Another year, another crazy race. This time, we traveled to Panama City Beach for the 17th running of IMFL. I put a lot of extra work into this year's race, as Jill will attest, hoping to crush my personal best at the IM distance. Didn't quite work out that way!
The race was the backdrop for an incredible reunion with an Army brother from the 82nd Airborne, James Culp. I haven't seen him since he was levied to Germany in 1989, in time to watch the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was Jim's first IM race, and only his second triathlon! Amazing. And he a bit of Murphy's Law kicking him in the days leading up to the race.
It started when we picked up his bike from Tri-Bike Transport. They had removed one of the end-plugs from his aerobars and forgot to put it back. Luckily, he noticed, and got it squared away. The next morning, he came back from his hotel to the race site and found a convenient place to park near the Ironman Village. A place where many other cars were parked. A half hour later, his car had been towed. You had to look across two fences and a stand of tall weeds to see the tow-away sign. I told Jim that he could call the rental car in as stolen, then break into the tow yard and set the car on fire, like most people do. But he decided to play it safe. So we drove in my car to the tow yard, where the worker told us they only accepted cash. Drove around and found an ATM, then returned only to find out they didn't have change.
Ummm... So we got through all that. We picked up his bike from my hotel room, where he noticed that his pedal was striking the derailleur with each stroke. We rolled it over to the Ironman Village to a bike shop, where they repaired that problem rather quickly, but then noticed that someone had taken off his handlebars and not replaced one of the spacers. Jim is about 6'5", so his bike is very tall. Without the spacers, the long bolt in the head wasn't tight. You could rock the handlebars side to side and see the forks flex. If the tech hadn't noticed that, Jim would likely have crashed. We thought it was Tri-Bike Transport that took his bike apart, but it turned out that it was the bike tech back in Austin who tuned up his bike before the race.