bike course, lot's of hills and some fairly long
climbs. Just what I train on. I start cranking out of the transition.
What's that noise? Is that the goofball's bike behind me? Nope, it's
the goofball riding my bike. A rider passes me and says, "dude, that
doesn't sound good". Crap! I get off the bike. My rear quick release
had come loose and my wheel was now significantly rubbing against my
chain stay. My hands were still fairly cold and Vaseline was still on
fingers (I put Vaseline on tongue of my cycling shoes so my feet slip in
easily). This combination of grease and loss-of-dexterity due to the
cold made the relatively simple job of realigning my rear wheel take
forever. My training partner passes me while I standing. Ok,
everything is fixed and looks like a go, hammer time! On the first
downhill I notice I'm not shifting into my small rear cog. What's going
on now? I look down and my shifting cable from my bar ends has come out
of downtube boss. Well at least this one can be fixed on the fly.
After the first 6 miles, I passed two more riders and then started up
the long climbs. We had an unbelievable tailwind. I was spinning and
55x12 up the hills. By the turnaround, I was able to see the pro
women's wave. The women's leader was probably 2-3 minutes ahead and I
could only see 2 age group men in front of me. I passed one of the two
shortly after the turnaround. I was thinking we'd have a fast descent
back to the lake. But no, the headwind was unbelievable. There is
certainly a psychological disadvantage to have to work and hurt to ride
downhill. About 6 miles before the transition, you turn off the highway
onto the lake access road. As we approached the corner, I was quickly
approaching whom I expected to be the lead male. I thought if I really
worked the corner, I'd be able to really put some time on him. Halfway
through the corner and BAM! My rear wheel went flat.
Here's where I really felt like a rookie. I just took a wide corner and
road through miscellaneous road trash-- and really paid for it. A
support vehicle stopped and asked if I wanted a lift in. It was really
tempting, except that I had driven over 500 miles to get to this race.
No, I said, I think I can fix it. Well, I have Spinergies (clinchers)
with the stock valve extenders. I now knew the tire gods were
conspiring against me since these were my first two flats in about 6
years. In fact, I was stupid enough to actually state that fact last
week. The tire didn't go completely flat. It seemed to have about 20
psi or so in it. So at first I dorked around trying to put air into
it. Oh yea, I hadn't bothered ever reading the directions on my CO2
inflater do-hickey because I never had to use it before. No success in
getting any more air into the tire. However, I was successful in
getting lots of words of encouragement from fellow competitors. In
fact, the driver of one of the lead vehicles came over and said "...at
least you didn't lose your transmission like I did...". My next dilemma
was how to get all the air out of the tube so I could get it off the
rim. Normally, I'll use a small Allen wrench to deflate the tire.
Unfortunately, the said wrench was happily taking a nap in the back of
my van. Now, I started looking for a support vehicle to get a ride.
The light bulb suddenly went off that if I unscrewed the valve extender
and inserted it backwards, I could deflate the tire. Hooray...success.
All of a sudden, BAM, another rider flats in the exact same spot I do.
He was riding sew-ups and a disc. He tried getting some air into his
tires, but he didn't have a 90 deg adapter (that ended his day).
Meanwhile, I was able to change the tire and get it inflated fairly
well. This whole ordeal only took 25 minutes and 33 seconds.
By now I had made the conscious decision to finish. I biked the rest of
the way back to the tranisition at a moderate pace. I didn't want to
push my luck any further ;-). The combination of frustration and
resting for nearly a half hour gave me the will to really work the run.
I probably had the best run of my life (although I had left my watch in
my bedroom...) In any case I can delude myself into believing I had a
I wound up finishing in 2:29 in the middle of the pack. I was fairly
satisfied since I had a good run and I made it through without my knees
bothering me. I got to meet QRman (Dan E)-- which was certainly one
reason I chose to go to Phoenix.
I would do this race again in a heartbeat. It was a great course and
had lots of stiff competition. I look forward to coming next year.
In any case, I hope r.s.ters have much better equipment luck than I did
NMT-1: Analytical Chemistry
W.Patrick Brug, Ph.D. __-------__
Los Alamos National Lab _- -_
Dept. Group Leader -__ __-
cis: 72410,3372 / \