Thursday, August 25, 2011

NYC 2011 Accenture Triathlon

Awoken by my phone alarm at 3:15AM, I actually felt like I had a solid 4 hours of sleep.  I got up and had my breakfast understanding that I would probably not be in the water until about 7AM with the first pro wave expecting to go off at  5:50AM.  I consumed 1/2 a bagel with PB, a banana, some fruit and yogurt, and a glass of milk with protein powder.  I packed up my bags, checked out of the hotel and made my way to my car.  At this point it had stopped raining but the streets were wet.  I got to my car and packed away any gear I would not need and starting walking to transition.  By the time I reached my bike the rain started again.  I got my transition area ready and luckily I was on a extreme side under a tree so my gear was not getting hit with the full force of the rain.  I did bring some small plastic bags to keep shoes in and covered other things with small towels.  I got my tires inflated and then joined a LONG line to use the porta-potties.  After getting my water bottles all filled I left transition and walked the mile down the sea-wall to the swim start.  I carried one bottle and a small clothing bag that I would turn in and get after the race at the finish line.

The rain was starting to really come down hard now.  As I neared the swim start we slowed down simply due to the fact that there were 3100+ people waiting to race.  The had corrals set up and I looked for the OPEN PARA area and when I found it, it was empty.  I remembered there was a special tent for us right up near swim start.  I chose to stay near the corral and watch the swim start.  After turning in my bag I hear an announcement that the start would be delayed.  There had been an accident on the highway and they needed to clear it up before the bikes hit the road.

As I waited a good friend Elizabeth found me.  Given the number of people waiting it was a total surprise.  We met last year at Timberman and she had taken the pics of me with Chrissie and Andy when my camera batteries had gone dead.  It was nearing 6:30AM now and they announced that the swim was to start soon as they were calling the PROS to the start barge.  I took a trip to the PORTA-POTTIES, took my GU and continued to drink a bit more water.  Once the two PRO waves started, then the ELITES, the age-groupers started next.  Simply waiting there I was amazed at the number of people I talked to who were doing this race as their first triathlon.  The current was picking up (in the RIGHT direction) but the wind was as well and there was quite a bit of chop forming.  As the waves of people started into the water I was noticing a number of swimmers in distress.  The kayaks were getting to them fine, but it would be a long day for the lifeguards if this trend continued.

The day after the race, I found the following video online.  I certainly hope the person was DQed.

I even spoke to a gentleman getting ready for the race who was wearing a wetsuit and had never worn one in the water.  I'm sorry, but people can't just believe a triathlon is something you do on a whim.   They were trying something new this year that seemed to work well for me.  Instead of waves of large numbers going off every few minutes, they were having a TT start with 20 people at a time.  My wave went off after a 20 minute break so when I got to the swim exit it was not too crowded.  Others later in each group mentioned that the swim exit was very congested.

Anyway, 40 minutes later than expected, they announced that the para-triathletes were up next after a prolonged break.  I proceeded down to the swim start and was ushered onto the starting barge.  All capped and goggled, I was ready to go.  The "official" paras would go first and then those of us in the OPEN division.  Well, when the announced it was our turn, without hesitation I went out the to edge and sat down ready to start.  I was amazed at how relaxed and ready I was.  The horn sounded and off we went.  I waited until the 2 guys beside me jumped in and then I went in feet first.  The water was felt fine and I do not recall any strong odor.  Off I went and found my groove pretty quickly.  As I breathe on my left, I was able to see the crowd of about 1500 more athletes waiting to get in and could also hear their cheering.  I got a couple of waves hitting me hard, but it felt no worse than FIRMMAN down in Narraghansett last year.  I noticed a large sign on my left and I realized it was marking the first 250m.  I looked at my watch and freaked out.  My watch read 3:52.  In the pool I usually take that same amount of time to swim 150 yards.  I was CRUISING.  I looked and kept trying to keep to the right (where I thought the current was the strongest) anbd continued on.  The swim proceeded along pretty much the same for the entire 1500m.  I noticed a few passing me as I neared the half way point but I never felt like I was getting bumped or banged.  As I neared the end I could see the lifeguards at the exit pulling people out.  As I lifted my head one last time I caught the eye of a guard who reached out for me.  As he grabbed my hand he told me to turn around as he would lift me out.  I assume he knew I was a para-triathlete by the color of my cap.  I said "No, I will walk out."  He pulled me closer and when my feet hit the ramp, I started to run.  I said excuse me as I ran past an athlete being pushed in a wheel-chair.  Remembering the run was pretty long to transition I slowed down a bit. 

