FAIL

Well, yesterday SUCKED. I’m sure you’ve heard snippets from the twitter-verse, slowtwitch etc. but I wanted to give you the run down as it really happened.

Sort version:

I was pulled out of IM Coeur d’Alene at mile 21 of the run (while in 2nd) b/c I rode another athlete’s wee bike back to T2 after my crank arm fell off and I couldn’t get any assistance.

Long version:

I was 3 min down from 1st – Meredith – out of the water, and managed to catch her at 40 mi or so on the far south end of the 2 loop course. She has this pesky habit of tenaciously hanging on, and it wasn’t until the second loop, heading out to the far turn  that I was finally able to open up a decent gap. I was happy with my race, how I was feeling, and stoked to be in the lead hammering the last stretch back to T2.

Then… my left pedal stroke started feeling kind of wobbly. Looking down I could see the wave washer and spacers had a rather large gap than they should. I thought “oh no, oh no, oh no this isn’t happening”. I stopped briefly to see if I could thump it back in (not one to carry a 10 mm allen key on my race bike) but no. It did seem, though, that it wouldn’t come completely off, so I got back on and kept riding – trying to keep even, inward pressure on the cranks. The drive side started pushing out, and rubbing the chain on the derailer to such an extent that it popped into the small ring. I un-clipped while rolling to tap it back in with my right foot, and that’s when, POW! the left crank-arm went flying off.

AAAAHHHHHH

A very kind athlete on his first loop (a single leg amputee for that matter), stopped to pick up my crank on the road and rolled up. He tried to help, had allen keys – none worked, and was the first person of the day to offer me his bike so I could get to the finish. I declined the very kind offer, and just asked that he send race support my way if he saw any. Other age-groupers also stopped and slowed down to see if they could help.

After about 5 min or so an Ironman race vehicle (not sag) stopped on the other side of the road to see if he could help, and that’s when Cristie Sym – who was not having a good day and was riding the other direction,  saw me and rolled over.  We exchanged a few choice words about our days and she was super encouraging “like you are still in this race, it’s not that far to T2, just take my bike”.  She took her shoes off, I squeezed my feet in and hopped on.

HA! riding that mini bike, with my knees in my face was the one humorous part of the day. It was so ridiculous I had to laugh. I was also pretty happy to be moving – albeit oddly. I didn’t just quit and give up and sit at the side of the road. I was offered help from another competitor, which I thought was fine, and I kept racing.

I rode as hard as I could and I must have looked quite the sight passing people. Apparently, after I stopped and messed around for quite awhile, Meredith had a 8 min lead, but I closed it back down to 6.  Yes hammering BMX style!  I had to stand for the one loong climb (ouch), and I had a pretty hilarious mini peddle stoke (one smart-ass individual even told me that my seat post was too low!)  The Di2 shifting was pretty sweet.  Thanks a million Christie. I’m totally gutted – that it didn’t work out for either of us.

I got into T2, 5:45 min down, and thought – okay I just have to do this on the run. At the end of the first loop though, the race director and official referee were standing there and they stopped me, held up a red card, and said that I was DQ’d for receiving outside assistance, and finishing the race on a different bike. I said that it wasn’t outside assistance, it was another racer that helped, I wasn’t trying to cheat, just finish. It all seemed so wrong, so I refused to stop and said that I’d finish and contest the call – which I thought was within my rights. To boos from the crowd, they took away my lead biker, and I just kept going.

Meanwhile, my husband, friends, family, my coach are all frantically calling one another, looking up rules doing all they can to help me out.

At mile 20.5 a golf cart rolls up and the head race course guy says that if I don’t stop and give him my timing chip, I will face a 6 month suspension (bye bye Kona etc). I said that that was ridiculous and the last I heard was that USAT rules said I should get a “variable time penalty” (e.x. 4 minute stand-down) not be DQ’d. I said I was totally happy to stand down for a 4 min penalty, but I wasn’t willing to stop and give up my right to contest the call at the finish.  He conferred more on his radio. I kept running.

