Friday, August 12, 2011

NYC 2011 - Leading up to the RACE !

Before I get into my report I want to pay respects to two triathletes who lost their lives in the race yesterday.  A 64 year-old man and 40 year-old woman both died of apparent cardiac arrest during the swim portion of the race.  I completed the race and drove 5 hours home only to hear about the tragedy after arriving back home.  My prayers go to the families of both victims.

This race was on my radar since last summer.  As a para-triathlete I knew this race would be the chance I might be able to take in order to try and qualify to race in the Paratriathlon World Championships in Beijing China this coming September.  If any of you are Facebook "friends" you surely know the problem I have been having with the International Triathlon Union (ITU) leading up to this race.  

There is a classification for dwarfism in the ITU.  They actually have a maximum height listed and I am considered too tall.  I asked how they determined the height and an answer is not available.  Needless to say, I will talk more about this later in the post, but I am still fighting with the ITU and hopefully, they will resolve the issue prior to the 2012 racing season.

Okay, I traveled down to NYC on the Friday preceding the race.  Sue and Owen and decided to stay home since I would be dealing with lots of classification details on Saturday and my mind would not really be on sight-seeing with them.  We had just traveled to NYC last summer, so if (WHEN) I do the race again, they will surely come along.

Travel to NYC was not a problem at all and I arrived there around 3:30pm in the afternoon.  The hotel I chose was a STEAL at a fraction of the "official" hotel and it was 2 blocks from transition with FREE STREET PARKING.  I found a spot right away a 1/2 block from the hotel.  Once I parked, I never moved the car again until I left after the race on Sunday afternoon.  It looked to be a safe neighborhood and in the end, it certainly was. I checked in and got all my gear upstairs while leaving my bike in the trunk of my car.  There was an Underwear Run planned for the evening in Central Park, so even though I was not registered for it, I brought some appropriate clothes and made my way to the Sheraton for the Race Expo.  After looking around at the Expo I ran into Stephanie and her husband.  She is a member of Team Comp and would also be racing.  I find there are RARE deals at the Expos and I simply had fun looking at stuff.  You could really tell who the newbies were as they were buying gear and clothing to wear in the race.  That kind of goes against the idea that should never try something new in a race.  That tip has done me well.

"Cool runnings"
Cav, Adrian, Josh, Bill, and Julie
I left the Expo and made my to Central Park to try and figure out where the Underwear was.  I met up with another athlete named Ben who lives in NYC and has done the race for a number of years.  We chatted a bit and he gave me some good tips about the race course, especially about starting on the bike portion.  I had already been reading about this, but he reinforced the idea about the BIG HILL leading out of transition onto the highway.  The tip was to keep your bike in the lowest gear, get up the hill and then worry about racing.  Be careful about all the rookie riders as some of them tend to stop on the hill and cause problems.  I thanked him for the tips and made my way to the "run".  When I got there, there were plenty of people getting ready for the run.  I had not registered and realized I would not be able to leave my bag and would have to carry it for the run.  Then I saw my friend Jen who was working for the race organizers.  I had met her at the Minuteman race last year and knew she would be there.  She offered to get me an official entry into the race, so I was set.  I got changed and was ready to run 1.7 miles in Central Park and it was WARM by this time.

This was in the Huffington Post

This is a video of the start of the race, and if you watch long enough, you can see me at the end.  I found it on YOUTUBE.

The race was a BLAST and I am so glad I did it.  So I didn't look like most of the other buff bods out there, since when has that ever stopped me.  Josh and Julie from the pic above got ripped off in the costume contest.  Winners were to receive a trip to Jamaica.  In my opinion, they had the best costume and completed the entire race as shown in the picture.  A team with a "similar" theme won, and it was a much poorer attempt.  Walking back to my hotel I met up with Cav, Julie and Josh and we chatted a bit.  I found out that Josh and Julie were also doing the race.  Cav invited me along for a beer and I said sure.  He lives in a SMALL apartment in the area but he is lucky to have a roof top deck.  Friday night in Manhattan enjoying a beer and some snacks on a rooftop.  Many memories of Hong Kong came flooding back.  Bill and Adrian, their other friends showed up and we had great times chatting about triathlon.  I excused myself after a while and walked the 4 blocks to my hotel.

Sleep did not go very well since I knew that Saturday was going to be a stressful day starting with a breakfast hosted by John Korff who is the race organizer.  He was putting the breakfast on for all of para-triathletes.  It was at a lovely restaurant around the corner from the Sheraton which was the host hotel for the race.  I managed to stop by a Tim Horton's for a quick coffee first !  I met a number of great athletes at the breakfast including the 2 pictured below.

Me along with Scout Bassett
Hector Picard with me.

I had to leave the breakfast a little earlier than most for my classification meeting at 10:15am back at the Sheraton.

