Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NYC Triathlon Weekend - 2012

Before I get into the actual race report, I do want to thank many of you.  If many of you may remember, I ended up with a free entry to this race thanks to a "facebook" contest.  There was a photo contest where the pic from the 2011 NYC Triathlon with the most "likes" would win a free entry to the race this year.  Well, with more than 700 "likes" I was able to win a free entry.  I am sure that had a lot to do with many of my friends clicking on the pic, but more importantly, spreading the word around.  It saved me a lot of money that I could put towards gas and other possible expenses for the weekend.

I was going to be completing this race as a member of Achilles International and was quite excited at all the pre-race info I was receiving from them leading up to the race.  There was a meal planned for the night prior to the race and even a swim session planned at the JCC.  This would end being a great chance to meet some  new members of the team.  The team not only consists of us challenged athletes.  There are numerous volunteers along with Kat, Ellie, and Andy and also a number of able-bodied racers who would be racing as charity runners to raise money for Achilles.

The ride down on Friday night was a breeze.  I've now done the trip alone 3 times in the last year so it seems to go pretty fast.  A couple of audio books to listen to and then of course, I love to tune into NYC sports radio, it is usually very entertaining.

I arrived around 3pm and found a free parking sport right at the corner where transition is for the race.  I would leave my bike in the trunk until tomorrow and then go bring it down.  I love races where bike check-in is the night before the race.  Makes it that much easier on race morning to get your things organized.  I got out my three bags and made my way to the train.  Achilles had arranged a room at a nice place over in midtown called "The Union League Club".  The gave me (along with 2 other athletes) a great rate for a two night weekend stay.

I walked the 3 blocks to the #1 train over at 78th Street and Broadway and made my way down to get my ticket and board the train.  I had just called Sue to tell her I had arrived.  When I boarded the train, I reached down to use my phone to check the time and it was GONE.  I immediately thought someone had stolen it while I was paying for my ticket.  I got off the train at the first stop, walked over the platform and boarded the train back to 78th Street.  I got out onto street level and then walked back to the spot where I had called Sue and started looking.  No phone on the ground, down the stairs into the station, by the machine, or by the turnstile.  Then I remembered, getting through the turnstile had been real difficult with 3 bags and possibly, my phone had fallen out of the case on my belt.  I turned and walked over the ticket agent and asked about a missing phone.  She reached over and slowly showed me a phone and said, "Is it this one?"  And it was!  I said "thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!"  Her response was a calm, "This is your lucky day."  It sure was seeming to be that way.

Now it was HOT!.   And with all the extra walking, I was drenched.  I made my way to 42nd St and then took the shuttle to Grand Central Station and walked the few blocks to the hotel.  It took a while, but I made it.  When I checked in the room was as nice as it had looked online.  The only drawback is that I would need a gymnastics vault to get up on the bed.  It had to be at least 3 feet high.  I rested for a bit, then packed my bag for my 2nd attempt at the "NYC Underwear Run."  It is always held in Central Park and is a 1.7 mile run around the middle loop of the park ending at the same finish line we would use on Sunday.

From the Huffington Post
I first headed up the hotel where the race expo would be.  It was busy, but not too crowded.  I looked around a bit and managed to talk with a guy from KSWISS about my QUICKY BLADE LIGHTS.  There have been wearing in a weird spot on both shoes and he took a pic and said he would talk to the designers and get back to me.  I love the shoes and hope they can explain what's up or get me a new pair.

I headed up to 72nd Street and Central Park West.  As I got closer to the location for the run, I could hear the usual P.A. announcers getting the crowd riled up and I was also able dozens of people "dropping trow".  Some where getting ready to run and others, simply to show off.  I checked in and then walked over to the big fountain to change.

Carolyn, Leona, and Jan with me just after the run.

