13th Annual Aquaphor New York City Triathlon (Partial) Recap

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.

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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.

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[source]

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.

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Even though I hoped for a faster split, this is definitely the strongest and most confident I’ve felt during a race.

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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.

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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?

29 responses to “13th Annual Aquaphor New York City Triathlon (Partial) Recap

  1. First, I am pretty sure every one of your teammates would be happy to see your team finish LAST if that’s what had to happen to make sure you came out of this healthy. Seriously.

    Second, a lot of new – and experienced – endurance athletes struggle with nutrition, especially in hotter weather. I think this is extra difficult for taller folks because we have more body mass to dissipate heat from. Obviously you will want to talk to your coaches about this, but a few things that got me through IMKY alive after I almost died at Eagleman last year are:
    -SALTSTICKS. If you are a salty sweater, Gatorade/Nuun isn’t enough. You need to add these bad boys.
    -Weigh yourself before and after big training sessions to determine your sweat rate. I had NO IDEA how much fluid I was losing during my long bricks. Even taking in 20 oz/hour, I was losing 4-5 lbs in one workout. Not ideal when you are training for an all-day race. I had to up my fluid and salt intake even more for the really hot days, and not when it is 80+F, I take in 25-30 oz fluid/hour.
    -Keep a log of your nutrition for big training sessions. Include the weather conditions, what you took in, how you felt, and weight loss (if any). This way, you can troubleshoot and figure out how much is enough for various weather conditions, and know exactly what you need to do on race day.
    -For the run, I always carry a handheld with me. Even for an Olympic distance race. I don’t want to be between aid stations, needing more fluid, and not being able to get it – this happened to me once and it was AWFUL. It may “only” be a 10k, but you’ve already put your body through a lot and you need to keep it going for almost another hour.

    Good luck! I hope you are back to 100% soon, and this really does happen to everybody from time to time.

    • carriestevens

      Thank you so much for this awesome information, friend! I’ve talked to my cousin, and I plan to bounce this idea off my coach, but I’m thinking a sweat test is probably in order. Right now, I have no idea how much fluid I’m losing during workouts and just stick to a strategy that has been working. There’s so much science behind fueling and hydrating; I can totally see why it’s known as the fourth leg of a triathlon.

  2. GORGEOUS photos! I know how hard it is to get caught up in surging – but it’s part of racing!I Just saw a thing on the news about the heatwave up there and I can TOTALLY feel your pain being here in florida. I know that at MCM the weather will be totally different so I am okay with soldiering through it, but it definitely makes me much slower – Riding in an ambulance kind of makes you a bada**! 😉 xo

    • carriestevens

      I don’t even know what came over me with the surge; like my body just did it–and I didn’t think! It was kinda neat! 🙂

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your collapse/dehydration, but at least you were on home turf so you had your family and friends to help you out!!

  4. Eek – that’s 41C – really really really hot!

    I’m glad you’re on the mend now 🙂

    BTW you look so toned in your bike photos, fantastic! Am very envious 🙂

  5. Again, I am SO glad that you are alright!! It is hard to let the competitive part of a race go (though we for the most part usually just compete against our times, etc.) It was so hot on Sunday and I was taking in as much water, and one cup of HEED, as I could. It’s hard for shorter races to still take in nutrition/hydration but with some more practice you’ll find something that works for you. I have a pretty sensitive stomach so that’s why I mostly stick to water during races/training rides and runs.

    The current during your race was CRAZY!!! I want to do a triathlon with current like that. Great job on everything, and I agree I don’t think your team cares about coming in second. They care about you and the fact that you made it home alright!

    • carriestevens

      During the surge, my body just took over–I didn’t think, my legs just picked up! It was kinda neat. 😉 And in terms of the heat, I was out there for about two hours (in terms of the bike and part of the run), so I can’t imagine how hot you must’ve been!

  6. Believe me I’m had my fair share of stupid mistakes during races. The best thing you can do is take away the lesson and improve on it for future races. A heat index of 107 is just insane and I’m sure that you weren’t the only athlete to collapse and not finish that day! I highly recommend salt sticks! I’ll be eating a ton of them next weekend at IMLP. I’m a fan of sticking ice down my sports bra too. Makes funny noises but it helps. And next year you will totally rock it!! 🙂

    • carriestevens

      You’re the third or fourth (legit) triathlete who’s mentioned salt sticks, so I will definitely look into them. I think doing a sweat test is probably on the agenda too. PS – I’M SO EXCITED FOR PLACID! 😀

  7. I’m really sorry to hear this. It frightens me so much to read. There was one time that I felt like I was going to pass out but wow. I was literally glued to my screen. I’m really glad to hear you are doing a lot better though and you are still in my thoughts. I wish I had some better words of wisdom for you girl.

    • carriestevens

      Today’s hot and sweaty run was my first post-collapse exercise, and it felt OK. This humidity is killer! I have a feeling the ‘mill and I are about to become very good friends. 😉

  8. This is such a scary thing to have happen, but I’m glad you were in NYC so you could get the help you need. I hope you continue to feel better. 🙂

  9. I’m sorry about your fall! You’re so tough though. Glad you’re feeling better- stay positive!

    • carriestevens

      Thanks, friend! Went out on my first post-race run this morning–and the humidity is here to stay, sheesh! 🙁

  10. omg omg omg omg omg omg omg omg

    Even though I know you’re obviously okay (I mean, you wrote this post), I still got really super scared when I read about your run 🙁

    I’m glad to hear that everything was okay in the end and that you’re starting to feel better and emerged (relatively) scratch free and having a really valuable, poignant experience to learn from.

    BIG HUGS xoxoxo

    • carriestevens

      You’re so sweet, Alex! I’m doing so much better! I went to work yesterday (called in “sick” Monday and Tuesday), and I completed my first post-race run this morning. Still not feeling 100 percent, but maybe it was the humidity? After all, I think it was 80*F or something crazy at 6a!

  11. I just will always give you so much credit no matter what, I mean your start is unbelievable and your mindset just sounds spot on. no matter what – when our bodies give out it is never easy to come to terms with. especially when we feel so prepared and well trained. you know me – i had my fair share of ‘bonks’ this race season. a lot due to fueling. we live and we learn. victoria sounds like a great resource along with members of your team. all i care about is that you are ok!!!

    • carriestevens

      Thank you, friend! Especially since we’re so young and not as experienced as a lot of other athletes, it will take us a while to figure out nutrition. And it should come as no surprise to you that everyone as the running store was super supportive and understanding. One of my coworkers even came to the race to cheer!

  12. Fueling is something I’m still struggling with, and I’m not at anywhere near your level of competition or intensity, so I can only imagine all the issues you have to work through! I’m so glad that you’re ok, and I know you’re going to seriously rock this race next year!

    And there’s race karma for sure — this time the point is “on you” (but you shouldn’t think that way!) and in another race it could be on another person and you’ll rock it out and help the team make up points. PLEASE don’t be too hard on yourself and feel bad!! I’m sure they’re just happy you’re ok 🙂

    • carriestevens

      You’re so right about the fueling. And since we’re both younger and not as experienced endurance athletes, it’s going to take us a while to figure out and fine tune our strategies. Just part of the journey! 🙂

  13. Oh no! I’m glad to hear you are on the mend but sorry to hear you had a rough day.

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