He rolled up again and said that the officials were sticking firm and that I needed to stop. A 6 month suspension wasn’t worth it. I stopped, but I was so torn. I just kept thinking – I am going to be so crushed to have some this far and I don’t finish, and I find out it was a bogus call. (A good friend was pulled from the heinous waters at IM St. George this year by an official that said the conditions were too dangerous, but he could have kept swimming and finished his race, as did most of the field).

Luckily Trevor rode up, told me that the rule and the DQ was confirmed as a USAT rule. 5.2 and that Paulo said I needed to stop. So I got in the golf cart and got dropped off by the finish. I don’t like golf carts.

Now I need to clarify – the rule was a USAT rule, not something WTC cooked up. And the race directors and officials are all good people who were just out there doing their jobs. They didn’t want to have to take me off the course, but the rules are the rules. The heat of battle is not the ideal time to question their application & interpretation.

I’m not so sure about the 6 month suspension thing, but I don’t know how they would have got me to stop without that threat. Of course, the race wanted to save face and not deal with me at the finish.

I keep thinking things like: “if I wasn’t a giant on a mini bike, would anyone even have noticed?”;  “Ya, it’s a rule, but like half the drafting that goes on in races, you can’t call everything so why go to such great lengths to enforce that one?”

The worst part, was that I possibly could have single leg peddled in, or waited for ages for support with the right tool, and still finished with a respectable result, qualifying me for Kona and keeping  my season plan intact.

Yes, we are all responsible for knowing the rules, but I thought I knew the key ones, and I thought assistance from other racers was fine. When you are standing by the side of the road with your crank in your hand you someone offers you her bike so you can stay in the race – you don’t really think, “hm, might this be in violation of some rule?”

Both of these rules were stated as reason for my DQ:

“Each athlete must be individually responsible for repair and maintenance of their own bike. Assistance by anyone other than race personnel will be grounds for immediate disqualification. Each athlete should be prepared to handle any possible mechanical malfunction.”

 “Forward Progress. Participants shall not make any forward progress unaccompanied by their bicycle. If a bicycle is rendered inoperable, a participant may proceed on the cycling course, running or walking, while pushing or carrying the bicycle, so long as the bicycle is pushed or carried in a manner not to obstruct or impede the progress of other participants. Any violation of this section shall result in disqualification.”

You can find the USAT rules here: http://www.usatriathlon.org/about-multisport/rulebook.aspx#Article%205

I can totally understand no assistance from people outside the race. It’s not fair if you have friends in a car rolling by with stuff, or someone pacing you on a bike while running, while others don’t. I always have a spare tube, and tools to deal with regular mechanical issues.

It seems totally counter to the ideals of sportsmanship; however, to disallow help from other athletes within the race. If my day was total shit, and I was going to DNF, I absolutely would hand off any gear to someone who needed it – especially if she was winning the race and got sidelined by an epic mechanical. It was super kind of Christie to give me her bike (and you could nit-pick the wording of the rule – since she gave to me, I was making forward progress on my bike). It was totally awesome that others stopped to try to help. That is good sportsmanship and it is a huge part of what makes racing cool. People are kind and generous and race with the spirit of – “lets help each other get’er done!”

I was also really touched by the tremendous support from other professional athletes who went to bat for me to try to convince the race to let me finish. It was pretty much a constant stream of tears last night, reading all the notes that everyone one sent me.

Yesterday, I went from winning, to second to a DQ. It was totally heart-breaking, but I didn’t give up.

Never give up.

Just try not to break the rules.

___________

This is an excerpt from and e-mail conversation that I had with folks from WTC after the fact. If we want to see this rule changed, we need to lobby USAT.

I want to be clear on a very important matter here ( one that does not seems to have clarity amongst most athletes) when you meet with relevant parties over the events of today.

 WTC is NOT the governance organization in the sport of triathlon.  We like Rev 3, Lifetime and all other event organisers are just that – event producers.

 ITU and the member National Triathlon Federations are the governing bodies and we as a sanctioned event adopt their Rules.  These were the Rules you ‘agreed to and signed off on’ when you registered two days prior to the event. It would be the same scenario when an athlete races in Canada – Tri Canada Rules are in place.

