Monday, August 17, 2015

NYC Triathlon #4-The Race

I posted my first and only blog just before the race to let you know you know that I , in fact ,was racing this year.  I had so many people asking me if I was racing.  I claimed in my blog that I was not nervous and that this whole triathlon thing was like putting on a pair of shoes.  That is true and it’s not.
In the week before the race, I had a major light bulb moment. As an age grouper, we are not allowed to dive into the Hudson River. Diving would bring immediate disqualification. Age groupers are only allowed to jump in. This brings about an interesting turn. Once you jump in you can’t see.   My first year running I met some park guys that told me you can actually touch bottom in the area where we race. It was comforting to know that I could touch if I needed to touch. Knowing there is no way to practice swimming in the Hudson, the least I could do was practice jumping into the water. 
The week before the swim, I fixed myself at the deep end of the pool and simulated jumping off the barge into the water.   It  turns out it is just as difficult to see in pool water as it is in Hudson River water.  
For the last three swims of the week, I practiced jumping in and breast -stroking away from the barge.  It may have been a late discovery, but it helped.
The goal for the rest of the week was: don't get hurt.
Success!  By the time Saturday night rolled around, I was uninjured. There is always a small part of me that wished I would be injured so I wouldn't have to race. But in reality I would be broken hearted if that were truly the case.  Race day nerves start on & off for at least two weeks before. The night before I felt relatively calm. The hope was that I had been through this enough that I would get a good night sleep.  So that didn't happen.  Bed at 9 up at 3 and really no deep sleep, just always right there at the surface.  Experience has allowed us (The Husband & I) some insights. Tri-tats go on the night before, no breakfast gets eaten not even choked down and inevitably something will happen during the race, whether it be nerves, splinters, blisters or something forgotten.
We also like to think we are pretty smart people and have micro plans throughout the day mostly about logistics around the race. The plan: he drops me off at transition and parks the car,  we meet at transition for the walk back up to the start.  Plan executed. I practice my transition setup so often that it take me 5 min to set up in T1 on race morning. I always think there is something wrong or that I forgot something because to me  everyone else seems to take forever inside transition. We head up to the start. Along the way we meet a woman, her first tri, who forgot her timing chip. I give her the DL on the course and wished her luck.  
Once at the starting point, I hit the porta-potties.  4,000 people racing. What are the odds that I get a porta-potty that has not been used yet?  Apparently pretty good, it happened 3 times. My race nerves come out in pee, so I got three new ones but after that, my luck ran out. Trust me I didn't just pee three times, it was more like 30. 
I had at least an hour to hang out.  Transition closes at 5:15 am. At first, the start area was quiet and I figured I was going to be on my feet for the next couple of hours. I should sit.  So we sat in the grass and watched the start area fill up once transition closed.  The first year I ran this race, waiting in the start area was so intimidating. I watched everyone lube up (I had no idea why at the time), saw people storing their goggles & swim caps on their person and walked around like they knew where they were going. What a difference a little experience makes. Soon enough people were sitting in the grass all around us.  I was surprised. I never saw people sit before. It was interesting that we were trend-setting and comfortable enough with the race to be able to sit.
At 5:40, it was time to move.  Racers are supposed to be in their start corral by 6:00 am.  The process of putting on a full triathlon wetsuit in high humidity is a workout all by itself and should take a solid 5 min.   Lube the ankles, most definitely the shoulders & neck (learned that the hard way) and wrists (also the hard way). I get my wetsuit half on and make my way into the start corral. The energy in the start corral always gets me going.  I always feel bad for The Husband at this point. He, who has stuck by me and sacrificed his weekend, usually starts getting ignored at this point. A) He is not allowed in the coral and B) it’s time to race.  
Waiting to move up, we watch the pro and elites.  They are impressive.  I wonder out loud how can they move their arms so fasten. Collins finished the 1.5K swim in 12:01. I am sure he is disappointed. Last year he finished in 11:03.
While we were waiting, I met Liz.  This was Liz's first triathlon. She was nervous and it showed.  I verbally walked her through the course telling what to expect along the way:  fast swim, if you get tired, float. A hilly ride, mostly shady until you head back with 3 brutal hills and a hot hilly run with the two worst hills coming at the half way point. Did I mention the blistering heat? That comes at the end part of the run. 
I kept Liz by my side as long as I could. We sat on the barge together. I wished her luck and the whistle blew and into the Hudson River we went.
This year, I swam. I mean I really swam. There was no moment of panic, no “oh my God, what am I doing here” or “what was I thinking”.  The only thoughts I had were “Damn it! Why am I always at the left end of the barge?” A much better thought and one of confidence.  
Out of the water (for a lovely 800 meter barefoot jog) to T1. Onto the bike and off we go.  My plan is to wait for 8 minutes out to start consuming calories. I usually use Gu and this day is no different.  Gu tends to be very sweet so I need water to wash it down.  I grab my water from the back of the bike and for some reason instead of putting back in the back I move it to the front water cage.  I have a second bottle in the back racks holding Nuun ,an electrolyte replacement. I find I don't need it until I am about mile 13.  
I reach behind and grab the water bottle fille with Nuun but there is none left in the bottle.  I can also see a burn hole in the bottle itself.  I have no idea how this could happen. The bottle is useless but I put it back in the rack. I am not happy that I don't have any extra fluids for what is supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far.  Within minutes, I hear metal crash behind me.  My first thought was a crash. Turns out it was my dual water cages now on the West Side Highway.  I certainly was not going back for them it would have been too dangerous to pull over and try to grab them out of the middle of the course with hundreds of people on bikes moving anywhere from 12- 30 MPH. I said good-bye to the holders.  

