Middletown, Rhode Island; September 22, 2012 – Amica 19.7 Newport Triathlon, Second Beach and Third Beach.
The goal for 2012, the second year in the ‘Triathlon Across the USA‘ journey, was to complete triathlons in the remaining New England states. In January, registration opened for triathlons in two of these states, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, on back-to-back days in September. I registered for both in January.
Travel to the Rhode Island Triathlon
Joy and I left our house in Chicopee, Massachusetts around 3 pm on Friday, taking a southern route through Hartford, Connecticut to Newport, Rhode Island. We arrived at the race venue for packet pickup on time, albeit with some difficulty. Since we had left our GPS in Minnesota, we navigated the ‘old fashioned’ way using printed maps. We were reminded that some skills, like navigating with maps, follow the ‘use it or lose it’ principle.
After picking up the race packet, we made our way to the hotel for the evening in Swansea, Massachusetts. In order to save money, I used points to book a free night at the nearest Holiday Inn. The drive to the hotel from Newport should have taken 25 minutes. Instead, it took us 45 minutes.
We finally made it to the hotel, frustrated by the difficulty in first getting to the race site and then to the hotel. However, the payoff was a wonderful dinner at Kent’s—Joy had steak and lobster and I had fish and chips. Both were excellent.
The next morning, we rose early and made our way to the race venue. This time, we used a more efficient route and arrived with time to spare.
3rd Amica 19.7 Newport
2012 was the 3rd running of the Amica-sponsored Newport 19.7 sprint triathlon. Distances for the individual legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:
- Swim: 0.5 mile (800 m)
- Bike: 16.1 mile (25.8 km)
- Run: 3.1 mile (5 km)
By the way, in case you have not already noticed, the number ‘19.7’ in the race name is the sum of the distances, in miles, of the swim, bike, and run legs of the triathlon.
Like the recently completed No Label Triathlon in Katy (Houston), Texas, the Newport 19.7 had two distinct transition areas. The first transition area, that for the swim to bike, was in a park at Third Beach. A second area near Second Beach was for the bike to run transition and contained the finish line.
Following the pre-race meeting, we walked our bikes the half mile from the second transition area to the swim/bike transition area.
As I waited for the start of the swim, I noticed a light mist in the air, enough to cover my goggles.
The half-mile swim took place in the bay off Third Beach. The water was calm and comfortable, thanks to the wetsuit. However, beneath the water were sharp rocks that cut my feet in at least two locations while entering the water.
As it turned out, I soon forgot about these small cuts.
The mist continued as we started the bike leg. Within a short time, my glasses were covered with water making them useless. Since I could no longer see through the lenses, I pushed the glasses down on my nose, peering over the top.
At somewhere around five miles into the bike course, I started to notice a periodic hissing sound from the front tire. I later learned that this sound was made by air leaking from the tube with each revolution of the wheel.
I did not see that the front tire was gradually becoming flat. However, it finally became apparent that the tire was completely flat and I was riding on the rim of the front wheel. There was no choice but to stop and replace the tube.
I decided to make the upcoming turn and pull off the road to replace the tire. I soon learned how little control one has with a flat front tire.
My First Crash
Upon making the turn, I fell hard on my right side, in front of a crowd of spectators, no less. I landed partly on asphalt and partly on a grassy shoulder of the road. In the fall, my knee was cut, my right arm was scraped from its wrist to the elbow (there is a scar to this day), my shoulder was jammed into the grassy area next to the road, and other parts of my right side were scratched.
I started to remove the front tire to replace the tube when a member of the volunteer bike maintenance crew came around the corner in his truck. He stopped and asked if I needed help.
Casting any remaining pride and ego aside, I told him I would very much appreciate his help. He became my Good Samaritan, quickly replacing the tube. He also replaced the chain that had come off in the fall so I could continue the race. My best estimate is that the repairs took about four and a half minutes.
I have often thought about the perfect timing of my Good Samaritan’s arrival. A coincidence? I don’t believe in them. The Lord’s timing is always perfect.
I got back on the bike and rode as if I could make up for the lost time. Surprising myself, I rode as if nothing had happened, racing down several steep hills to finish the course.
I saw Joy as I came into the transition area, giving her a summary of the crash as I ran my bike to the rack.
Unlike the bike course, the run was flat. After all of the excitement during the bike leg, this out-and-back run was uneventful.
However, I apparently looked pretty battered. As we met, one runner commented about my injuries and his similar experience a week earlier.
From the Finish Line
Joy was waiting for me at the finish line. We made our way to the first aid vehicle where paramedics cleaned my cuts and scrapes and covered the main injuries on my arm and knee with gauze.
We then walked over to check the results. Despite having lost 4-5 minutes with the flat tire and crash, I finished 9th of 16 in my age group.
While putting the bike into the van, I noticed a hole in the tire roughly a half inch in diameter, large enough that the new tube was protruding through it. Fortunately, the new tube had not worn through and lost its air.
On the way to the hotel in New Hampshire for the triathlon the next day, we stopped at a bike shop to have the damaged tire replaced.
As near as I could determine from inspecting the tire, the puncture had come from a large piece of glass or unusually sharp rock.
Lessons Learned During the Rhode Island Triathlon
More than seven years later, the Rhode Island has been the toughest triathlon because of the crash and injuries. On a positive note, I learned two important lessons that I have used in other races.
The most important lesson was to stop riding at the earliest indication of a leaking or damaged tire. Following this experience, I am a bit ‘gun-shy’ whenever the road is wet and I hear water spraying from the tire. On at least one occasion, I have stopped and gotten off the bike to inspect the tire and verify that it is still solid.
A second lesson from the Rhode Island triathlon was that whenever race organizers provide a transition area bag, use it. It helps to avoid losing gear in the chaos of a race.
At packet pickup, race organizers provided a plastic bag with our race number on it. During the race, volunteers used the bags to transport racer’s wetsuits and goggles from the individual swim/bike transition spaces to the second transition area.
I made the mistake of not bringing the plastic bag to the swim/bike transition area. As a result, I spent several moments after the race frantically digging through a pile of unbagged swim gear, searching for my wetsuit and goggles.
Fortunately, I found both. I would definitely need them the next day during the Atlantic Ocean swim at the New Hampshire triathlon.
- First race with the swim portion in the Atlantic Ocean.
- This was the first race in which I had a flat tire.
- First race in which I was injured (as a result of the flat tire).