 An athlete is responsible for understanding these Rules.  It is the top item/ reminder on the Pro Rules posted on the promembership site:

IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events around the world are sanctioned by the different National Triathlon Federations of the hosting country. Ironman rules may vary slightly from event to event accordingly. Please refer to your event specific Athlete Information to ensure understanding and rule compliance on race day.

The only dispensations to the USAT  Rules are very well known in the case of WTC Ironman and Ironman 70.3 events – wetsuit, drafting zones.

 Any changes or interpretations to the USAT Rules which all athletes were racing under today – need to be addressed to the National Federation.  These are the same Rules all athletes race under at any sanctioned event in the US

If this USAT Rule is ambiguous to you (and others) – I would suggest you lobby your fellow US athletes to ask for change or further clarity  through the USAT Athlete Advisory Board in applying this Rule at US events.

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~ by trevorandheather on June 25, 2012.

26 Responses to “FAIL”

  1. What does WTC have to say about this as compared to the Chrissie CO2 incident at Kona?

  2. This kills me to read. So LAME! Didn’t another pro give Chrissie W some assistance with a flat tire during her first Kona victory? Something about throwing her CO2. Can’t remember exactly. I think that pro went on to finish tenth or something like that and Chrissie won.
    Helping your competitors is true sportsmanship. It stinks when the organizers get in the way of a great race. I’m sorry that it had to happen to you. Keep your head up. You are going to kick butt this season!

    Chris
    http://www.TheTriHouse.com
    http://www.AspenTriClub.com

  3. I was going to say the same thing about Chrissie. I think this totally sucks. Athletes helping other athletes during times of despair (both physically, mentally and mechaically) is what Ironman is about (or so I thought). Becuase riding someone else’s bike that obviously was not fit for you was somehow an advantage.

  4. Heather you are like the cream on the top of a bottle of milk. They can shake you up but you will always rise back to the top.

  5. wow…thats all I can say.

  6. Congratulations on acknowledging the rule -5.2. Stuff happens. You’ll be back. I don’t like 5.2.

    As to everyone bringing up the “outside assistance” in Chrissie’s instance – generally, that is considered a “self inflicted penalty” on the giver – Ms. Keat and Ms. Wellington was already stopped for longer than 5:00. The reason that didn’t get a penalty – no official saw it – though it was covered on TV in dramatic fashion.

  7. […] Read more about Heather’s DQ at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. […]

  8. Then why was it OK for Chrissie Wellington to receive air cartridges from other riders a few years ago when she popped a tire – Kona? Just wondering …

  9. You’ll fight another day. It’s a shame that you made it that far only to have to pull the plug. Hope you recover well and I look forward to watching you giv’r in Kona.

  10. Made for one heck of a story but I’m sure you would gladly trade that for a finish. I’ll know you will get that Ironman in and you will be back at Kona. Best of luck on the rest of the year.

  11. Help from another athlete is help. Seems like in Kona discretion played a part. Wurtele should have been allowed to finish and if she was DQ, a proper appeal could have been filed. Now, should the incident in Kona be reviewed and if found Wellington broke the rule, should her title be taken away?

  12. Heather so sorry to hear about all of this mess. I understand the rules in that they should take away unfair advantage but in this instance you were only at a severe disadvantage. I hope that they see your case in extenuating circumstance and offer you a wild card although i am sure you have the legs to find one more ironman to secure your hawaii spot. support all the way form James and I x

  13. […] That being said, I don’t fault Heather one bit for doing what she did.  She believed what she was doing was permitted, and in the heat of the moment it’s only natural to try to do whatever you can to get across the finish line.  Her race recap is a great read, I highly recommend it. […]

  14. Shitty outcome. Now go beat the person who ignored bike building 101 and didn’t use the blue loctite on the crank.

  15. Strange stuff! !!!Rules are in place to insure a level playing field and sitting out with your crank in your hand then riding Christy Sims much smaller bike to T2 certainly didn’t tilt the field in your direction. Great “sportsmanship” from Christy Sym to give you her bike ! Really exciting to watch you and Meredith K (another athlete with class) pushing each other so hard for the first 5 or so hours. Lot’s of great opps ahead!
    Give’er !!!

