4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

New York City Triathlon Race Report

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This past Sunday, I raced in the New York City Triathlon.  It was thrilling and grueling at the same time, and I came away from the race with a renewed excitement about triathlons, and even more awe for everyone that can compete in half and full ironmans.  Of course, I ended the day on a huge downer, experiencing a MAJOR back spasm after the race was over.

Rise and Shine

The day started with a 3:30 alarm.  I had taken out everything that I needed the night before, but not necessarily packed it.  Specifically, I needed to separate everything needed for the transitions as that would have to dropped off before the start of the race.  In all, there was a LOT of gear to stuff into my bags.  The bulky items were my bike helmet, wetsuit and running shoes.  In addition to that, had spare clothes and lots of little items.  By 4:15, I was about ready to go.  Checked the weather, and saw a brief storm about to blow through the city.  So, waited it out about 15 minutes and left at 4:30.  Grabbed an umbrella on the way out.

The Commute

Outside, it was not raining.  Walked over to 14th and 1st, to Hot and Crusty, and picked up a bagel and Gatorade.  Then hopped in a cab for the ride up to transition, at 72nd and Riverside.  On the ride, was mentally trying to figure out if I forgot anything.  Only thing I could come up with was a towel.  Would have been very helpful to have a towel for transition, and another one for after the race.  That was all I had forgotten, so not too bad.  On the way up in the cab, it started pouring again.  Cabbie went across 57th St and intended to go up 12th Ave, which was a standstill.  So, he headed up 11th Ave instead and dropped me off at 70th St, which was also starting to back up with traffic.  By then, the rain was tailing off, and was able to walk without umbrella to the transition area.

Transition Prep and Pre Start

By then, it was 5:20, the transition areas were filled with lots of people, and they were making announcements that the transition areas would close at 5:45 to prepare for the race.  So, was able to get into transition, get to my bike, and put out everything I needed: helmet, bike gloves, bike glasses, Gatorade bottle, socks, running shoes, and running hat.  Also, at that precise moment I was putting out my things, it started raining hard again.  Did the best I could to cover everything, especially my running shoes.  In addition, I left the bulkier of the bags I brought with me, so I would not have to check it at the start.

Next up was the 1 mile walk up to the swim start at 99th St.  Long procession of racers walking through the Riverside Park dawn was pretty cool.  Took this opportunity to eat my bagel.  Made it out towards the start area at about 5:55.  The race was to start at 5:50, but I didn’t see anyone in the water yet.  Uh, oh.  By then, the rain had stopped and it was clearing outside.  It seemed there was no more threat of rain.  Not sure what the delay was, but was h0ping they were not going to cancel the swim at the last minute!

At that point, reached the staging area for the start.  First stop was to pick up my timing chip.  That part was pretty unorganized and a bit of a mob scene, but was able to find my way to where my chip was, pick it up, and attach to my ankle.  Next were the bag drops, so had to change into my bike/run shirt, pin my race number, pack away my sneakers, apply body glide and suntan lotion, etc, pack my bag and load it onto the appropriate truck.  Then, time to get body marked with my number.  That didn’t go so well, as I had already put suntan lotion on my arms, and the markers don’t work so well on skin once a lotion has been applied!

By that time, the first waves had gotten started, so just watched the race from the sidelines.  First few waves were the professionals and age group elites.  They were very strong.  Then many waves followed.  Passed the time by walking around among the various start corrals, caught up with a friend who was also racing, and then got my wetsuit on.  The race started about 25 minutes late, and they were trying to make up the time by starting the waves every 2.5 minutes, rather than every 3 minutes.  They maintained a 20 minute gap between the earlier yellow start waves, and the later red start waves.


Finally, around 7:35am (about 10 minutes late), my wave got up to the start line.  It was quite scary, standing up on the dock staring down the Hudson River.  All I could think of was the moment you get to the top of the big drop in a roller coaster, and you can see the everything in front of you, and you are scared out of your mind!  There were a LOT of people in my wave, some jumped in the water, and some sat waiting on the dock.  I made the mistake of jumping in the water.  Try as I might to just tread water and hold my spot, the downstream current kept pushing me into the other people already in the water and I kicked a bunch of people trying to hold my position.  Finally, the horn went off, and everybody was by me very quickly!  There were 3 or 4 of us lagging behind in the water, myself probably being in the last position.  The first 4-5 minutes were very calm.  Had most of the course to myself until the waves behind caught up.  Then migrated over to the seawall side, which was less crowded.  Kept switching between freestyle, breast stroke, side stroke and floating on my back.  Could tell that I was making great time due to the downstream flow of the river.  It seemed that I passed the 300 m sign very quickly.  As the swim progressed, and people from the waves behind me caught up, it started getting more and more stressful as I got passed by.  Managed to pass a couple of people myself, somehow, one with a matching orange cap from my wave, and also one with a white cap from the wave in front of me.  Kept on floating my way down the river and all of a sudden, the finish was in view and I worked my way out of the water to the long run into transition.  My watch said 25:01, which is blazing fast for me.  This is almost faster than the time for me to swim a half mile in my sprint tri last month.  Yes, I was stronger, and had better form than last month, but this was mostly due to the downstream current!  It was about a 300 yard barefoot run, on concrete, to get to the timing mat and entrance to transition.  Ran about half and walked about half, while getting the wetsuit off down to my waist.

