I’m thrilled to finally post my New York City Triathlon Race Recap from the big race a few weeks ago. I have to confess that I had hand-written my race recap on a notepad the night of the race, but I haven’t been able to find it, so that’s what has taken me so long to post this. I’ve searched high and low, but no dice – so I’m recreating the race recap. I remember it all anyhow – it was unforgettable! What did we ever do before computers?
The NYC Triathlon was an incredible experience – with some curveballs thrown (the rainy weather!), some epic highlights (running out of transition into a NYC street lined with cheering spectators!), and many meaningful moments (racing for the Ronald McDonald House NY!).
You may recall that I signed up for this race to fundraise for the Ronald McDonald House New York. So first, I have to acknowledge all the amazing supporters that helped make that happen. Friends, family, and random strangers all donating money to this great cause, along with amazing companies donating items for the Race to the Finish Line Raffle. I am in awe of the awesome support. Because of all your generous support, I exceeded my fundraising goal and helped our team raise $175,000 for the Ronald McDonald House!
And now, back to the New York City Triathlon Race Recap! I’ll try to be as concise as I can, but this was such a BIG race and there are logistics to that are helpful to talk about in case you are considering this race yourself.
GETTING TO NYC:
This was a whole leg of the triathlon itself! Since I was going for my daughter’s doctor appointment and then staying through the race, it was even more complicated than your typical racecation packing since I was packing to be mom and also athlete. I talked about it a bit on that week’s Friday Five from New York.
We had a lot of stuff – note the big bag in the pic below - inside it is my bike! It went underneath the bus from DC to NYC and it worked out great. It’s not the same exact one, but it seems similar to this bag. I took off both wheels and it fit perfectly without removing the handlebar. I even put the helmet, bike pump, and cycling shoes in the bag, along with some other cycling odds and ends.
We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for the first few nights for medical reasons, and then I moved us to a hotel closer to the race start for Saturday night. I wanted to be able to get a cab easily to the race start on Sunday morning and get a few extra minutes of sleep (oh, the irony – if you keep reading about race morning, you will see!).
PACKET PICKUP & MANDATORY PRE-RACE BRIEFING:
Keep in mind that for this race, the pre-race briefing is mandatory. You have to attend a meeting and then get your hand stamped on the way out of the meeting room in order to pick up your bib and packet for the race. They have ample briefing times throughout the day. I went on Friday evening.
The packet pickup line for my age group was long, we women 40-44 must have all shown up to the same briefing. Thankfully I had the time, but it meant I didn’t get check out the Expo at all – and I love expos!
After getting my packet and scanning the chip to verify it was working, I picked up my goodie bag and red NYC Triathlon t-shirt (which I LOVE!).
BIKE CHECK IN (SATURDAY):
On Saturday morning, I did a 4-mile run through NYC’s Summer Streets, when they close the street and let it be a pedestrian haven. Then we went on a boat tour to the Statue of Liberty. Then I had to move us from the Ronald McDonald House to a hotel and put my bike back together. Talk about packing Saturday to the brim!
It is mandatory to check in your bike at the transition area on Saturday. No race-day check-in. This race is so huge that there are two transition areas. Two!!! They’re named Red and Yellow. I was in Yellow, where all the females were (and some males – but Red was all males).
The security procedures require that you take your transition items in a clear plastic bag that they provide. Nothing else is acceptable. So on Saturday, I rode my bike from my hotel (after reassembling the wheels and putting the race number stickers on) with the clear bag with a few items, plus my purse emptied out and shoved inside the clear bag. I needed my purse since I was going to a dinner after the race. I actually used the goodie bag they hand out to put all these things inside it for the bike ride to transition, then when I got there, shoved the goodie bag/backpack into the clear plastic bag. Worked great. Phew!
They were running tours of transition but my timing didn’t work out to take one. I looked around a bit on my own.
Do you not LOVE that fun message on the bottom of the collage? I checked my bike over, made sure it was in an easy gear for the morning’s ride out of T1 (because there’s a hill soon after you exit transition), and headed to my dinner.