Did you know that New York City is laden with hills?  My hamstrings can tell you all about it.  I finished the ride without further incident and thought about how fortunate I was that I left the one water bottle in front. As I pull into T2 my hamstrings are tight. Really tight.  Before I head out for the run, I try to stretch them. They are tight enough that I cannot even bend over to get my shoes on. shit shit shit. I can't DNF. I squat and get them on and start limping to the run out. The first bit of the run is a steep hill out of Riverside Park. I can't run it. I walk it with my hand in between my legs trying to massage out my hamstrings and continue to make forward progress.  The race photographers have beautiful shots of this by the way. 
I hit 72nd Street and I get a blast of heat. Ugh. The race volunteers are trying to keep us inside the cones but that is where the sun is. No one that I can see is listening to them as we all need shade. At 9:30 am it was already 90 degrees. The first mile for me was ugly with a capital U. 
I was moving at a 14 min mile due to the heat and the hamstring. When I hit mile 1.5, I got a shower from the spray guns, a bit of water to drink at the aid station and I continue on. The whole race was a late start, instead of starting at 5:50 I believe the pros went off at 5:55 or 6:00am so by the time we all hit central park it was completely covered in sun. The second half of my run was no better than the first half. I was moving faster just not by much.  By mile 4, I had dumped so much water over my head and down my back my shoes were squishy.  The last water station went by and I knew I could make it.  And I did. Hot, broken, and tired.  
I found out later the heat was too much for people. They shortened the course for those who started later. Apparently if you were not at the 1.2 mile marker by the time the announcement went out you were directed to the finish. I love the people who organize this event! It was the right thing to do even if it did disappoint some of the participants.  
The Husband and I met up and grabbed some food before heading to our respective errands. Me picking up the bike (which only I can do, their rules not mine) and him picking up the dog before heading home to pack up for vacation and do a little celebrating.  
I love this day and I hate this day. I love the planning and the prep and finishing. I hate the nerves on race morning. If it were not for them...
On Tuesday morning after the race, I received an email from NYC Triathlon. Liz, the lady I stayed with during the start corral sent me an email through NYC Triathlon, thanking me for waiting with her to jump in the water. She said the waiting to jump was a daunting experience and my kindness helped her get through it.
The email made me cry. It is awesome that I was able to share my experience with her to make her day better and successful! 

Until next year...