As I now sit in my hotel room and think about today’s events, I am filled with mixed emotions. I am very happy I woke up and went out to compete in the half Ironman. I am not so happy about how it turned out, and I will explain why. Whether you’re a triathlete or just an average joe, it’s good to think about past experiences and take lessons from them. These are the things that I took away from my experience today (June 23) on the course.
Expect the Unexpected
This one seems obvious, but I thought I had everything thought out. I had a checklist, asked professionals what they usually pack and they gave me other tips, had all the things I thought I needed and even showed up extra early at 5:00 a.m. to set up even though my wave start was not until 8:15 a.m. But not even the best set up at the transition area can prepare you for some things that happen when you head out on the course. Sometimes you just hit bad luck like I did. More on this below.
Know Your Equipment
This includes all the parts and accessories. What I mean by knowing your equipment is learn about your bike, change your tubes and tires and learn how the gears work. Teach yourself as much as you can about your bike before you head out on race day. It may help you out in a squeeze. What happened with my bike was just a bad combination of bad luck. At about mile 12 of the bike course I got a flat rear tire and could not get it fixed until mile 30. So, not only did I have to roll on a flat back tire for 18 miles and ruin my wheel, but I also wasted a lot of energy trying to push the flat-tired bike onward. After I got a new tube in the tire and had it inflated, at mile 52 the rear tire wall burst and I had a flat and burst rear wheel, so that pretty much ended my bike. At that point it had been 5 hours of hot, humid hills and I was out of nutrition and water. I was passed the cutoff time for the bike and could not start the run course. So my day was done about 6 hours after I began.
Sunscreen. Sunscreen. And Sunscreen.
This stems off of the last point. I put on waterproof sunscreen before the swim (which only took 45 minutes) and expected to be on the bike for 3.5 hours. After the bike I was going to reapply sunscreen before heading out on the run; obviously that didn’t go as planned. l was out in the hot and humid, already having sweated off the sunscreen I had on, for an extra 1.5 hours, so needless to say I ended up with a great trisuit sunburn on my back and shoulders. Not comfortable the day after. My advice? Toss a small travel sunscreen in your bib pocket or in your kit on the bike, just in case you end up stranded with a flat tire and burst tire wall like I did.
If you haven’t caught on yet, all of these pieces of advice are based on the fact that I was out on the course for way longer than I expected and had to waste a lot of energy between miles 12 and 30 riding on that flat tire. Thank god there were aid stations along the way, as I restocked on water every time I stopped. However, being paleo, I decided to only use my nutrition and for food I ate LARA bars (perfect 5-6:1 carb to protein ratio) along the way. I only packed 3 in my bib because I was only going to be out for a few hours. I’m lucky I wasn’t stuck for another couple of hours, as I would’ve been really screwed at that point. Lesson learned: it’s always better to have an extra bar or gel or 2 in your pack when you get off the bike than frantically end the bike with no nutrition left.
Always Keep a Positive Attitude
Look–when you realize you aren’t going to make the cutoff, the bike section just gets longer and longer. But it gets even longer if you get down on yourself and start thinking negative thoughts. I have a bracelet that says “Never Quit” and it always reminds me to push on and keep going. For this race, I also decided to take the self-motivation to another level. I wrote “I Can” on my left hand and “I Will” on my right, and during the race when I looked down and saw those words, I put a smile on and pushed on with a positive attitude. Everything is better with a smile. Even if you fake it, just smile and get through it!
What have you guys learned from your past race experiences? Leave a comment below!