Triathlon is one of very few sports where an equipment problem can take you out of a race. I've been pretty lucky in my short career to have finished every race I've started....up until this past Sunday. Sunday was the San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz, one of my favorite triathlon venues I've raced and right in my backyard. My training has been going very well and with only a few races left in the season, I was excited to get into a race to test my fitness.
When I parked at the race site, and started to unload, the bad luck started. When I pulled my bike out of the car, I discovered that my rear tire was flat. I tried not to panic, quickly changed the tube, and set up my transition in close to record time. It wasn't until I was sitting on the bus to Pier 3 that I was able to take a deep breath and relax. I was definitely warmed up. On the boat ride out to the start, the water looked pretty calm. "Oh yeah, this should be a good, smooth swim" I told my good buddy Ethan Brown, who had never swam Alcatraz before. As we were let out onto the ledge for the start, the smooth water turned to white caps. Oh crap, sorry Ethan, this is gonna be a tough one. I jumped in and tried to keep contact with a few bodies for the first part, but immediately got dominated by the waves. I breathed to the right and got a face full of water. I tried breathing to the left...same thing. Every time I would look up to sight, all I saw was the next 3-4 foot wave coming at me. It was brutal out there. It was tough to stay motivated while getting pummeled and knowing you are losing a lot of valuable time to the leaders.
Finally, I got to the beach and ran up the stairs. In past Alcatraz races, I've taken my arms out of the wetsuit, but kept it on while I ran the half-mile to transition. This time, I stripped it off as fast as possible and threw my shoes on. As I did this, I heard Rebecca yell "15!" I took all that time in the water, and came out only 15th? Sweet! I passed one on the way to transition and quickly jumped on the bike.
Out on the bike, I felt great! I flew by Sports Basement and gave a salute to my co-workers who always come out in full force for every single race that goes by our marquee store. They always give me an extra boost. Two miles into the bike, I had passed another and caught up to a 2nd. I was having a great ride. I climbed well up to the Legion of Honor and bombed down the hills through the neighborhoods and past the Cliff House onto the Great Highway. I planned on using the Great Highway, which is flat and straight to get into a good rhythm and try to take time out of some of the guys ahead of me. The only bad thing is that it's extremely bumpy. I struggled to find a good line.
When I reached Golden Gate Park and some smoother roads, I felt something weird on my rear wheel. Even though the road was smooth, the ride felt bumpy. I knew something was wrong, so I quickly jumped off my bike to check it out. The tube was pushing the tire off the rim. It was still ride-able, but I couldn't go fast. At this point, I was halfway through the G.G. Park loop, so I jumped back on made the decision to slow pedal back to transition and compete in the run. I made my way through the Park and on the final descent back out to the Great Highway, my front flatted. My day was done.
A DNF sucks. The feeling is brand new for me. I've been racing competitively for over 15 years. In 15 years, I've turned ankles, gotten ridiculous cramps, hit a steeplechase barrier, and crashed my bike and never not finished the race. This is the first. Unfortunately it is part of the sport. What I can do is take the positives from the race. Even though the swim was a suffer-fest, I came out mid pack in the pro field. That's good for me! I also felt great on the bike and was making up ground on some of the competitors ahead of me.
Thanks to Rebecca and her mom, Beth, who skipped her Sunday morning bike ride to come out and cheer me on, for their support. Sorry I couldn't finish the show. Thanks Mrs. Leto for picking up my water bottle after it unhitched from my bike...happens every time! Up next is Pacific Grove on Sept. 11. Thanks everyone for reading!