Note: This picture is definitely not from the end of the 1993 NBA season, after Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had won their third consecutive championship. After hearing about my race last weekend, MJ was so inspired that he dusted off his old Bulls uniform, snapped this picture, and sent it to me. I don't know what's more shocking, the fact that he's a huge fan of relatively insignificant triathlons, or that he willingly put on those short shorts almost 20 years after they went out of style.
I really wanted to win this year (I think I've gotten some of NSQ's tenacity via osmosis). The past two years, I didn't really have the right mindset going into this race. I didn't believe I deserved to win the past two years (Catholic guilt maybe?), but whatever changed in my head definitely worked to my advantage this time around.
When people ask me about this race, I always tell them my reason for signing up is because "it's a local race. It's great because you don't have to drive anywhere or pay for a hotel." You do have to wake up at 3:30 in the morning though, to get on a Q train at 4:15 that takes you to Times Square, where you hop on the 7 train and take that approximately 394 stops to Flushing Meadows. The trains were suprisingly efficient though, and we arrived to the race just before 5:30. The early arrival gave me time to do a loop of the two-loop bike course as a warmup, but it was also especially helpful since I could scout out the tight turns and all the damn potholes. I was feeling sharp during the warmup, and upon my return to transition, told Coach Cane "I'm feeling good. This is weird. I usually don't feel this good."
During the pre-race meeting, the organizers announced that yes, they would be scoring the run (the threat of insanely high temperatures had caused them to warn participants that the run portion may not be scored in the race, and would be instead turned into a "fun run"). I needed that run. My strategy for triathlons is to push the swim and the bike as hard as I can in order to leave just enough pop in my legs to run hard. But without a run, I would've struggled to make the podium. So that was some great news. I think I started applauding when they announced that the run was still intact, but that quickly turned into an awkward slow golf clap when no one else joined me.
Anyway…let's get to the race! The swim is a 400m snake through the lovely 50m aquatic center pool. It's awkward because you have to flipturn diagonally under lane lines, which is a huge mess for a poor flipturner like myself. The goal for the swim was to go hard and get the hell out of there quickly. Without a warmup, my arms turned to jelly by the 100m mark, but I managed to get out of the pool in 6:50, which I'll take considering the weird turns and no warmup.
T1 was fast. Got my sunglasses and helmet on and was off with my bike. I managed to drop my water bottle on the run out with my bike, but it bounced in the direction I was going, so after a splitsecond pause, I was on my way out of transition and fancy mounting my bike, ready to zap my legs of all but a 5k run's worth of energy.
The bike portion of this race is crushingly boring and horribly paved. But everyone has to ride it, so there's no use in complaining or getting frustrated about hitting a pothole or speedbump every ten feet. I managed to survive the rough spots and a near-death encounter with an SUV and was back into transition after 13 miles with a fancy dismount in 34:29.
Upon dismounting my bike, I saw Coach Cane and NSQ on the side of the road. NSQ was doing her best cheerleader impression, while Coach Cane had some bad news:
"He's got two minutes on you. You'd better run for all you're worth!"
I'm not unfamiliar with being behind after the bike leg of a triathlon, but two minutes in a 5k is a pretty long time. I could have sworn I heard "if you don't win, you're off the team" or "a plague on both your houses" from Coach Cane (the official words of wisdom were "run for all you're worth!" as I found out after the race). Regardless of what was actually said, I was pissed that someone had that much of a lead on me. I smoked through T2, snatched (literally) my race number, and took off. As I got onto the run course, the announcer, who clearly hadn't been paying attention, said "and there goes our first male athlete out onto the run course". That made me even angrier.
About a half-mile into the run, I caught up with Fabian, who as always, had smoked me in the swim and bike. We exchanged a few words of encouragement, and I continued on in pursuit. I came through the first mile marker with no sign of the first place guy. I was starting to heat up, but thankfully at mile 1.5 an oasis appeared: the only water station on the course. I grabbed three cups of water and dumped all three on my head. The shock of that cold water really woke me up, and a few hundred meters later, I was able to see the guy in first place. I could tell by his cadence that he was struggling, so I picked up my tempo even more in order to catch him.
I managed to pass him just after the second mile marker, and knew that I needed to kick hard once I got past to avoid any counter. The last mile of the race is tough, because it's mostly in the sun, and you have to run away from the finish line in order to do a lap around a hugely annoying fountain, before hitting the home stretch. I kicked pretty hard once I crossed the third mile marker, and hit the tape with a 16:43 run time, and 59:42 overall time.
I feel like I finally raced to my potential in this race last Saturday. My secret goal was not only to win, but also to break one hour, since my time last year was 1:01 (on a much nicer day). And then I got that signed picture from Michael Jordan. That was pretty cool too.
Big shout out to Sheila, Bridget, Jess, Alisa, and Fabian for representing this weekend. It's always encouraging to see familiar colors out there. Thank you NSQ for braving the heat and humidity, and getting up early on a Saturday to cheer us on (and graciously relinquishing your NYRR Tri title). Thank you New York Road Runners, for having the run portion, because without it, this race report wouldn't be nearly as sunshine and rainbowsy. And lastly, thank you Coach Cane for your threats in T2.