“ARE YOU READY?” inquired a friend.
I shrugged. “Yeah, I was ready months ago…”
It was Friday afternoon. T minus two days until the New York City Triathlon. I sprayed arrogance into the air, and my new designer fragrance was smelling sweet. I had swagger. I was strutting like a Mega Millions lottery jackpot winner ready to quit his job. Yes, I was that kind of cocky.
This was not the case six months ago. I was not enthusiastic nor financially prepared when my friends Brit and Todd
suggested signing up for a triathlon. Brit and Todd
were my snowboarding crew. We rode together every season and as activity partners, we have skydived and completed Tough Mudders. This new challenge was another notch on the accomplishment list. Thanks to the coaching staff of Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training (LLS TNT)
and private coaches Agnies and Sam, Sunday’s mission to “just finish” was going to be easy. Furthermore, my arrogance made me I believe I could complete this mission in under three hours.
The NYC Triathlon is an Olympic distance event which consists of a 0.93mi (1.5km) swim, 24.8mi (40km) bike and 6.2mi (10km) run.
My formula =
20 min swim
+ 5 min transition one
+ 90 min bike
+ 5 min transition two
+ 59 min run
+ 0 flat tires
+ 0 “seated” potty breaks
Although I never physically practiced a transition, my fuzzy math seemed logical at the time. I did a lot online “research.”
To avoid mass hysteria on Saturday, I attended the mandatory athlete briefing and picked up my race packet at lunch. In the evening I dropped by the LLS TNT
Inspiration Dinner. I met my mentor Lenore and she was so happy to see me. Years ago, we worked together; I never predicted we would be completing a triathlon together. I was hungry so I attacked the salad and pasta buffet. Sadly, both pasta offerings were overcooked (terrible considering the cost of the guest tickets) but it was nice to see most of the athletes in one room (the first time since March). During dinner the emcee reminded us about the cause (awareness and finding cures for cancer) and recognized the highest grossing fundraisers. Miss Lilly Hubschman
took top honors, raising over $33,000 for LLS TNT
. Most folks almost fell over at the sound of that number. Geez, even I struggled to raise my paltry $4,470
. She sat at the same table as me so I congratulated her for her great work and wished her luck on Sunday. I should have asked for fundraising tips.
On the way home, I ate pizza to salvage my dinner. I felt much better!
In the morning I laid all of my athletic gear out on the floor. Being paranoid, I reviewed my checklist several times and packed my bag. I double-checked my bike equipment and prepared for three flat tires (When I first bought my bike in March, I got flat tires on the first two days I rode it). I slapped on the number tag onto my bike and left for the subway. This was not a difficult task since my bike was light, but I had all of my stuff for the weekend on my back, plus my wet suit. It was a beautiful day but I felt like a hobo; I needed to jettison this baggage fast. I walked my bike across Central Park and checked into the hotel.
After lightening the luggage load, I rode my bike down Riverside Parkway and to red transition. I passed the swim start and exit pontoons thinking the swim tomorrow was not going to be bad at all.
There were two transitions: yellow and red. Each had about 2000 athletes. Within the transitions, they were broken into color waves. The yellow transition was the first start. The pros, elites, older men and all women started in the yellow transition. The red had the rest: first responders, clydesdales (heavy weight class) and men. If you were a young guy, you were going to be in the last wave. Another difference between the transitions was the locations. Athletes in the yellow have a longer run from swim to transition 1 and shorter run from bike to transition 2. Since I was in red, it was the other way around. I had a shorter run from the swim to the bike but a longer run from the bike to the run. Unless you enjoyed waiting (said no one ever), it was advantageous to start in yellow.
Inside red transition, I parked my bike and meticulously studied the rows. There were many bikes and I did not wish to get lost on race day.
Meet my girl, Bonnie.
I spoke to one of the staff to understand race day logistics. I was going to enter and exit from both sides. Brit and Todd showed up and dropped off their bikes, which signaled for dinner.
That’s a whole lot of bikes!
We decided to eat a light dinner. My wife and I ordered a seafood medley with red sauce and linguine for two. The bowl was gigantic and I overate, giving new meaning to carbohydrate loading; I should have asked for a kid’s meal. We enjoyed some wine. It was a pleasant early bird dinner and I felt confident. After dinner, we picked up some Gatorade and headed to our hotels. At the hotel I prepared for bed and applied my temporary race tattoos. I laid down. It was 10 pm.
