How to Keep Learning things.
Way back at the dawn of the enlightenment I coined the phrase, “Never trust anyone over 30”. I never copyrighted that so it is possible you read it or heard it as coming from someone else but that is not important.
Now I am 61 and a couple of weeks ago I learned again. THis is now a sporadic rather than a daily occurrence for me but as in the past my teacher this time was another guy under 30. He was in fact about to turn 29 so I can only trust him for another year but so it goes.
A friend of mine was competing in the Ironman Muskoka 70.3 . This is a triathlon held up in the Huntsville Ontario are and based out of Deerhurst Resort, made famous for hosting the G8 meetings this summer, at bargain prices and virtually no arrests or police brutality.
My friend, his wife, his mother, and I went up to the area for the weekend. Three of us to cheer Dan on and spectate and he to compete as a sort of final race for his first year in triathlons. Dan has been doing remarkably well at this sort of thing this year and in some smaller races has had very good results in his age groups and overall. Even more surprising is that his athletic endeavours have been mostly in more traditional team sports ending with a career at Windsor on the football team. Dan is about 6’ 2” and weighed about 245 as a tight end on the football team. Not exactly the archetype for a long distance racer.
At any rate the day of the race dawned overcast with rain showers. Not the best weather for an outdoor event of several hours length but all together not the worst possible either. We watched him set off in the swim portion of the race and then positioned ourselves around the transition zone to catch some pics of him getting to and out on the cycling leg. We then got to our car and started driving down the track of the cycling to find him in the course, get ahead of him and once again get some pictures. After that we would repeat the process and get some shots of him in the run and into the finish.
As we tracked past hundreds of cyclists on the hilly countryside of the 94 km cycling leg we finally found Dan. Unfortunately he was on a bridge on the highway,stopped and bent over looking at his rear wheel. We pulled over a hundred yards or so past him and I walked back to see what was wrong and see if we could do anything to help.
It turned out it wasn’t his wheel but in fact the rear derailleur on the bike that had self destructed. There was no way to fix it as parts had been strewn down the road as it failed and he had finally coasted to a stop and no way to even see what had actually broken. What was clear was that the guide wheels for the chain and the entire inside of the derailleur were gone and so it couldn’t even hold any tension on the chain to keep it on a gear cog. Without the spring loading of the derailleur Dan now had a chain about 3 or 4 inches too long for the bike and no tools capable of fixing it. He needed a bike specific tool called a chain breaker, which is used to separate set to length and then reconnect a chain.
We talked about it for a moment and I said to him “I’m sorry but I think your race today is over and you”re fucked. I tend to get poetic at times like this. I suggested loading the bike into the car and we’d take him back to the start where he could scratch from the race.
Obvious, to anyone who has planned on racing something like this that sort of result is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. Dan didn’t want to quit even when I pointed out that if he did manage to fix the chain he would still have to ride as a single gear on the hilliest course he had ever tried so far. It was about then the learning occurred.
He insisted he didn’t want to quit and wanted to try to get help from other riders if possible. We went to the end of the bridge to a spot with more shoulder room and he began calling out to other racers as they rode past that he needed a chain breaker. After 10 minutes a woman stopped and gave him a chain breaker she was carrying with her.
Unfortunately she didn’t give him the allen wrench needed to turn the tool. Nor did she wait to get her tool back but took off to finish her race, essentially giving away a $15 tool to a complete stranger. Dan stood at the side of the road for another 5 minutes asking now for Allen keys and a male rider stopped and as with the woman just gave him a set of them and rode away to finish his own race.
Dan went to work then shortening his chain so it would run on a medium high gear and replacing the wheel with the chain in place. He hopped on the bike and took off down the route to finish his race. His time for the day was ruined. In a bike leg that he expected to take about 3 hors he had been delayed by the mechanical for at least a half hour and now had to finish the last half of the ride on a compromise gear. Too high for the steeper hills and too low for ay downhill parts so he couldn’t do anything but coast.
Regardless he finished his ride and took off on the run. At the end of the day he could see that his swim and run legs had been pretty much on target for the times he had hoped for and that the ride had been about 45 minutes longer.
All of us however were pleased beyond words at his ability to finish at all.
I was pleased to once again be shown that with determination and a little help from our friends, and or strangers we can get by.
By the way I’m not certain of the age of the two tool donors but they certainly weren’t much past 30 if at all.