Avoid disaster in your next triathlon by following this golden rule.
After surviving the chilly, choppy and chaotic swim at the 2008 Ironman Coeur d’Alene, I set out determined to make up time during the early miles of the bike course. Less than 20 miles in, the rear of my bike started to feel a little squishy and I noticed a hissing sound. I’d flatted one of the brand-new tires affixed to my sexy rental race wheels.
Fortunately, I’d installed and changed a few tubular tires in the past, and I calmly started the process of working the tire from the rim. After struggling for a few minutes with still-frozen fingers, I took a little walk break to calm down and find a private place to pee. When I returned, a utility knife appeared on the ground near my wounded wheel. I gazed inquisitively at the small group of spectators nearby and noticed a friendly gentleman with a hint of a smile and an M-dot tattoo on his calf. Surely he would know that racers are not permitted to accept “outside assistance,” so I must have been fortunate enough to have flatted in the exact spot where a helpful tire-removal tool was previously laying. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)
Even with the lucky knife now in hand, I failed to separate the tire from the dried glue on the rim. Only after slicing the tire horizontally was I able to peel it off clockwise and see that the rental wheel company had used an incredibly tenacious brand of tape instead of glue. After 55 exacerbating minutes, I had the spare tire tenuously affixed to the rear wheel, but without any dried glue to help with adhesion, I rode ahead fearing catastrophe. I made it to T2 with my emotional tank on zero, turned in my timing chip and called it a day.
Of the many lessons I learned that day, “do nothing new on race day” was the most valuable. There are numerous unplanned experiences that come your way during 140.6 miles, but now I try to limit those during months of training and key race rehearsal sessions.
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Mistakes to avoid
Racing on rental wheels you’re not familiar with (example: me). If you can afford it, buy a set of aero wheels and do all your training on them as well. The days of being labeled a geek for doing so are long gone, and today’s selection of carbon hoops are tough enough for everyday riding. If you don’t feel comfortable putting all your miles on tubular tires (and who would after reading about my 55-minute flat change?), then check out the growing selection of tubeless setups that offer increased flat resistance and supple ride characteristics similar to tubular tires. And always practice changing a flat before a race!
Pacing the bike too fast. Simply put, if you were unable to ride that speed during your most recent key rehearsal workout that included a few miles of running off the bike, then there’s very little chance it will magically work out for you on race day.
Experimenting with fuel. Trust your training, trust your coach, trust yourself! Don’t second-guess any of these while strolling through the expo, or (even worse) when you see what your competitors have planned on race morning.
Wearing your tri kit for the first time on race day. To be safe, make sure you try out your race-day outfit for at least a couple of key training sessions that ideally include all three disciplines. You’ll want to know how it absorbs water, how the chamois feels during a long bike ride and if there’s any chafing potential on the run.
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