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Monday, July 27, 2009

Hmm...What To Call This...

Tri'd and Failed(to change my own tube)? Tri'd and succeeded(in never giving up)?

Yesterday was the NYC Triathlon. It was my 3rd NYC Tri and 6th Olympic Tri overall. I've been extremely lucky in the previous 5 in never having a flat tire or an accident, so yesterday, I actually was more or less expecting the flat. When it came, I just said to myself, "Oh yeah, there it is." and hopped off my bike to change the tube. I'd never actually practiced the move before, but had seen it enough to feel confident I could do it.

I couldn't do it. 20 minutes of trying and my hands cramped up. 25 minutes more of standing on the side of the highway with bikers racing past, a look of relief in their eyes that it was me and not they who were stranded. Finally a young woman with a flat wheeled over to me and we commiserated. She tried to get get my tire off and also was unsuccessful. 15 more minutes and I decided to fill the tube with a CO2 cartridge and try my luck at riding. When the tire was full, I could feel the spot on it where the air was escaping. I got on the bike and rode another mile or so before the tire was again flat. I tried to fill it again, but was unable to inflate it. Now, I was stranded AND alone again on the West Side Highway at around 165th street. Luckily there was a nice view.

Now, before the flat, I had been having the race of my life! My swim was great, my transition pretty quick, and I had been steadily passing people on my bike. Team Joe member and Tri coach Deb Mahanger had raised my seat an inch and it made such a huge difference! I almost felt like I was cheating! So, when I was standing on the highway, I got a mite frustrated because I knew I would have had my best tri time ever.

After waiting for over an hour, a passing cyclist told me that the Toga Bikes help truck was just behind and so in me awoke new hope for a finish! However, 30 minutes more passed before they came by. By then there were no more passing bikes. Not one.

Toga changed my tube. To make me feel better, the guy (with huge muscular forearms) said that my type of wheels and tires were really tough and hard to change. Thanks guy.

I called Anthony because I knew he'd be very anxious. He had to know SOMETHING had happened. The last time I called him during a race, I had a terrible ankle sprain (see earlier blog entry from January). Anthony was the go-to person for live updates to my parents and to our friends.

Finally, I got back on my bike and raced back to Transition. I put on my Team Joe shirt, grabbed some ShockBlocks and began my 6 mile run across 72nd street and up and around the park. 72nd street still had a few cheerers out and many finishers, all of which cheered for me as if I were a hero. It was so nice of them and their encouragement helped me along. The hills in the park felt different than usual. Steeper, longer, harder. People continued to cheer me on, last as I was. They looked a little surprised that I was last and was running pretty quickly, considering. I was probably running about a 9 minute/mile pace.

The finish line couldn't come fast enough or be a more welcomed sight. The announcer called out my name as I crossed the finish line. I got my medal and a wet cold towel. All was well again.

Triathlons are exciting for the very reasons we fear them and fear the challenges and unknowns in life. You know there will be pain, you don't know if you will fail or succeed, you have no control of the weather or of the people around you. There will be a flat one day, maybe today.

We do tri's because they test us. Do we give up when we get a flat or do we do everything we can to finish, even if it's in last place? We get scraped up, swallow Hudson River water, get kicked in the face, want to cry while riding uphill, face 6 miles of running when already exhausted. We want to just stop, but we don't. That is life in a 3 hour race. That is why I love triathlons.

That, and the free T-shirt.


Christopher said...

Saw Anthony at 72nd Street - always nice to have a familiar face cheer you on!

Jillie said...

I feel for you, I say a prayer every time I go out on my bike, but am destined to have a flat on one of these tri's - thus I will learn to change a tire before the year is out :)

Paul said...

Well done Gabby !! Very impressed that you stuck to it and finished the race. Great article too.

MaryT said...

Poor Gabby! That means you can count another 5 tris with no flats!