“Not again.” That was my first thought. “This cannot be happening to me again.” I had ridden to mile 40 in Ironman Texas 70.3 and I had flatted in a race. Again.
The race up until that point had been blissfully uneventful. I managed to stay with the back pack during the 1.2 mile swim, rip off my wetsuit, and grab my new Cervelo P5 for what I hoped would be a powerful, yet vanilla, ride. On the way out I managed to reel in two pros and after the turnaround I had a renewed sense of purpose when I saw how within reach some of the other girls were. My nutrition was dialed in and everything was going according to plan. That is, of course, until my front wheel met that rock around mile 40. As soon as I hit it I knew. I knew I had a flat. I knew I had to stop. I knew I was going to lose time. And I knew I could only rely on myself to fix it. (In the athlete briefings leading up to race day the officials always talk about support on the course. From what I have experienced there is never tech support when you need it. Never. Ever.) So I pulled out my can of Pit Stop, a sort of on-the-go sealant that oftentimes relieves a very anxious and harried cyclist from having to change a flat. But when I started to use the Pit Stop by pressing the rubber end onto the valve of my flat tire, I quickly realized this job was a little too big for such an easy remedy. For when I pressed that rubber end onto the valve, the white foamy sealant went into the tube and then immediately back out of the hole created by the blowout and then, quite hazardously into my face. Luckily for me, when getting my bike race ready in addition to the Pit Stop I opted to also carry a spare tube. So what’s a girl to do when plan A doesn’t work? She has to put on her big girl panties and change the damn tire. So that’s what I did. About ten minutes after my date with the rock, I was off and rolling again. Of course while I was doing all of this, the pros that I had managed to reel in had cut the line and raced ahead.
16 miles. 16 short miles. That’s all that stood between me and T2 – where I would find my socks, my shoes, a visor, and the final leg of the race where mechanical issues couldn’t bring me down. Anyone can ride 16 miles right?
About a mile and a half out from T2 I rode down what can only be described as the ugliest patchwork of asphalt ever called a street. My heart skipped a beat with every jolt, every bump, and every dip. The sidewall of my tire was compromised from hitting the rock earlier and if a pothole so much as looked at my front wheel cross eyed I was doomed. Somehow I managed to make it down said street. But just as I approached the airport tarmac that made up the last mile of the course, a strip of dirt and rocks appeared where the asphalt had been completely torn away. I rode over it and… Sssssssss. Flat. Number. Two. Only this time? Not only did I not have race “support”, I didn’t have Pit Stop, and I didn’t have another spare tube.
One mile. One long mile. That’s all that stood between me and T2 – where I could finally rack this hobbled machine and get on with the race. Anyone can run a mile right?
I took off my bike shoes and put them in my left hand (because no one wants to start a half marathon with bloody heels) and I grabbed the saddle of my bike with my right hand and I ran… barefoot, across the tarmac. Oh and that one pro I had managed to reel in again after flat number one? She passed me. Again. When I finally made it back into transition I was so happy to be there all thoughts of DNFing disappeared. I had made it this far, what was 13.1 more miles? All things considered, I managed to turn in a pretty good run split as I tracked down and stalked the girl that passed me during my two flat debacles. In the end, the final pass of the day would be mine.
While this certainly wasn’t the race I had hoped for, I certainly hope to have this much heart in every race. Next up? St.Croix 70.3. I can’t wait!
Two bare feet… And sweet sweet shoes!