Two hours later, I awoke to footsteps on the ceiling, followed by laughter. This hotel had thin walls and ceilings. I managed to close my eyes, then I heard my alarm. It was 3:15 AM.
I was a zombie getting ready. I reluctantly got up and brushed my teeth. I did not feel refreshed but I was not nervous. I was not hungry, but I force fed myself the peanut butter and banana bagel I prepared. I filled my CamelBak with about 60 ounces of Gatorade.
I kissed my wife goodbye and I left with my transition bag.
Rise and shine!
It was drizzling. At this point, trying to stay dry was moot. I walked to the train. Everyone who was awake was coming home from a night out. I hoped to meet a few triathletes and give them the “what’s up” nod, but I was lonely on the train. I exited and walked to the 79th Street Boat Basin. Triathletes were heading in the same direction. I walked into red transition and greeted my bike.
5:00AM Red transition. I had blurred vision that morning too.
Every bike was wet. My shoes were wet. Great.
I tried to use the porta potty. Nothing. I hoped nothing had to come out during the race. I started laying out my stuff, inflated my tires, re-racked my bike and left red transition.
I laid it all out there on the ground.
It was 5:30 AM. I met Brit and Todd, and started the mile long walk to the start waves. We bumped into Sam, one of our coaches. He happily greeted us and gave us last minute tips for the swim.
Brit, Todd, Sam & me. Sam placed 2nd in his age group! (Photo Credit: Marathon Foto)
We walked towards the long porta potty lines. The lines were long and I saw a lot of LLS TNT
athletes in purple. I ate some GU Chomps energy chews. I removed my sneakers, placed them in the post-race bag and checked it in. I would be barefoot until bicycle time. I applied body glide on my wrists, ankles and neck up past the hairline (wet suit rash is painful). I put on the wet suit – legs and lower torso only.
HURRY UP AND WAIT – THE SWIM
If the yellow transition started at 6 AM and the red started at 7 AM with 20 athletes jumping in every 15 seconds, then I started around 7:40 AM. This involved a lot of waiting, which meant adjusting my goggles a lot.
Before I got into my wave I met members of my NYCInstarunners running family. We wished each other luck.
Me, Alexie and Jeff (Photo Credit @akinyc406)
Th official announced the water temperature at 71 degrees, so we were cleared to wear our wet suits. In my wave there were a handful of nonconforming triathletes. I did not know if they were too cheap to invest in one, if they were dared to swim without one or if they were related to Michael Phelps and saved time at the transition.
The waiting game.
My wave was moving closer to the starting pontoon.
My group wave was up. I stepped out onto the pontoon as far right as I could. NOW I WAS NERVOUS. The horn blew and I jumped in.
Feel free to answer all at once! Pay no attention to the man in the blue speedo.
I planned for a slow and steady start. I slowly let my body go horizontal, gained composure and started the strokes, focusing on the catch, pull, body rotation and sighting every 4 breaths. Goggles were good and there were no signs of leakage. The water was so murky. Was it gray? Maybe green? Am I in New Jersey yet?
500 meters in, THWACK!
Someone kicked me in the chest and I swallowed a gulp of the Hudson.
I surfaced with a “WTF?”
It was a breast stroker. The water was so opaque, I could not have seen him coming. I could not see anything in the Hudson except the waves produced by my inconsiderate triathlete neighbors.
DAMNIT THAT CAN NOT HAPPEN AGAIN, I think to myself as I am furiously paddling to the right and coughing. The kick hurt but the ingestion of the Hudson angered me. Do I have to worry about dysentery? So much for my “zero seated bathroom break” plan…
For about 600 meters I received occasional chops on my calves and feet. Then I got bumped on my left. I stayed very close to the right side but I had to zig-zag, thanks to the flailing arm circus. So much for drafting behind a swimmer and conserving energy.
I was sighting every two breaths until I got clearance. This was inefficient but I had to avoid bodies. They were frequently disrupting my flow. To add to my frustration, my cap was slipping off my head; I had to pull it down three times – this never happened during practice. Finally, I swam to an arm and a volunteer pulled me up.