Carolyn, actually ran the same run last year and I think she recognized me, but Jan raced with me in Peterborough last year.  She is with a group from Canada called WON WITH ONE.  The work with visually impaired triathletes.  Leona came down from Canada to race as well and Carolyn was going to be here guide.  The 4 of us did the last 1/2 mile of the run as a group and crossed the line together.  Jan would race on Sunday guiding another athlete named Dave from PEI.  My friend Cav, from TriLife was to meet up and do the run but he was running late from work.  He is a pediatric ER doctor in NYC.  He caught up with me after the race and we made the decision to go from some beer and grub at a place over on Amsterdam Ave.  We met with a few of friends, including Haddai, who I had briefly met when I was at the Quassy race last month.  I had a great dinner with them and washed it down with a pint of Guinness.  I didn't want to stay up too late, so I headed for the subway and then back to my hotel.

Me along with Ironman, Sarah Reinertsen
John Korff, who organizers and runs the NYC Triathlon, puts on a breakfast every Saturday morning before the race.  I went last year and did not want to miss this year's either.  It's a great chance to meet up with other challenged athletes and now that I was returning, we could talk about how our year of racing had gone.  At this point, I am still the only dwarf triathlete that I am aware of.  I have been contacted by two other's in the past weeks and both men will be attempting their first try-a-tri, which is a mini-sprint distance race.  As I entered the restaurant I saw Barb Evans, a new but dear friend.  She is the NE-USA rep for the CAF.  Sitting beside her, was KONA Ironman finisher, Sarah Reinertsen.  I first saw Sarah on "The Amazing Race" had has now also read her book.  She is an amazing athlete who lost her leg at a young age due to a birth defect.

Here's where the benefit of Achilles started to pay dividends.  They had a van available that would be taking us around for the rest of the day.  With the race the next day, this would certainly help keep the legs somewhat rested.  We took the van over to the JCC for a very short and relaxing swim session.  Some of the visually impaired athletes were going to practice some swimming with their guides.  I got the chance to meet a number of great Achilles (and some CAF as well) athletes including Diane Berberian, Ben Simmons, Bill Longwell, Eliza Cooper, Ricardo Corral, Sarah Heller, and Liz McTernan (I apologize for others I may have left out).  I also caught up with others during the weekend that I remember from last year's race and other road races as well, and that included, Geoff Kennedy, Willie (One Arm) Stewart, Joe Bellantoni, Lamar Brown. Minda Dentler, and Melissa Stockwell.

The swim was a short one but a nice chance to stretch a bit and then next thing I knew, we were all going out to brunch together.  I am finding out that this group likes to eat as often as they can.  We packed up the van and made our way to a nice little deli.  They were quick to get our orders and get the food out to us (except for Liz's meal, which was something they just had to warm up!) as we had to be at a handler and athlete pre-race meeting for 2:30pm.

The pre-race meeting went off pretty well with a number of questions related to handling and helping the athletes along certain places on the course.  I chose not have a handler, only because I have never used one, so why should I start?  It would be nice, and maybe I will start once I start racing officially in my proper category.  Funny thing, in this race, the race organizers chose to put me in the correct category, TRI3.  I guess without having an official classifier, its their prerogative to do so.  I wasn't going to complain.  After the briefing we picked up our race packets and then I had a chance to go through the race expo again.  It's fun to roam around and try to pick out all the first timers.  A lot of them break that one cardinal rule I remember and that is not to use something for the first time on race day.  They tend to be the people buying fuel belts etc. I know, we were all first-timers at one point in time.

Bike is ready to go.
My twitter friend, Bianca.
The next stop was to check in our bikes.  Most of the other para athletes were needing the have their hand-cycles and push chairs transported down.  Since I had already parked right at transition, all I needed was a ride down to get my bike out of the car.  Having a van to ride in was a god-send.  No need to walk blocks and take the subway.  This would be a sure way to keep my legs some-what fresh for the race tomorrow.  After getting dropped off, I got to my car, assembled the front wheel of my bike and rode it down to transition.  After placing it on the rack, I walked about a bit checking out some of the other machines used by the other PC triathletes.  I was excited to get a chance to meet up with an athlete I had met through Twitter.  Bianca would be racing her first triathlon here in NYC.  She was just around transition checking out the RUN OUT and SWIM IN areas.  We met up and had some quick introductions and wished each other well.

