What Do You Do When Things Don’t Go as Planned?

The last week has been full of instances in which reality misbehaves. First, I lost the keys to my roof rack for my bike–I think I left them on the roof of the car after unlocking my bike, forgot to lock it, and then drove off leaving the keys somewhere on the road in the Sandy/Draper area of Utah. Then the swim for the Daybreak triathlon was canceled, after all my preparation and my excitement to see what I could do (the swim is the only portion you can really compare from one triathlon to the next since the “course” doesn’t change much). Then I got a nice blister that turned into raw meat during the triathlon, even though I’ve never had a blister before from triathlon–ever. Yesterday, I went to the gym and was supposed to do a swim-bike brick, but after my swim I realized I had forgotten my bike helmet, meaning I had to drive home and then bike, which meant I wouldn’t get to do my stretching in the hot tub at the gym since I didn’t want to drive back there again. Then, as I was driving away from the gym and turning onto the street I heard a bump, and a bang, and another bump, and I had visions of my brand-new, carbon-fiber road bike falling off the roof of my car into the road and getting run over by one of the many construction trucks driving around that area. Thankfully it wasn’t that bad, it was just my Polar bottle I had left on the roof rolling off and then getting run over by the rear wheel of my car. No big deal, except that I loved that bottle. It’s insulated so my drink stays cold. It’s only $12.99 for another one at Canyon Bicycles (I need to get two after losing my other one two years ago on a bike ride), but I’ve got more pressing needs. Maybe I should set up one of those Paypal donation pages so people can donate to the Buy Josh Two New Polar Bottles Fund. There’s a free idea for someone–develop a Facebook app that allows people to quickly and easily set up a donation form and share it with friends on Facebook. The processing would all be handled through the app, so the person setting up the form wouldn’t need to set up a merchant account or Paypal account or anything.

Anyway, all of that was just leading up to today. Here was today’s workout assignment:

Steady, moderate effort
Type: Bike
Planned duration: 1:15
Planned distance: 0.0 miles
Ride on a flat to gently rolling course. Get at least 50% of ride time in 2 zone. Avoid 3-5 zones. Keep the 2-zone effort steady and continuous.

Workout #2: No zone 3 or above.
Type: Run
Planned duration: 0:30
Planned distance: 0.0 miles
Heart rate zone 1-2 on gently rolling course. NO zone 3. Walk hills, if necessary, to hold heart rate down.
Brick workout, fast transitions. Will br a tough workout, take in a couple hundred calories on the bike and don’t go out too hard on the bike.

As I mentioned, I like to stretch in the hot tub at the gym plus there’s a nice, flat running trail by the gym and where I live is a bit hilly, so even though I didn’t need to go to the gym, per se, since I could ride and run around my house, I drove there with my bike to ride and run around the gym area, then stretch, then shower and come home.

I was a mile into my ride when I heard something tic-tic-ticking on my front tire. I saw something light-colored whizzing around the wheel, so I quickly stopped. Sure enough, it was one of those thorns. I don’t know what plant or tree these thorns come from, but I’ve sure had a lot of them stuck in my shoes over the years, and if you happen to step on one with bare feet–boy howdy, they hurt.

I pulled out the thorn and then listened for the telltale blast of air telling me I was on my way to a flat tire. But I didn’t hear any air and couldn’t feel any coming from where the thorn was. The tire felt just as firm as ever, so I concluded I had thwarted the thorn’s attempt to get me. I was a thorn in the thorn’s side, which happened to have stuck in the side of my tire, rather than the middle, otherwise I would have been stuck with a flat for sure. Well, lucky me.

I went on my merry way, and about a mile later heard the sound of a flat tire rolling under a bike rim. Oh no! It did get me after all! But wait, my front tire looked fine. I looked at my back tire and sure enough, it was totally flat. Argh. And stuck in it was a big thorn. Apparently the thorn had caught up with me and took its revenge.

Now, the thing is…I hadn’t changed a bike tire in over two years. You see, the first day I ever rode my first road bike I got two flats…or maybe it was the first week. Anyway, very early on I got two flat, and then I never got a flat ever again until today. So I wasn’t exactly up on my tire-changing techniques. And it was the rear tire, which means getting my hands all dirty from the gears and such. Nevertheless, I dug in with gusto, thinking about how much more calm and controlled I was than Normann Stadler in Kona ’05.

