Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Triathlete's Worst Nightmare

Traveling to races out of town is always stressful. It always seems to be a whirlwind of preparation and packing for me the day before the trip. Last Thursday, I packed my bike for St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg, FL. I typically pack my wheels in a wheel safe case separate from my bike. This insures that my investment stays safe. My wheels are my babies. Heck, you have to treat them like babies, 3K for a set of race wheels is no joke.

For this trip, I was traveling with out my wife, Dana, and I would be charged for excess baggage plus my bike if I took my wheel case. Therefore, to limit the gouging, I tried to fit my wheels and my bike in my bike case. When I shut the lid the disk was compressed too tight in the bike box and I didn’t want to risk damaging it so I gave my traveling buddy, Steve Groden, a call. Steve had a large TriAll3 case and I called him to see if I could possibly stash it in his case to keep it well and safe from the TSA and baggage-handling gorillas. He had room and the plan had been set, my wheel would be safe.

I carefully wrapped my precious Zipp disc wheel in foam and made sure it was well protected. I went to my Ford Explorer and tried to open the rear hatch, but it was locked. My keys weren’t in my pocket so I laid the wheel down behind the tailgate and went inside to retrieve them. After a lot of searching, I found the keys and headed back to the car to get my wheel to Steve.

On my way out, I was distracted by Dana. She always seems to distract me in one way or another. This time I completely lost my train of thought, but all I knew was that I needed to get to the bike store to drop this wheel off to Steve. I got in the car started the engine and backed up……

(I suppose by now you know where this is going. I missed one vital step to make this scenario have a positive outcome. I forgot to put my prized possession, my Zipp disc wheel, in the back of my car)

….. I continued to back up until I heard the nauseating crunching sound at the rear of my vehicle. Immediately I stopped the car and pulled forward, my eyes were wide as saucers. I dashed out of the car like a frenzied parent who had just backed over his child. How could I have been so stupid?

There lying in the garage was my wheel carefully wrapped in foam bent and broken. What I had tried to prevent TSA from doing, I had done myself. I was sick. I belted out several four-letter expletives and sat down with my wheel looking at it. I just felt like crying.

This wheel and I had been in many races together. I felt emotionally attached to it. I used it in my first comeback race to win the masters title at Memphis in May in 2005; I qualified for Kona, and reached the podium in my first Ironman in Florida with it. Now it was ruined. Dana was supportive. I got a hug from her and the tone of her voice was somber. I know she could feel my pain. I’m sure she was happy that it wasn’t her wheel.

I quickly made a few calls to Steve, and then to Sean Stevens looking for a replacement which I could use for the weekend. I even called Zipp and within hours I had the wheel Fed-Ex’d to Zipp in Indiana to see if it could possibly be repaired. Sean called Rob James and he trusted me enough to let me borrow his Zipp disc wheel for the race. It wasn’t long before the entire Tulsa bike racing and Triathlon community heard of my misfortune. When I went to the bike store to pick up a box to ship my wheel out, the guys treated me as if I had just had a death in the family. Mechanics stopped their work and stared at me. Word gets out fast when something as tragic as this happens.

As far as the race is concerned, I had a solid one. I didn’t have a power meter or heart rate monitor functioning so I just used the force. The adjustments that I made to my position on the bike made a huge difference. I was passing folks the entire way. Every time I looked down at my speedometer, it read 25-26 mph. I was riding straight through packs of riders and I thought that I was just killing it. The multiple turns on this course, unfortunately, really slow you down. I missed my 1:00 target time for the bike and went 1:02. My run was 40 min but it felt like a 38. I need more work on my running. I had hoped for a total time close to 2hrs for the distance but ended up with a 2:07. There were two waves of my age group and when they put up the preliminary results, I was in first. However, once the awards rolled around, I had dropped to third. Two guys in the other wave posted a faster time. Oh well, It’s still only April. I still have a lot of work to do.

BTW, the folks at Zipp felt my pain too and gave me a 50% discount on a crash replacement. This eased the pain a little. In all seriousness, it’s only a wheel. It is just funny how these things, our possessions, wheels, bikes, cars, bass boats etc become so important in our lives. Nothing is as precious as a human life. I can’t imagine how someone feels when he or she really does run over his or her child backing out of the driveway. God doesn’t grant a crash replacement policy there.

Next up…Escape from Alcatraz. Now this is going to be fun.


MarkyV said...

808 + Wheelcover = faster disc.

:) :) :) :) :) :)

Jennifer Harrison said...

I cringed when I read this post!!! OH MY GOSH, we have done that with our bikes in an elevator once. My husband cried.
GOOD job at St. Anthony's! I love that race and did it this year too! Jen H.

Rainmaker said...

Ouch, sorry man. I've put my wheel behind my car countless times and always thought the same thing - some day...I'm going to run it over. Good to hear that Zipp helped out!