Even with all the training and racing I have done over the years, I still often feel like a beginner out there! I thought these anecdotes hopefully illustrate the trials and tribulations all of us go through on the way to the finish line.
Don’t decide to start a diet the day you do your first Ironman. This may seem pretty obvious but it was a lesson I learned the hard way. My first Ironman was Kona in 2004 and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. Between the pre-race nerves, the excitement of having my family and friends out there and just my lack of knowledge, I never felt hungry out there so I just never ate. Oops! I raced for 11:23 on a slice of orange, 1/2 a Clif Bar and some water. Let’s just say it was not a pretty picture! Even if you’re not hungry or you don’t think you can stomach another gel, finding a way to get calories in your body is the only way to avoid disaster out there. Again, it seems pretty obvious now but I’m proof that beginner athletes make MAJOR mistakes on race day.
Never let a “roadie” glue your tubular tires! As a newbie, I was just happy that someone was gluing my tires but what didn’t occur to me was that pro bike racers get to switch wheels when they get a flat while triathletes need to change our own tires and get going again. For some roadies this means they’ll used twice as much glue on tubulars, but I didn’t know that. So when I got a flat out on the racecourse in St. Croix during my first 70.3 race, they were impossible to get off. Out of desperation, I even resorted to using my teeth to try to get them off. It was 26 minutes later before I was back on my bike and I had wrenched my back from trying to get that tire off. Lesson learned!
Always check your own nuts and bolts…and never trust a torque wrench! The 2008 Hawaii Ironman was my first time in Kona as a pro. On my way over to the race that year my seat post had cracked in shipping. I was lucky enough to get a new seat post expressed over, a local bike shop set it up on my bike and I thought nothing of it again. Race morning my bike was ready and I was fired up and ready to race. Out of the water and onto the bike I was just starting to get into a real rhythm when at mile 70 my bike seat started shaking and by mile 80 the seat had completely come off. I rode for nearly 20 miles without a saddle, until I got tech support. Funnily, the same guy who put the seat post on days earlier was the tech guy out on the course who helped me duct tape my seat onto my bike for the last 12 miles. Let me tell you that standing for 20 miles out of the saddle before a marathon does not lead to your best time.