Now wait…do I tuck the tube into the tire, or into the rim? Shouldn’t I have more than one of these red plastic thingies? Am I supposed to inflate the tire a little to help me get it in position and prevent pinches? Seems like somebody told me that once…ok, let’s inflate it a little. Ah, my trusty new Co2 inflater-thingy. Let’s put it on the stem of the new tube…nothing. How’s this thing work? My last one had a trigger on it…how do I activate this one? Did I not screw the Co2 cartridge on it hard enough? Maybe it’s screwed on too hard, let’s loosen it a little…no wait, I’m losing the air from it now, screw it back in! Ok, there’s no air going into the tire…maybe there’s dirt in the Co2 thingy…it was facing up before on my carbon wing, maybe some mud got in it or something. Let’s dig in it with an Allen wrench…yeah, there is some dirt in there, although no much. Would that really prevent all the pressure from the Co2 cartridge from getting out? Maybe…hmmm, I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should walk up to that gas station, but I don’t think the air there will fit on the long stem of this bike tube. Well, I probably should take this Co2 cartridge off the thingy…ok, all the air’s gone. Hey, I can press part of this Co2 adapter thingy…ah! That’s how it works!

Now that I had wasted one of my two threaded Co2 cartridges (retail price $3.45 apiece) I knew how the dispenser, or whatever you call that thing, worked and I could inflate my tire. I did so, put my tire back on, and started riding again.

I reached my halfway point of 35 minutes or so, and started back towards the gym. As I came down a winding side street, I heard a “whoosh!” sound and suddenly my front tire went flat. Argh! I had another spare tube, but no more Co2 cartridges!

I started walking down the road, in my bike shoes, but realized I was probably a mile or more away from the nearest gas station. I was in a residential area, with nothing around but houses. Should I knock on a door and ask if they have a bike pump? Would their pump fit the stem of my tube? I didn’t think so, unless they were a biker. I decided to call Te Koi. I knew he was at work, but hey, work can always be blown off to help a friend in need, right?

It was a bit more iffy than that, but Te Koi agreed to bring me a Co2 cartridge to fill up my other spare. I decided to get my new tube in so that I could quickly fill up and get going once he got there. I decided to examine my tire some more, and as I did I noticed there were a lot of thorns broken off and embedded in my tire. I started picking them out, and picked out well over 10 thorns. I then decided to check my back tire. I didn’t find so many there, but I did find one that was pretty well buried, and since the tire was inflated, it was harder to get the thorn out since I couldn’t bend or maneuver the tire to expose the end of the thorn so that I could grab it with my fingernails.

I thought that maybe I could press right next to the thorn with the point of my Phillips-head screwdriver and expose the end so I could grab it. As I pressed next to the head of the thorn, I heard the squeak of rubber against metal. The squeak that meant the rubber was adjusting in size…this wasn’t good. Did I just flatten my back tire too? I pushed on the tire and it was firm. Ok, maybe I imagined that noise. Maybe it was a bird, or a car driving by.

A woman with a kid in the car and a bike rack on the roof of her VW Passat wagon stopped. “Do you need a ride?”

“Nice try lady, I’m married, and you’ve got a kid. What kind of shenanigans are you trying to pull?” was what I should have answered back, but I just said “Thanks so much for stopping, but my friend is on the way.”

Te Koi arrived, and I felt the back tire again. Totally flat. Argh. At that point I knew I wasn’t going to be doing any more riding today. It was 45 minutes before I was on my run. I had only ridden for 45 minutes instead of 1:15, and my transition from bike to run had taken about an hour.

So, it’s been a challenging few days, in minor ways. But even though these are relatively minor things, it’s easy to get down about them. I was really pretty bummed about that triathlon swim being canceled. But at some point so many things happen that I just have to take a step back and laugh at the chaos. Sometimes the “endurance” part of an endurance sport like triathlon isn’t the swim, bike, and run themselves, but everything else you have to do just to be able to swim, bike, and run.

Thanks to Te Koi for taking time off work to get me back to my workout. I’m not sure who I would have been able to call next.