Hi, everyone. Jen here. Todd has a great post ready to go for all of you, but I’ve decided to hijack the blog one more time this week. Hope he doesn’t mind. 😉
I had sort of a traumatic bike-related experience yesterday and I guess I just need to share with people who will “get” it.
So, I’m 4 days away from my very first 70.3 — Atlantic City — and I’m leaving my local bike shop with my freshly tuned-up bike (it’s a Specialized Dolce in a lovely shade of turquoise). The bike is only a few months old; my hubby bought it for me at the beginning of the summer because he knew how much I wanted to do a 70.3…and there was no way I could race that distance on my 10+ year-old hybrid (at least not without feeling like a idiot).
Anyways, I hook my bike to my bike rack (yet another triathlon-related purchase to add to the list) as I’ve done dozens of times this summer. I hopped onto the Garden State Parkway on my way to teach a few piano lessons. I decided to bring the bike with me because a.) I didn’t have a ton of extra time before my first lesson to stop home and b.) I wanted to do a short ride afterwards just to double check that everything was good to go after my pre-race tune-up.
And then my worst fear came to life. I was driving about 55-60 MPH when I saw the bike swinging on my bike rack a bit, as it sometimes does when I’m driving at faster speeds and/or it’s especially windy. I decided I would pull over at the upcoming rest stop just to double check that it was secure because, if you’re unfamiliar, the Garden State Parkway is really NOT a great road to stop on unless it’s an emergency.
But unfortunately I didn’t make it. Minutes later, I looked in the rearview mirror and watched in horror as my bike flew off the bike rack and smashed onto the highway.
I had that moment of that didn’t just happen, I must be hallucinating, but once I realized it was for real, I pulled over and flung myself out of the car to go retrieve my precious bike. I was in the right lane, and the bike landed halfway into the shoulder. Thankfully, the approaching cars saw what happened and went around me (heaven forbid they slow down, though)…but I have no desire to run around on a major highway anytime soon.
I hooked the bike back onto the car as securely as possible (it’s a two-bike rack, and I’m sure there’s a more technical way to describe this, but the “stopper” on the end had come off on the side that holds the seat, and the rubber strap securing the bike ripped on the side that holds the front end). I’ve been using the rack at least 2-3 times a week for the past several months with no issues, and had no inkling whatsoever that anything was loose, broken, etc.
I raced back to the bike shop (BTW — if by any chance you live in my area, Cycles 54 in Wall is the ABSOLUTE BEST BIKE SHOP EVER). After his initial response — WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED?! — the shop owner immediately went to work taking pictures of the rack and the damages to the bike to help me file a claim with Thule. He said it was clearly a failure of the bike rack because it was installed and secured perfectly and that Thule should make it right in terms of paying for the damages (but, honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about going after Thule…I just wanted to know whether or not I would be dropping out of my first 70.3 due to lack of bike).
Most importantly, he said most of the damage to the bike is cosmetic and can be fixed/replaced over time, but there are definitely some issues that need immediate attention…the handlebars were all jacked up, the front brakes were bent and need to be replaced, etc. I don’t have photos to share of the damage…it’s too traumatizing. 😦
In spite of all of that, he assured me that they will fix it for me, do a full safety inspection, and I will have the bike back and ready to race in time for the weekend. (Truth be told, I think the poor guy saw that I was on the verge of bursting into tears, so I was a little bit hoping he wasn’t just telling me what I needed to hear to avoid having a meltdown in his store.)
I know it could have been so much worse. There was nobody driving directly behind me when the bike fell off. I know I could have caused an accident and somebody could’ve been seriously injured. I know I could have been killed when I started running around on a major highway.
I’m so thankful that nobody was hurt and that the bike isn’t irreparably damaged, but now I am in sheer and utter panic mode. I’m a marathon runner, for crying out loud, so I’m no stranger to pre-race anxiety…but I’ve never had it this bad.
I was already a nervous about the bike leg of the race, but I’ve spent this entire summer with my ass glued to that bike seat. I can’t remember the last Sunday I didn’t spend cycling for 3-4 hours. It took me forever to feel comfortable on my new road bike (I did my first few sprint/Olympic tris last summer on that trusty old hybrid), and I was finally starting to feel somewhat confident as a cyclist and less fearful out on the roads.
And now I feel like all of my progress is gone. I’m afraid again. I have to bike 56 miles on the Atlantic City Expressway this weekend and I can’t get the image of my mangled bike lying on the side of the road out of my head.
And this isn’t even the first time that I’ve experienced triathlon-related panic. At last year’s Atlantic City Triathlon — my first Olympic distance tri — I had a full-on panic attack because the water was too warm to be wetsuit legal and I had never attempted an open water swim without one.
After crying in a port-a-potty for 15 minutes, I swallowed my fear, got in the water, and surprised myself that day. I made it through the swim with no problem (other than a few of my usual THERE’S SOMETHING TOUCHING MY LEG freak-outs), and realized I had stressed out for nothing. And I’m hoping this weekend will be the same.
But for now, I just have to try to shake the fear that my bike will fail me on race day. I am definitely not a mechanically-inclined person who knows how to fix minor issues out on the course, so there was ALWAYS the fear of getting a flat, etc…but now it’s about a zillion times worse.
It makes me miss running races. There’s always those pre-race jitters before a half or full marathon, but when you’re running, you’re only relying on yourself…not a bike that can fail you at any time, regardless of all the hours of training you put in.
It’s not like I was in a crash or anything like that, thank God, but I can’t stop obsessing over the idea of my bike being “broken” just days before my first 70.3…or the fact that I really don’t even want to get on a bike right now for fear that it’s just going to fall apart from under me.
I’ve worked so hard and I know I can finish this race, but I can’t shake the fear of ending up with a DNF on race day because of a mechanical failure that’s beyond my control. My bike shop has been very good to me and I trust them to fix the bike and ensure that it’s safe to ride, so I’m sure I’m probably being irrational, but I just hate that my excitement for this race has now been replaced by fear.
Talk me off the ledge…how do you deal with pre-race fear/stress/anxiety?