Friday, July 26, 2013

New York City Triathlon, Olympic Distance, July 14th, 2013

Ideal Acceptable
Swim 0:16:32 1:00/100 yds 0:17:00 1:02/100 yds
T1 0:04:20   0:04:30  
Bike 1:10:00 21.0 mph 1:14:00 20 mph
T2 0:01:15   0:01:25  
Run 0:52:30 8:27/mile 0:54:30 8:47/mile
Total 2:24:37 2:31:25

Two years ago I was a spectator at this race and loved every minute of it. I mean what’s not to love about competing in NYC? Great scenery around the Hudson River, lots of people offering support, the mile stretch of 72nd street and Central Park! Ever since I was spectator I have entered in the lottery to compete in this event. I was never picked, until this year! This quickly became one event on my race lineup that I was thoroughly excited for. I also became more excited the closer I go to this race. A month prior I competed in Syracuse 70.3 and PR’d. I knew I was in great shape, the swim for the event is FAST, the atmosphere in NYC is amazing, and the list could go on forever!

I drove into the city the day before the race; hotel check-in was at 3pm. I arrived approximately an hour early thinking I could check-in early. WRONG. I checked in; however a room was not available at that time. I walked around the corner to the nearest pizza place, ordered my pre-race lunch pizza and scarfed it down in the hotel lobby. 3:10pm rolled around, still no room available. At this point I was getting anxious and pestered the lobby attendants until finally I was able to get into my room. STRIKE 1.
I made my way down to transition to rack my bike for the night. This event has close to 3000 competitors of all different ability levels. Therefore, there are two transitions. A red transition and a yellow transition. Red transition is closest to the swim exit, yellow is the farthest. Of course I was in the yellow transition! Being in this transition, I knew I had the farthest run from the swim exit, approximately 700 yards.

I went into transition and racked my bike on the designated rack. Depending on how you looked at transition, my bike was located just shy of the middle. I knew I had to walk transition a few times to familiarize myself with where my bike was placed. I walked to the swim in and then proceeded to walk to where my bike was. I then walked from my bike to the bike exit and then from the bike in back to my rack. I did this twice. I made note of the advertisements posted to the fence too as markers for where my race gear would be located. Once I felt comfortable and convinced I knew where my bike was for T1 and T2 I made my way back to my hotel room.

Race Morning: The night before I made sure to set my alarm twice because this race started earlier than most other triathlons I have done. The professionals were set to start at 5:50am! According to my calculations I was to begin sometime close to 6:30am so I wanted to make sure that I was awake, up and moving with some added time to spare. I set my alarm for 4am and 4:10am. My alarm went off and I looked at the time, 4:10am. I thought, “Why didn’t the 4am alarm go off??” My dad informed me that I slept through the 4am alarm! Wow. I didn’t even hear it. That means that it was going off for at least two minutes and it didn’t wake me. That has NEVER happened. Not even in my everyday life! I am usually very restless the night before a race, this night I was apparently knocked out! STRIKE 2.

I made my way down to transition to set up my bike/run gear quickly and then started the trek towards the swim start. From transition to the actual swim start is close to a 1.5 mile walk. Now add 3000 athletes trying to make the same trek, can you say crowded? It was relatively painless though and I made it up to the start in time to see the pro’s start. I couldn’t help but notice the current sweeping them down the river! I was pumped and mentally prepared for a FAST swim!

Swim: I entered the orange capped corral for females 25-29. There were two corrals for my age group. I walked right up to the front. The swim was a time trial start, so fifteen athletes were sent into the water every twenty seconds. I wanted to make sure that I was in the first group of fifteen in my corral. I always love listening to the pre-race chatter between athletes. I heard a lot of gals in my group talking about this race being their first. I remember thinking, “wow! What a huge race to choose for a first timer!”

