August 8, 2009

Six Friends. Six Hours. Six Flats.

Today did not go as planned. All started well with a picture-perfect, crisp, sunny day and six friends ready to tackle a spectacular ride over two mountain gaps in the Green Mountains. We were cruising along with no issues, everyone was feeling good. We rode about 20 miles before we were to attempt the first gap so we stopped at a corner to gather the group and make a quick bathroom stop. I was on cloud nine. I had my new wheels, my new Garmin 705 and as another cyclist we ran into said, it was a good day to be on the planet.

But as we took off, circumstances drastically changed. Within 200 meters I had a flat. Not a big deal in the scheme of things, but rather alarming given I had brand new wheels, tires and tubes. I haven't flatted since last July. One of the guys offered to change it to save time. I wasn't going to argue. It turns out the Zipps are very hard to change and even after being incredibly careful, as he inflated the tube it blew. This was our second flat, not really a huge deal and not at all uncommon. Only I had just one tube with an 80mm valve for the deep back wheel so it quickly became a big deal. We patched one tube while we attempted to make a 60mm tube with a valve extender work. Again, trouble arose and the valve broke. Now we're at three flats only 20 miles into a ride. I wanted to quit. I wanted to cry. I wanted to wallow in self pity and anger but the group was so incredibly positive and so patient. No one was angry we had the setback and no one made me feel like I was ruining the day, even though I know I was.

We flagged down a truck driven by a very nice man named Jerry. Jerry took my friend Laura and I plus our two bikes to a bike shop a few miles away while the guys rode behind. We had called the shop and they confirmed they had at least one 80mm tube. They switched out my rear tire, the source of the multiple flattings, and we were all set. But then we asked them to check the pressure on the front and sure enough it was low. It had gone from 110lbs to 80lbs in just 20 miles. Not a good sign. Flat number four. They dug through the inventory and found one more tube and changed it for me. I was thinking my luck might be turning a corner. It was late and we were starving so we stopped at a local cafe for lunch with the intention of starting our journey yet again afterward. The day could still be saved.

Only after lunch, just a couple miles into the ride, I flatted again. This was the fifth. At this point I was losing my patience. We pulled over and changed the tire and before we could even get it onto the bike it flatted again. The sixth. When one gets six flats in a single ride it's a sign your day is over. I called the bike shop that sold me the wheels and they offered to come pick me up. I went through a range of emotions and swear if people weren't with me I would have completely lost it. My race is in six weeks and I have been missing big workouts left and right. My friends were life savers. They joked and kept things light and again, even as we sat on the side of the road for over an hour, no one complained and no one made me feel guilty for stealing a perfect training day from them. They tried very hard to keep me focused on the positive and while it's so hard to do that in really difficult times, they helped more than they'll ever know.

Then one of the most ironic things happened. A little dog ran up to visit us since we were lounging in her owner's yard. Her name was Zippy. We all got a laugh out of this since the Zipps were the reason we were stranded roadside. Zippy and her little friend Ginger made the stress and anxiety melt away and somehow, in the midst of what might be the worst training day ever, I found myself having fun. That's a pretty incredible thing.

My friends road back while I got a ride from the bike shop so I decided to do tomorrow's long run so I can hopefully bike tomorrow. It was rough to start a long run at 4:30 p.m. after biking 25 miles but I got it done. I was in a world of hurt from the beginning and actually had to walk at times. I passed my friends around Mile 3 and wanted to smile and wave and be chipper but I was miserable and in pain and I think they sensed it. When I arrived home they had dinner nearly ready and had bought all the stuff for smores since they knew I really wanted them. While I was in my ice bath one of them brought me a glass of wine. They talked about everything I gained from today and continued the effort to cheer me up. It worked. I can't change this, I can only hope tomorrow is better. And again I'm reminded why I'm in this sport. The people I share this lifestyle with are in a class of their own and never cease to surprise and amaze me.

The bike shop identified my rim tape as the issue so I'm praying everything is fixed and tomorrow's ride will be trouble free. But just in case, I'll be carrying at least four tubes. You can never be too prepared.

Distance - 22.82 miles
Time - 1:20:13

Distance - 16.04 miles
Time - 2:33:40


  1. Bummer(s)! But it sounds like you are working it out! Good group of training folks you have there!

  2. So sorry to hear about your ride! What bad luck!

    Aren't dogs great @ fixing all of your problems?!?!?

  3. What a tough day! I had my first flat today too. I can't imagine having six. Sounds like you have some great friends! I hope tomorrow goes better!

  4. Boo, flats! There must have been something in the air this weekend...
    Hope the rest of the trip panned out!

  5. oh man, that SUCKS ! ... but how nice to have such awesome riding buddies :)



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