Hi friends I’m back from Malaysia and linking up with You Signed Up for What?!, the TriGirl Chronicles, and The Cupcake Triathlete for Triathlon Tuesday! I FINISHED the NYC Triathlon this weekend and there is so much to say and so many people to thank!
To say that this was a touch-and-go triathlon is an understatement along the lines of “Blackstar was a pretty cool hip hop collaboration.” I’ve written before about my less-than-ideal training this time around and the fact that this was my first Olympic Distance triathlon–now add two weeks of vacation (err…taper), 18+ hours of flying four days before the race and 12 hours of jetlag, and you’ve got yourself a potential recipe for disaster. Coming into race day, I honestly did not know what to expect, so I decided on Thursday I was just going to have fun. I let go of the time goals I had set, stopped running through transition routines in my head, and came up with some strategies and slogans for race day should I find myself in a bad mental spot (more on that later). Oh, and I obsessively checked the weather forecast every 12 minutes from Wednesday at 4pm to Sunday at 4 am.
Saturday–Race Check-In and Prep
I got up way earlier than I needed to on Saturday to make my way from my parents’ house to the city–awesome. Got to the first mandatory age-group briefing and picked up my packet and race goodies–awesome. Got out to Staten Island to pick up BFKef’s sister, WokeUpThisWayKef, with no traffic and enjoyed a great meal with the fam–awesome. Got WokeUpThisWayKef to the host hotel in time for the second-t0-last briefing–awesome. Picked up my bike from the bike valet at the host hotel and realized my rear tire valve had somehow gotten totally effed–not awesome. Sprinted to the bike store half a mile up the street that closed in 12 minutes–not awesome. Got my bike fixed, lugged it up to transition on the Upper West Side only to realize I LEFT MY BIKE NUMBER ON THE LOWER EAST SIDE AND I ONLY HAD 90 MINUTES TO GET THERE AND BACK ON A SATURDAY NIGHT– really, really, really NOT awesome. Got my favorite race night dinner and race day breakfast from the fantastic Fairway around the corner from transition–awesome. Finally get home at the time I wanted to be in bed–not awesome. Got all my stuff organized and into the clear security bag in record time–awesome. Fell asleep easily only an hour and a half later than I had planned–could have been less awesome. Woke up exactly an hour later and spent the next 4 hours deep-breathing and listening to the ambient beats of the hipster bar across the street–thought it was going to be not awesome, turned out to be totally fine.
Obviously, Saturday had taken a turn for the crazy, and I woke up Sunday NERVOUS. My resting heart rate is usually under 45 (#humblebrag) and on the ride to the race, it was almost double that. A quick prayer in the car made me feel a bit less nervous (Jesus, be the world’s first performance-enhancing tranquilizer…). Luckily, everything went according to plan Sunday morning–I had made coffee and breakfast the night before, everything was laid out perfectly, and WokeUpThisWayKef was smart enough to use a car service to reserve a ride up to transition so there was no messing around with cabs or public transportation at 415 am. We made it to transition just before 5 am, got everything set up and then it was just the long wait to start the swim! The only thing that went wrong Sunday was that I forgot to grab the bar I wanted to eat while waiting for the start (which was going to be more than an hour for us, as our wave was dead last), but then the universe provided (as it always does!) and there was banana just hanging out in our swim corral. Looking at that banana just laying there on the ground, I figured it could only be one of two things: a perfectly good pre-race snack someone else had forgotten (point for me–wouldn’t start the race hungry) or a drug-laced piece of fruit some psycho put there to kill me (point for me–I would have a good excuse if I couldn’t finish the race). So, with no bad outcome in sight, I ate it. Good news: it was the former, not the latter.
I had the least anxiety about the swim– my years as a competitive swimmer make me more comfortable in the water than 75% of other triathletes I talk to, and the NYC Tri is an especially friendly swim because the course is down-current, so you just get pushed along. Standing on the dock waiting for the buzzer was like cresting the incline of that first big roller coaster drop, and when the buzzer went off for the start, the guy next to me looked over and said, “Aww f*ck it” and I figured that was as good an endorsement as any. The Hudson was nicer water than I had expected and the temperature was a race-perfect 71F. I moved my way to the outside of the course where the current was strongest and just focused on strong, even strokes and letting the water do most of the work. The NYC Tri people know what they’re doing–with only 15 athletes starting every 20 seconds, there were large parts of the swim where it felt like I had the river to myself. With a no-turn course sighting was EASY, and where I caught up with earlier heats I just swam around them and did my own thing. Things got a little hairy as everyone clamored to get onto the exit barge (pro tip: swim RIGHT up until you’re on ramp and get a volunteer to help pull you up–don’t get your feet stuck in the mud before the ramp) but by then I was feeling really great and just swamp through other people’s hysteria to exit the water. Finished the swim in 15:19 (THAT’s how fast that current moves you!) and started making the half-mile barefoot jog to transition.