Believe it or not, the next stop, was another meal with the Achilles team.  There was a nice pre-race dinner planned at SAMBUCA.  The food was terrific and it was great to be with everyone as we all prepared for our big day tomorrow.  I talked with both Bill and Diane, who were staying at the same hotel with me and we agreed to leave together in a taxi and then meet in the morning at 4AM and then taxi together to transition in the morning.

Achilles is about eating and RACING.  That is Eliza and her guide along with me.
When I returned to the room I spent a lot of nervous time packing up my transition bag and then resting.  I drifted off to sleep at about 10:30 (with a 3:30AM wake-up), was woken up at 12:30AM by some amazing thunder and lightening.  I quickly drifted back to sleep and then woke up to the alarm.  I had some "breakfast".  There was no fridge in my room, so my nutrition consisted of bagel with PB, some Muscle-milk, banana and a Clif bar.  I packed up all my gear and made my way down to the lobby to meet Bill (and his girlfriend?) and Diane.  The doorman quickly hailed a taxi and we were off to the transition area.  We got out of the cab and I quickly ran over to my car and placed my non-essential gear in the trunk.  I made the very short walk to my bike and started to prepare to race.

Early race morning.
Prep went off without too much trouble.  There had been a bit of rain but my bike was not soaked at all.  Getting things ready was not a rush at all since we arrived at about 4:40AM and I did not need to be out of transition for a little more than an hour.  Once ready (with after race gear bag), I started to make the walk up to swim start.  We basically walked along the promenade (1.5KM) up to the start.  What a great bonus to meet up with Bianca again as I walked up.  I could tell she was excited and a bit nervous, as we all were really.  As we neared the start, the crowds of athletes got bigger and bigger.  Another bonus for us PC athletes, there was a tent available to rest in along with the PROS (who were already in the water by the time I arrived).  I rested and talked a lot with other athletes as we prepared.  The first 2000 athletes or so go off before us and then there is a 20 min wait.  After that, we go off.  They have us jump in 5-10 athletes at a time so really, there is TONS of space available and very little contact with other swimmers.  I was in the 3rd wave of PC athletes and was READY TO GO when it was my turn.

Heading to get on my bike.
I quickly noticed though the water was calmer than last year, there seemed to be a lot more debris on the water.  The temp was fine and the current was moving along quite well, but slowing as the morning progressed.  I was about 1/3 into the swim, when I was unceremoniously smacked in the face with a dead fish that was floating on the surface.  I later found out, a number of swimmers commented on the same occurrence.  It didn't really bother me.  As I neared swim exit, I did a pretty good job lining up the exit barge.  They have lifeguards standing on the steps reaching out to grab us as we exit. (SWIM 1.5KM: 25:06, 2nd in division, 3169th, overall)

I was using a new set-up with my gear.  Instead of the long sleeve wet-suit top I have been using, I was trying out my sleeveless ORCA Heatseeker top.  It was much tighter and gave me lots more range of movement with my arms.  When I got out of the water, I asked for help with my top from the wet-suit strippers.  The run up to transition is long one where we have to run about 200m down to the end and then back into and down to my bike, a total of distance of about 400 to 500 meters.  Transition went well and I was out with my bike as quickly as I could with all the running. (T1: 6:59, 1650th overall)

That's the GW Bridge in the background!
The exit out of T1 is very technical.  You need to travel down onto the same promenade where the swimmers are coming from and then up a VERY steep pathway out onto the round about that takes you to the West Side Highway.  If you keep you bike in too high of a gear, you are apt to find it too hard to climb and could fall over.  I had no problems with the ascent.  There was a nice crowd to cheer at the cornet of 79th and Riverside as we headed around another sharp corner onto the on-ramp up to the highway.

