I had a "fun" time racing the local Lake T sprint tri! This picture is of me running through T2 after a second loop on the bike of torrential downpour where the rain felt like shards of glass flying into my eyeballs at all moments. I was asking "could it really get any worse?" These are the moments we live for as triathletes... Well, maybe not the ones we live for, but definitely the ones we gloat about for the rest of our lives (No...I've raced in the worst conditions...there was this one time at Lake T...). Good times. Anyways, I felt honored to win the race and was happy when the experience was over smile emoticon. Thanks for capturing this moment and so many others, Jennifer Schulten!
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!
Eagleman was a tough race for me and I really don’t have a ton to say about most of it. I can say that I trained hard, was well rested, and ready to put in the best 70.3 race of my life. In terms of the race itself, I swam hard, I biked well within my means, and set myself up for a good run. I came off the bike feeling great, motivated, and ready to go. After the first 2 miles or so, running more conservatively than I did at Challenge Knoxville, I began the slow fade, slipping from 7th to 11th, and finishing up the race just trying to survive.
|Solid Swim...not too far back!|
The biggest challenge of this race for me, and basically everyone who raced, was the hot and humid conditions. The heat was over 90 degrees and the humidity was over 90%. It was basically hell. The Devil in Milton’s Paradise Lost said “The mind is it’s own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell…” but I can attest that the mind is part of a physical organ, trapped within the body, and it eventually breaks down with the reality of its surroundings in the full realization that hell is, in fact, hell. The person who actually wins the race is usually the person who (1) gets the most comfortable with being in hell (i.e. the best at embracing the suck) and (2) does all he/she can to slow the body’s unavoidable break down (i.e. heat acclimation, hydration, cooling off). Of course, it also helps to be super fit and talented. Great job to Cody Beals who was clearly the best at dealing with hell on this dreadful day…he went on to win the race!
The hot conditions made it a challenging day, but I think the humid conditions are really what stressed my body the most. I think I acclimate to hot conditions as well as anyone else. When I went down to Tuscan for training, I went from the Sub-30 degree Connecticut weather to 70-85 degree weather in Tuscan and really didn’t have an issue adapting after the first few days. Leading into Eagleman, I felt like I’d been well acclimated. The heat in Cambridge, MD during the race was in the 90’s, but I’d also been training in 90 degree heat leading up to the race. The real difference was in the humidity at 90%. When it’s that high, the sweat dripping out of your pours doesn’t effectively evaporate to cool your body. The body can cool itself somewhat more effectively on the bike because of the wind that comes with moving at a higher rate of speed. On the run, however, there is very little relief...at least at the speed that I was going.
|Finishing the bike and feeling strong!|
I think I did a decent job with my hydration. I drank 4x 24oz bottles of fluid on the bike and drank every chance I got on the run. I didn’t cramp up which suggests that (1) I had enough electrolytes and (2) Cliff has tailored my training to make sure I’m strong enough to race a 13 mile run off of a hard bike. Where I think I can improve the most is in cooling my body in humid conditions. Ice down the pants was not enough. Since the race, I’ve begun to experiment with different head gear (hats and cloth bandana’s) to keep the sun off and keep cool. I’m also investing in a sleeve of cloth that I can fill with ice and put around my neck, Ben Hoffman style.
|Feeling good at mile 1!|
Despite my disappointing run, I was still in striking distance of 6th pace and one spot out of my goal of the top 10th pro. This is a position that I’ve never been in before and the place filled me with confidence. I’m getting better and better with each race.
|Suffering it in!|
Thanks to Zane’s Cycles for getting my bike prepared for this race. Thanks to Dr. AJ Gagliardi of CT Muscle and Joint Performance Chiro for his work on my body. Thanks to Cliff English for preparing me to fight. Thanks to CT Cycle Center for helping me get stronger and faster. Thanks to C3 for your thoughts and support. Thanks to Dave Ellis, his aunt Carol, and his mom Joan, for hooking Amber and I up with the sweatiest of home stays! And thanks to Amber and my parents for being there when I need them!