Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A mixed bag of apples...

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I raced the Nautica New York City Triathlon this past weekend. Before I tell you about my race, I must say that triathlon has come a long way since I first started competing back when I was 8 and has even made strides since the early 2000's. Back then, I would travel to a race and everyone would look at me standing in airport with my bike box as if I was carrying some explosive that just happened to have a Lance Armstrong Foundation and USA Triathlon sticker on it. However, this weekend, it seemed that many had an idea of why I would be carrying a bike on a plane and had either heard of or competed in a triathlon. That just made me smile!

When I arrived to the race expo Saturday at the Hilton in Midtown Manhattan, the place was swarming with carbon fiber bikes. Not only is New York City a melting pot, so is the New York City Triathlon. The over 4500 participants in this race came from 49 different states and 23 different countries to compete in the triathlon! Again, triathlon is making progress! After picking up my packet and attending the pre-race meeting, I went with my family to a locally owned Italian restaurant(very good) and called it a night around 8:30.

The next morning, I woke up at 3am to begin my pre-race routine. I jogged around the block of my hotel for 15 minutes and then went back to my room to eat a quick bagel and banana breakfast and grab my racing backpack. Since there was no way my bike was fitting in a cab and I needed the bike warmup anyways, I biked from my hotel to Broadway St., took a right turn and headed towards the transition area at Riverside Park. While biking there, I saw David Letterman leaving his studio (4:30 am now) and a bunch of people waiting in line outside the Apple store (I'm guessing for the new Iphone?).

I got into transition and realized that they had placed the numbers on the bike racks extremely close together, and just in the time I was in there, my shoes and helmet were knocked around. So, being on the cautious side I waited a little and watched my equipment in transition to make sure my helmet and sunglasses weren't knocked off my handlebars and that I wouldn't have to go searching for them after the swim. Bad move #1. Then, I headed to the bathroom line at 5:10, 43 minutes before my wave started. I waited there for 25 minutes, checking my watch every minute or so and getting anxious. Bad move #2.Then, I sprinted down to the swim start which was a mile away from transition. What I hadn't planned was that the only way to get there was on a narrow path crammed with the other 4500 participants walking down the path because their waves didn't start for awhile. After a bunch of weaving and "pardon me"s, I was about 100 meters from the diving platform for the start when I heard the horn go off for the pro women, my wave. Flipping out, I ran to the tent where we had to drop off clothing to be taken to the finish line and then headed down to the dock, asking what I should do. The race director said the best thing to do would be to start with the Elite Age Group wave which followed the pro women.

So, that is exactly what I did...because of the almost 100 elite age groupers I was forced to start in the 3rd row back and jump in off the platform instead of dive. The first 5 minutes or so of the swim was a wrestling match with the Elite Age Group men as I tried to muscle my way through and around them. I was at a little bit of a disadvantage though, because while the elites were allowed to wear wetsuits, pros abide by different rules and therefore, the water was not cold enough for us to use them in this particular race. After about 5 minutes I was able to break free and find a little bit of open water to swim in. Then, a couple minutes later as I was swimming along, I felt something clinging to my arm. When I tried to fling it off, I felt like I got whipped in the face. It turns out, jellyfish season started earlier than normal this year in New York and in the Hudson River... the rest of the swim was kind of painful with the jellyfish sting but I was trying to remain focused on keeping at the front of the pack of my wave. I exited the water with the leaders and used a long run to transition to pass a couple of people.

When I hopped on my bike, I used the first couple of miles to get my breathing under control and settle into a steady pace. Then, after about 3 miles, I decided to start hammering a bit. I knew that coming back would be more downhill than going out and I wanted to have a good pace going out. There were a couple of Elite Age Group men that passed me and since my drafting rules state that I have to stagger from the biker in front of me and theirs state that they have to stay to the right, pass on the left, there was some problems, mostly me just being extra sure I was outside the drafting zone so I didn't get stopped for a penalty. With about 5 miles to go in the bike, my legs felt fatigued and I had to fight to keep my cadence.

But soon enough, I was onto the run. For the start of the run, we exited Riverside Park onto 79th street and ran over into West Central Park. As I crossed over 79th street, the street was packed with people sitting outside of cafes cheering on the racers, a greatly needed boost. It took about a mile and a half to get my legs under me and then I was able to pick up the pace a little. I came through the 5k in around 18:25 and tried to keep that cadence for the remainder of the run through Central Park. Running has always been the portion of the race where I try to chase down as many people as possible and since there were no pro women in sight, I decided to just try to pick off as many people as possible and to not let anyone pass me (which I was able to do). I crossed the finish line in 2:14:22 , just 2 seconds behind Andy Baldwin (The Bachelor Season 10 ) with a 9th place finish and mixed emotions. I was very embarrassed and a little disheartened that I missed the start of my race, but I was very pleased overall with the effort I gave. I guess I'll put this one down as a learning experience. I don't race again for another month so, until then, I'll just have to keep my chin up and wheels spinning.
~AHahn

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