I passed the line and it was time to mount my bike. I hopped on but lost balance and stopped 10 feet ahead; there was an audience and it was an embarrassing false start. I clicked in one pedal and started pedaling in the lowest gear until I got onto the West Side Highway. There was a hill getting out onto the bike course; it was narrow and congested with cyclists so it was frustrating; passing was not possible.
It was drizzling and roads were wet. My eyes were glued to the ground, scanning for: bottles, bike pumps, potholes, clothing, chewing gum, animal droppings, rocks, sticks, etc. In addition there were plenty of mysterious puddles (where you did not want to gamble depth). I did not want to explain to my wife why I returned with bloody knees again.
Months ago learning how to use clips & falling. My modeling career is over!
Because of the weather, I was risk averse: I stayed mostly on the hood and occasionally on the drops. I did not use my aero bars.
This picture makes me look like a liar, but the roads were wet. (Photo Credit: Marathon Foto)
Ever had that feeling when you take an exam and wish you prepared better (studied harder)? I learned quickly that the bike course was an emotional roller coaster for a novice or weak cyclist. Skipping group training sessions in Central Park and 9W in favor for training rides on flat courses proved to be a poor choice. Rolling hills meant suffering on the incline and enjoying the descent. I had to remind myself to maintain momentum going down for the next hill; if I rested too much, it was fire thighs moments later.
At least I look good? (Photo Credit: Marathon Foto)
The bike course had its moments, especially riding under the George Washington Bridge. I also enjoyed the passing through the toll booth both north and south bound.
“On your left! Left! Left!”
Friday’s arrogance faded quickly. Many dudes on expensive Italian machinery in aero position, passed me like the road runner. I was a poser and I hated what I was seeing. The wicked witch (Wizard of Oz) theme song played in my head as they cycled past me. I struggled on these rolling hills. Although I had prepared another bagel and GU Chomps, eating on the bike was out of the question. I took sips from my CamelBak and I had to concentrate.
The intersection where the Mosholu Parkway meets Gun Hill Road was the turnaround point. At the 45 minute mile mark, the bike computer told me I had 12.5 miles to go on these hills. I was feeling better. Soon I was slowing down to 6 miles per hour and I was starting to buckle, left to right. The delusions of grandeur where I thought I would finish in an hour and a half were unimportant now… just get to the transition, dummy. I remembered why I did this in the first place. For the last 5 months, I had fundraised for my late aunt and other friends and family fighting cancer. I kept talking to my knees and pedaled harder.
“UP! DOWN! UP! DOWN!” I commanded. I was supposed to pedal in circles, but my form was giving out. My quads were dying. My tri shorts were too thin and failed to provide comfort. My coccyx and my ass muscles had experienced better days.
Are we there yet? (Photo Credit: Marathon Foto)
Approaching the last stretch, I slowed down at 57th and turned around. I was almost there, just one more hill.
As I entered the exit for the red transition, volunteers reminded us to slow down and get ready for sharp turns. No problem!
ARE WE THERE YET? – TRANSITION TWO
I reached the red transition line, unclipped, dismounted my bike and walked it to the rack.
This transition was easier. I switched my bike shoes to my Vibram Five Fingers, put on my race belt and put on my aviator sunglasses. I normally use sporty glasses, but I thought about the photos. My brother would laugh and say with the shades that I looked like a cop with a porn mustache.
There was a hill getting out of transition onto the run but it deceivingly easy. The great thing about the run was that you ran up this hill, east bound on 72nd street and headed into Central Park for the last five miles of this event.
TIME FOR CRUISE CONTROL – THE RUN
Salvation had arrived. The weather was still overcast but it stopped drizzling. I looked forward to the run all morning. My goal was an hour; realistically I did not think I could handle a fast 10k after the swim and bike. I maintained a comfortable pace because I planned on facing hills as I traversed north in Central Park.
It was my friend Amy
(and member of my NYCInstarunners
running family) to the right. She was jumping up with signs. I waved and smiled.
It was my Iron coach, Agnies to the left. I waved.
Running east across 72nd Street (Photo Credit: Marathon Foto)
“PETER KIM!” My friend Steph and my wife were screaming and running (I had just passed them on the left). My other friend Raul was ahead and snapped a photo.
I was happy to see my fan club.
Uh oh! Time to go!
