NYC Tri Race Recap
It all started very early this morning when my alarm went off at 3:30. Time to get dressed and put on the Tri Tats. I had a quick breakfast of toast with peanut butter and a banana. Then I grabbed my bag and went out to find a cab. The great thing about leaving at 4 am is that there are a ton of cabs to corral the drunks coming out of the bars at closing time.
Just a quick ride across town and into the chaos of transition. I checked my bike, brakes, tires and gears and laid out my things for the ride and run. The pros were in the same transition area and it was exciting seeing them roll in on super fancy bikes and aero (spell check wants to make this “afro” which would be hillarious) helmets.
After things were sorted in transition, it was time for the mile+ walk up to the swim start. It was much calmer out there than in transition and we saw the sunrise.
I had plenty of time to put on sunscreen, have a snack and work on getting my wetsuit on. It’s really not too hard with some aquaphor on the calves and a plastic grocery bag on the feet and hands to slide right in.
Then the hurry up and wait began. Lots of standing around, but luckily with the rain showers over night, it was pretty cool out.
And more waiting in the corrals. This was neat though because we could see all the waves in front of ours. Watching other people navigate the swim entrance and float in the current made me less anxious about my own swim.
And finally it was our turn to head down onto the barge. I was near the front of my wave. I decided to race Athena (150 lbs+) so I started with women 40-44 instead of all my age group. Once we were on the barge, there wasn’t much organization. Just step up and find a spot. Some people were hesitant so I stepped right up and started with some green caps—the wave before mine. When I was on deck, there was half a dead fish that floated right in front of the barge. Everyone kind of freaked out for a minute but what are you going to do? I had planned on jumping straight in, but once I saw how high it was (probably 2 and a half feet) and being paranoid about losing my goggles, I decided to sit and scoot into the water. They were supposed to send groups of 15 off every 20 seconds but it definitely seemed more spaced out than that, and I’m sure no one was complaining. We were told that our chips are activated when our feet leave the barge, so if we were starting sitting, time would start before you were in the water. I figured I could spare a few seconds for comfort and sat on the edge and started my watch. Next thing I knew, the whistle sounded and we were off.
I’m in the middle in the blue cap. I swam away from the group I jumped in with pretty quickly. I caught up to the wave in front of me, but still had plenty of space to swim. I felt like I was swimming well but a little frantic at the beginning. I wasn’t out of breath, but I definitely wasn’t hitting a rhythm. I kept coming up to look in front of me every couple of strokes. It felt like I had been in the water forever when I noticed a sign on the seawall saying 300 meters. I wasn’t sure if they were counting up or down. I kept chugging along and soon enough I saw a sign for 600 meters, so they were counting up and I wasn’t even half way. At this point I settled into my normal steady rhythm breathing every 3 strokes and sighting much less frequently. I could hear the squeaking of my cap and wetsuit with every stroke and could still smell the plastic the rest of the race. Before I knew it I passed the 1200 meter mark. The water was salty and definitely dirty. I don’t really want to think about what I was swimming through. Every once and a while I would end up with a leaf or stick in my face. Or something would hit or get caught on my foot. The water was so murky I could barely see my hands in front of me, but then my eyes started playing tricks on me and I would think I saw something in the water. The smell wasn’t great and got stronger the farther I went. Probably a few 100 meters from the finish I started hitting the silty bottom on the bottom of my stroke. It was gross and there was much more debris in this area…trash, leaves, sticks, god knows what else. I made it to the ramp and the lifeguards pulled me right out. Then it was up onto the pavement for a good 800m barefoot run to transition. I peeled my wetsuit down to my waste and yes I totally peed in it. They were offering Cytomax (I tried it once on the bike and had awful cramps so I avoided it) and water at the entrance to transition. They also had these popsicle sticks with something on the end. First I thought it was ice. Then I thought maybe it was a bit of Gu or something to eat. It turns out it was Aquaphor ointment. I didn’t need it, but they were giving out the extra tubs at the end and I totally scored a massive tub of Aquaphor. Bonus.
