Sunday, July 6, 2008

Learning how to change a tire (in)correctly

Saturday morning our team workout was scheduled for only a bike ride and bike handling clinic. The pool at Foothill High was hosting some sort of meet, so we were going to do a longer ride. To absolutely nobody's surprise, the "surprise clinic" was that we all got to practice changing our rear tire. D'oh! I had some practice doing that when I flatted with Bree, but although I helped she did most of the work.

Yeah, it was a pain. Yeah, it was messy. But yeah, it was good experience. The millions of coaches and captains and mentors wandered through the team members changing tires, giving advice, correcting mistakes. I had several people show me how to do things, then they'd replace whatever they'd done and watch while I did it on my own. It was harder and easier than I expected; my hands are weak so it's difficult for me to strip off the tire, and I had a tough time replacing the tire correctly, but I got it all done by myself. I received a bit of assistance from one of the coaches in replacing the wheel back on my bike; I wasn't sure where the chain went or how tight to tighten the whatchimajigger (hey, I said I changed the tube, not that I learned the names of everything). He rechecked and tightened it, we spun the wheel, put the brake thingie back how it was supposed to be, spun the wheel and made sure the brakes worked and it was ready to go. Then I wiped the grease off my fingers and got ready for the ride.
It wasn't quite a real field change, we all used floor pumps to re-air our tubes and none of us tried the crappy hand pumps from our bikes or used the gas canisters we carry. Otherwise I'll have to admit it was a good experience. Unfortunately it wasn't done entirely correctly.

Dun dun dun! That's the foreboding music for what happened next.

The groups left, first the Half IMers who were riding 130 minutes, then the first batch of Olympic-ers who were scheduled for 90 minutes (there are too many of us to all leave at the same time), then the rest of us. As I headed to the street my pump popped out of its brackets. I don't know why I even carry it because it doesn't work very well, but whatever. I had to stop, replace it, then I was caught by the red light for a couple of minutes. Once again I was left behind.

I started up and my legs felt flat. I thought it wasn't too surprising, my oatmeal had been several hours earlier and had maybe worn off. We headed down Foothill towards Niles, a pretty, narrow, rolling hill route. And I was dragging, going very slow. Coach Paul rode past me and said I was looking good, good form and cadence; we chatted for a minute and he headed off.

And I plodded along. The uphills were treacherous and I just couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. Another coach came by and said she thought she heard something rubbing and that the brakes were probably doing it and I should check it at the waterstop. Alrighty. Another coach rode past and told me my seat was too low and he'd raise it at the waterstop. Okey dokey. I arrived there, he changed it, I went on my way.

And went slower, and slower and slower and it got harder and harder and harder. Finally I gave up and stopped to see what was going on with my bike. I turned the pedals and looked and the chain appeared to be stuck. I thought it was probably that I hadn't done some stupid little thing after the tire change, but the wheel was no longer turning. The coach who thought my brakes were rubbing saw me standing forlornly on the side of the road and called the sag wagon. Sigh.

The mentors picked up my bike and me and took me along for their ride to the end of the course, out Calaveras Road. I was happy I wasn't riding that far (and I wouldn't have, I would have had to turn around long before I got to the steep, twisty, narrow, cliffy parts) but I wasn't too thrilled to be benched. They talked with yet another coach who said when we saw him on the return journey he'd look at my bike to see if he could fix it.

And it turned out to be rather simple. My wheel had slipped and the tire was rubbing against the forks. As in, a large blob of rubber completely rubbed off. As in, the entire wheel could have fallen off. As in, thanks heaps helpful coach who showed me how to put it back on my bike and tightened the thingie and said it was good to go.

I was given the choice of finishing the ride or sagging back and took option A. So I was the very last person out there, with only the coaches sweeping the course. Amazing how much easier the return trip was. And unlike most of the time when we ride and ride alone, for most of my return 7 miles I had the company of Coach Paul. Who wanted to know how training was coming, how my back was, how my knee was. I wasn't going to lie, but I wasn't being completely forthcoming either. I will make it through this season and none of the staff need to know what's hurting, what I'm having trouble with, how I'm feeling. So I smiled and painted a somewhat rosier picture than was entirely true. Sue me.

I wasn't the last person back but only because about a half mile out, the person in front of me got a flat tire. My little 14+ mile ride took forever. The first 7 miles were incredibly hard, the second 7 were tough but I felt like I was flying in comparison.

So, another learning experience. At least I made it through the whole thing without bursting into tears, which is much better than I've been doing.

At this point I'm guessing that my tri will be 4:15-4:30. I'll probably be closing the course down there too.

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