I Learned the Hard Way

author : brianyanowski
comments : 2

Some mistakes I made during the Hawaii Ironman 70.3. Don't be caught out on the course not knowing how or not having the equipment to change a flat tire.

I don’t really write that much about racing but after this weekend, I figure I might as well. I figured also that if someone can learn from my mistakes, why not write about them?


A few months ago I raced in the 2009 Hawaii Ironman 70.3 on the Big Island. After two hard months of training and racking up the mileage in an attempt to beat my last time of 5:46, the unexpected happened during the race. I got a flat. Two of them.

Initially, I was freaking out a little inside, trying to figure out what had happened.


Why is it flat?

What was the cause?

Why did I leave my tubes in the transition area?

How could this happen to me?

Why was I so cocky that I would not get a flat in the first place?

Fortunately, the race support vehicle had arrived within 15 minutes of me being sidelined. They were very helpful, basically changing the tube for me. I did not catch his name, but told him I’d buy him a beer for his help. I thanked him again, and got on my bike and rode off. I was so relieved and happy to be riding again, I think I shouted something stupid like “Ok, back in the race!” and some people behind me started to laugh.

So there I am riding, back in the race with a brand new tube (rear tire.) Eight miles later, I felt the back-end getting a little sloshy, and felt increased vibrations towards the rear of the bike. Not again. Sure enough I looked down and the same tire was flat. Who have I slighted? Determined, I kept pedaling for 20 minutes, trying to gain distance along the course and at the same time, trying to locate the support crew further down the course instead of sitting idle. After another 15 minutes or so of riding, I stopped due to the heavy vibration and fear of damaging the rear rim altogether, possibly not finishing the course. So there I was, a second time standing in the HOT sun, and I decided to eat some of my Clif Bar and try to stay positive. Really, without a spare tire and pump, the only thing I could do is cheer on fellow competitors, and try to laugh at my situation while waiting for the support vehicle once again.

While I was waiting, and as fellow competitors had passed, many of them asked if I was OK or if I needed anything, which made me feel good. I realized that the people participating in these events really are cool, friendly, and caring. It also made me proud to be a part of this experience, with an encompassing feeling of camaraderie among participants in a 70.3 event.

Twenty-two minutes later, the support van arrived once again, and a wave of relief had swept over me, keeping hope alive of finishing the race successfully. The girl riding shotgun in the van was smiling, joking “Not you again!?” and I just started to laugh a little. She then added “ Don’t feel bad, my boyfriend did this last year, and got 3 flats and was puking.” It made the situation a lot lighter, and at the same time more optimistic. This time, the “pit crew” gave me a brand new rear tire courtesy of Ironman. I gotta say that every person in the support vehicle was very professional and knowledgeable. After thanking them again, I was back on my bike, tackling the remaining 42 miles or so.

Overall the race was a very good experience, and well run by the staff, directors and volunteers. Due to the volunteers, I was able to finish the race successfully. Although I did not break my goal of beating my time of 5:46, I learned a lot from this race. First being I should not take that “too comfortable or cocky” approach to anything, especially with bike mechanics (aka Murphy’s Law—anything than can go wrong, will.) Second, I learned that I need to be better prepared for flats while on the course, i.e. CO2 cartridges, pumps, and spare tubes. If you are new to the sport, please hear me out. Learn how to change your flat tire.  I learned the hard way.

Needless to say, I am on the lookout for a flat tire fixer kit (that's stored underneath the bike seat) for future races, as I do not want to make the same mistake twice. I also can't wait for next year's race, and would tell anyone kudos to the race directors and race committee on how well the race was organized. Lastly, I've learned to thank the volunteers for their hard work and dedication in support of triathlon. After all, if it weren't for them, many races could not happen.


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date: October 8, 2009


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