Heading into T1
As I passed over the timer, I looked at my watch and I had 23:26 which placed me 9th out of 14 in my division.  I was PUMPED with that swim. For sure it will be the fastest 1500m (1 mile) swim I will ever do.

It was probably a good 1/10th of a mile just to get into the back of transition and then back up to front to where my bike was.  I got my wetsuit off pretty quickly, with helmet, shoes and glasses on as well.  The rain was continuing pretty strong now, so my biggest concern would be the slickness of the roads.  I got my bike off the rack and proceeding out of transition to the mounting line.  Things were pretty congested but I got on my bike with no problems and then proceeded down the path on the right with swimmers running up the other side.  There were plenty of volunteers yelling to "take it slow" with the "HILL" coming up.  There were only a few cyclists on the hill so I increased the gearing just a bit, got out of my saddle, and got up the hill with no problem passing a few people on the way.  It probably helped that I  was in the 34rd wave of swimmers after there had been a 20 minute break.  I am sure things were crazier both earlier and later on.  I got up to the traffic circle at 79th-80th and then proceeded to avoid the HUGE potholes (some of which were filled with rain) and follow the course up and onto the Henry Hudson Parkway.  Having the course closed to traffic is a huge plus.

The course was fairly hilly all the way up to the turn-around in the Bronx.  There were a couple of long steep climbs with some cool downhills to follow.  You can't really have the downhills without having the uphills as well.  The only problem was, with all of the rain and the roads being so slick, I felt I could not go full speed down the hills without increasing the possibility of an accident.

Riding through a toll-booth near the Bronx.
Even though some of the puddles looked pretty small, I tried to avoid them not knowing what was underneath.  I heard later than one of the pro women crashed out of the race going through a small puddle that happened to have a pot-hole in it as well.

I was surprised at the number of cyclists who were walking their bikes up some of the big hills.  I would have to admit that many of them were part of sponsorship teams that encourage people to enter a triathlon in order to raise money for a charity.  I am not criticizing them at all, hey they are out there racing and not sitting at home.

I got some chuckles from the police as I yelled out going through the toll-booth, "I'm sorry, but I forgot my EASY-PASS!"

The crowds along the route were pretty sparse but that's understandable since we were riding along a major highway and the only way people could come and watch was to come up a closed on or off ramp.

The only stop I made was at the northern turnaround in order to fill my aero bottle with the bottle I keep in the cage on the back of my seat.  My arms are not long enough to reach it while riding.  There was a stiff head-wind going south, but I loved the ride.  We had to go south to 55th? I think and then head back north to the exit.  It was great because we got the benefit of a cheering crowd twice as we passed the exit going south.  The southern turn-around came pretty quick and it was great to know I only had a mile or two left.  The exit ramp was lined with lots of spectators who were cheering as the rain had now stopped and in fact the sun was starting to shine.  It was great for the fans, but it also meant the run would be a bit of a scorcher. 

Returning to the traffic circle (rotary here in MA) there were lots of cyclists there but no one was being silly.  It was a real sharp downhill to the dismount line which was on a downhill, but not much else to do with the space we were using.  Off the bike and into transition was a real short trip for me.  Great knowing that my spot was right near the CLIF sign. 

My time for the bike was 1:41:58 which put me 12th out of 14.  The times in both T1 and T2 are noticeably slower for this race due to the fact that the transition areas are huge and it takes a while to get in and/or out depending on your spot.

I had not run this course and had been warned that the exit out onto 72nd street is quite steep.  They were right but just getting down that far from 79th street took a while as well.  I knew I was going to have lots of water stops along the route, so I didn't take anything with me save for a couple of gels and an inhaler.

Suffice it say, this was a pretty challenging run.  The clouds had completely disappeared now and the sun was pretty hot.  I had come to the conclusion that I would walk all of the uphills in order to have something left for a strong finish.

