All righty, let’s get to it. On Sunday, I attempted to complete my fourth swim-bike-run event of the season, the 13th Annual Aquaphor New York City Triathlon.
To say I felt pumped, nervous, amped, and anxious would be a huge understatement. I couldn’t wait to race on my “home turf,” and the stakes were higher: This event would boast the most competitive field to-date (in terms of my age group, women 24-under), and it also served as a team competition. Based on how well triathletes placed in their age groups, their respective teams earned points, and the team that accumulated the most points would win. My racing season has gone well, so I really wanted to deliver for the team. Plus, the NYC Tri would be my final tune-up race before a certain event in August, so I really wanted to finish off this first half of the season strong.
I’ve written a few times that my coach says if you don’t pass out or throw up after a race, then you didn’t push hard enough. And sorry if this is TMI, but let’s say I covered all my bases—and recorded my first DNF. Here’s how it went down.
Swim – 1500m – 18:10 (2/36)
Prior to this race, I heard nothing except negative things about swimming in the Hudson River. However, I went into it with the ignorance-is-bliss mentality: Most likely, this would be my fastest swim ever because of the current.
In the week leading up to the race, my coach and I talked extensively about my game plan, and we knew having a strong swim would set the tone. (As I get further into this triathlon journey, it’s become more evident the swim is where one of my strengths lies.) Right from the start, I needed to push.
The swim was a time-trial start, so groups of 20 athletes were led onto the pier and jumped into the water every 15 seconds.
Back in 2011 when it was the Nautica New York City Triathlon.
Age group placements determined starting times, and my wave began around 7 a.m. (More than 3,000 triathletes competed, so there were two different transitions: yellow and red. My wave was the last to go for the yellow, and following a 20-minute break, the red transition participants hopped into the Hudson.)
In terms of the swim course itself, my coach and a few teammates gave me some pointers, so I situated myself in a favorable spot on the pier. As soon as I jumped in, I noticed the current (the official water temperature was 75 degrees Fahrenheit): I felt like I was flying! I kept my strokes long, focused on gliding, and barely kicked. Unlike past races, I allowed myself to smile once and be grateful for the experience, but then got down to work. As I caught up to waves that started before me, there was some bottleneck action, but I navigated it fairly well. I also really liked how there were meter postings along the left side of the water, so every 300m, 600m, etc., you knew your progress.
Toward the end, I started to kick more to ready my legs for the run to transition, and I caught up to the group (women 35-39) that started three waves before me. Needless to say, I exited the water feeling high on life. I was really happy with the swim.
Transition 1 – (~0.5 mi. run) 5:16 (2/36)
Another part of the race my coach and I talked about was the run from the swim exit to transition 1 (T1). Depending on where your bike rack was located, each triathlete had a 400-800-yard barefoot run on concrete. My goal for T1 was to strip off my wetsuit and pick off as many people possible on the run. It was definitely painful, but I knew what to expect thanks to my Trial By Fire experience; I knew what running right after swimming would feel like, and I knew how to work through it. (And for what it’s worth, I passed the girl who beat me out of the water in T1. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was first in my AG heading out on the bike.)
Bike – 24.8 mi./40-K – 1:26:58 (5/36)
The race plan for the bike was to push the pace without burning out, and for the most part, I executed.
Even though I hoped for a faster split, this is definitely the strongest and most confident I’ve felt during a race.
As the ride progressed, I worked my way up the waves, so by the time I rolled in to transition 2 (T2), I was alongside women who started nine swim waves before me.
Transition 2 – 1:36 (3/36)
Got in, changed gear, and got out. No messing around.
Run – 6.2 mi./10-K
At the start of the run, I had a feeling I was in a good spot in terms of my AG. And now, since reviewing the data and splits, I know I was in first place—until I blew up.
For the run out of T2, we exited at Riverside Park at 72nd Street and ran one mile before arriving at Central Park. Once I hit the hill, my quads immediately locked up. Then and there, I knew the run was going to be a suffer fest. In hindsight, this should’ve been a warning sign; this exact thing happened at Nautica South Beach before I hit the wall, but luckily, the run was short enough (only four miles), so I could power through. This run, however, went from bad to worse—and fast. My pace slowed big time, and even though I dumped water on my head at every aid station, I refused to walk or take in nutrition. In hindsight, this was not a good decision. (In the past, when I’ve taken in fluids on the run, I’ve experienced stomach cramps.) Around the mile-two mark, two girls in my AG blew past me, and I knew catching them was out of the question. However, when a third girl tried to make a move, my competitive side took over, and I surged ahead. We matched pace for a bit, and around mile four, I surged again and hoped it would put enough distance between us.
It was around mile 4.5 that I collapsed.
The next few hours were a dizzy and hazy blur: riding in the ambulance (with one of my teammates who was a few minutes behind me on the run), getting tests done, etc. The doctors said I was severely dehydrated, which means I should’ve been fueling on the run. I hung out in the hospital for a few hours as they pumped fluids into me, and two of my teammates stayed with me for a bit. I was released later that afternoon, and one teammate brought me some clothes, and another picked me up and drove me back to my apartment. My mom also made the trip to NYC, so I’ve been under her watchful eye since Sunday evening.
Since the race, I’ve received so many texts, emails, and Facebook messages, and it makes me feel truly blessed and grateful to have such a supportive and caring network of friends, teammates, and family. If this had to happen, then at least it occurred in NYC, at a race where plenty of people were present.
I’m well on the road to recovery now, and I’m starting to feel more like myself. No workouts for a few days obviously, but I’m slowly easing back into my normal routine.
So what did I learn from this race? The importance of knowing your limits—and when you can keep pushing and when you need to back off. This race also makes it necessary to reevaluate my nutrition strategy during the run, especially on hot and humid days. (The heat index was 107 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Oh, and in terms of the team challenge, Full Throttle Endurance came in second place—by one point.
And I know that one point is on me.
And this may be too soon, but you can bet I’ll be back at this race next year on a quest for redemption.
Have you ever fainted or passed out while exercising? How did you handle it?