Swim time – 28:19.


Transition area was pretty long, maybe 100 yards.  Ran to where my bike was parked.  Took my time getting my wetsuit off and putting on my socks and shoes, so I would not hurt myself.  Then got my glasses and helmet set, drank some Gatorade, and took off with my bike out of transition and onto the bike course.

T1 time – 6:27


Start was very slow.  Couple of sharp turns and steep uphills to get onto the West Side Highway proper.  Only the northbound side of the highway is used.  Right lane for heading north, left lane for heading south, and the center lane for break downs.  There were many more people broken down than I expected, even though, generally speaking, the quality of the roads were pretty good.  Much better than the streets of Manhattan than I’m used to riding on.  Bike course was deceptively hilly, but no one hill too crazy.  Big hill heading towards the GW bridge, then another big hill to get to the Hudson Bridge toll to the bronx, and then lots of rolling hills on the northern most portion of the ride.  I only had to get down into my smallest hill gear twice, and in neither instance for that long.  Water management was tough.  I had 2 water bottles, but was very thirsty, I guess from the humidity.  So, had to ration the water.  One bottle to the turnaround, and then the 2nd bottle for the return, finishing it about 2 miles from the end.  The end of the bike ride was actually pretty tough.  We went south all the way to 57th St, and then a sharp uturn and back uphill to get to the 79th St off ramp.  While I did my fair share of passing people (loved passing people with a lower race number than me, which means my finishing time was faster than theirs) but also got passed by lots of faster people starting behind me, which included most of the under 35 waves.

Bike time – 1:25:00 = 17.5 MPH


T2 is a lot simpler since there was no wetsuit to deal with.  Simply remove helmet and glasses and put on running cap!  Then swig rest of Gatorade bottle, and back off on the road.  T2 time so slow because of the size of transition.

T2 time – 2:43


Did not have severe muscle soreness as I started on the run, very good news!  But, could not run the steep hill out of Riverside Park at 72nd St.  Just walked up that hill and then started running again across 72nd St.  I was truly amazed at the crowd support on 72nd St.  People were lining both sides, practically from Riverside Park all the way to Central Park, in some places leaving very little space for the runners to go through.  Cops were cheering, people were cheering, little kids were high 5ing people, it was a ton of fun.  Very similar to the best areas of crowd support in the New York City Marathon.  Ran all the way into the park and started the tough 5 mile upper loop.  The first uphill up the west side was where I started noticing that the run was really, really hard.  I was feeling really tired, and was trying to contrast how I feel in the late miles of a marathon.  The big difference is that in a marathon, my legs would be very sore.  That was not the case here, in fact my legs still felt somewhat fresh.  What was bothering me was my ‘core’, for lack of a better term.  My stomach and chest felt heavy and sore.  Once I past mile 2, I could not run through the uphills anymore.  So, did a lot of walking up some of the west side rolling hills, up both parts of Harlem Hill, and then a bit on the west side.  It was par for the course though, as lots of people were walking, both the uphills and downhills.  My first 2 miles were both under 9:30 pace, but my last 4 miles were more in the 11-11:30 range.  In the end, finished the run in 1:04, for a 10:19 pace.  Not bad at all considering!  There were plenty of water stops and lots of people cheering us on.

Run time – 1:04 – 10:19 per mile


Ran down cat hill into the 72nd St Transverse, and was able to run all the way across 72nd St, into the little turnaround by the fountain and into the finish line.  Actually had a really strong finish and passed a bunch of people into the end.  Picked up a bunch of food and drink at the finish area, picked up my bag and pushed my way through family reunion.  Then found an empty bench to chill out on for awhile, cool down and refuel.  Then went to find a port-o-san to change into dry clothes, which is where back disaster struck…  THE END!

Overall Time – 3:06:27.  350/420 in my age group


Written by SCL

July 30, 2009 at 6:39 am

One Response

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  1. […] the olympic distance tri, and made the final push on the swim and bike side in preparation for the New York City Triathlon in July.  That race was H.A.R.D.  But, I did it, and considering it was my first olympic […]

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