It was a team dinner for the Ronald McDonald House triathlon team, and it was so great to get to know others participating and supporting the House. I spoke at the dinner about what the House means to families who stay there, and what I’ve observed in our two years of frequent visits. Then some of the participants had Sabrina sign their jerseys for the race. That was so sweet!
After the dinner, I laid out all my race stuff and obsessed over it, put the Tri Tats on (with some confusion on where to put each bit), and tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Tried…
I had decided not to wear my SOAS Racing Ambassador Team top and to go with the Team Ronald McDonald House jersey. They say never race in something you haven’t trained in, but so far I’ve done that with tops a couple of times and it has worked out just fine.
Well, can we call it “Race Night” because I don’t think 3:40am counts as “morning”. My alarm was set for 4am and I was worried about oversleeping. So of course at 3:40am, really loud drunk people were talking loudly right outside my hotel room door. I really wanted that last 20 minutes of sleep! Oh well, I got up and got moving. Grabbed my transition bag, strapped on my timing chip, and headed out the hotel to get a cab. No issues with that. The cab dropped me off near the parade of people walking to the transition area in the dark. It was raining but not too heavily.
When I got into that tunnel in the photo above, I removed the two clear transition bags from my usual transition bag and stuffed the empty backpack inside. This worked well so that I could use the backpack straps most of the way (and on the way home from the race).
I set up my transition area and covered it with one of the big plastic bags. I wasn’t sure how the rain would go during the race and figured if I could avoid stepping into soaked running shoes, that would be a bonus.
I chatted with some lovely ladies before the race – the woman next to me was an Instagram buddy – we realized when we posted our race numbers that we would be next to each other!
Then I took my bike over to the bike support tent to get the tires pumped. While waiting in line I watched the elite men getting their gear ready. Nice bikes!
I had the bike tech check my chain and give my bike a once-over because after what happened in the Maryland Olympic Duathlon, I was paranoid. And since I had taken my wheels off, transported the bike in a bag under a bus, then in multiple taxis and Uber cars, then put it back together myself in a hotel room, I was worried that something had gone wrong.
It did. But they didn’t notice from a once over. Stay tuned for the bike leg of the race…
WALKING TO THE SWIM START:
I had been worried about being out of transition by 5:15am and thought I’d use every second of the time available, but in the end I felt ready to go before it closed! Yay for being prepared and getting there early. Maybe I should thank the drunk people who woke me up 20 minutes early?
It’s a long walk to the swim start, which was reiterated many, many times, so I headed up carrying my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, and pre-race fuel in a bag. I loved walking along the quiet Hudson River, seeing the boats get ready for our race.
I had read on another race recap that for the run from the swim exit to the transition area, you could stash a pair of shoes under a bench since it’s such a LONG way. I couldn’t picture what they meant since I didn’t know the area, but it became clear to me when I saw people doing this:
I didn’t leave any shoes. And yes, it was a long way to T1 and full of gravel. Shoes might have been good.
THE RACE START:
The swim start area was pretty exciting. My friend Karen had actually gotten up before dawn to come watch me, and took a few pics of the area.
I decided to get into the portapottie line immediately and get that task out of the way. Then I had someone snap a quick pic of me before I put on my wetsuit, not knowing that my friend was down at the starting corrals!
I texted with her, glad that I hadn’t gear checked my bag yet, and ran down the hill to find her.
She offered to carry my stuff so I could avoid gear check, so I put on the wetsuit, swim cap, and goggles, and was ready to go! It was my first race in my long-sleeved XTerra Vector Pro Wetsuit, although I had practiced in it the week prior, and I felt pretty awesome in it.
Remember you can use SA-STEELE for a discount on XTerra Wetsuits!
I found my corral of ladies and chatted with my friend while waiting for the start. I didn’t mind hanging back at the end of our wave, since they were doing a fluid start and sending in 15 athletes at a time – no big deal when I’d get in the water, I figured.
Soon it was time for our corral to start moving towards the starting barge. I actually met another Instagram friend – I loved connecting with people before the race and then finding myself right next to them! It made the huge race feel a little smaller.
THE SWIM START:
It should be noted that I did not see anything floating in the Hudson River as I waited! In fact, the water looked fine.
