5 Dumb Moments in My Triathlon Races (and I survived to race again):

Forgot our racing wheels back at the apartment 30 miles away. In the parking lot.

Yep- I wasn’t racing, my husband was. Back in the day, we lived in a small efficiency apartment. Just 500 square feet, including our bed, 2 road bikes, 1 tandem bike, a small kitchen, bathroom, and his brewing equipment. And I was pregnant.

We headed off at 0-dark-30 in the morning for a Scottsdale duathlon, got all the way to the race site, and unloaded the bike into transition. Then? We suddenly realized we left our Hed Jet racing wheels in the apartment parking lot, behind where the car had been parked. We had no wheel backups in the car. Nothing. In a panic, my husband went to warm up for the fast approaching starting leg of the race- the run- and I raced home in the car, maybe breaking a few speed limits along the way.

The wheels were nowhere in site. The parking spot where we had been was empty. I grabbed a basic wheel from the apartment and headed back to the race JUST in time for Russ to come off of the run leg, through transition, while I tossed him a plain wheel for him to throw onto the bike. (Back in those days, the “transition” wasn’t even a gated off area.)

Later that weekend we got a call that, for a fee, our wheels would be returned to us. It cost us about $100 to get the wheels back. I still laugh- the guy had NO clue how valuable the wheels were. He could easily have multiplied that number by 5 and we would have paid.

Forgot my goggles back at the tent.

The Wildflower Triathlon is an iconic race in the mountains of California, considered “The Woodstock” of triathlon. If you’ve done the race, you know why (wink, wink). It would be my first half-Ironman distance race. Unfortunately, a family death the week before had us flying into Phoenix on Friday, tossing the bike in the car, driving frantically to California, with highway fires and road closures, and finally pitching our tent in the park at about midnight the night before the race. (Pretty much everyone camps in tents the weekend of the race to make access to the park easier race morning.)

In a stupor, I made it to the race start, when I realized I had forgotten my swim goggles all the way back at the tent. There wasn’t enough time to go back. I frantically ran into the sponsor village near transition, where Cobb Cycling had a small shop set up. John Cobb himself (at least, I think it was him) took pity on me, loaning me a pair of goggles until I could pay after the race. Those Lane 4 goggles to this day have been my favorite of all time.

Flooded out tent.

Another Wildflower race, the year before my goggle incident. Our family pitched our tent for my husband’s race. The rain poured all night long. In the middle of the night, our air mattress started floating on the water seeping into the tent. It was us and two young children in the tent. How fun was that? We made oatmeal over a small camping stove under the flipped up minivan rear door, and my husband took his place at the starting line. After the race, I pulled a horrible wife moment, refusing to stay in the tent another night. We made it to Paso Robles and spent the night in a hotel in a dry bed. I am absolutely amazed that I ever bothered to go back to the race the next year. Come to think of it, I’m going again this year. Hmmmm.

Buoys not tied down during a race.

Yeah- I figure I swam and extra 400 yards at a triathlon in Lake Pleasant, Arizona. The swim felt long, like one of those horror movies where a door at the end of a long hallway keeps getting farther away the faster you walk. I assumed I hadn’t trained well enough for an open water swim. It wasn’t until after the race, when I was chatting with other racers, that I found out the buoys hadn’t been tied down properly and had drifted far off course.

Left on headband during swim.

In the old FHP Duathlon series in the 1990’s, one of the races was held in a small boat racing lagoon at Arizona Ski Springs. To split up the number of racers getting into the small lagoon at once, they reversed the race order to be a run, swim, bike. (May I just say how stupid that was, because getting into a lake to swim after running hard is about the worst.)

I got back from the run totally breathless and headed toward the water, pulled on my goggles, jumped into the lagoon, and started swimming. At one point the water was so shallow, that I had to stand up, walk over a small grassy patch, and jump in again to finish the course. When I got out of the swim and headed for my bike in transition, I not only pulled clinging pieces of algae of my face, but also a very soggy headband that I had forgotten to take off after my run. What a newbie!

In the end, you just have to laugh at yourself sometimes. Crud happens at races. You’ve just gotta pick up and keep going.

And hope no one took pictures.

Happy Racing!


  1. I did a race in 2011 or 2012 that was incredibly windy. I started the swim in Storrie Lake and gasped at the freezing mountain lake. I figured that had to be why my pace seemed so slow until I realized that the buoy was moving. Then a gust of wind caught it and it blew up into the bridge. I turned around and went back and still ended up swimming more than the planned 1500 meters.

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