10 years ago ago this month I put all of my personal belongings in my 1990 Ford Tempo and drove to New York City on a sketchy job connection and nowhere to live. After a long day of driving I arrived in Brooklyn late in the evening and took the first and only apartment I had lined up to see. I had no clue what the neighbourhood was like, who my roommate was, but my options were limited.
Over the course of four months, I took every opportunity available to explore. One event I made a point of waking up early one November Sunday to watch was the NYC Marathon. The city was buzzing in the week leading up to the race so I had to see for myself what it was all about.
I took the subway to Manhattan to try to catch a glimpse of the leaders in Central Park just before the finish. I managed to make my way through the crowds in time to catch Hendrick Ramaala and Paula Radcliffe claim victory in front of thousands of cheering spectators. Was I inspired? Sure. Was there any chance in hell I would ever come back here and race through Central Park, or run any marathon for that matter? No chance in hell.
Two months ago I found myself in New York City again, having visited a number of times since I lived there. I’m fortunate that two of my best friends reside in the city, making a trip there that much more fun and less expensive. After we ran the Chicago Marathon together last year, they convinced me to take one of their extra entries for the NYC Triathlon. At the time, I didn’t swim or own a bike. So of course I said yes.
Fast forward ten months and here I am, about to jump into the Hudson River for a point-to-point 1500m swim. It was an overcast morning which made for good race conditions, especially given how hot and humid New York can be in the middle of summer. The wait in our corral had been long but expected and I was eager to get going. Since our age group was one of the last to start, we had the opportunity to watch many of the swimmers make their way downstream to the exit at 79th St. The water was moving very, very fast, giving the athletes, especially the weaker swimmers, a welcome boost.
After a nervous fist bump with Rob, I pushed myself off of the deck and into the warm water. The river was wetsuit legal by about one degree Celsius and I wasn’t going to make the same mistake as last time by not wearing one. The first minute or two was bumpy but it didn’t take long for our group to sort itself out and it was a fast, straight swim all the way through. My sighting problems were certainly not an issue here. It felt great to get a helping hand from a volunteer as I climbed the steps to the pavement and began the run to transition. At 700m it was quite long and I managed to pass a number of walkers before running into the transition area to make the switch to the bike.
My T1 was much smoother than in Vancouver, thanks in part to my brand new tri onesie and race belt. My wetsuit striptease still needs some work though. After mounting the bike there was a short, steep uphill to the entrance of the Westside Highway for the hilly 40k out-and-back through Manhattan and into the Bronx. I had what felt like a good ride going though the turn around point, passing more athletes than passed me. There were a couple of steep hills including a descent under an overpass where a number of cyclists were strewn about on the side of the road after what must have been a scary collision. I also noticed a number of racers changing flats which wasn’t at all surprising given the state of the highway. Just as I was counting my lucky stars for steering clear of all the chaos and about to ride back into Manhattan, I hit a pothole hard. I didn’t have time to see it because I was getting ready to pass the cyclist in front of me but I could feel the rear tire go right away. After about 30 seconds of denial I pulled over to the left and tried to recall from memory everything I could from the flat tire changing clinic at the previous day’s expo. After looking forward to this race for nine months, it certainly wasn’t the ideal time to change my fist flat. There was an NYPD officer stationed who was monitoring the race and helping another rider. He gave me some words of encouragement and soon after I removed the wheel one of the four mechanics on course appeared and finished the job. My initial frustration slowly dissipated and I was even able to help out my fellow rider by lending him my hand pump. After ten or fifteen minutes I was back on the road and before long, back into transition. (Note to self – reduce number of unintended sexual connotations in future tri race reports.)
As I began the run, I kept telling myself not to let what happened on the bike affect me, to appreciate the moment and enjoy the experience of running through Central Park. It wasn’t easy; as much as I tried to give my maximum effort I had trouble getting my mind into the present. But with a few kilometres to go I stopped feeling sorry for myself and pushed through to the finish line, taking a good look around at the large crowd that came out to support the athletes.
My walk through the finish area was bittersweet as I reflected on a race that didn’t go as planned, but in the context of accomplishing a goal I had set out to achieve almost a year ago. Overall the positive emotions trumped the negative ones, as they tend to when you look down at the medal around your neck and the beaming faces of other athletes describing their race experience to family and friends. Soon I spotted Rob and Molly and it was all smiles.
Chip Time – 2:41:19
Swim – 17:30
T1 – 6:10
Bike – 1:31:24
T2 – 2:02
Run – 44:15
Overall – 1061/3400
M30-34 – 147/353
It feels like forever since I entered the NYC Marathon lottery for the first time. Although it’s really only been three and a half years, so much has changed. I’m a completely different person in many ways. Running and triathlon training are huge parts of my life now and I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to run a race of such magnitude, with such history. I can’t get enough of highlight videos and stories from others who have experienced it. Typically at this point in the cycle I would be counting down the number of runs before training is over. These days I feel like I almost don’t want it to end because when it ends, the race will over, and so will the feeling of anticipation I’m getting such a high from right now. November 2nd is gonna be an awesome day.