  16. I am very inspired by you taking the high road. Onward!!

  17. Hi Heather – I was at the race and had a chance to meet your mom. I learned all about your new bike (your mom was so proud-“finally a girly one”), 2008 (your first Ironman and win) and your height 6’2″…and of course, Canada, her flag and that you were fast. And, were you ever! What happened out there totally sucked – I couldn’t imagine getting to mile 21 of the run only to have to jump in some golf cart without at least two broken legs. As a non-Ironman (hopefully some day) and a big fan of athletes that do what you do – all I can say is that this is just part of your story. You will be at Kona – you will win – and you will draw from what happened up here in CDA. Even NBC will talk you up and how you recovered from an unfortunate circumstance and never slowed down. Good luck with the rest of your race year. Can’t wait to hear how you dominated.

  18. […] for Kona. Now, she has no choice but to find another Ironman race in order to qualify after her DQ at mile 21 of the run.  Her KPR ranking is 20th (19th if you count out Chrissie Wellington) and July 29th […]

  19. It seems like the intent of the 5.2 rule is for participants not to leave their bike behind to finish. If you switch bikes with someone, then it still made it back to transition just fine. I also think the officials should have let you finish to work out the details later. Pulling you off the course was wrong, especially at mile 21 of the run. I’m angry for you.

    It would be good if WTC gave you a wildcard to Kona now so you can stick to your training plan.

    No matter what, this is triathlon: we hit obstacles, we overcome them, and we go on to finish no matter what. I look forward to seeing you win Kona this year.

  20. Sorry to hear about your mechanical. I was in Coeur D’Alene last night and was volunteering at the turn around point of the run. I was cheering for ya, and then later went to the finish line shortly after the 3rd female pro came around for the first time. Sad to see you didn’t finish :-/. However, dealing with your current mechanical at hand, my question is whether or not the crank was improperly installed, or maybe you were just pushing hard and the crank was beyond the strength of your thighs, haha. I mean, the first loop must have been pretty smooth… I dunno, I guess i’m curious because my brother had a gnarly mechanical recently with new pulley’s on the derailleur and 7 miles into our century ride (prepping for STP). I guess the chain didn’t like the play in his pulley’s and caused a tug in the wrong direction taking out 3 spokes and damaging his godly 4.5 madone (2009).

    Anyway, time to move on to greener pasteurs and train for your next IM as I need to do the same for my first ever 😀

  21. Heather…so sorry to hear about this unfortunate incident. The amazing thing is that there really is so much that is positive about this. 1) Sportsmanship amongst athletes is still a hallmark of our sport and was clearly on display. 2) You were having an amazing day which can only mean that everything you have been doing to prepare is paying huge dividends. Adversity does not build character but can only reveal it. You are primed for a great season! We will be following your season closely.

  22. I was there when the guy in the golf cart was speaking with you (I was going the other way on the run). So sorry you were pulled. You looked mega-strong on that run and with those long down hills and your long stride, you would have been in contention for 1st place for sure.

  23. Because I had a mechanical failure at mile 32, I became a spectator (my first DNF) at the finish watching your run splits and hoping you would catch Merideth. When they announced that you were DQ’d, we couldn’t understand why. Despite WTC’s response above, they bear some responsibility to provide (better) support. Should they carry full bikes, like the team cars in Cycling events? I sat for 15 minutes at mile 32 waiting for help but my situation was catastrophic. The mechanic who came to my aid had limited capability, in my opinion. I too, was offered a competitor’s bike (he dropped out due to sickness), but declined his offer. Truthfully, we discussed the issue while riding in the SAG vehicle and were not sure if a racer had to finish on the bike he/she started on. The outside help rule needs to be clarified given Chrissie’s incident that everyone knows about.

    UCI rules allow bike switching: Remember Denis Menchov in the 2009 Giro Final TT Stage 21 on the cobblestones:

    Given UCI rules, It is not clear why this rule exists within the ITU rule book.

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  25. […] you are not familiar with what happened last year you can read my blog here.  Needless to say, I had some bad memories from the race, and when I rode the course on Tuesday of […]

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