Coming out of the swim I was feeling GREAT and decided to let the good times roll. I dawdled a bit in transition (T1: 10:26, but that includes a half-mile jog), shoved the Picky Bar I had forgotten before the swim in my mouth, got on the bike and headed out. A light rain had started back up and the time I spent drying off my feet ended up being time totally wasted, as my socks were almost completely saturated by the time I made it out of Riverside Park and up onto the West Side Highway. C’est le vie. Before the race, I was nervous about clipping in with cycling shoes–I don’t have a ton of experience riding in large groups, so I worried that I’d get caught up on one of the course’s seven “technical” turns and end up falling. Do not be fooled by the hype–volunteers were doing an awesome job making sure that EVERYONE slowed down at the turns, and I had no problems. Clipping in was a brilliant choice, as the hills are pretty serious on this course and I was grateful for the extra power on the upstroke. Doing my research pre-race, EVERYONE talked about the hilly run, but I didn’t read all that much about the hills of the bike course. Let me fix that: the bike course is HILLY. It is mostly rolling hills, so I took advantage of the places where big downhills led right into the uphills, but people were definitely getting pooped out by the end. I just took each hill one at a time, shifted way, way down for the 1 or 2 real monster inclines and did some singing to myself. As I mentioned, it was gray and rainy, but I’m sure the course is fantastic on a nice day. Riding under the George Washington Bridge is beautiful, and driving through the toll booth in the Bronx is fun. I dialed back my pace a little because I knew I would struggle with fatigue during the run and ended up finishing almost 24.6 hilly miles in 1:37:12, which I was happy but not thrilled with. All in all, I had a really, really lovely ride and ended up being glad for the rain because I bet that course is completely different if it’s hot out. Pro tip for the bike: MAKE SURE YOUR BIKE IS IN A SMALL GEAR before you start, as there is a short but steep incline out of transition.
This is the portion of the race that is, by far, my weakest–I just can’t seem to get enough juice to really finish 10k strong. I lost some time again in T2 (5:16) really trying to dry off my SOAKED feet before I switched into running socks and shoes–blisters were really not going to help my plight and I was so glad I brought separate socks for biking and running. There is a lot of talk about the rough hill out of transition onto 72nd street–I would say if you do any kind of hills on your training course, you will be okay for this. It’s steep, but it’s short and I ended up passing a lot of people on it (and again–I am NOT a strong just-off-the-bike runner). I was feeling surprisingly good across 72nd street and into Central Park, and had a lot of 72nd street to myself, which made feel just a little like Meb bringing it home on Boylston Street. By the time I got into the park the sun had come out a bit and it got just hot enough to notice. Luckily, most of the run route is shaded. My plan was to take the run one mile at a time and forget about what came before or after whatever mile I was working through. This was a great strategy until I head the 5k point, where every one started cheering, “You’re half way there!” and I started responding, “Only HALF way?!?” At that point, I started singing my two favorite race anthems, Whitney’s Step by Step and Love Actually’s Christmas is All Around and started using the cones that separated the race course for markers–“just run to the next cone.” It is worth noting that, at this point, the cones were placed every 50 feet or so, so I was really struggling. I took water every time it was offered and nursed my gel through most of the run. As I mentioned above, there is a LOT of talk about the hills of the run course–I was surprised by how unaffected I was by them. This is not to say that the run course is flatter than I expected–I think I was just so focused on getting one foot in front of the other that an incline was the least of my problems. Just after 5.5 miles, the finish tents came into view and the adrenaline got me pumped back up. Cruelly, the course winds around a little bit here so you know you are close but it’s just out of reach, and my audible singing turned into audible cursing right around here. I knew BFKef was somewhere near the finish so I kept my eyes peeled and finally-FINALLY-the finish chute came into view. I was so happy to see that damn FINISH banner that my body found a few milliliters of of fluid to manufacture some tears and I SURGED across the mat. Final time: 3:09:51, with a 9th-place finish in my division. I was happy with that time but just SO, SO thrilled to have finished the race.
The Take Homes:
–First and foremost– THANK YOU to everyone who donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. Because of you, $3,011 more is going toward Alzheimer’s research and support. I did this race for a bunch of reasons, chief among them to honor the amazing “Grandma B,” who died three years ago today (may her memory be eternal) but whose voice, humor, and courage have never left us. I raced with her picture on my bib, and I know she was waiting at that finish line with coffee and something sweet. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for supporting such an important cause.
–I am so proud of myself for taking on the Olympic distance… but I will never do another one ever again. There is just no reason to run 6 miles after biking 25 miles. None at all.
— I’m reminded once again about the importance of goals. JetSet and I were talking about goals during Ferragosto, and I just want to say again how vital goals have been to my happiness as an adult. If you are sitting here reading this thinking, “I’d love to do ___ but there is no way I can,” I want you to know that YOU CAN, and that you will find incredible joy in the completion of that goal. I didn’t get to the point where I could actually complete an Olympic Triathlon (!) over night– it’s been more than 4 years since I laced up my sneakers for the first run of a 10k training program. I’ve had set backs and self-doubt, but I can’t think of times of greater pride than those moments where I did something I had no idea I could.
–WokeUpThisWayKef is a total bad ass, who finished her FIRST EVER triathlon with a busted knee from a bike incident. Truly a woman to be admired.
–The NYC Triathlon is well organized, beginner-friendly, and an overall great race. If they ever get a sprint distance, I’ll be back!
Be sure to check out all the other awesome blogs taking part in Tri Talk Tuesday: