It was bound to happen some time, but Sunday was the first race I've ever flatted in, in eight years of racing. Not bad odds, really.
I went into this race with no expectations. It's my first tri of a season that just isn't as tri-focused as years past. With new home ownership taking up a significant portion of our attention and finances, it's fun to get out there to race, but it's not the priority it has been in years past. I could race on auto-pilot. No excessive list making to ensure that I have all my gear. No pre-race visualization. I've done this race for the last 4 years. I know it pretty well. And I wasn't going to red line it. I was a little worried going into the race that it would affect my enjoyment, that without indulging my instinct to inspect every calf for an AG on the run, that it would feel more like training than a race. Fear not, racing is fun regardless of your goals.
I was a little late for the start. I'd filed into the water with my AG, but I expected a warning from the race officials, instead I just got the start horn. Oh, crap, time to put on my goggles. I hadn't jockeyed for position on the line, so I had a few people to swim through to get to a good spot. I found some feet about a third of the way through that I hung onto for a bit, til it seemed she wasn't spotting well, then I just made my way home. I swam about a minute and a half slower than last year. But then again, I hadn't even checked my results from last year before the race, so I was happy with just feeling good. And 6th place out of 35 ain't bad.
Time: 26:09 (1:44 pace)
AG: 6 / 35
Confession: I did not do any transition practice before this race. In fact, I even considered wearing my bike shoes to the mount line. I know! Setting up my transition, I figured there's no point in going backwards, and I clipped my shoes in. Despite the lack of practice, I mounted the bike just fine, and I got a good 30 or so feet when I knew something was not right with my bike. Something was rubbing. I pulled off. Yep, flat back tire. It must have exploded in the hot sun during the swim. I could see transition from where I'd stopped. I knew I could take the bike back to the mechanic there and get him or her to change the tire for me, but I also had what I needed to change it myself. The only real trouble was that I couldn't turn my bike upside down because all of the water would drain out of my speedfil. Definitely not desirable on a hot day. So bike balanced precariously on my hip, while I pulled out the old tube, replaced it, tucked the tire back into the wheel. Then, moment of truth, I took out my CO2 cartridge and screwed it into the valve. Confession 2: I don't think I've ever used this valve before. I've used other CO2 valves, but this one was untested. And it failed. As soon as I screwed it in, CO2 was spewing through it. I tried to adjust the lever, but it just broke off. Hmmf. That was my only canister and my only valve. So I made the walk back to transition, wheel in one hand, saddle in other, still barefoot.
The first volunteer I encountered gave me a dumbfounded stare when I asked if she could help me find a pump. The second pointed me to the mechanic's tent, which was vacant, including all gear. I asked some people in the coaching tent next to me, but no love. Then I saw a guy pumping up mountain bike tires in the main tent. I dropped my bike (chain in the dirt, eek!) and ran in to get some air. Ok: gear on bike, wheel on frame, Laura on bike, time to ride. My garmin indicated that the whole thing had only taken 4 minutes. This seemed incredibly fast, but who am I to question garmin? Not until after the race did I realize that garmin was set to auto-pause on the ride, so when it detected that I wasn't moving, it stopped keeping track of the time. I had actually spent almost 15 minutes changing that tire. I will not be seeking employment at le Tour.
By the time I got back on the bike, all of my advantage from the swim was spent. I was in 35th place in my age group, out of 35. And that was awesome! I got to let my competitive juices flow, catching girls in my age group, but I could stay out of the red zone while doing it. Best unintentional result of a flat, EVER! I passed 19 girls in my age group, which meant I started the run in 16th place.
AG Rank: 24 / 35 (or 6 / 35 without the pitstop)
Goal here was to start moderately hard, then stay moderately hard through the middle and in the final kick, put in a moderately hard effort. That's exactly what I did. I focused on cadence, I walked through water stops, and I slowly picked people off as they burnt out through the back half of the run. Nice and steady, and I picked up two more girls in my age group.
Time: 53:33 (8:38 pace)
AG Rank: 11 / 35
Overall, I came in 14th in my AG with a total time of 2:45:18. Had I not had the flat, I would have come in 9th. A little slower than last year in all regards, but still an excellent race.
Odds and ends:
- There were a TON of flat tires out on the course. I was very lucky that I didn't get a second one out there since I was riding without a spare
- This race nearly doubled in size this year (perhaps because of its designation as the regional qualifier). My age group went from 16 last year to 35 this year, and there were some very fast ladies in that addition. Last year's time would have only been good enough for 7th this year, not 3rd.