It’s been five years since the last time I flatted in a race. At the Iron Eagle Sprint Triathlon in Cheney, WA, way back in 2009, I had the misfortune to flat with only about 5k left in the bike. I skillfully whipped out my spare tube and CO2 cartridge, repaired it in about two minutes, and carried on, still managing a fifth place finish.
This weekend, I felt a little like a bumbling idiot trying to get the situation remedied when the same fate befell me at around the halfway point in the Wasa Lake Olympic Distance race in British Columbia. After coming out of the water in 7th place after a less than stellar swim, I moved my way quickly into 4th in the opening miles of the bike, feeling reasonably strong. At around 12k, my friend and travel buddy for the weekend, Ian Mallams, came whizzing by me, putting out some impressive power. After he opened up a small gap, I resolved to keep him within striking distance, and put my head down into the wind and rain with all the determination I could muster. Several minutes later, I felt that dreaded sluggish feeling, turning gradually into a hypersensitivity in which I could feel every little inconsistency in the road. I pulled off to the side, a little flustered but ready to get fixed up and salvage what I could of the race.
Between the rain and mud, a new tire with a pretty stiff bead, cold hands, and numerous other factors, I watched as dozens of riders flew by. I found a small metal shard in my tire and, after a feeble attempt at pulling it out with my wet, cold hands, ripped it out with my teeth, threw a new tube in, wrestled the tire back on the rim, and finally, after 8 long, stressful minutes, got myself back on the road.
Back on the bike, I found myself reminiscing about the old days, when I was a young cross country runner who could bike okay and it was everything I could do to pull through the swim at the back of the main pack. Back then, I got to spend entire races passing people. It was so much fun! I have gotten much faster at swimming and cycling since then, and a little slower at running, which means that I rarely get to pass people on the run or the second half of the bike.
This time, though, my unfortunate flat gave me the chance to get back to that old feeling of coming into T2 with something to prove. I passed a good percentage of the field on the second half of the bike, but there were still plenty of folks around during the run. I started counting, and at the first turnaround, I had moved into 14th overall and was 12th in the men’s race. Two spots ahead of me was my other travel buddy, pilot of the trusty VW Van, Brendan Halpin, and directly ahead of me, having a great race and running in 2nd place, was Polsonite Ali Brondson. I passed Ali about 7k into the run, but Brendan’s gap was too big for me to bridge. He held on for 11th, and I crossed the line in 12th.
From reports that I heard from those who saw me at the run turnarounds, I apparently was grinning from ear to ear. Of course I was bummed out about things not going my way, but it sure was fun to remember what it’s like to come from behind and work through the field.
Despite my misfortune, it was a great day for Montana racers. Ian Mallams of Whitefish, Matt Seeley of Polson, Ali Brondson of Polson, Sue Huse of Missoula, and Erin Spitler of Whitefish all earned spots on the overall podium!
And with that, my taper officially begins for Ironman Coeur d’Alene. If you’re at the race, come visit me at the Orbea booth during the expo, and I’ll be expecting a whole lot of yelling and screaming during the race. I guarantee I will need every decibel I can get!