Don’t Be Me (and other lessons from my latest race)

Last weekend, I had a couple of firsts: 1) First Olympic distance race since before I became a mom and 2) first flat tire in a race. Now is a good time to tell you what I learned, in the hope you can benefit from my experience. That is to say, don’t be me.

As to the first First, usually sprint races are my jam – they’re enough to challenge me, but I’ve come to know exactly how much I need to train to finish one comfortably. But in a bout of temporary insanity no doubt influenced by dreams of summer in the midst of a dreary winter, I decided to push it a little and go for an Olympic. Now I am itching to do another because of…

The second First. I suppose I jinxed myself when I wrote here recently that I had never had a flat in a race. I found myself, on mile 21 of 25, standing on the side of the road muttering under my breath, “I WILL finish this race,” while trying to remember what the cut-off time was to complete the bike portion.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Having declared in my last post (with a great deal of hubris, in retrospect) that I have never had a flat in a race and admonishing you to be prepared, I realize how much my own advice applied to me. Unfortunately, I am a terrible mechanic, and I pinched the inner tube while putting the tire back on. Fortunately, this is just the moment the truck from the local cycle shop pulled up. (Shout out to Ross from Hart’s Cyclery for saving my race.)

As the former Girl Scout I am, I will again remind you (and myself) to be prepared. Practice fixing a flat every now and again, whether you need it or not.

Trust Your Instincts

The second piece of advice from this race is to trust your instincts. Shortly before I ended up stalled, I thought I saw something shiny when I glanced down at my front wheel. So I looked again, and convinced myself that it was just the glint of the morning’s rain glancing off the tire. As you know, this was wrong. Had I pulled off and inspected further, it’s possible I could’ve prevented the flat tire.

Stick to Your Routine

If this is your first race, read up on how to set out your gear in transition. If you’ve done races before, you’ve probably developed a pre-race routine. Stick with that. This is the second lesson you can learn from my folly. It had been raining all the night before and was still slightly drizzling when I set up my transition area. Applying sunscreen is usually one of the first things I do when I arrive at the race site. Because it was overcast, I decided to skip that step. I also left my sunglasses and visor in my backpack, which I placed next to the fence and away from my gear. You know how this one ends. By the time I finally dismounted my bike, the sun was glaring down on the race course. This was the moment my contact lens decided to get wonky. So there I was, for six miserable miles, squinting, my forehead burning.

Spectating Is Not for the Weak

The last lesson I learned from this weekend was as a spectator. The day before my race, my husband competed in his first ever triathlon, at the same venue. I’d never spectated a race before, and it is no joke. With a double jog stroller loaded with kids, snacks, and what I thought were enough activities to amuse said kids (there weren’t), I had my own multi-sport race between (rather unsuccessfully) keeping a kid from throwing sand at others and trying to spot my racer. I was probably more wiped out after that ordeal than after my race, when the only person I had to worry about was myself.

I share all this for a couple of reasons. One is to thank my loyal road crew. The other is because I try to keep things positive and encourage you that you can do this. Even when all does not go according to plan. Because that’s sometimes the way life is.

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