0635hrs: Just after sunrise Ballsbury readies himself with a smile for the prospect of human body transfer that awaits him on this beautiful Saturday. 1713hrs: After 3 flats and getting screwed by neutral lack of support from a local shop(read below) Ballsbury flies by 3 miles from the bike to run transition.
2157hrs: Ballsbury runs by with around about 2.8 miles to the end of his triathletic endeavor.
Cyclocross Schmyclocross, the real heckling goes down at the Beach to Battleship Triathlon. I have a friend named Scott Ballsbury who I met on a cold rainy day in the spring of 1998 at a mountain bike race here in Charlotte. Ironically enough it was the same day I first saw Dicky and Jeff Mercification. Scott and I have been on some great rides together and he has travelled with me to a very large volcano in Central Mexico.
Anyways, a few months ago Ballsbury called me to let me know that he was running in an Ironman Triathlon and asked of I would be able to come down and make some pictures for him. I responded, "No problem, as long as I do not have to participate in it." So I drove down to Wilmingtoon NC on Friday night where I found the floor space of another friend that used to ride with us named Erikachachacha.
0455hrs: My alarm goes off. I get dressed, brush my teeth and am out the door on my Fillmore within 15 minutes. I headed straight for the downtoon area where I found a shuttle in front of the Marriott Hotel willing to take me and my bike the 13 dark scary miles to Wrightsville Beach and the Swim/Bike transition area. Once there I rode over to and across the channel that the athletes would be swimming in. Over the bridge and all the way right to the end of the point where the swim would start, the sun was starting to come up.
0630hrs: I pick Ballsbury out of the crowd of rubber people, his status is good and positive.
I hung out on the sandy point as the sun came up to the north and east. Then I messed around by getting into photo mode trying to convey the visual transfer of almost 700 humans about to jump in.
0700hrs: They start and I leap frog ahead of the swim making some pictures as they approach the bikes. Ballsbury swims and is on bike out of there in an hour and a half.
At that point I ride his wheel for a few miles until I realize that this was his fun, not mine. I peeled away and rode alone the 13 miles back to Wilmingtoon in search of some Java. After coffee I rode along Front Street, then the cobbled lanes down by the water. I found the south bridge across to the Battleship and went over it. The very middle was sketchy because the road went to a screen and I could see the death water below while cars and Walmart trucks blasted by on my left.
I expected Balls to be in on bike and transitioning to run between 1400hrs and 1430hrs. By 1600hrs with him not in sight I knew something had gone cosmically wrong. Unbeknownst to me at the time he had flatted thrice within 20 miles from the bike finish. He had one tube and some patches but they were useless because he had no pump either. Yeah, I know but that is not the point. The first one happened just past an aid station so he turned around and sought the aid provided which was a CB radio call to the neutral support truck run by Two Wheeler Dealer, a local Wilmingtoon Shop. As time ticked by the professional mechanics showed up within 15 minutes and then took care of his flat and sent him in his way. About 2 or 3 miles down the road the very same tire went flat again. Realizing his plight the only chance he had was to limp ride backwards toward the aid. As he approached the Neutral Lack of Support truck run by the Two Wheeler Dealer was coming towards him. He flagged them down and was told that they would need his name and address so that they could send him a bill for this 2nd flat which would have never happened had they taken the small piece of glass out of the tire the first time they 'fixed it'. After getting his billing information they pulled the glass out and then sent him on his way again. How is it possible that you are billing my friend for a two dollar tube after you changed his first one for free that went flat again because you did not assess the cause of the first one. It is a statement not a question. 10 miles later and almost home he flatted yet again. This one almost crushed his spirits forever trying to figure out if he should walk in to the finish or seek another fix. So, as precious time ticked by he sat contemplating the situation. Another(he is pretty sure it was not the same one) neutral lack of support truck came by to offer their assistance only after getting his billing information again. Seriously. They fixed him good this time and he powered out the last 10 miles. He reached deep into his suitcase of courage and transitioned to the 26.1 mile run under the 16" guns of the USS North Carolina. Unreal. I rode back across into Wilmingtoon for the 2nd time of the day from the Battleship and proceeded to watch the running event come through town. The spectating of the run was good because the road course was an out and back. On each lap I could see him and the other runners twice. Erikachachacha came down with Shar while I was drinking a Porter on the curb. We cheered Ballsbury on his first lap and then waited for him to come back through on his final.
2228hrs: Balls runs through the finish of his first Ironman with relief that the day was over. I asked him if it was the hardest thing he has ever done and he said, "By far." However the next morning he said he felt fine.
More images of this blue barrel event to follow on the morrow.