2011 Amica 19.7 Triathlon Ocean Beach

Tough day today. I think the thunderstorm that rolled through New London, Connecticut at 6:30 A.M. was a bad omen. The start of the Amica 19.7 Triathlon Ocean Beach wasn’t delayed, but thanks to the rain and lightning, I didn’t get a proper warmup, my transition layout was messed up, and I was psyched out. We had to huddle in the bathrooms and under small overhangs, until the storm passed. This time, took my bag with me and kept it dry, but it was still a bummer. Truthfully, I was out of sync all week and was hoping for a stress reducing hammer session. I ended up with a fat lip and another punctured tire. I guess I’m fortunate that the injury and the mechanical were from separate incidents. The fat lip came from a clean shot to the face during the opening portion of the 1/2 mile swim leg. I’ve been kicked before, but this one was like a UFC knockdown. I was momentarily stunned and see how an impact like that could instantly put an open water swimmer in distress. I got my rhythm back and finished the swim, but I was all over the place.

For some reason, I didn’t take the current or tides into account and I was off course for most of the swim. It was total rookie behavior. As I approached shore, I even swam for the start arch instead of the finish chute and a lifeguard had to paddle over and reroute me. It was ugly, but I got out of the water alive. My mouth was numb and a bit bloody, but I was ready for the bike leg and had a decent transition once I got my wetsuit off, which is always a challenge for me. I must have fat ankles because I always get stuck when it is almost off.

The bike was going OK when I punctured on Quarry Rd. about 3/4’s of the way through the 16.1 mile bike loop. I was headed into a sharp turn and felt my rear go soft. I eased up, got around the corner and pulled onto the grass. I don’t know where I was sitting, but I know I was in the top 10, maybe the top five, and I was making a charge. Game over. Since I was already riding a spare wheel because my Tufo Tyre order hadn’t arrived yet, I knew that I was going to have problems getting my tubular off the rim. I tend to use a lot of glue and my Zipp 404 also had Tufo Gluing Tape on it. I removed my wheel and gave my tire a few pushes and pulls to see if I could get it off. It was hopeless. Honestly, I didn’t even get the valve off. The roads were wet, I was soaked, my heart rate was sky -high, and I couldn’t get a grip on the Zipp valve extender, which I had tightened with an allen wrench. Flat tires in sprint triathlons tend to doom your race. As all the guys I had previously caught on the rode sped past me, I pondered my situation and accepted that this was going to be a DNF. I didn’t have a flat tire for 10 months and now I have had three in 10 days. One after the Griskus Sprint, one on a mountain bike ride, and today. This time, it mattered.

I took off my shoes and walked backwards on the course until I got to a couple of race marshals at another corner. I figured that I would wait for a pickup truck and hitch a ride to the finish. It took more than 10 minutes of waiting. I was sitting on the top tube of my bike in my bare feet when a truck rolled up. The driver hopped out, said he was with Niantic Bay Bicycles, and immediately asked me if I wanted a wheel. In a split second, I said, “Sure.” I don’t know what I was thinking. Was I really going to jump back into the race? He asked, “Shimano? Campy?” I said it was my rear that was flat and I had a SRAM drivetrain. He reached into the bed of his truck and came up with a beefy wheel that I didn’t even glance at. I know it wasn’t aerodynamic, and it sure wasn’t light, but it didn’t matter. We traded wheels and got the new one secured into my Seven Kameha SLX frame. I hopped on, got in my shoes and got back on course.

It took a few minutes to get going again, but I eventually started picking off riders. I’ve been disenchanted with professional cycling for years, but this week, with the Schleck brothers battling Cadel Evans for the Tour de France general classification, I found myself peeking at the results. We don’t have a TV, but since we were visiting my parents in Old Lyme, I got to see yesterday’s time trial, which included highlights from both the Galibier and Alpe d’ Huez stages. How can you not like Evans? If he is clean, then I like him too.

I thought about his smoking fast time trial as I pedaled my own bike towards Ocean Beach. I exhorted myself to “ride like Cadel.” I had no shot at the overall, but the skies were brightening and I figured that I could salvage a frustrating day with a strong run. After all, this wasn’t an A race and I need all of the training that I can get. Yesterday, Debbie read me Coach Al’s pre-weekend e-mail and it was all about mental toughness. I figured it was the perfect time to practice what he was preaching to his athletes. I didn’t want to remain in the dumps, so I rode as fast as I could. My transitions have been weak, so in addition to popping a strong run, I wanted to have a smooth T2. It all worked out.

It was hard for me to gauge my speed on the 3.1 mile run. I knew I was going fast because I caught a lot of people, but I didn’t have anyone to pace off of. I was coming up on people quickly and knew that I couldn’t sit behind them or I would slow to their speed. I didn’t kill myself and sort of cruised the final section into Ocean Beach Park and onto the boardwalk for the finish. I ended up with the fastest run split, which is pretty cool. In 35 minutes or so, I went from standing on the side of the road out on the bike course, to the finish-line, and felt a lot better. I was still frustrated, so I went straight to transition, changed my shoes, donned my helmet, grabbed my bike, and went out to ride another lap of the bike course. I cheered the last riders on course as I headed back down Great Neck Rd. My cool-down gave me time to think about the nutty week that I had and to plan the rest of the day, which would be spent at the beach with my family. I brought my wheel back to the guy from Niantic Bay Bicycles, and thanked him.

I love the Ocean Beach course and I’ll return to exact revenge. Last year, I also had a rough day, but I came back this year because the course is challenging and scenic. Now I have to figure out this tire situation…

Race Results

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