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Brown shelled at race

posted Oct 8, 2011, 7:16 AM by Bryan Peters

Darcy Brown enjoyed his week of "rock star" status.

In Beijing last month for the 2011 International Triathlon Union Age-Group Triathlon World Championships, the 33 year old became a pseudo-celebrity, posing for pictures and signing autographs as a member of Team Canada.

According to Brown, anyone tall and blond was a target of the race groupies. It’s strange then that the Cambridge resident was so popular, as he has his head shaved.

“They like guys with clipped hair, too,” he said with a laugh.

When flashbulbs weren’t blinding him, Brown got down to business. He may have wished he was back glad-handing the fans.
Besides competing in an aquathon – swim, run and swim again – while still suffering from jetlag, the worst was yet to come.

The aquathon though is a story in itself. Brown thought it would be a good idea to get a sense of the layout of the course and calm his nerves a bit, instead of waiting around for the triathlon to begin.
Hindsight is always 20/20.

“People from Triathlon Canada said, yeah, go nuts, it’s not a bad idea. Lots of people do it. As it turns out, not a lot of people do it. It probably did more harm than good,” Brown said.

“I did a number on my legs. I would have been better off avoiding it.”

Luckily, the jet lag and lactic acid buildup in his legs wore off the day before the triathlon, though he admits that rest would have been more beneficial. 

Regardless, he was physically prepared for the race, but factors out of his control seemed to take over.
It was probably an omen of things to come when the swimmers were told to get in the water from a dock, a little different from shore starts in most triathlons, and the gun went off right away, catching Brown offguard.

“I didn’t even have time to start my watch,” he said.

Brown drafted an Australian swimmer before he pulled away, then moved in behind a swimmer from Mexico. When he got out of the water he was in 30th place out of 77 competitors in his age group.
The transition to the bike went smooth and after his first of three laps, Brown was doing so well he figured he may want to let up a bit to conserve energy for the run. That’s when he heard the rubbing of his front tire.

At first he thought it was the brakes so he loosened them a bit; the sound was still there. It got worse and the ride started to get rough. He looked down and he had a flat from a slow leak.

He got off the bike and inspected his tire. Embedded in the rubber was a small, razor-sharp piece of a shell. While it may have come from the Grand Canal, which begins in Beijing and travel 1,776 kilometres, it wasn’t near the race course. And the course was swept daily of any debris.

Brown was lucky though, he had one CO2 cartridge on him to fix his flat. He had actually just borrowed one off a Canadian teammate the night before, as he wasn’t able to bring any on the plane as they were prohibited. He’d never had a flat before in a race, but he thought it better to be safe than sorry.

Good choice.

“I was basically resigning myself of going into the race with no flat protection. I would have just been done on the spot,” he said.

“I just couldn’t believe it. Once it finally registered, I just had this massive sinking feeling, I was like ‘oh no’. At least I was happy with my recovery. A lot of people I talked to after the fact said they would have just thrown up their hands at that point.

“I wasn’t going to go all that way and not close it out.”

It took him about seven minutes to fix the flat and get going again. Riders whizzed by him as he tended to the tire. Brown said he completed the second lap and was back to a good pace through the third. When he got off his bike for the run, his tire was flat again.

Now sitting 54th, he was undeterred and moved up for a 46th place finish in two hours, 24 minutes, 48 seconds. It was a little disappointing, considering Brown would have finished in at least the top 30 had he not lost that valuable time on the bike.

“It was just the way the cookie crumbled,” he said matter-of-factly.

“But the experience was just phenomenal. I can’t wait to do it again.”

And he’ll get his chance next year when he heads for the worlds in Auckland, New Zealand. Brown qualified for that in Bracebridge in August. He laughed when it was pointed out that he qualified for the next year’s worlds before he had even competed in his first.

“I guess the level I’m performing at, I can go to a race and say, I want to qualify and achieve this or this, and I can do it. Where as before, it was like, ‘really? Cool’.

“Beijing just sort of dropped in my lap and I was like, OK, this is a good idea. Next time around it was, I really like this already. I want to do it again and again and again. So that’s the plan.”

Problem is, there will only be one more again for now. With his wife expecting a baby, the 2013 worlds in London has been stroked off the calendar. 

 “We’re going to sort of take a step back,” he said.

“I’m not going to stop racing; I’ll still race in Canada. But the 2013 worlds are in London and we’re already going to take a six month old to New Zealand, which we think is doable because that’s the very last chance we’ll have to have a portable baby. We’re not going to try and fly to England with a toddler.”

Brown, though, is a little more determined for next year’s worlds.

“I was going to go anyways, but now I have a little something to prove to myself,” he said.

“I just want to close the loop on that whole goal. Right now, as it stands, I feel like I still need to do it. Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m very happy with the way things turned out, considering.

“I can look at it right now and what if it to death. I’m trying not to kill the fun of it, because it was fun. If at the end of the day, if Darcy Brown from Cambridge Ont. finishes 30th or 46th, it doesn’t make a lick of difference. My mortgage still gets paid, I don’t do this for a living, it’s just for fun.”