Monday, August 17, 2009

Urban Epic Mechanical Failure

Cambridge, race morning.

Sunday I raced the first ever Boston Urban Epic. It was a .5 mile swim, 10mi bike and a 4mi run. I prepared as much as I could for having my last/first race only a month prior. I signed up soon after Sobe Mossman, feeling confident and excited to race again. For some reason I couldn't shake a bad feeling about the race but who knows it was probably nerves.

I packed everything and checked my list over and over again before I left. I showed up in Boston on Saturday afternoon. As soon as I looked at my bike in my friend's apartment I realized my tire pump was gone. Did I leave it strapped to the bike and it flew off during my 90mph speeding? Maybe I had completely forgotten it. I tried to shake the jinxed feeling.

Pre-race, transition area.

Race morning I prepared just as I did for the Sobe Mossman. I ate the same Kashi bars and drank plenty of water. It was already in the 70s at 6am. Drove to the race, got marked, set up my transition station. I chatted with the girls around me who were all quite nice. Quickly became friendly with a girl named Liesbeth from Amsterdam, we walked to the swim start together.

The swim start was half an hour late, Liesbeth and I drank water they had provided. They only had huge jugs with no cups. We took turns pouring the water into the other's cupped hands. The sun was starting to beat down now and it was probably in the low 80s already. Our swim wave was small, I couldn't keep up with the fast girls and I was faster than the slow girls. I was in the middle and had no one to draft off of. The swim was supposed to be a straight line but at last minute it was changed to a giant curve. Halfway through I knew I was going much slower than last time.

Out of the water I got to T1 and I could feel myself fumbling. Why didn't I practice my transitions more? No bother, I calmed myself down and did my best. I got on the bike and started passing people. 20mph and I was feeling great. I got the first turnaround and headed back to the transition area. At first I was confused as to where the second turnaround was. For as many volunteers as they had, the expo parking lot turnaround was a dead zone. I started to feel my back tire sliding. Shit. A flat. I got to the transition area and screamed for a bike mechanic, I threw my bike down in frustration. It took five minutes for the bike mechanics to reach me. One started to work on it, and another took over, I had a bad feeling about this too. I gave him a tube I had and within a few minutes had the tire on, I went to get back on, the chain was off. I ran back to him and he fixed it.

I pounded my legs as fast as they could go. At this point I knew it was just about finishing, but I wanted to do my best. I wanted to make up some time. Passing people once again, I felt good. I really thought I could do it. Got to the first turnaround and again I felt the dreaded slide in my rear tire. I passed a guy and yelled, "Please, God, tell me I don't have a flat." He looked and grimaced, "Just keep pedaling and keep going as far as you can." Ugh, it was flat. I pedaled for awhile but got paranoid I'd do more damage to by bike. I got off, running in my cleats. I was breathing out of control, choking on each breath. Asthma attack plus fighting tears. Awesome. I was a wreck, screaming "bike mechanic" at every volunteer. No one had a walkie talkie. Finally someone with a walkie talkie asked for a bike mechanic. I began to take my tire off, but realized I'd just have to hold it. Some guy tried to talk to me but I snapped at him. "I'm just trying to help," he said. "I know... I'm sorry... this is my second flat okay?" The bike mechanic showed up 15 minutes or so later. He double checked my tire and wheel, no glass that he could see. He fixed it and I barreled toward the expo center. I passed a girl in my age group, got to T2 and threw my socks and shoes on.

At first I was running 7:20 miles. I wish I could have done that the entire run. I started to cramp. All the waiting and frustration, my adrenaline was depleted and so was my hydration. Before the first mile I began to choke. Asthma attack. A guy ran next to me for a bit, slowing his pace to see if I was okay. I kept choking on the air, making noises that scared me. I calmed myself down, the attack subsided and it was all about reaching the water station.

The run was so slow. 9 minute miles. I wanted to do so much better. I cheered people on as I passed them, joked with the staff. I tried my best to keep my head up and just finish. All I wanted to do was finish with some dignity intact. Finally, I got to the last 100 yards. Sand? Really? You've got to be kidding me. No mad proud dash to the finish line, just went as fast as I could through the sand. Liesbeth was at the finish line, and I was so glad to see a familiar face.

"Where were you?" "I had two flat tires!" "What?! No! I thought you'd finish before me!" Sigh. I wish. I have a feeling I could have been 5th had I not had the flat tires. So lessons learned. Make sure you have your pump (though I'm going to buy CO2 cartridges). Going to see if I can't get more practice changing a tire from the local bike shop. Going to practice my transitions more. I know I shouldn't have had to depend on the bike mechanics, and if I had everything my time would have been a bit better. Unofficial results said I passed four girls in my age group, but they must have been in the "beginner swim" wave which was an option. Beginner swim waves, BTW, in my opinion are bullshit. Just sayin'.

So shitty race. Bound to happen, right? Learn from your mistakes, can't win 'em all, you'll get 'em next time. I've heard all the cliches. I'm okay, or at least dealing. I made a new friend, even if she is going back to Amsterdam in 2 weeks, and it's nice to know there's another run-bike-swim-fighter out there (she does boxing). Most of the remainder of the day was spent in traffic. Took 2 hours to get from Boston to Rt. 84. On a good day it takes 2.5 hours to get from Boston to New Haven. Traffic in 90 degree weather? Glorious.

People have asked how the body marking looks on my tattoos. Answer:

...a mess.

With my race issues aside, the Boston Urban Epic was a great race. The marketing was so well done, and I think it really helped to draw a younger crowd. There were too many volunteers doing nothing on the main drag, they could have been dispersed better, like having more in the expo center turnaround. The volunteers had given up by the time I was running, and I got very confused as to where the course went. Not only were they not paying attention at this point, but their lack of care because most of the racers had crossed the finish line was REALLY disheartening. More signs were needed in the labyrinth that was the run's turnaround. The views on the run were great, the beach with all the boats took my mind off of how miserable I really was. My biggest gripe was that there should have been a shuttle from the finish to the transition area. Walking a mile or so after a triathlon BLOWS.

4 comments:

triblog carol August 19, 2009 at 9:09 PM  

so sorry u had such a crappy day. i hope your next race is alot more fun! are you doing any more this year? i have a spare set of tires i use just for racing. this way, i always have a 'fresh' set on race day. it also gives me lots of practice changing tires...each race, i swap them out.

hehe, you can hardly see the number over the tatoos! cool!

Krista August 20, 2009 at 1:46 PM  

What a nightmare! Glad you stuck it out and finished the race! This reminds me that I need to make sure I know how to use the pump attached to my bike!

Liesbeth August 24, 2009 at 2:48 PM  

Great piece on the Triathlon!! Although it was a horrible experience, it will always be a good story. Did you see the pics yet? It's kinda weird seeing myself in bikini between the other athletes ;)

Really great to meet you, let's keep in touch trough all the blogging!

Liesbeth

Rachel September 4, 2009 at 12:39 PM  

Wow. Way to tough it out against all the adversity. Love the body marking/tatoo pic. Hysterical. I personally love walking after a race to help cool down and recover but not with all my gear. Sometimes, I get Brent to go get the car and pick me up.