NYC Triathlon, Part 2: The madness

… And then the horn sounded.

Ok. Let’s do this, New York. Remember that TNT mantra: I am strong. I am alive. I will thrive. Not just survive.

Next thing I knew I was in the Hudson River. Leg one on the road to triathlete.

I am strong: The first 30 seconds or so were crowded, but people began to spread out pretty quickly and so there weren’t nearly as many close call encounters with other people’s various limbs as I had expected. I started swimming way too fast, too urgently, and soon realized that my legs were kicking in overtime. I needed those legs for the bike and run so I made myself relax, slowed down and tried to simply enjoy the swim – maybe even trick myself into thinking that this was just another day in the pool. Easier said than done, but I started to get into it and found the groove that felt so familiar.  I used the spectators on the shore to help me sight as I went along.  Before I knew it I passed the 600 meter mark. Almost half done! (Although I do remember thinking “What!? Not even halfway done yet!? WTF, Hudson!?)

My goggles had started to slowly fill up with murky Hudson water and became super foggy after I emptied them out, so I flipped over on my back and swam like that for a little bit to figure out what to do, wanting to panic, but then realized that it didn’t really matter how foggy my goggles were – it’s not like I could see anything in that water and I had just enough vision to see the shoreline, which I was using to sight.  I liked seeing the line of people watching and it helped me to not swim super crookedly. I flipped back over and kept going.

Stroke, breathe, stroke, breathe.

I continued to use the spectators as a sighting point -specifically focusing on 2 people who were running alongside the course. A buff little girl in a red tank top with familiar blonde hair and a guy who I could just tell was super cute and probably vegan. It was Twin and Boyfriend!! I wondered if they could see me, if they could tell that I was right there staring at them with every breath. (God that’s so creepy.) They couldn’t – they had lost me in the anonymity of pink swim caps and wetsuits, but seeing them reenergized me and I continued to navigate my way through the filth of the Hudson.

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I am alive: Literally, I was alive! Hallelujah! I could have quit right then and there and considered the triathlon a success. Stepping onto that ramp leading out of the Hudson was a fabulous moment. Volunteers were there reaching out to yank us out of the water and I grabbed one of their hands and stepped back onto the land. My legs wobbled and I walked for about 30 seconds before running the quarter mile back to the transition area to get my bike. My head was a little dizzy, my legs a little shaky, and I needed those seconds to breathe before I was able to think about the next thing.

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One of the coaches had kept reminding us during the last week to not let our bodies get in front of our heads and vice versa. Be in the present, one thing at a time. If I started running before my head was in the right place I’d be setting myself up for disaster later on, and so I shook my legs and walked while unzipping my wetsuit and pulling the top part down to my waist, and breathed deeply a few times before starting to run. As I ran I heard my name called out from somewhere above me. Jesus? Is that you? Maybe I hadn’t survived the swim after all. I looked around for the bright white light and instead saw my aunt and uncle looking down at the course from the Boat Basin. Cue sigh of relief, which was immediately followed by more excitement. Yea! More fans!! More energy! I got to the transition area, wiggled out of my wetsuit, had some Gatorade and poured about half a bottle of water on my face to make sure I didn’t have the “Hudson mustache.” Nobody has time for that – especially when I knew there would be cameras along the bike and running routes!  I should have eaten something but I had snacks in a pouch attached to my bike, so I figured I would eat on the ride.

I will thrive: I jumped on my bike and headed up Hot Corner – a super steep hill that leads out of Riverside Park and to a traffic circle that would take us to the West Side Highway. My bike was already in a low gear and I had practiced the hill several times so I knew what to expect. I smiled at my mom as I turned the corner leading up to the hill and, a little further down, tried to look cute as Boyfriend snapped a picture.

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A girl in front of me was struggling with Hot Corner and began to wobble. She was clipped into the pedals and starting to panic – temporarily forgetting how to unclip – and the whole situation had disaster written all over it. I saw her tip over and swerved around her as she crashed to the ground. A few people behind her became tangled up in the crash and I heard a lot of carefully chosen curse words. A lot. I looped around the traffic circle and headed up the highway to the Bronx. It was only then that I realized it was still drizzling. And it was super cold. I biked faster on the open highway trying to warm myself up but the chill of the air and splashes from the puddles on the ground made it hard, and I was literally shivering while riding.  Being cold is the highest form of torture for me and I was desperately wishing for long sleeves.  The ground was very slippery, and so I rode a little slower than I expected, especially after seeing some more crashes.  People also seemed to be getting flat tires left and right.  I was really surprised to see riders pulling over to help other riders change flat tires (or whatever else was wrong with their bikes).  Sportsmanship at its finest!

