Sunday, April 12, 2015

Belews Lake International - DNF Race Report

Thanks to a nice rock slicing the side of my tire and tube, my race ended at mile 18 of the 27 mile Belews Lake International bike course. I experienced my first DNF (did not finish).

Let's back up though, shall we? To when the real fun of race day began....

I left home at 5:15 pm Friday after dropping youngest off at soccer practice, intent on making the 2-1/2 hour drive to the cheapie motel near the race site, rather than drive it Saturday morning. I had planned on a relaxing evening and good night's sleep.

That wasn't meant to be.

About 75 minutes from home, the van dashboard went insane with warning lights, so I promptly pulled off road, thinking OH $HIT, now what. The van wouldn't start, it seemed to think it was in reverse, and would not shift. The front wheels were locked up. I called AAA, and not too long after the towtruck arrived and they dragged the van on to the flatbed. With the front wheels not turning...literally DRAGGED. I couldn't watch. We stopped on the way to buy dish soap to help the van slide back off the flatbed.

We took the van to the dealership about 30 min back the way I came. There I witnessed an amazing display of car unloading and extraction of the tow truck from an impossibly tight situation.

They very graciously gave me a ride to the airport to rent a car. I went back to load my equipment into the new car, and went back on my way, arriving at the questionable motel at 11:15 pm. I slept fitfully, but awoke for the race, still optimistic that a good day could be had!

The venue was gorgeous, the morning was crisp but warm, and I was calm. It was a time trial start, with us heading out two-by-two. I got a few strokes in and the goggles I chose to use started to leak (see last post, I broke up with my goggles). The goggles that worked ok in the pool, did not work well in the open water, and I spent parts of my swim with one eye closed, stopping to empty goggles, and wondering what if a contact fell out. I did not swim good lines, it was just not a great swim. Still, I kept calm and told myself that racing is as much about minimizing the impact of the crap that happens. I hoped to make up time on the bike.

Swim was not good - many of the bikes around me are GONE!

The bike started off pretty really well - it was a two loop course and I made it a goal to pass 25 people. The Duran Duran song "Hungry Like the Wolf" popped in my head for some reason and I felt like a predator picking off my prey! I was picking up some speed on the second loop.

Around mile 18, I was making a pass with another cyclist ahead of me, and did not see a big patch of mud and sizeable rock in the middle of the lane. I hit the rock, heard a very loud noise, nearly lost control of the bike, and turned around and asked if something flew off my bike. Then I realized I'd had a flat. It sliced the side of the tire and tube so my bike ride was done. I sat down in the grass along the road and asked the passing cyclists to alert someone at the next intersection to come and get me. It felt like a long time to wait but I got a ride back to the start.

I really wanted to punt the run but was encouraged to do it anyway. "You'll thank me later" I heard. I cleared it with the race director and headed off. It was hard. My heart was heavy, and so were my legs. It was a hillier course than I expected and I was deflated, but I did it. So at least it was a decent training day.

My takeaways from this race:

Find new dependable goggles. I need a new goggle solution pronto. I emailed Aqua Sphere to tell them their new goggle redesign on the Lady Kaimen is a big fail and why (whoever reads it will probably not care), but in the meantime I've ordered four new various pairs to try. Whatever I go with, they should know I will be loyal!

Carry a flat kit on Internationals. I've never carried a flat kit on sprints and international distance races figuring if I flatted I'd lose so much time that it wasn't worth it. But now I know that it would have been nice to have legitimately finished the whole thing, no matter what the time. Although, in this case, I needed a new rear tire, not just a tube, so I was probably screwed anyway.

Remain attentive to the road! The road conditions were amazingly smooth and clean. I hardly saw any debris, and on the second pass around I may have let my attention lapse, assuming the road was clear. But even if that were true on the first lap, it can change on the second. Be careful when passing behind someone because you can't see the road ahead!

Bad races happen. I didn't quite know what to feel, it was definitely different and weird and lacked the typical post-race satisfaction. But I am very thankful that I didn't go down and that the bike and I are both OK. 

The next race is in three weeks. At least I will feel like I've dusted off the cobwebs. This was a pretty big wake-up call. I expect I will be far sharper!

And Belews Lake...I will be back next year to seek my revenge! Thanks to the Jones Racing Company for a very VERY well run race. That was my first time at one of their events and I was extremely impressed with the organization of it, the communication, and the staffing. Truly a great job!