I focused on cadence and on deep breathing. I was feeling good.
Off to the park
As I was going north, I was blessed with a gift… a pacer.
He was a younger fellow. I knew he was younger because of his bib number. He was taller. He was more slender than me. After mile two, I realized I could keep up with him. For the next few miles, we would pass each other leaving a few meters ahead. Around mile 3, he apologized. He cut me off because there was a small congestion of slower runners.
“No worries bud. You’re my pacer. I’m staying with you for the race.”
He nodded. At mile 4, I saw the LLS Team In Training cheering section. I also saw Coach Scott Willett.
“You look like a movie star” he laughed. It must have been the sunglasses and the ‘stache.
Shortly thereafter, I see another cheering squad consisting of my wife and friends Steph, Raul and Tracy. It was smiles and cruise control for me now.
Around mile 6, I was approaching the fountain loop. I met coach Mike Galvan. He gave me a high five, told me to finish strong and patted me on the butt. From there, I thanked him, I increased my cadence and pushed until the finish line. I did not see my pacer friend ahead of me again.
Breathing heavier, I hurried around the fountain. I was getting closer. The lane narrowed; I was in the finish corral. Spectators cheered on the right and left. As the announcer called my name, I fist bumped my chest.
Pushing towards the finish line! (Photo Credit: Marathon Foto)
Relief. I crossed the second timing mat. It was over.
IT’S OFFICIAL, I AM A TRIATHLETE – POST RACE
I flexed my biceps and channeled my best Usain Bolt, hoping the photographers would capture it. They did not.
I posed again, way past the finish line. (Photo Credit: Marathon Foto)
With the other triathlete finishers we were herded to continue walking forward. I happily accepted my cold towel and finisher’s medal. I grabbed a banana and bagel, and I voraciously ate them, washing them down with muscle milk.
There was a tent for unofficial chip times. A dude took my bib number and responded with “2:56:53”. I shrieked like a little kid, followed by a handful of repetitive YES-es: YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!
Here was the breakdown:
Overall 1914: | Division Place: 269/370 | Gender Place: 1526/2294
The results were shocking. My formula was close to reality and my swagger came back. Even with my jello legs, I had a bounce in my step for about 10 yards.
Enjoying some ice cream (Photo Credit: Marathon Photo)
I inquired about the complimentary massages, but the waitlist was another two hours (yet another benefit for the Yellow transition). I skipped it and sought to reunite with my fan club.
May I help you?
I reunited with my wife, spectating friends and Brit and Todd. We were happy that we finished but we were hungry… borderline hangry.
The Three Amigos (Photo Credit: Tracy Rainford)
We headed back to our hotels to clean off the sweat, salt and the Hudson. We met at the transitions, packed our stuff and reclaimed our bikes. Now it was really time to celebrate… at a bar with real food.
Todd and me (Photo Credit: Brit Jackson)
Me, Agnies, Brit (Photo Credit: Brit Jackson)
Photo Credit: Brit Jackson
I found this on the internet, therefore it must be true!
I took Monday off from work and it was a wise decision. My legs were sore and needed rest. It took a nice 12 hours of sleep to catch up from the weekend. I did a few errands, an easy 4 mile recovery run and baked banana breads.
These did not last long. No, I didn’t eat them.
The next day I returned to the office… in a suit with my medal. I received the same question multiple times: was I interviewing?
No I was not interviewing. I was still celebrating!
It has been three weeks since the triathlon. Overall, the experience was challenging (reread the swim and bike sections) but the rewards were great. I will always be proud of what I accomplished. Would I do it again? Probably not, unless I qualify for the Yellow transition wave start. The NYC Triathlon was a well organized race but for me it served its purpose as a gateway drug. I seek a bigger challenge (longer distance).
Looking back, none of this would be possible without the following people: the staff and coaches at LLS TNT, my mentor Lenore, my family, my friends (those who supported, attended the happy hour fundraiser and donated to the cause) and my wife… and of course my co-conspirators, Brit and Todd.
Although I joked earlier about my fundraising skills, I am proud that I raised $4, 470 and brought awareness to blood cancer research. I did not enjoy my first date in the Hudson River since I wish I did not know how that water tasted. =/
I hope you enjoyed my 2014 NYC Triathlon race recap. So did it inspire you to sign up for next year?