Once we got near the starting barge, everything moved quickly. The had a bunch of athletes sit down, blew a whistle, and they jumped in. Then the next group was urged on quickly. As I walked onto the barge, I noticed one of the sports psychologists chatting with a woman who looked nervous. She called out to us – “ladies, you’ve got her back, right? She can do this!” and other really positive, encouraging words.
I asked the woman if she wanted a jump-in-buddy, if it would help to hold someone’s hand while she jumped in. Then another woman said she’d go in with her too. The sports psychologist gave her some more positive words and I hung back and waited to see if she would do the race. She moved forward and sat down on the barge with me and the other woman.
At the very last minute, she got back up sand said she couldn’t do it. I have always wondered if she got in with a later wave, I’ve been thinking about her!
They blew the whistle immediately, and I wasn’t sure whether to jump in – I was pretty thrown off my game. And you can see I’m now swimming with the next - I didn’t see many women 40-44 during the race. That doesn’t really matter since your timing chip is what matters, though. I jumped in, forgetting to turn off my Garmin.
THE SWIM – 1.5Km/1500M = 20:48
I had a horrible swim. I know it was fast and there was a strong current, but it felt like it took FOREVER. I thought it would never end. I had drank a pre-workout Energizer drink that I had trained with, but that combined with the adrenaline of race day, combined with the unsettled start with worry about the woman who maybe didn’t do the race, combined with the hype about swimming in the Hudson – well, I did a lot of breaststroke. Which probably looked like a doggie paddle. Ugh.
Every time I stuck my face in the water to do freestyle, I just could not keep it in there. Maybe it was part mental because of all the build-up about the Hudson, or maybe my heart and body were just too ramped up, but it wasn’t happening for me. I felt like someone who didn’t know how to swim or had never swam in open water - but I had just swam a strong mile and a half in open water the week before! I flipped onto my back and did backstroke a bit, along with some breaststroke.
About midway through I started to get into a groove, and felt a little better about it. But then my calves started cramping like crazy! So just when I felt comfortable with my face in the water for freestyle, my calves would seize up.
But no, nothing creepy touched me in the Hudson and I didn’t see anything gross. Once, my wetsuit cord touched me and I thought it was something gross, but then realized it was just me. I did get a couple of big mouthfuls of the Hudson. So far, no odd illnesses have developed!
I have never had such a hard open water swim, thankfully it was over quickly. The volunteers pulled me out of the water (ick on the squishy bottom of the riverbed at the end) and I climbed up onto the dock (you can see me in the pink cap behind the volunteer).
Yes, you read that right: 11:55. WTF? Well, first, it’s a really long run back to transition. Second, I wasn’t running. I exited the water and started to run but my calves were still cramping – they were seizing up any time I did more than a hobble down the path. The path had gravel and this whole part was just very NOT FUN. I hobbled/walked my way back to T1, took off my wetsuit, and grabbed my bike gear and rolled out of there.
THE BIKE: 40K = 1:47:37, average pace 13.7mph :(
Everyone says to be in a really easy gear coming out of T1 because there’s a short steep hill. I had heard to not make it TOO easy or you’ll never get momentum for the short jaunt to that hill. So I handled that pretty well. I shifted lower quickly for the hill and rocked right up it with no issues. The course wasn’t that crowded at this point – maybe since I was so far behind my wave.
Riding in the rain wasn’t that bad – there were puddles though that made it nerve-wracking in case there was a pothole underneath. It’s NYC, after all. But the course was okay and I took it conservatively.
I noticed an annoying sound from my front brakes while riding, and during the race it became clear that my brakes were rubbing on my front tire. I am totally unlucky with bike issues during races lately, it seems. I reached down multiple times to pull the brake off my front tire, and that would help for a few minutes, but then it would rub again.
To add to it, mud and twigs got stuck in between the brake pad and tire. I stopped once to flush that junk out with my water bottle, and after that things seemed to get better.
At a certain point, the men’s wave behind me started to catch up. There were tons of fast men flying by me and not all were using good Triathlon Etiquette. I made sure to look over my shoulder before passing others, because otherwise I was going to get run over by someone full speed ahead. I heard a lot of them going the other direction on the outbound of the bike course telling others in their wave to STAY TO THE RIGHT – there must have been a lot of people riding left or in packs unnecessarily.