I walked out onto the boat launch in the middle of the Hudson and found myself staring the river down! It really was an awesome feeling. Boats, kayakers, jet skis, lifeguards, spectators, EVERYWHERE! I put my toes over the edge of the launch and waited. Age groupers had to do a feet first entry into the water, only the pros were able to dive. The whistle blew, feet first jump and it was off to the races! I maintained a quick arm turnover until I freed myself of the pack and then settled into my pace. I started sighting and scanning for other females in orange and purple caps. I wanted to tick them off one by one! What an awesome feeling it was being carried down the Hudson. I was in a full body wetsuit and a quick current made this swim feel almost effortless. Normally my arms become sore and tired but they didn’t, not once during this swim! I tried to swim in the middle of the .9 mile stretch. However, at one point I became too comfortable and in the zone that I stopped sighting. Next thing I knew, I took a breath and was facing a huge boat! WHOA. My lungs also consumed boat fumes. Something I have never experienced during a tri. Definitely not a good taste/smell to have in your mouth/nose. I must have been flustered by the fumes, maybe even high on them (HAHA) because I found myself swimming far right and slightly off course. Great! STRIKE 3. Wasted time! I continued to pluck away at the purple caps (Females 25-29, corral before mine) and quickly found myself at the exit. The swim exit is a metal ramp and there are volunteers standing on the ramp in the water to grab athlete’s hands to help them exit. The ramp was steep and obviously slippery when wet! I grabbed a volunteers hand and ran up the ramp.

SWIM TIME:  16:31, :59/100 yards, 1st in Age Group!

After exiting the swim I now faced a 700 yard run to T1. I kept telling myself, “Relax. Get feeling back into your legs and set yourself up for a good bike!” I had a volunteer yell at me after exiting the swim that I have a “river beard” and to wash it off! EWW. I took my hands and wiped my face. Brown and green muck everywhere. I don’t even want to know.

Enter T1: Instantly I couldn’t find my bike. I panicked. How could this happen after I mapped out this transition numerous times the day before? I ran down the wrong aisle and wondered why I didn’t see any pink! I began scanning other aisles. How did I get into the aisle that I was in? Lost bike in transition = STRIKE 4.  More time wasted. I found my bike, still had to take off my wetsuit and put on my helmet, glasses and bike shoes. Once situated, I took my bike off the rack and went to run out of transition but now I heard a rattle coming from my bike. I look down and realized that my chain had jumped. SERIOUSLY? And how did that happen? STRIKE! I stopped in the middle of the runway, put it back on and once again tried to hustle out. I knew this transition was already going to be a long one considering the longer run and well my loss of direction! Now a mechanical! I get stopped behind three guys leisurely walking their bikes out of transition. And I mean leisurely walking. A snail’s pace. I couldn’t run around them because the exit was narrow. STRIKE. (I have stopped counting at this point)

BIKE: I hustle up to the mount line, finally on and all I wanted to do was to pound out this 25 mile ride! The bike starts out with a short straight stretch along the Hudson and then athletes make a sharp right hand, uphill turn followed by a sharp left turn at the top. In the midst of trying to pick up speed and making all these sharp turns I hit a pothole and my water bottle flew out. EVEN BIGGER STRIKE. I figured I would be fine with only carrying one bottle of Gatorade for this ride. It was only 25 miles. Well, I now had to do 25 miles with zero hydration. Panicked. Agitated.  Frustrated. I tried to calm myself down. Eh, 25 miles without hydration will be okay. It’s not like it’s a half ironman or anything. I didn’t feel so bad when I proceeded through the course and saw many water bottles on the ground. I knew I wasn’t the only one.

I rode the left hand side of the lane majority of the course. I passed a lot of people. But at the same time I found myself staring at the road the entire ride. The course was a main highway in the city, so that meant that there were potholes, cracks, craters, you name it, everywhere. I saw lots of athletes on the side of the road with flats. I thought, “Just what I need to seal the deal on the day, a flat!” So I ended up playing it safe. The heat started to take its toll on me. Leg cramps from dehydration arose around mile twelve. My right hamstring and right calf felt like they were going to snap! I took more nutrition than normal thinking it would help alleviate the issue. Nope. I had nothing to wash down the gels; the taste and stickiness sat in my mouth and was just nasty. I remember thinking on a few occasions during the bike, “Why am I doing this today?” I kept looking down at my bike comp and seeing my mph average and my overall bike time. I couldn’t help but shake my head in disgust. My average was nowhere near what I was capable of.

T2: I ran my bike into transition and my legs felt wobbly and my body felt woozy. But at least I was able to find my rack without incident. I threw on my run gear and headed out onto the 10k course.

