Sunday, July 21, 2013

NYC Triathlon Race Report

Everyone I had spoken to that has done the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon has said two things about this race.  First, it is a MUST do race.  Second, just getting to the starting line will wear you out.  Now that this race is in my rear view mirror, I have joined their camp and would endorse this race in the exact same fashion.

The logistics and pre-race requirements, especially with two young kids, are crazy.  Need to ditch the kids for 2 days (thanks Mom!), book a hotel in Manhattan without dipping into the college funds, find a parking garage near the hotel, get all the Triathlon stuff together, get all of the overnight stuff together and so on.  Tara did an awesome job making necessary arrangements and getting us to the city when we needed to be there.

This race deserves a few more sections than usual, so here is the breakdown:

Pre-Race, Saturday

Our abode and gear storage for the weekend.
We got into the city at about noon, checked into the hotel and then I attended the pre-race briefing.  When the guy giving the briefing asked a room of about 300 athletes, "How many of you are doing your first triathlon here tomorrow?" I was astonished that about 25% of the room raised their hand.  This is a notoriously tough race with 2 transition areas, swimming in the currents of the Hudson and a hilly bike and run.  I am not sure these people knew what they were in for!

The other issue that needed to be addressed on Saturday was getting my bike into transition.  After a nice 2 mile walk through the streets of Manhattan, my bike was racked and we were on our way back to the hotel, another 2 mile walk!  A quick dinner and then to bed.

Pre-Race, Sunday

We were up at 3am and out of the hotel at 4.  Luckily, we got a couple seats on the shuttle to transition.  That saved another long walk for both Tara and me.

Due to the Boston Marathon incident, security was tighter than an airport.  They issued big clear "garbage" bags to everyone to take into transition.  No backpacks or opaque bags would be allowed.  Over the last few years, I have made setting up transition a bit of a ritualistic event.  I have my TYR transition bag with everything neatly organized and positioned.  Now, I had to literally dump all of my stuff into a clear plastic bag and get myself set.  By the way, no bag check either.  Whatever was left over, I needed to keep in my 24" wide "slot" in transition.  Needless to say, I was a bit off-kilter getting set up.

Now, we had to walk a mile up town to the swim start.  I was unable to take any food in before the race, which was uncommon for me.  Although it was not ideal, I did have comfort in knowing that my efforts to become fat adaptive and more metabolically efficient have paid huge dividends over the last few months.  I typically do 3-4 hour training sessions in a fasted state, only taking in a few Amrita bars on the bike.  Not being a "sugar-burner" any more has really improved my performance and nutrition needs in training and racing.  Sat around for a few minutes, made a final stop at the port-a-potties, donned the wetsuit, found my corral, and then it was race time.


I was in the second wave after the pros.  I made sure I worked my way to the front of the corral so I didn't have to swim over all of those first-timers.  It worked out great.  I basically did the swim in my own little pond, only having to deal with a pack at the end, getting on to the barge.

The current was really strong, and it was in our favor.  To my complete surprise, the Hudson River was absolutely pristine.  Probably the second cleanest water I have ever swam in behind Wildwood Lake.  The strong current made for an interesting swim.  I wanted to use it as much as I could, so I didn't push too hard.  It was actually difficult to tell how much effort I was putting in because I was moving so quickly.  In hindsight, I probably could have gone a little harder.  Overall, uneventful and a decent time, out of the water in 17:15.


The run from the swim exit was about 0.61 miles.  That is a tough run, barefoot and in a wetsuit.  Because transition was so large, I made sure that I wrote my row number and directional arrows on my left forearm.  I had a right arrow, then "Rows 15-16" then a left arrow.  I needed to make sure that when I entered transition, I went to the right side, down the aisle between rows 15 and 16, then made a left turn out of the row.

Keeping a Sharpie in your bag of tricks is a pretty good idea.  You can also write down aid station locations, time benchmarks and any other info you need to remember.

