Hortense and I have both spent all of about 2 days in New York before we met. So, although this was a race weekend, we turned it into a pretty good vacation as well. We were both curious to see and experience the Melting Pot. It was a weekend of a lot ‘firsts’; making the trip supremely enjoyable.
I’m so lucky to be traveling with my wife for many of these races. We both love to travel, and although I can’t go all out, we still manage to get a lot done. We did log a lot of miles walking the streets; my head tilted this way and that curious to see the mass of humanity around every corner. This was energy zapping due to the high humidity and mid 90’s temperature. I was hopeful that this exposure would yield some accumulation for acclimating to the humidity.
We stayed on the Upper West Side on 92nd St in a very cozy 1 bedroom apartment, giving us the allure of being local New Yorkers for the weekend. We arrived on Thursday evening and ate at a French restaurant on the sidewalk patio, enjoying the warm but comfortable night while people watching over good conversations. On Friday we walked from our apartment down to the YMCA on 5W 63rd St for a nice little swim in a 4 lane pool. Then we enjoyed lunch somewhere south of Central Park at another French restaurant. I opted to take a taxi back to the apartment and watch the Tour de France while Hortense continued walking/ sight seeing. We were both a little tired that evening from the day’s ventures so we ordered some ‘to go’ food from, you guessed it, another French restaurant.
On Saturday, apart from a lovely bike ride around Central Park and the Pro meeting at the Hilton, I stayed off my feet and watched Le Tour de France in our apartment. I really enjoyed every minute…feeling very relaxed, yet alert, feeling good and appreciating my health. When I am able to enjoy the moment like this and not get overly anxious for the upcoming race…it can be quite gratifying.
Race morning came at 1:30am MST (my time) to prepare for the 5:50am EST time start. After some oatmeal and a banana I was wide awake, feeling well rested and ready to go. However, my circadian rhythm was out of whack; I was not in the usual pre-morning routine. That is to say, the trips to the bathroom were lacking. I was unable to convince my body of the pending, very early morning race. Ah well, se la vie. This would prove to cause some discomfort on the bike and a quick trip to the port-a-potties after the finish.
New York was actually sleepy at 4:20 in the morning as I biked over to T1, that is, until I arrived to the Tri scene where over 3,000 athletes prepared for their urban adventure. While racking my bike I felt a little peculiar, bearded with hair getting long and gangly, I was surrounded by Olympic athletes. To my left was Greg Bennett, Simon Whitfield, and Colin Jenkins while on my right was Andy Potts and Paul Tichelaar. I was in excellent company feeling a bit like an honored guest, sitting courtside at the Lakers vs. Celtics finals. Ahh wait a sec…I’m in the game. I was a black sheep, mingling with guys making a good living from the sport I love and heading to Beijing for the Olympics in a few days, while I work 40 hours a week to support a similar lifestyle. That is a big reason I race, for the chance to compete with the best in the world, albeit hand-cuffed with far fewer training hours, I still compete. Most importantly, it is super fun. I was thrilled to take over the streets of New York while racing with the best athletes in the world.
After a mile and a quarter walk (it was at least ¼ mile from the swim finish to T1) to the swim start the pros lined up, ready to dive into the Hudson. The source of the Hudson River in Upstate New York is beautiful country where I’m sure the water is clear and pristine. However, outside of the city the water was a bit murky and one noticed a lot of debris floating. It would be great to see it restored to the natural beauty it must have been before it was urbanized. I lined up in the middle a bit closer to the shore and when we dove in I was surprised with the salty taste. The line held steady for the first 200 meters and then we started bunching up behind the leaders. I was very comfortably placed near the front, almost being slowed down, but boxed in with swimmers crowding me from either side; all three of us fighting for position on the 2 feet in front of us. I was determined to keep my position directly behind the feet I was on. Breathing to my right with the shore on my left I held steady even though the guy on my left caught my elbow a few times while turning into me. The pace was comfortable for me and I obliged to sit in and hold my place. That’s when I started noticing all the jellyfish stings pretty much all over my exposed face and arms. It wasn’t horrible, but it was certainly uncomfortable. The guy to my left swam over the back of me and headed out towards the middle of the river. I must have lost some focus or direction shortly after that, as suddenly the lead pack gaped me. They too headed out towards the middle and I opted to go alone, taking a straighter line closer to shore. The gap was growing, probably as much as 20 seconds but the last 300 meters I felt great and made a strong effort to bridge up. I was gaining ground and would have caught up if there had been another 100 meters. Alas, they excited the water teasingly in front of me.
During the long jaunt to T1 Andy Potts ran by powerfully and quickly caught up to the group. I lingered just off the back of the group and actually lost a good 20 seconds to the fastest T1 splits. I need to work on the barefooted transition run.
I did my best to quickly bridge up to the lead group once on the bike but was burned by having to climb a steep hill out of transition without my shoes on. Next year I’ll have to get into my shoes quickly. The bike was hillier and more difficult than I had anticipated. Making the first turnaround, I seemed to be a little over a minute behind the leaders, still reachable I hoped with a strong second half to my bike. I felt strong the last half, but lost some focus and finished conservatively losing more time to the leaders. Bennett was way out in front; surely no one would be able to run him down.
Heading into T2 I was surprised to have company at my distinguished bike rack. Simon Whitfield was just leaving. He proved to be an excellent carrot, (he was obviously having a bad day) as I held him just a few seconds ahead of me while traversing 72nd St. I was feeling great, with quick feet propelling me effortlessly and if I could just catch Simon my race would be satisfied. Amazingly, I was gaining ground on him as we entered Central Park. Passing one of the best runners in the sport in the same race that I out swam one of the best swimmers in the sport was gratifying. Even though Simon must have been contemplating how to DNF, shortly pulling out after I passed him, he still held an honest pace the first couple miles. This pass was wholly too rewarding as the last 2 miles of my race I lost much of my competitive edge. I was passed by 4 guys who all ran a 10k pace that I should be able to go with. But being my first big race in Humidity, since passing out at St Anthony’s, I wanted to finish healthy more than I wanted a high placing. Eerily enough, Brent McMahon was closing in on the finish in 2nd place. Suddenly, with less than 20 meters to go he passed out. Hayes, Potts, and Tichelaar all ran by while medics attended to Brent. He came to and crawled to the finish in 5th place before resuming his exhausted, painful, nausea. The anguish he was in was all too familiar as I saw him in the med tent after I finished.
I felt good about my race, and definitely felt recovered which is awesome because this race can be a stepping stone to improvement instead of the other way around like many of my other races this year. It was a smashing good time to storm through New York City and have the support of the large crowds. I recommend this urban adventure for anyone.
So I was now done with my race, it was 7:50am (5:50am my time) and Hortense and I had the whole day to play. So we went to Penn Station and bought tickets to Bay Shore on Fire Island. Having a couple hours before departure we ventured through Midtown and Midtown South soaking up the stifling heat eagerly awaiting a cool dip in the Atlantic.