When I got to my bike I realized how much my shoulder/armpits hurt. I guess I was pulling really hard in the water and maybe the wetsuit restricted my range of motion a bit. I felt like I had a quick change to bike shoes, gloves and helmet but my splits say otherwise. Bike out was interesting on a skinny path that was supposedly a “no pass zone” for a quarter mile then a hard right turn up a steep hill, into a traffic circle and up the ramp to the freeway. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered and as soon as I was on the highway I geared up into my large chain ring and got moving. I had my gels in my race belt but one slipped out on my way out of transition, so I quickly moved them to my shirt. I settled into a decent rhythm on the bike, but it was difficult because there were a lot of people out there, many grates and potholes and narrow lanes. I was amazed at how many people would merge into the middle of the lane to pass without looking behind them. I was a bit frustrated and must have yelled “on your left” a few hundred times. I powered up the hills towards the Bronx and enjoyed the views of the river and the Palisades. I usually use the downhills as a way to accelerate and carry speed into the flat or uphill that follows. In a few spots I had to brake because there was no way to get around people. I’m sure if there were officials out there who cared about the regular people racing, I would have exceeded the three strikes you’re out rule of drafting and passing cleanly. The Bronx was hillier than I expected with a couple tricky turns, then the u-turn to head back south. I felt pretty good at this point and jammed the hills back into Manhattan. There were no mile markers on the bike, or I never noticed any, so it was hard to tell where I was. There was a long drag of flats and false flats that required several miles of just pounding the pedals. I was starting to hit the wall, then a downhill dropped us down to the last turnaround. This was tricky because there was a steep downhill to a sharp u-turn to a steep uphill with a nasty headwind. Once the hill was over it was back to the tricky traffic circle, steep bumpy downhill and skinny path back to transition. I’d say I couldn’t really maintain any speed for the last mile and a half so I lost a bit of time. I had my bike re-racked within the two hour mark on my watch and I was optimistic about making my 3 hour time goal.
The run left transition straight to a steep incline to climb up to 72nd street and then it was a straight and flat shot to Central Park. I made it about halfway to the Park and my legs came back. I was feeling pretty good and was running splits around 10:00 a mile. If I could hold that pace and then kick it in the last mile or two I could maybe make the 3 hour mark. I made the turn into the park and passed the first mile marker. I just took water at the aid stations to sip and splash a bit on my face. I was still feeling really good when I hit the three mile mark. Then it was time for Harlem Hill. I’ve done many a repeat on this sucker so I knew to keep it strong up the first bit, recover on the downhill, start to feel a bit weak on the flats, then soldier up the last incline to a stretch of flats. There was an aid station between the two hills and I grabbed water and took a sip and the next thing I know one of the volunteers threw an entire cup of water into my face. It was refreshing but a bit more than I wanted and definitely a shock to the system. A guy did the same thing at the next aid station but threw it down my back. It wasn’t quite hot enough to elicit that and I had the chills more than a few times on the run. I was looking pretty good for time when I got an awful cramp in my left side after mile 4. I didn’t have to stop and walk, but I definitely slowed down. I tried to stretch my arms and massage it a bit but it was no use. I quit it with the water after that. I passed a bunch of people cheering for Asphalt Green which was awesome. I was totally zoned out, but I really appreciated it. I passed my coaches with maybe 400-500meters left and one ran with me for a minute and said “you’re still racing at this point, so pick it up and try and pick off a few more people.” Yeah I’ll get right on it coach. I was pretty done at that point but I did pass one more woman.
This was just before turning down into the finish chute. I felt like I picked up my stride a bit here but I don’t think it did much for my speed. I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch to see 3:07 and change! I was happy mostly to finish, by the way the first thing they hand you is a nice clean towel that was soaked in ice water-so good, but also to be right in the middle of my reach time (3:00) and my realistic time (3:15). I’m thinking that with less obstacles in the bike and had I not gotten a side ache I could have hit 3:00. Also, my transition times weren’t great. Take out just T1 and I would have been around 2:58.
This is not an attractive photo but clearly shows how I felt about 30 seconds after finishing. Hot, spacey and simultaneously wanting to keep moving and also to curl up on the ground.
I grabbed a bagel and coconut water and tried to find my coach, to no avail. So it was time to make the good mile and a half trek back to the West Side and transition to retrieve my bike. A woman near my bike was going on about going home to take a bubble bath with a cheeseburger and a glass of port. Sounded good to me. I packed up all my stuff, halfway changed into some kind of clean and dry clothes and started the 3+ mile walk home. The last thing I wanted to do was walk in the sun with all my gross gear, but it was probably really good for my legs to work out some of the lactic acid. After cleaning out my bags and a very long shower, I stalked race results.
I’m pleased overall. My swim was 15 minutes faster than I expected (thank you current). The bike was a few minutes slower, but better safe than sorry on this course. My run was around where I expected except for that nasty positive split (thanks side ache). Transitions could have been faster but I was careful to make sure I had everything in order so I wasn’t fumbling out on the course. 5th in my division and well within the first half of women ain’t too shabby for my first Olympic distance.
After all that it was time for a much deserved beer and cheeseburger. Now I feel pretty good. My legs are tired but not awfully sore, although that may change come morning. My feet are a bit sore, but they have been for the past few days so it is probably just from walking all over the city in the heat. I think the worst bit of it all is a rash/chafing on the back of my neck from my wetsuit, but that will clear up in a couple of days. But now I think it’s time for bed.
Congratulations to everyone else who raced this weekend!