The New York City Triathlon is one of my favorite races of the year. There were over 3,000 who participated this year and countless volunteers who helped to produce it. It’s truly amazing that so many people are enthusiastic about our sport!
The swim started out with a dive off the barge into the Hudson River. This is a unique start, compared to most non-draft legal races where there is a deep water start, making the NYC tri all that more exciting. The dive off makes for an even faster down steam swim! I didn't get a video of the Pro guys going off, but here are the Pro women:
The race director called us down onto the barge one by one. The faster guys like Cam Dye, Ben Collins, and Jessie Thomas all got to line up together on the right hand side of the barge, closest to the center of the river (the fastest moving part of the river). The guys who were less well known, including me, ended up on the slightly less advantages left side of the barge.
When the gun went off, I dove in and started working straight down the river. To my surprise, no one was swimming in front of me for a minute or two. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was having an awesome start to my swim. As I breathed to my left for those first 2 minutes, my natural breathing side, I could see that there were a few guys to my left who were just behind me. When I took my first breath to my right, right about the time I was starting to settle in, I realized I made a mistake. All the guys on my right had moved even further right, about 10 or 15 meters or so. Even worse, most of the pack was a second or two in front of me. I pushed hard to move over to the right, but by the time I got there, I missed the main pack of swimmers (who would swim around 13 minutes). For the rest of the swim, I swam alone and as hard as I could. I told myself that I needed to limit my losses and really press for the swim exit. I got out about 1 minute behind the main pack.
Going into the race, I knew I wanted to press the pace between the Swim and T1. It’s about a half mile or maybe a little more of a run into transition and it’s often a place where gaps open up. Coming out of the swim, I really made a push for it, getting out of my comfort zone and trying to catch up to that group just a minute ahead. Despite my effort, I still ran about 15 seconds slower than most pro’s and 30 seconds slower than some of the top pro’s like Ben Collins. I did catch up to two guys and ran out of transition with them.
|Looking for blood at the beginning of the bike|
I road with those two and dropped them as I started to settle into my hard but manageable race pace effort. There were two guys, Alex Willis and Andrew Mueller, down the road who I’ve raced a number of times, who are around my ability level, and who I wanted to catch before the end of the bike. The bike is an out and back on the west side highway and the road conditions were the best I’ve seen them in the 3 years that I’ve raced this race. This made it easier to keep my head down and work to reel them in.
One of the great parts of this race in particular is that the women went first, 11 minutes and 37 seconds before the guys, to “equalize” the field. The first person who crosses the line gets an additional bonus. Although I was nowhere near the guy who crossed the line first, I love this race format because it gives me more carrots to catch as I advance though the course. I seemed to catch another Pro (male or female) at least every few miles and was able to see another one just ahead. This helped keep my motivation up throughout the course!
While putting out the effort I needed to reel in my competitors, I was having a hard time keeping anything in my stomach. I took a gel around mile 3 and ended up throwing much of it back up. I kept getting in the fluids as much as I could, but a lot of it came back up.
At the turn around, I was a bit surprised to see that I had not yet caught Willis or Mueller, but I could see that they were only 20-30 seconds up the road. I reeled in Willis first, about a mile from the turn around and got to work on Mueller. He gave me a run for my money this time. At mile 22 or so, I was really starting to hurt on the bike, still unable keep the nutrition down, and my back was starting to tighten up. I stayed mentally strong and ended up catching Mueller about 1 mile from the finish, but it took a lot of strength and I wasn’t able to put any more time into him.
|The feeling of DEATH towards the end of the ride|
I ended up coming into T2 with three guys, including Mueller, and was the second guy out by about 1 second. All in all, it was a solid and fast transition for me.
I took my time ascending the first big hill out of transition, took in another gel (which thankfully stayed down), and got to work. About a half mile in, Muller came around me. I tried to stay as comfortable as possible and told myself “this is your race, you’ve run faster than him in the past, just stick with him for a mile or until the legs and upper body come around….then make a move.” I stayed about 5-10 meters behind Mueller for about 2 miles, trying to match his quick turnover and relaxed arms. As we approached a hill, I got out of my comfort zone and pushed a little harder to try to get on his shoulder. My body, particularly my lungs, didn’t want to respond. I told myself to wait a little bit more. At mile 3, I again tried to push myself out of my comfort zone and again, my body didn’t want to respond. I made up a few steps on him and fell back again. Around mile four, I saw Muller pulling away...in retrospect, we were both slowing down but he slowed down less than I did… and just tried to hang on for dear life. Despite slowing down, I tried my best to just stay strong through the last half mile and get myself to the finish.
Overall, the race didn’t come off quite as I had hoped. Last year, I was 11th, went 1:52:37, and was roughly 9 minutes off the leader. This year I was 15th, went 1:57:18, and was roughly 12 minutes off the leader.
There were three things that really stand out between this year and last year. This year, I didn’t catch onto the biggest swim group. A logistical mistake like this can, in a solid field, make or break your race. Physically, I would have saved a lot more energy and gone faster with that group. Mentally, I would have come out with a big group of guys and been able to ride in contact with a group who road about the same time as me. Knowing where to be during the swim is something I continually need to work on and improve.
The second thing was the humidity. The heat wasn’t that bad, but the humidity was high. I’m clearly still working on figuring out how to perform up to my ability level in the high humidity. It didn’t help that I was having trouble keeping my fluids down. I needed those fluids to keep my body cool and I was probably getting dehydrated towards the end.
The third thing was that I didn’t use caffeine this time in my gels. I’ve recently switched from gu to honey stingers without caffeine because they have been easier on my stomach. I haven’t had any problems with them in training, even in humid conditions and for intense rides, and my energy levels have remained stable. In this race, however, I ended up throwing up 4-5 times during the bike, so the switch didn’t work anyway. I will probably try something else and will definitely be taking caffeine in some form in future race nutrition plans. For me, caffeine lowers my perceived effort and that makes a huge difference when I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone.
Off to the next races! First up, Timberman 70.3. Then, IM Chattanooga!
Big thanks to my sponsors Zane’s Cycle, Dr. AJ of Southern Connecticut Muscle and Joint Chiropractic, Jen Reynolds of 66 North Main Massage, CT Cycle Center, Cliff English, Amber, and my parents. They all played a role in helping me get to the start line at the NYC tri! Also, thanks to race director Bill Burk who did a great job directing this race! Thanks NYC Tri for keeping the Pro race alive!