A Note from Fatty: This is Part 7 of my Salt to Saint writeup. Earlier
- Part I: The Things that Hurt
- Part II: Meet Your Competitors
- Part III: Team Fatty Cannot Seem to Catch a Break
- Part IV: Support from a Unicorn
- Part V: Life as a Domestique
- Part VI: Everything Falls Apart
I was on the side of the road with another flat.
I was no more than 130 miles into this 423-mile monster and had another flat. How many tubes had I gone through now? Four? Yeah, I think four. Which meant that I had only two more tubes with 80mm stems left. At the rate we were burning through tubes, that wouldn’t be enough.
Never, in my twenty-ish years of riding, have I gotten flats so often.
I had recently moved away from tubeless road tires — too hard to fix in the field. Now I was regretting that change.
At least this time I was pretty sure I knew why I had gotten the flat. When I had given this bike to Scott an hour ago (or was it more? Or was it less? Time had become slippery), I hadn’t told him to look for the cause of the flat.
“Well,” I thought to myself, “I guess I’d better find it now.”
I moved off the road as best as I could — there was very little shoulder, and I didn’t want to put my bike in the weeds, risking picking up the cause of what would undoubtedly be my next flat. I took the rear wheel off, popped the bead off the rim, and pulled out the tube.
Now the treasure hunt could begin.
I took the glove off my right and and felt all along the inside of the tire, feeling for a snag, hoping it wasn’t something worse. You know, like an especially sharp piece of glass.
(I’m not the only one who fears that someday, while checking the inside of a tire, he’s going to g slice a finger wide open on a piece of glass, right? I am? Oh.)
Anyways. I don’t feel anything on the first go ’round. Nor the second. The tire feels fine. I go around a third time. A fourth. I decide I’m going to go around verrrrry carefully, one more time, and if I don’t find it, I’ll give up, put another tube in, and hope for the best.
And there it is. So barely there it’s hardly even there. But it’s there. A teeny tiny sliver of a thorn. Somehow it worked its way through the tire and now just the barest tip of it was poking through. It’d take a while to go through a tube, but — evidently — it would eventually get through.
I try to use my fingernails to tweeze it. I wished for longer fingernails. “Why do I keep my fingernails so short?” I wondered to myself. “They’re an incredibly useful tool and I just cut them off. Stupid.”
I try my teeth. The taste is…unpleasant. I go back to my fingernails, this time pushing the thorn back out through the outside of the tire.
Annnnnnnd…there’s enough there to grab. I pinch it, pull it out, and exult. I have demonstrated my superiority and resilience. I shall not be halted — at least, not more than twice, for what was now probably a cumulative twenty minutes — by something as piddling as a thorn.
I Must Speak Up
As I put the tube in, Kerry and Scott drove up to me. They were coming back from crewing for The Hammer for a bit. Telling her that I was really close and would catch up to her shortly.
“You’ve got another flat?” Scott asked.
“Yeah,” I said, fully intending to not be petulant or accusatory by asking whether he had checked for what had caused my previous flat.
“Scott, did you find out what caused the previous flat?” I asked. So much for the non-petulant, non-accusatory resolution.
“No, I didn’t even check. Sorry!” Scott said.
“Kerry, could you run and get my floor pump and another 80mm-stemmed tube?” I asked.
Kerry returned with the pump, and some news. “I don’t think there are any more 80mm-stemmed tubes.”
“Oh.” I knew I had brought six. We hadn’t gone through more than four tubes, one of which wasn’t even a long-stemmed one. But maybe my math was wrong. Or maybe when I had bought all those tubes, I hadn’t checked carefully enough to ensure the stems were the right length.
“Call Blake when you get back in the car, OK? And tell him to be sure to buy some more 80mm-stemmed tubes on his way over here to crew for us tonight,” I said. “And meanwhile, we’ll hope for no more flats for a while.”
As I got the new — and, evidently, final — tube into place and the bead back on the rim, Kerry took my bike and flipped it over, upside down, onto its handlebar and seat.
I am pretty sure I gasped, but managed to not say anything.
Scott then took the tire from me and put it into place on the bike. Except he did it in such a way that the chain didn’t actually go around the cassette. Which I suppose would be OK, if I didn’t need to pedal.
“Guys, I’ll take it from here, OK?” I said, as I turned the bike right-side up (the bar and saddle were scuffed but otherwise fine) and threaded the wheel into the frame correctly.
I pumped the tire up to 100psi, gave them back the frame pump, and told them to go on ahead and catch The Hammer. “Tell her I’ll catch her as soon as I can,” I said.
Against The Wind
With this latest (very slow) repair, combined with the distance she already had on me, I figured The Hammer must be fifteen minutes ahead of me.
That’s a lot of catching up to do.
“Time to chase,” I thought, and started going at my absolute limit again.
But the headwind had picked up. It was strong now. “The Hammer will be hating riding through this alone,” I thought.
And I had been riding for 130 miles, the most recent twenty of which I had already been going hard.
And in short, I didn’t have a ton of chasing left in me. I knew, in fact, that if I wanted to be able to keep riding through the rest of the day, all through the night, and into the next day, I couldn’t just keep burning matches like this.
But I needed to catch The Hammer. So I kept going, harder than I knew was wise. Harder than I knew I’d be able to sustain.
“If this race continues this way,” I thought to myself, “there is no way I am going to be able to finish it.”
A Farewell to Pizza Rolls
When you’re riding really hard — not just riding, but racing – you need to fuel your body constantly. And so — of course — your body decides at that time that food just sounds awful, and that it is going to trigger your gag reflex if you do so much as think about food.
It’s a delightful little cycling paradox, really.
Still, up to this point I had been pretty darned good about eating. I had been unwrapping one of the things The Hammer had made during the days before the race and eaten, about every half hour or so.
At the beginning of the day, they had been fantastic. I had loved the taste and variety of what we had available.
But now, around 140 miles into the ride, well, my body was rebelling a little bit. I was having a tough time getting enthused about putting anything into my mouth. I knew I had to eat. With around 300 miles to go, not eating was not an option.
But I wasn’t enjoying it.
Exercising self-discipline, I unwrapped one of the foil wrappers and — without checking what it was — stuffed it into my mouth. It was one of the pizza rolls. My favorite.
Except right now.
I started gagging, the reflex gaining steam and promising to escalate soon into full-on retching.
I spat it out. And I knew that I had eaten my last pizza roll, blueberry turnover, and every other baked good for the trip.
Which was too bad, because that was all I had in my jersey pocket. And the crew was up ahead with The Hammer.
Wherever she was.
I was a third of the way into a 423-mile ride and had somehow managed to find myself alone, in a headwind, prone to flats, with no tubes, and no food.
And I just didn’t have it in me to chase anymore.
In fact, I didn’t feel like pedaling at all.