I loved seeing my daughter, au pair, and friend at multiple points in the race. It was such a boost to have them cheering for me!
Physically I felt pretty good during the bike leg, and I felt like I was working the elevation and gears well. But my pace was like 1mph slower than I expected for a rainy bike leg, but I picked it up in the second half after washing the gunk out of my brakes.
So the pace per mile looks like this – you can see how much faster I was in the second half of the race after cleaning out the brake/tire gunk:
- Mile 1 = 11.2
- Mile 2 = 15.3
- Mile 3 = 14.8
- Mile 4 = 14.9
- Mile 5 = 12.8
- Mile 6 = 12.6
- Mile 7 =15.5
- Mile 8 = 10.6
- Mile 9 = 14.7
- Mile 10 = 16.3
- Mile 11 = 11.3
- Mile 12 = 14.4
- Mile 13 = 14.3
- Mile 14 = 9.7 (this must be the mile I stopped to wash out my brake pads)
- Mile 15 = 16.4
- Mile 16 = 17.1
- Mile 17 = 15.7
- Mile 18 = 15.9
- Mile 19 = 19.5
- Mile 20 = 18.1
- Mile 21 = 21.5
- Mile 22 = 17.1
- Mile 23 = 16.3
- Mile 24 = 18.0
- Mile 25 = 12.2
- Mile 26 = 9.3
I just can’t believe the difference in the first half vs. the second half! My finish time would have been so different if my pace was more like miles 15-24 for the duration.
My Garmin wasn’t giving me my pace during the bike, so I had no clue what pace I was going (my bike computer must have gotten knocked out of whack during transit to NY).
At one point I rode up to pass someone and noticed they had a Ronald McDonald House jersey on and then I realized my daughter’s name was on the back – it was one of the ones she had signed! That gave me a boost.
So you can see here how a potty stop in transition can really add to your T2 time… ’nuff said.
THE RUN: 10K = 59:31. 9:35/mile
I ran out of T2 and had this moment where I thought “why am I doing this, ugh!” I’m not sure what got into me – the exhaustion from the brake pad meets tire bike ride, the rain, the tummy troubles that led to the T2 portapottie stop. And you run out into a hill staring you in the face – not exactly a way to get momentum and cruise into your run leg.
But then I saw my cheering squad right at the run exit and it cheered me right up!
And then – well, then I ran into New York City with basically two walls of cheering spectators making noise and cheering me on. It was incredible. And it got me totally revved up for the run. I felt amazing as I ran through the streets and headed to Central Park.
The run through Central Park was great – I had a great 6.2 miles and felt pretty strong. I loved seeing spectators, many of whom were wearing triathlon or Ironman attire, cheering on people they didn’t even know.
And I loved being a part of Team Ronald McDonald House and seeing other teammates along the course – we cheered for each other and spectators cheered for us.
When the run got tough, I thought about all the kids who are going through much more serious and life-threatening medical issues than she has, and how much strength they have to get through it. It really kept me going.
Just a few more run photos – they’re all from the same area!
I passed a lot of people on the run - at the split I was going 9:23/mile. I’m happy with my run, it felt great.
Running to the finish in Central Park was a thrill. What huge crowds! I saw my cheering fans at the end and ran into the finish chute.
I am proud of my race, even though the swim and bike legs weren’t what I had hoped. And the race felt so special and meaningful.
FINAL TIME: 3:27:44
No, it’s not what I had hoped for, but I knew the reason for the slower first half of the bike and felt like with the second half picking up pace that I wasn’t doomed to be back of the pack on the bike forever.
After the race we had a luncheon with our Team and I went to pick up my bike from the transition area.
What a fabulous experience. I truly enjoyed it, despite the rain, despite the awful swim, despite the brake issues during the bike. I thought this race would be a one-and-done type of experience because of the cost and logistics, but I am thinking about doing it again in the future. And for the Ronald McDonald House, of course!
Have you ever run through Central Park?