Running up 72nd street towards the Dakota and Central Park
When I came out of the park and onto 72nd street I was prepared for what I was about to see.  The street was closed to traffic, barricades were up and the street was lined with cheering fans.  Honestly, it felt like the BOSTON MARATHON to me.  How could I not run?  I did my best to take it easy but the adrenaline was pumping for sure.

At every corner there throngs of people and police.  On at least two occasions I raised my arms up in the air and the crowd responded with cheering.  It was euphoric.

I got to Central Park and then realized the hills would be coming.  The rest of the race prior to the finish was simple.  Walk all of the uphills (MANY!) and run the flats and downhills.  There were lots of others out running and cycling the park as well and some cheered us on.  At about the 4 mile mark, Scout, who I referred to earlier, passed me.  She looked strong at when I talked to her at the finish, she PRed the course as well.

With less that a mile to go to the finish I was doing my best to run hard and then I heard "Hey Mr. Young" behind me and it was Austin Esecson, a former Pingree student.  He was doing then race for the second year and was in the LAST wave of swimmers so he had probably started at least an hour after me if not more.

At the finish and pretty exhausted.
I had remembered the finish chute from the "Underwear Run" from Friday so as I entered it I knew how much longer I had to go.  I did my best to keep going at a solid and strong pace and with about 20 yards to go, I heard the announcer call out, "John Young from Salem, Go Johnny".  They actually have a video of both my swim exit and finish I can purchase online.

My run time was 1:34:37 which game we the slowest run in my group but a final time of 3:51:31 which placed me 12th out of 14 overall.  A new personal best for an Olympic distance course by over 8 minutes.  I am sure the FAST river helped a lot, because my run time was not my best at all, but a PR is a PR.

After the finish I found some food, water and MUSCLE MILK and then went to the tent to find my clothing bag.  After changing I found the VIP tent for some additional refreshments.  There really wasn't much else but being under the tent in the shade helped.

After getting my results and started heading out of the park.  I met up with two other athletes, one who had DNFed due to a nasty bike crash.  We agreed to split a cab to ride the few blocks to transition to get our bikes.

I got my bike and gear and then walked the few blocks to my car.  I went back into the hotel where I had stayed and asked to use a bathroom to freshen up a bit.  After changing I made my way to a restaurant for some additional food.  John Korff, the owner of the race, was hosting a party for all of the para-triathletes where we could get some lunch.  I had a burger and beer, said my good-byes to some real GREAT athletes all with the CAF and then walked back to my car.  I called Sue to let her know I was on my way home.  I was so surprised that the 5 1/2 hour drive home really was not that bad.  Listening to books on CD sure help pass the time.  I never really felt sleepy at all.  Getting home around 7:30pm or so was a real relief as I got to see Owen before he was off to bed.

I did mange to race the following weekend at the Westborough Sprint triathlon and compete the race in 1:49, which was a new PR for me for a sprint distance race.

A gift from the WTC !
I got an email the following Monday from the WTC who run the HyVee 5i50 US Triathlon Championships and they invited me to Des Moines to race on September 4th.  Well, after some encouragement from fellow triathletes and teammates, I am GOING. 


1 comment:

  1. Just watched that video...holy current! I want that to be the swim at every race I do. Although, it does look rather choppy for it to be some people's first triathlon.

    I have a good story about people doing triathlons when they shouldn't be. I helped out at medical twice at the Boston Urban Epic. The first year, one of the physicians and I were assigned to transition as it was way on the other side of the bay from the finish (where the main medical tent was). I remember watching this one swimmer take FOREVER to do the 800 yard swim. Literally, I timed it. If she started in the last wave, it took her 45 minutes to swim 800yd. She appeared to be in her 40's or 50's. I figured, give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she's just a terrible swimmer. We never saw her come out of transition, but we figured we musta missed her until 15 minutes later, the race volunteers notified us that she was still in transition and they asked us to check on her. We walked into transition just as she was leaving on her bike. Much to our dismay, she was only going about 5mph on an uber flat bike course. About 2 miles into the bike, she fortunately pulled herself. She even admitted she did the race on a whim and hadn't trained at all. Real bright.