RUN: Directly outside of T2 was a table with water and Gatorade. I grabbed water, poured it on my head, grabbed more water, poured it on my head and then grabbed Gatorade and chugged it. This was the first time I had any hydration in over an hour and a half! (Swim and bike compbined) After the table, there was a sharp right hand turn and an uphill. Wow. Talk about shuffling up that sucker! But I knew once I got up that hill it was on to 72nd street and into Central Park! 72nd street is closed to traffic for this event. There is so much energy at the point. There were spectators crowding around the police barricades, cowbells ringing, posters/signs everywhere, police officers standing at the intersection cheering, and not to mention the high NYC buildings surrounding you. I had a huge adrenaline rush running down the center of this street.

Mile one was complete and just as quick the rush wore off when I entered the park. Legs cramps resurfaced. The run now became a matter of surviving and I knew I faced a lot of hills in Central Park, including Harlem Hill.

Now let’s talk about Central Park. Who wouldn’t want to run there? Well, on this day and at this particular event, CP is not closed to the public. So there were you’re everyday walkers, runners, cyclists, dog walkers, rollerbladers, stroller pushers, etc. etc. etc. And here is the kicker. These people were not moving for racers, the racers were moving for them! It was up to the athletes to maneuver around them. I can’t even begin to count how many times people ran out in front of me as I was running. So, I had 6.2 miles to complete, after a swim and bike, in heat and humidity, in a park loaded with hills, dehydrated, cramping and let’s add on moving around Central Park’s finest. What a cluster.

“SURVIVE.” I found myself repeating this many times during the run. Luckily they had aid stations every mile. Already depleted, I knew I had to grab everything I could at each station. Water. Gatorade. Ice. I took the ice and put it in my sports bra until it melted into chunks. I took two chunks and held one in each hand. I swear I feel better running when I am holding onto something. Weird, I know. At this point my feet and shoes were soaked with water and sweat. I had blisters forming, and definitely more than one! Must keep moving forward! Hills, cramps, blisters = not a good time.

FINISH: I made a right hand turn into the finishing chute and I was really not excited to finish. I can honestly say that I have never been at that point in any race before. Not excited to finish? Not excited to hear your name announced? Not excited to receive the finisher medal? I was not excited in the least bit! I didn’t feel accomplished in any way. I had high hopes for this race/event and was thoroughly disappointed. I knew that on a good day I would be able to PR on this course, especially with a swim as fast as this one. But those cards did not fall into play. I was nowhere near a PR, in fact I was close to fifteen minutes off my last Olympic distance time. I did not rank as high as I knew I was capable of either.

After having time to digest this entire disaster of a race, I have realized that not only do triathletes need to be physically tough, but mentally tough as well. On this day I was neither. I mentally broke down and because of that I physically broke down as well. It is hard to race when so many negatives arise. It was hard for me to keep things intact mentally. However, I have never had a truly “bad” race. I guess it was my time to get a bad one under my belt!

As I write this, I can’t even remember the course scenery. All I can remember are the negatives. This is one race that I will not do again, but I am happy to have crossed it off my bucket list. Unless you are a professional or elite athlete competing in this race, it is not for competitive age groupers. The course is crowded in all three legs, and is built around first timers. It certainly was not the race that I had hoped/looked forward to.

NYC Triathlon. Swept under the rug. Lessons learned. Move on. Keep smiling.

Ideal Acceptable            NYC TRI '13
Swim 0:16:32 1:00/100 yds 0:17:00 1:02/100 yds 16:31 :59/100 yds
T1 0:04:20   0:04:30   6:18  
Bike 1:10:00 21.0 mph 1:14:00 20 mph 1:21:11 18.4/mph
T2 0:01:15   0:01:25   1:30  
Run 0:52:30 8:27/mile 0:54:30 8:47/mile 0:59:58 9:40/mile
Total 2:24:37 2:31:25 02:45.30

1 comment:

  1. This article makes me never want to step foot in your shoes lol... it sounds tough and if that's from someone who's never experienced an event like this, I can't imagine what you were going through. Gloat in the fact that you're one of few that would actually want to do this (although from the 3,000 that you mentioned, that might not sound comforting). Loved reading the blog though!