Race Report: Nautica NYC Triathlon

July 2008

Yesterday I raced in the Nautica NYC Triathlon. It was my second triathlon, and my second reminder that these things are really all about the bike.

My day started slightly after the scheduled start time for our wave, 7:03 am, on a barge near 98th Street in the Hudson River. The main goal here was to get down to the exit at 81st Street, 1500 meters away, without swallowing too much of the Hudson en route. Speed was actually the third priority; second was to avoid getting my goggles kicked/punched off my face, as I made the decision to do the swim with my contacts in.

The starting horn went off with very little warning; I was actually facing the opposite direction and talking to someone at the time. Not that it mattered - the first 50 meters were devoted solely to survival as the pack thinned out. Once I got some open water to work with I settled into a nice rhythm, stopping every once in a while to gauge distance and release some built up air pressure. A little over 20 minutes later, I staggered up the pier with all three goals accomplished, even holding my own in terms of speed. About 200 meters from the end I had felt a pinch on my upper lip. I didn’t notice any blood so I forgot about it and kept going.

Following the barefoot run to T1, I learned what had actually happened to my lip, as several other athletes were asking each other about jellyfish stings while everyone loaded up their bikes. As it turns out, the thing to fear in the Hudson is in fact the living creatures, and not the non-living garbage - all in all the swim was surprisingly pleasant, just a little salty.

Next came the bike, which, as I mentioned, serves as the bulk of any triathlon. This always frustrates me a bit since it’s definitely not my strong suit. Overall it was an enjoyable ride up the Henry Hudson - flying through the EZ-Pass lanes provided some comic relief as well. I managed to drop a chain shortly after coming out of transition and was more cautious switching gears on my rental bike after that. The rest of the ride was incident-free and I actually coasted on many a downhill section.

After a brief pit stop to drop off the bike and take care of some other business, it was time to head up a very well-placed hill out of Riverside Park to get to 72nd Street. Running across 72nd to the Park was probably the highlight of the race. Tons of fans, lots of energy, and familiar surroundings.

By mile 2 of the run, however, it was apparent to me that I was going to need to take on some energy in order to not be crawling the last half mile, so I mixed myself a little Accelerade/water cocktail (1:1) at a hydration station and took it down while walking. It seemed to sit pretty well and did the trick for the time being.

In the end, however, it turned out that my stomach was really not very happy at all about this mixture and decided that it was going to rebel approximately 25 meters from the finish line. Still waiting on the video of this, but the photographers did a pretty good job of capturing me donating my breakfast to the Central Park pavement.

I think one of the spotters at the finish noticed this because as soon as I crossed the line I had about 18 people surround me and cover me with ice packs and cold towels - I never thought it was possible to see steam coming off my body on a day like yesterday, but it happened. Before I even really realized what was going on, they had me laying down on a cot and were ready to stick me with an IV saline drip before I let them know that I was in fact okay and would just like some cold water to drink, please.

The main lesson I’ll be taking from this race is that if I’m going to keep doing athletic events that last longer than a few hours I need to come up with a better strategy for taking on energy in the later stages of the race without having my stomach do flips. This means finding a product (gels seemed to work pretty well at the Savage this year) and actually practicing with it on long training days. Oh - and actually doing the long training days will probably help as well.