About to go out on the 10K run.
There was a little water left over from the rain, but the roads were not too slick.  Things were going real well until I hit mile 8 and then I heard a snap as I tried to change from my small to big chain ring.  The cable broke and I could no longer shift into my higher gears.  That meant I had to do the remaining 18 miles on my smallest gears.  OK for going up hills, but I would be getting much speed anywhere else and would have to rely on gravity for help on the downhills.   There are at least 3 challenging hills on the course, but since it is an out and back, means you get to go down those hills as well.  Without the benefit of my big chain ring I was still able to cruise at 35mph going down two of those hills.  The crowds picked up again as we neared T2.  The bike dismount line is at the bottom of a short steep hill.  I am sure its hairy at times, but when I cam in things were not that bad.  (Bike 40KM: 1:47:52, 3rd, 3230th).  I got off the bike and changed pretty quickly.  I saw the Advil sitting on the ground near my shoes and should have taken it, but chose not to.  It came back to haunt me pretty quickly on the run. (T2: 4:04, 2900th).

By far, one of my favorite pics of me running.
Only a few steps later and I was hunched over.  
Running up 72nd  Street.
The run out of transition includes a quick run down 3 steps and then a run around and up a steep hill.  We run past a stature of Eleanor Roosevelt out onto 72nd Street,  The stretch along 72nd Street up to Central Park is the most amazing part of this race.  The road is closed to traffic and there are fans lining both sides of the street, especially at the corners or each block.  My back started to get sore very quickly.  I tried to as best I could, but could not maintain a running pace.  The cheering fans really helped to keep me going, but I had to walk and stretch a number of times before I got into the park.  I SO MUCH WANTED TO RUN, but it hurt.  I tugged on Katie's sock and it gave me some strength.  When I got to the park the crowd quickly dwindled and I passed the 1 mile mark.  The first water and med stop did not have any advil.  I did what I could and did a lot of walking and running onto mile 2 and the next med stop.  The attendant there did have some advil that she was glad to share.  I took 2 and put an ice pack down my back.  In about 1 to 2 minutes, the pain disappeared and I was able to run.  The 3rd mile was my best pace where I managed a 13:45 mile, but all in all the run was quite slow.  I SO WANTED to beat last year's time, but I quickly realized that would not happen.  For a last resort, I wanted to finish faster than 4 hours, and unfortunately that did not happen either.  My time for the run was 1:38:12 (3rd, 3572nd) which have me an average pace of 15:49, which is a heck of a lot slower than most of my training BRICK runs.  Most of them were between 13:45 to 14:20.  Overall, my final time was 4:02:11 (3rd, 3399th).  For information, there were a total of 3529 starters in this race.

Chatting with Andy after the race.  He is the MAN!
Such a help all weekend.
Lots of love at the finish line with plenty of Achilles athletes around.  Managed to get some food at the Accenture hospitality tent (THANKS JUSTIN!) after changing into my clothes from my personal needs bag.  After the PC athletes awards were given out, I made my way over to grab a pedi-cab back to transition.  I got my bike and gear and loaded it all into my car.

John Korff was gracious enough to again offer burgers and refreshments at a lovely place on 79th at Amsterdam called "Blondies".  I was lucky enough to sit with my dear friend Barb and also Jeff Glasbrenner, another PC athlete.  I visited with lots of old friends but was eager to make the 4 hour drive back home.  I left and had some time to visit with my friend Cav again, as he was having a small get together at his flat with some of his Tri-Life team mates.  I stayed for a drink, headed to Starbucks for some energy (MOCHA) for the road and then started the 4 hour drive back home.  I was amazed as I only made one 10 minute stop for gas during the entire trip.  I was sure eager to get home to see Sue and Owen.

I know this might sound cliche, but I truly believe you can get some sort of victory from every race, regardless of the result in terms of time or place finished.  Having my bike problems was a real test and rather than stop, I kept going.  I learned something about my ability to deal with a sudden and unplanned mechanical problem.  My sore back, that was my problem and a silly mistake.  I should have pre-medicated right off of the bike.  I will certainly do that in Toronto this weekend.  Not everyone gets a chance to race on the streets of NYC.  I will get that chance in SPADES this November, as I race in my first marathon, along with other Achilles athletes in the 2012 NYC Marathon.

**A few of these pics were mine, a number were from Jan Ditchfield and some were from Achilles International.**




  1. John, thanks for sharing your experience with all of the details. All of you comes through in this piece: attitude, strength, honesty, determination and resilience...in addition to the pure joy you give and receive.

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