When I arrived at the appointed location both Eric and Joan were there to greet me.  They both work with USAT and were both lobbying on my behalf in order the change the current classification.  Eric even had me write a last minute appeal to send to the ITU, but alas, I was told it would do no good as they classifier had to follow the current guidelines.

As an example to how crude their measuring was, I have always been told by my own doctor, that I am 4'4" tall which is 132 cm tall.  When they measured for my classification, they pegged me at 130.5cm tall, with the cut-off being 129.5cm.  I refused to try and slouch down, which was difficult anyway since they measured me while lying on the floor.  So even they got it wrong.  They proceeded to measure the range of mobility of all of my limbs and when they were done I asked to leave so they could go over the numbers.

Less than 5 minutes later I was called back in and told, I failed to meet the criteria for the classification and would be racing in the OPEN category.  I was glad about that somewhat, because months ago, I was told if I was not classified, I would have to race in my AGE-GROUP, so at least I would be in a group of 15 other para-triathletes.  One of those other OPEN racers, actually was denied because he failed to bring a note from his physician.  This was a man who lost his leg in Iraq and it could plainly be seen that he is missing a limb.  Sorry they said, no letter, no classification.

The classifier and her assistant both thanked me for being so honest about being measured.  She said I would be surprised to find the number of people who try and bend the rules.  From the onset of this I have tried to be forthright and direct about my concerns.  I told the classifier I was "A rule changer, not a rule breaker."  She ensured me that my letter had been taken to the highest level in the ITU and than changers were going to be made, where they were going to base future classifications on "real data" from athletes.  I looked at her in amazement and asked, "What are the current ones based on?"  She just looked at me and said nothing.  More evidence to support my belief that this maximum height of 129.5 cm was selected arbitrarily.

I then went on to explain that I would be much happier if I was 25 years old and dealing with this instead of 45.  They hope to have things completely in line for the Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016.  I explained I would be 50 at that time, to which the classifier replied, "Age is just a number."  Of course I replied, "So is height.".  She just stared again.

I do not blame her at all as she is just the messenger, but as the Head Classifier for the ITU, she will certainly have a lot of say as they make changes in the future.  I can only hope and of course keep writing letters.

I left the meeting room and then chatted with Eric and Joan again before leaving to clear my head.  I walked around the Expo a bit more and then ran into Bryan Lyons another triathlete from MA.  He is a member of Team Hoyt and we have done a number of races together.  He raced the Wicked 1/2 Marathon last fall and gave me his finishers medal since they had run out of them.  We decided to have lunch together and found a quiet Irish pub off of Times Square.  After lunch I returned to the Sheraton for the mandatory briefing where I also received my race packet and number.  There were lots of rules to go over in regards to para-triathletes and their handlers and guides.  I had chosen to not use a handler since I had not needed one yet, thought it might have been nice to hand my bike to someone and have them rack it prior to going out on the run.

I then decided to return to my hotel room on the west side to get my bike to transition for check-in.  I was able to leave my bike in the trunk of my car prior to check in.  With the forecast for rain on race morning I was so glad to have a large plastic bag (from Jay Curry) with which to cover my bike.  It was so nice to return to my hotel and simply get my bike out of my truck and then walk it down to transition only 2 blocks away.

My bike all checked in and ready for the rain.

After bike check-in I had a tour of the transition area.  They reviewed the big hill we were to face leaving transition and since I had just ridden it prior to checking my bike in, I was all set.  They took as down to the swim exit and then we were down with the tour.

The swim exit where lifeguards would be stationed to pull you out.

Returning to the hotel I spent some time catching up on Facebook and then went out to find a place for some dinner.  I walked up to Broadway (in the rain) and looked for a nice "family style" restaurant that served pasta.  I found a small place called "Cafe Eighty-Two" and what a pleasant treat it was.  I had a HUGE plate of pasta and grilled veggies along with a salad.  The neat thing about the restaurant was how friendly the wait staff was with a lot of the customers.  Obviously a place frequented by locals.  It was great watching the waiters hugging and kissing this one table of older ladies as they each came in to meet up for dinner.  A place I will surely re-visit when I race there again.

On my way back to the hotel I stopped at a shop called ZABAR'S.  I bought some milk and water for the morning.  I thought it was a neat shop with lots of different things to buy.  It looks like it started with one shop and then as others closed, they purchased them as it represented almost a whole block on Broadway around 81st Street.  I found out later it has a bit of a reputation as Sue said to me when I got home, "YOU WENT TO ZABAR'S?"

Back in my room I got ready for the night, send a few more emails and then laid down to sleep.  I was set to expect rain in the morning and tried not to worry about it since it is not anything I can change.  I slept pretty well and was woken by my alarm at 3:15AM.

Race report is the next POST!

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