Saturday, June 25, 2011

A mechanical mishap

Today I'll pretend that I am a salacious gossip blogger and open with the following sensational statement:

Miles and Laurel author thrown into police van!

Rats.  The first roadblock to my new gossip blogger voice is that the most salacious font I have is, like, Courier. Bold and big will have to do.

Now I will keep you in suspense for a little bit.

Before the race, blissfully unaware
of what might unfold.
I opened my summer/post-marathon racing season this morning with a duathlon: a 5K run, 14-mile run, then another 5K run.  It's a race I've done three times now, and today I decided that I think I love this race.  It's hosted at a park where I spent several summers as a dutiful gate attendant in high school, and running on the beautiful trails is a treat but also a little dose of nostalgia from all the miles I ran there around the turn of the millenium.  It's a fun, low-key race, and it's limited to 500 people.

I wasn't sure how to approach the run segments, since I apply a no-speedwork policy to my running mileage for a month after a marathon - and thus have done no speedwork since mid-May.  The first 5K of a duathlon is also a tricky thing because it's super easy to forget that you still have an all-out 5K on the other side of the bike, so it works best for me to try to hold back some energy for that second run.  I started out comfortably hard.  If my legs could've talked, they would've been chirping the classic Minnesotan "Oh, that's different!"  After the first few minutes, though, I started to feel like I was at a good, strong effort.  Whenever I looked down at my Garmin in the last two miles, I'd see a pace in the mid-7:xx range, which is off my 5K PR pace but not by much.  I was really happy with this and booked it into the transition zone to hop on my bike.

Between marathon training and marathon recovery, I didn't spend as much time on the bike this spring as I would've liked, so my expectations for this section weren't too high.  It felt good, though.  I was motoring along and feeling comfortable on my aerobars, which help you get into a more aerodynamic position by making your forearms parallel as you grip handlebars that are in the center and farther out above the front wheel.  (They are treacherously scary at first but become very fun and fast with practice.)

Then, four miles in, I started feeling every tiny bump in the pavement on my wheel, which felt strange because I was actually on a section of new pavement.  I knew right away what was happening: a flat tire.  I said a choice couple of words quietly, got flustered for a minute while I figured out what to do, and then cruised to a stop and unclipped from my pedals.  I've flatted before in training but never in a race, and the trouble is, the times I've flatted are so few and far between that I'm embarrassed to admit that it takes me a long time to change a bike tire.  I tinkered with the tire, tube, and the tools I have stashed in a little bag under my seat, to see if I could make the bike rideable to finish the race or at least get back to the start area.

But it became pretty apparent to me that the time it would've taken to fix the tire (a fix that wasn't guaranteed to work, either) would possibly be greater than the walk back to the start area. Either way, I think most triathletes would agree that a flat means the race is over. 

So I started walking back, which was awkward partly because I had bike shoes on, which have a clip on the toe that essentially works like a small heel, except under your toe.  I was also dragging along a bike that did not want to be dragged.  It is surprisingly difficult to push a bike with a flat tire than a bike with two ready-to-go tires.  I walked for probably 20 minutes or so when the last biker passed by...and I knew who would be next.

The sag wagon!!

The sag wagon, which brings up the rear of a race to check for mechanical failures or injuries or just ensures general order and well-being at the back of the pack, was a police minivan. An officer leaned out the window and asked if I was okay.

Two minutes later, my bike was nestled in the trunk of the van and I was cozy in the back seat of the police van, instead of dragging my poor bike through the yards of Anoka County.  We drove slowly (but much faster than my walk) behind the last cyclist and picked up traffic cones for a couple of miles, and the two officers dropped me near my car before they resumed more duties as course marshals for the second run. (Thank you, of course, to the great volunteers out there today and especially to the police officers!)

This is my "Oh, well, what
can you do?" face, I guess.
It occurred to me during my ride in the van that not only was it my first time in the back of a law enforcement vehicle, but it was the first time I've ever not finished a race.  Between skiing, running, cycling, and multisport events, I must have finished more than a hundred races since I started in eighth grade, right?  It definitely felt weird.  But besides the momentary inital four-letter-word reaction, I'm not mulling or stewing or over-reacting about it.  Flatting sort of just happens to everyone sometime.  And every time you ride by a cyclist in a race who is frantically working on a flat tire or walking his or her bike, you cringe and think "Man, that's a bummer." But the tire gets fixed, and there are more flat-free bike rides.  All I can really do is move onto the next race and cross my fingers that I don't start a DNF streak.

Um...are they eyes?

As an aside, I want to share the t-shirts from this race.  This race company puts on a lot of local events, and they must have hired a new t-shirt designer this year.  Whoever it is, I'm getting a kick out of his or her work.  In the spring, I ran a 10K called "Jump to it 10K" and the t-shirts were bright orange with a green frog with big googley frog eyes on the front.  Today I got an even kookier souvenir (see right).

After the race, I had plans for pancakes at Mom and Dad's house, which also served as really good motivation during my walk. Right away, Mom said, "How did it go!?" and I said, "I didn't even finish! I got a flat tire and walked back until I rode in the police car!" She took a look at me, deduced I wasn't utterly distraught, and burst out laughing. Pancake time!

1 comment:

  1. I love that shirt! I like that it's equally a raccoon and a pair of deflated breasts.