Karma, Heat Waves and the Delaminated Wheel
I quite like the concept of karma, or at least my interpretation of it. Wrapped up somewhere in this interpretation is the idea of good and bad, negativity and positivity seeking out a sort of balance, that is, if you reap what you sow, plant enough good seeds and you’ll grow a healthier crop of good luck when all is said and done. Now if you’re out riding a bike often enough, you’ll know that cyclists tend to look out for each other. If you’re ever on the side of a road with a mechanical it shouldn’t be long before another rider asks if you need any help. So with an eye towards my version of karma I took this etiquette very seriously over the summer. Key workout or not, serious cyclist or recreational rider on a beater bike, I stopped religiously if I ever saw a rider with a flat or mechanical, several times making the repairs myself and once even assisting a rider who’d crashed on his bike and was obviously suffering through a concussion on the side of the road. I didn’t do these things directly because I expected anything in return, but I did feel the positivity helped my training and just maybe was helping to store some good karma credit. Silly superstition? Perhaps, but helping folks out never hurts and in the final weekend before I left for Hawaii, I think I collected on some markers.
Marker one came in the form of a heat wave. Long before I knew I’d be heading to Hawaii, my mom and I had signed up to do the Chicago marathon. As this race would take place only one week before the race in Hawaii, this was race would now be out for me, but would still be the focus of my mother’s training over the summer. As we’d be travelling to Hawaii together, however, I couldn’t head south until after Chicago. This meant I would not be able to leave for Hawaii until the Tuesday before the race and this had me worried about heat acclimation. Coming from a northern climate, the fall had already started to bring shorter days and cooler weather. I’d started to have to walk around in winter jackets, wear sweaters all day at work, and train in near winter gear just to stay hot enough that my body would not start to adjust to fall weather. But the last weekend before my race, when I would have liked to head down to begin getting used to the heat again, the Midwest did what it does best: the weather changed and in came a string of mid-summer like weather. I really felt bad for my mother, who’d trained all summer for the Chicago marathon and then was forced to leave the course at the 18 mile mark because of the heat, but the weather could not have been any better for my own preparations for Kona. I’d get off the plane and not feel any different than I had the day I’d leave Michigan.
Marker two was a bigger deal, though perhaps not coincidentally tied into equipment problems. After my last key workout prior to race day, I started to prep my bike for packing. First I washed and lubed everything. I then sat down to tune my race wheels one last time and found a strange leak. Not air, but moisture was escaping, leaking slowly from my freshly washed front wheel. It took a while to find the source, but there it was: a small crack working its way along the bond between the aluminum rim and its 60 mm carbon fairing. I felt sick. Unbelievable! Better of course to find this now than on the Queen K 60 miles into the race (or worse after crashing out), but this was Monday, a day before I would be leaving and less than a week from my race. I could scramble to find a new wheel in the next several hours, but adding to the time complications was the fact that this was a 650c tubular wheel. Renting would be out, and even if I could find a new wheel to buy on such short notice, I’d neither have the money to afford one nor the desire to buy into a technology that was quickly becoming dated if not obsolete (fewer and fewer bikes are made that accommodate 650c wheels). I would be maybe grasping at straws but I’d heard about the excellent customer service at HED, the maker of my wheels, so I thought I’d try calling and see if anything could be done. I called HED and luck would again be on my side. There were two options, though one less likely than the other. My wheel was too old to be eligible for replacement or repair, but a new one could be built (each HED wheel is hand built and the 650c size meant stock was not readily available and one would have to be built) at a discount and shipped out to me, but it was doubtful whether this could be done in enough time to be shipped out to Hawaii prior to bike check-in. Option two was a winner. After some searching through what used wheels they had on hand in 650c tubular, they had found an older Alps 50 mm tubular wheel in 650c they could ship out to Hawaii for me for a decent price. It would be a slightly lower quality wheel than the 60mm Jet wheel it would be replacing, and it would be tight whether it would make it to Hawaii in time, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances. I arranged for the wheel to be shipped to HP Bikeworks, a great shop in Kona kind enough to receive the wheel for me, and if all went really well I’d have the wheel in enough time to test it out prior to bike check in. I’d need to bring my training wheel just in case things went wrong, but, with big thanks to HED Cycling, it looked like I’d done just enough good to balance out my bad luck. I hoped that would be the last of it.