Because of the rain and slippery street, I was afraid to take a hand off the handlebars for long enough to grab a snack or drink, and so I rode without food or water.  Not the best thing to do, but I figured it was better than crashing!

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There were no mile markers on the course, so I wasn’t really sure how far I had gone or how much I had left to do, but I kept chugging along knowing that every pedal rotation was getting me closer and closer to the run.  At one point I saw a girl on the side of the road fiddling with her bike, tears streaming down her face as she threw her hands up in exasperation.  I slowed down and considered helping her, but I didn’t have any tools with me and know next to nothing about bikes.  If I stopped the only thing I would be able to do would be sit on the curb and cry with her.  I send good thoughts her way and kept going.

I circled back down to 57th Street and then back up to 79th where I reentered the park and saw my aunt and uncle.  Perfect placement – I was happy for the cheers right before I got off my bike!

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I got back to the transition area and realized that someone had put her bike in my spot.  C’mon, really?  I tried to fit my bike in on the rack and accidently knocked hers down.  “Good, serves her right” I thought (in a much less G-rated way) as her expensive bike crashed to the ground and I easily raked mine up in the correct spot.  I ate half an energy bar, threw down some water and started to leave the transition area as my Nike+ watch linked up for the run.  It only took about two steps before I stopped, had a moral debate in my mind, and turned around to pick up the other bike.  I struggled to re-rack it in such a tight space but also didn’t want any bad karma.  (Also, I knew I’d be pissed if someone else left my bike on the ground, even if I did leave it in the wrong spot like a dope.)

Not just survive: Once the bike situation was sorted out I started to run. And it was one of the greatest runs ever. I can seriously say that I loved every single second of it. I ran up a steep hill leading out of the park, similar to Hot Corner where most people walked, and smiled.

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I ran down 72nd street to Central Park (past some of my friends yelling my name and holding pretty amazing signs) and smiled harder.

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I ran past Twin, Boyfriend, and Sister somewhere in Central Park and flashed my muscles to show them I was just fine, and did the same for my mom, who was about half a mile ahead of them.

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I got to the Harlem Hill and passed some of my TNT team members.  We exchanged a “Go, Team!” and I realized just how close I was to finishing the triathlon.  My legs felt great and I began to wish it wasn’t so close to being over.  The last few hours had been a whirlwind and the run was where I was finally able to really start to comprehend everything that my body had just done!  About 5 miles into the run, I saw one of the head coaches and he yelled something encouraging at me, and I just kept going.  A little bit before the 6 mile mark another coach saw me and ran a few seconds with me.  He grabbed my shoulder and told me I was almost there and that I was doing great.  I saw a TNT friend, who had already finished the tri, with his GoPro camera and smiled for the video he was filming, and high-fived a few other friends.  I was almost there!  Mom and Boyfriend were right there by the finish line (although I don’t remember if I saw them there or if I know they were they were because I’ve seen their videos and photos a million times), and I finished strong.  It was like I hadn’t even done a total of 32 miles.  I wanted more.

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And there you have it.

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My goal was to finish in 3 hours and 15 minutes, and I crossed the finish line in 3:08:48!

Here are my splits:

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I found my crew somewhere on the other side and realized that I had even more people there then I had thought! After walking around the post-tri festivities and having brunch with family and friends, all I wanted was wine and a bubble bath.  But I settled for just kicking up my feet… in the best “Congrats, you did it” shoes ever, which were a triathlon present from Boyfriend.  How hot are these shoes?  AND they’re 100% vegan.  What a guy, huh?

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After a few hours of recovery time and a nap, I was ready to party with my TNT team at the Boat Basin.  Total triathletes 🙂

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This was one of the best experiences ever and I can’t wait to start training for the next one.  Swimming taught me that it is okay to jump in the deep end and hope for the best.  You might surprise yourself with what you’ll find out there.  Biking helped me with forward momentum, and running reinforced the fact that I just love to run and am going to keep doing it for as I can.

Overall fantastic first triathlon.  When can I do it again!?

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