The day began at 4:05am as I waited for the Uber with my Triathlon neighbors, Liz and Juan. After an easy 10 minute commute, I set up transition by the light of the temporary field lights spotlighting the thousands of bikes in Transition Yellow. I found my friend and eventual racewife, Cecilia, and we jogged to transition, which felt much less energy-intensive than walking. After my first swim warmup with Cecilia’s elastic bands (learn from the best!) and the world’s best acclimation shower (seriously, they pump Hudson River water into the corral before you aboard the temporary pontoon!), we, the “premier amateur” wave, dove head first into the Hudson River.
I liken the swim in the less-than-crystal-clear Hudson River to running a muddy Cross Country course – the worse the conditions, the better I perform. After a few flailing arms, I settled into position behind the first three swimmers. While breathing, I kept my mouth clear of the water line, careful not to swallow any water. I felt something bob against my arm at one point, which was likely a dead fish or pigeon, like the one tapping the pontoon before the race start. I kept the hot pink cap of the leader within sight, swimming aggressively the 1500 meters downstream, strongly pulling the gritty water, and kept in my mind the mantra of “you don’t need your arms after this!” This was especially important in a swim that took me 8 minutes faster (15:39!) than my previous fastest 1500m swim (24:20), thanks to the fast current.
I left the water in third place and just 9 seconds behind the leader of my wave and stripped my wetsuit down to my waist. I ran through T1, empty wetsuit arms flapping against my thighs, like I just got out of water prison. I slipped on some shoes I stashed on the side, a decision I was pleased with since A) T1 is about 700m long and B) I’m not a fast barefoot runner on concrete. My hasty running moved me into second place during T1.
And then I hopped on my bike.
Not a good sound. Wait, I knew that sound. My chain dropped. I pedaled backwards to get it back on again.
The chain was really dropped. Unexpectedly, like Beyonce’s fifth album.
I unclipped, hopped off, and tried not to panic. I’ve done this before. After 30-45 seconds which felt like five minutes, I got it back on.
“I can make up that time later.” Little did I know, that was the first of my bike issues.
I got on the West Side Highway and began the bike course. I got passed by a few girls, then a few more. I was trying pretty hard at this point, but I didn’t really think anything was wrong until the last few miles of the bike course. It started to feel like there were fists wringing the inside of my thighs. I coasted down the hill to the 59th street turnaround with two miles to go, wondering if I’d get up the hill again. I shifted to my lowest gear and eased up the hill, and I massaged the inside of my hips for a few seconds before I nearly lost my balance.
I made it to T2, and as I dismounted, I walked – WALKED – and winced my way to my transition setup, which was luckily within 50 feet or so of the dismount line. I really wasn’t sure if I could run, but I went through the motions of removing my helmet and bike shoes, putting on my running shoes and bib number, and tucking a gel into the pocket of my uniform top. Somehow, while wobbling towards the “Run Out,” I found my legs again. I caught two women within the first 3/4 mile on 72nd Street, and I was in no man’s land after that. I kept ticking along through Central Park at 6:20 pace. My wave started at 6:30am, so the spectators were still sparse along the run course, which made it easy to hear the cheers of my Central Park Track Club teammates along an empty 72nd Street and spot my boyfriend at a few deserted, strategic spots in Central Park.
I ran through the squirrely final half mile, through the finishing chute, still clueless of just how slow I went on the bike and run. I immediately draped a cold, wet towel around my neck. The forecast had called for dangerously hot temperatures, so the run course was shortened to 5.2 miles. However, given that my wave was so early and that I was acclimated to workouts in the heat, I didn’t find it to be that much of a factor. I finished the run in 33:06, a 6:21 pace per mile. I grabbed a few bandaids from the med tent for my battered feet and walked back at grandma pace with my patient boyfriend to the city bus to head back to my apartment.
Speaking of running through sprinklers, I got soaked…in the results:
Anyone who knows me or can interpret the rightmost column can see that the bike leg is far below par. My fastest bike ever is a 1:05, and my slowest ever is a 1:10. This was a 1:19. To compare to the rest of my elite wave, I was third in my wave for the swim and run, and third from last on the bike. Did I stop and take a nap? Change a flat? Change another rider’s flat? Stop at Duane Reade for face wash for my Hudson beard? (No, no, no, and definitely no, because if you look closely enough at my race pictures, you can see the shadow of dirt on my face from the Hudson!) It wasn’t until a few hours later that transition reopened and I headed back to the west side for bike pickup. I found my bike, spun my wheel, and (get ready for more illuminative bike sounds)
Tickticktick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick shhhhhhhh.
That’s the sound of my rear race wheel getting a little too friendly with my frame, rubbing all up on it like a horny dog at a puppy parade. I had a mechanic make a last-minute adjustment to fix the rear wheel from coming out of alignment, and while that was fixed, the spacers he moved were in just a bit too far. I do not blame him for my bike woes, as it is my responsibility to give it a full test run and have a properly working machine; I’m just describing the situation and my laissez faire attitude that cost me who-knows-how-much on the bike course. All I know is my time was 9 minutes slower than my first and slowest 40K ride ever and 14 minutes slower than my fastest 40K ride ever. Take just 6 minutes off and that puts me on the podium as second place woman overall.
Given that my swim was so strong and my mostly solo run was solid, it’s definitely disappointing that my first hometown race didn’t turn out the way I wanted, because my bike issues were entirely preventable. Having a properly functioning bike is part of racing. Well, technically, it’s a part of preparing for racing. You wouldn’t drive your car with the hood open, right? There’s only one more triathlon I’m signed up for, the USAT Age Group National Championships, to prove I won’t take my bike out unprepared again!