I was having a good race, not a great race, but so far I was on target for a personal best in both the swim and the bike segments of Ironman Arizona. Little did I know that an up and coming young professional triathlete would soon put a big dent in my day.
He who shall remain nameless, rode by me as I was returning to Tempe on the second loop of the three loop 112 mile Ironman Arizona bike course.
He surprised me twice. The first time when he rode past and said "Hi Roman." The second time was much more dramatic and shocking. After he flew by me he stood up on his bike pedals and let it rip.
By "it" I mean the old number one. I had heard of the pros peeing on the bike, but I had always assumed that the "it" just sort of dribbles down their shorts and into their shoes.
Please don't get me wrong, I have no problem with a pro doing "it" on the bike as they are racing for position. I was just completely shocked to see the velocity of "it" jetting out of his shorts like a contrail from a Boeing 747.
Have you ever seen a mature bull relieve itself on the farm. Well just image a bull on a bike going about 30 MPH doing "it" and you have pretty much the exact Polaroid photo I was witnessing---just a few short feet in front of my areo bars.
I usually have my wits about me when I race but not today. I panicked as I saw the fast approaching deluge of professional "it" and swerved into the medium of the road.
This was a really bad move as the medium is always the worst place on the bike course with the most debris and litter. But I had come prepared to race in the desert of Arizona with a set of Continental Gator Skin tires on both the front and rear wheels. The Gator Skins were recommended to me as the tire with the highest puncture resistance and lowest rolling resistance. Image Kevlar on your wheels and you the idea of the kind of "puncture armor" these tires provide against thorns and cactus needles.
But the downside of these tires is that they are really stiff and hard making them almost impossible to mount on a set of Zipp race wheels.
All these thoughts went through my brain in the split second I heard that horrible pop, and rotating hiss that signals a flat tire. I hit the brakes and sure as "it" the rear tire was hissing and going flat. I stopped and pulled over to the side of the road.
Now had I been thinking I would have turned my head and looked around but nooooo...instead I sprung into action like a well oiled machine. I have some sizable experience in changing flats. After all, my first Iron distance race was a debacle with a record setting eight flats over the 112 mile course.
So I set to work removing the rear wheel and tire. For those of you who have changed a rear tire, you'll know that as much as you try not to, you'll eventually have to man handle the greasy, dirty, filthy, oily, black, and did I mention greasy bike chain. When you do this at home you get a wee bit dirty. But when you do this in the desert during the heat of a race, you end up looking like unwashed chimney sweep after you wipe the sweat from your brow a few hundred times with your greasy, dirty, filthy, oily, black, and did I mention greasy hands.
So far so good.
But now is when the trouble really began. Before replacing the old inter tube with a new one it is always a good idea to run your finger along the inside of the tire to figure out what small cactus needle or perhaps sharp stone caused the puncture in the first place. Because replacing the inter tube without doing this crucial move will just mean another tire change a few minutes down the road.
I did this except that my armor Gator Skin was punctures by the world's biggest and sharpest thorn--- which was impaled in the battle hardened tire like King Arthur's sword in the stone. I painfully, deeply, and numerously lacerated my fingers trying to remove the razor sharp thorn.
Normally this injury would have been a pretty minor incident in the wide spectrum of possible tragic Ironman mishaps except that with my heart pounding and my body still in the heat of competition, I began to bleed like a stuck pig.
It was almost Pythonesque as the blood at first oozed, and then gushed, and then almost spurted out of my index finger.
In the heat and sun of the mid day Arizona desert it did not take long for the wheel, and then the bike and then myself, to look like something out of a grizzly CSI AZ crime scene. As I feverishly worked to get the stubborn armored tire back on the wheel anything I touched, which was pretty much everything, turned at first a crimson, and later a burgundy blood red.
By the time I had gotten seventy pounds of air into the tire, I looked like I had just slaughtered, butchered, and dressed a wild Havalina pig from the nearby Sonora desert. My BMC TT bike is black and red. I now professionally matched the bike in a crazed serial killer sort of way.
After what seemed like a lifetime I mounted the bike and returned to the race. My rear tire was still short on air so I was keen to find the bike service tent. But even with a semi-flat rear tire, I was back in the race, I thought to myself as the miles clicked down.
As I made the turnaround and rode back out of town I noticed my bloody inter tube laying on the side of the road where I had thrown it in a huff of frenzied frustration. I looked up, and not a half a block from where I had just spent 20 minutes reenacting the Texas chain saw massacre was the bike repair tent.
Had I just turned my head around a bit I would seen the tent with professional assistance at the ready. Instead, I now pulled into the tent and asked the elderly bike mechanic to fill-up my rear tire to race specs.
He looked at me and my bike, scratched his head in wonder and amazement, and asked "What happened to you? Did you run over a raccoon?" I just shook my head in a "don't even ask sort of way" and kept sucking on my sore bloody finger.
"By the way," I eventually inquired. "Is there a bathroom nearby?"
"Of course," he said and pointed to the blue portable toilet just a few feet away.