[at left, pre-race: Adam Stroobandt, ATC sales manager, and his wife, Rita, schoolteacher and volunteer track coach]
The day is 60-something degrees and rainy. Timo Bracht is leading the first part of the run, head to head with Jordan Rapp, and Chrissie Wellington is riding a flat through her last six miles of the bike course. Age-groupers are strung out behind the pros like a line of plodding ants, most expecting to see the full moon before the finish line. Austin Tri-Cyclist’s fearless Team Stroobandt, husband-and-wife pair Adam and Rita, are just starting their second loop of the bike.
But we can’t begin here. Like any good epic, the Stroobandt story must commence with a tale of adversity. And we’re not just talking about how, in July, Tempe Town Lake’s inflatable dam popped like a toddler’s floatie, nor how, as a result, the race was threatening to start with a breaststroke through the sand. Adam (who’s the type of guy who can roll off the couch, brush the potato chips from his shirt, and run a five-minute mile, but swims like your grandmother wearing ankle weights ) would not be so lucky. The gods in their aero helmets, rolling around on their mighty disc wheels in the sky, were not smiling on our protagonists. Truly, the most difficult part of Ironman Arizona for the Stroobandts was just getting there.
The first malevolent celestial intervention (no doubt that it could be anything but) came in September. Adam was on a training ride, speeding along 360, when a large rock scurried, snarling and vicious, out of the grass and stopped right in front of his wheel. His new Cannondale Supersix lost the ensuing battle, and Adam went head over handlebars into a guardrail. (“The good thing was, it stopped me immediately,” our hero says thoughtfully. “So no road rash.”) Passing motorists were convinced that he was toast, but Adam was still with us, having subluxed his left shoulder, separated his AC joint, and torn a few rotator cuff muscles. The doctor took a serious tone. Six weeks before resuming physical activity, he said, but Adam thought that was great—it just happened to be, to the day, six weeks to the Ironman. The doctor looked at him blankly. “Not recommended,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rita’s training was going well. Former varsity track and cross country runner for UTSA, she had the background to make the training a piece of cake. While Adam was lounging on the couch with the cat and a bottle of aspirin, Rita was doing 80- to 100-mile training rides on her shiny red-and-white P3 Cervélo. She was feeling good. She was ready. A few days before the flight to Arizona, she took her bike to ATC for the final to-do’s—she carefully cleaned and polished the frame and parts herself, had new bar tape put on, and switched her training wheels for a pair of Zipps. Race prep done, she drove the car back home. And she drove the P3, attached to the roof, right through the top of the garage…
Any other mortals would have thrown in the towel right then and there, but the cycling deities had underestimated the Stroobandts. With a busted shoulder and a borrowed bike, they made it to Arizona.
Adam had his first post-accident swim on race day. Not able to fully move his shoulder, he swam 2.4 miles with “the claw.” And as if his swim time wasn’t bad enough, he had the further humiliation of being chicked by Chrissie Wellington. Fortunately, with that he wasn’t alone—at eighth overall, Wellington left behind a wake of wounded masculinity that day. Though he and Rita hadn’t specifically planned on meeting up, Adam slowed his pace on the run to wait for her. Rita caught him at mile 23, and they made a nauseatingly cute couple crossing the finish line together. (Or almost together. Technically, Rita won by a second.)
And there the tale ends. Sorry to disappoint, fellow triathletes, but there’s no real moral, only this: If people tell you you’re crazy to do what you do, at ATC you’re in good company. Come into the shop this week and give Adam a big pat on the shoulder!
(And if you happen to crash your Cervélo into the garage? Well, we know where you can find a new one. All the new 2011 Cervélos are in stock, plus we have a sweet package deal on the 2011 Cannondale Slice. For sales items, check out our clearance page. )