A nicely executed flying mount, and I was off on the bike.  Total time was 5:57.


For some unknown reason, I had it in my head that Manhattan was fairly flat.  Wow, was I wrong.

In the first few miles, I came up on the first wave of riders.  A little navigating and I was free and clear of most riders.  I wound up trading off with a few guys in my AG for most of the ride.  I would pass them on the hills,they would regain the lead on the descents.  The hills were, for the most part, not really steep, but they just kept coming, and some seemed to go on for miles.  I rode at a steady effort and tried not to burn too many matches keeping up with other riders.  Although it is nice to be in the front end of a race, you can easily lose your sense of your effort.  Only a few people to pass and only a few passing me made it difficult to judge if my effort was hard enough or too hard.

My Garmin recorded (and I ran it through elevation correction to make sure) over 3000 feet of climbing in 25 miles.  Let me put that into perspective.  Ironman Lake Placid, known as a hilly race, has a total elevation gain of 4804 feet in 112 miles.  That equates to 428 feet of gain for every 10 miles.  This race was 3056 feet of gain in 25.9 miles, or 1179 feet of gain for every 10 miles. Yes folks, NYC Triathlon has almost THREE TIMES the hill climbing as IMLP!  Something I never would have expected.

I hydrated as planned, but fueled a little less.  I called an audible due to the heat and humidity and rolled the dice.  Turned out OK, but it was a little risky.  In those conditions, my body just didn't want to accept food easily, so I went with it.  Sometimes you just have to race by feel.  One addition I have made recently was to use Salt Stix caps.  I had trained with them over the previous few weeks with good results.  They worked very well in this race to stave off cramps from the heat and humidity.

All told, I was pretty happy with my bike split.  Finished in 1:14:40, only 6 minutes off the fastest bike split in my age group and 51st out of 397.

Bike leg profile from my Garmin 910XT.  There was NOTHING flat in this race.

The last mile of the bike route was a bit slow and winding, having to navigate through the exit ramps, traffic circles and park sidewalks.  Writing the row number on my arm helped for a second time, so after a quick equipment change, I was out of T2 in 1:26.


Transition areas are in Riverside Park, a place we walk to and through several times prior to the race.  The one thing I failed to notice was that the super steep 15% grade hill leading into the park was, in fact, the run out of Yellow transition.  How did I get so lucky?  Running off the bike is tough in general.  Throw in crazy climbing on the bike and then this wall at the start of the run and your legs will begin a rebellion against you.

Once you get out of the park, you head across town on 72nd Street to get in Central Park.  I was chatting with one of the guys that I was trading off with on the bike while we were finding our running legs.  To my surprise (this guy looked like he could smoke me on the run), we parted ways with me pulling away fairly easily.  I held a steady tempo into Central park and was feeling decent in spite of the heat and humidity.

Central park felt like a climb up the side of a mountain.  Where was the downhill that we should get after all the uphill?  I didn't see it.  I passed through the first run split with an average pace of 7:28 min/mile.  I was pretty happy with that.  For the second half of the run, I was starting to feel the effects of the heat and the course. My pace slowed a bit, but I ended with a final average pace of 8:02 min/mile.  Final run split was 49:50.  Not great, but I am not going to complain about it.

Final time was 2:29:06.  I finished 60 out of 397 in my age group (20 minutes behind the AG winner).  Overall is a little tricky.  The transition areas were 5 blocks apart which created 2 different races depending on which one your AG was in.  When Tara was tracking me in real-time, I was 151 overall before the Red transition folks started to come in.  That put me right at the top 10% overall for Yellow transition.

Overall, I am glad I did this race, and would recommend it to everyone.  However, I am not sure I will be rushing to sign up for it in the next few years.

Big thanks to Tara for all she did, and my mother-in-law Sandy for doing the hard part and watching the kids for the weekend.

Keep the rubber side down and I will see you on the road.


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