ze Brain Farts[Posted on ]

Kindness towards strangers

I completed my second sprint triathlon yesterday on October 9th and as I take a break from writing my race report (well, technically, I haven’t even begun penning it! :-P), I wanted to share something that tested my mental fortitude even before the Tri began!

My sis and I arrived at the multi-structure car park  with loads of time to spare before Transition closed. We unloaded both our bikes and I proceeded to do what I normally did after we attached the front wheel to our bikes — fill the tyres/tires with air using my sturdy floor pump. I began working on my sis’ bike first and whilst pumping I already had the nagging feeling that when it came to mine, I’d have trouble with it… Mostly because I have had trouble in the past, connecting the pump’s gasket to the tire’s valve stem, and at the same time, all week, I’ve been thinking about how the treads on the surface of my bikes’ tires were rather worn. I was seriously envisioning that I would get a flat at the race course, and I would have had to carry my bike all the way back.

In hindsight, that sort of thinking probably should not have crossed my mind — especially during race morning! — but it did, and I think that’s partly what caused me to panic when I stuck the gasket to the front tyre’s valve stem and heard a snapping sound, followed by that “shhhhhhh-ing” noise, indicating  air quickly escaping from the tube! AHHHHHH. I tried not to think about it, and (stupidly) continued pumping the tyre where I was met with more air escaping and no change in the tyre’s state (it was still dead FLAT). I re-set the pump gasket at least thrice, and even tried my hand pump (didn’t go as far as using my CO2 air cartridge), to no avail. At this point, I already had thought that my race was over even before it began! (My sis later told me that she was actually thinking if I had enough time to drive home, load my mountain bike onto the truck and then get back before the race started — lol clearly big sis was positive and thought of backup plan, whilst I was ready to get into doom-and-gloom mode!)

My fear was confirmed (as if the escaping air wasn’t confirmation enough) that there was something seriously wrong with the tyre and I found it in the form of a tear where the valve stem met the tube. I had the tools (spare tube, patches, etc.) so it wasn’t like I was totally out of options. I looked at the tear again and saw that it was too close to the stem — meaning I would not be able to patch this tyre up! The next option meant I’d have to replace the tube; “I’m glad I bought the spare tube last year!”, I thought.

Long story short (too late): When I finally began removing the tube from the tyre, this older (mid-50’s?) gentleman who had been unloading his bike jumped in and gave me some tips on proper tube fitting. He even helped me reattach the tyre to the wheel and then slip the replacement tube in-between (and not, tube on wheel, then tyre-on). He totally did not have to stick around and make sure that I had properly set it, either, but he did and when he saw I was finally taking in air, he made his way down the car park — he was also racing the same event! I think I said, Thank you, to him at least fifty times! I was REALLY grateful.

Broken valve stem

Broken valve stem

Another view of valve stem

Another view of valve stem

Moral of the story:

  • Remain focused and rather than dwell on the problem, think of a solution.
    I’m normally a great troubleshooter, but I was just out of it on that Sunday! Gotta work more on my race day mental game. Eep.
  • Take a Bike Maintenance Course (in particular, how to change or patch one’s tyres!)
    I’m glad I signed up for that free REI “Basic Bike Maintenance” class years ago. With what little information I remembered (and with the help from that kind stranger), I was able to switch out the tyre’s inner tube and still race.
  • Be grateful and be thankful for your fellow athlete/competitor/peer.
    I wish had I asked for that man’s name (I’ll just call him, “The-Angel-who-helped-change-my-tyre-and-wore-the-Team-Longo-colours”) but I just remember constantly uttering “Thank you” to him. At the finish, I headed towards the Team Longo tent and briefly (not as long as my blog post here ;)) told them about my ordeal and how one of their team members helped me.
  • Pay it forward
    No need to explain this. The next time I see an athlete in need, you know I’m there. Unless of course, helping said athlete during  a race would immediately disqualify both of us from said race! LOL. Ok, let me read up on the rules and get back to you on that.

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