It's been a busy couple of weeks, but I wanted to recap my first triathlon-- the Nautica NYC Triathlon.
So let's start out with my expectations coming in.
I taught myself to swim this year--at least to swim with any kind of regular stroke. Before that, you could bet on me not to drown and be an awesome water treader/doggie paddler, but that's about it. That being said, I still wasn't very confident in my freestyle, so I decided to do a breaststroke.
I figured about 38 minutes for the swim, and wound up doing it in 20:56.
Thank you Hudson River current.
Seriously, the current is insane. As soon as I got into the water, I had to hold on to the barge to make sure I didn't float down river too early. You could go down on your back making snow angels and probably be there in about 30 minutes.
What was really annoying, though, was that it took so long from when I got there to when I actually got in the water. It's nearly two hours of just standing around, getting in lines, etc. I suppose there's not much you can do about the whole thing, but it does require a lot of patience.
That leads me to Tips #1 and #2. Some people try to save time by bringing all their stuff the day before to lay next to your bike. This would be a great idea, except that this year, it rained. So if you do bring stuff... seal it all up or cover it. The guy next to me on the swim line returned to soggy running shoes.
Second tip is to bring your own black marker. You need to have your number on your arm and your leg, but the lines for getting marked were way long. Save time by bringing your own, asking the person next to you to mark you, and then throw the marker out.
When I first got in the water, it was a bit crazy. People were climbing over me to swim, and I was definitely getting kicked. Fight through it and get over to the side as much as possible. It's every swimmer for himself for the first 100 yards or so. It threw me off and I had real trouble getting my stroke going.
Once we got seperation, I mentally regrouped and settled down. I tried to be as deliberate as possible about my strokes--and once I did that, I started moving fine. One thing about doing the breaststroke in a wetsuit is that I was actually too bouyant. My legs and feet kept popping out of the water and so I was having a bit of trouble keeping them down. Next year, I'll try to get a shorter suit if I use the same stroke.
I may very well use the same stroke, because, to be honest--this isn't about swimming. How much better could I get? Could I shave 5 minutes off my time? Even if I did, it wouldn't nearly compare to how much time I could shave off biking and running with improvements there, so why sweat it that much?
First transition went pretty well.... 6:21. I was wearing swim shorts under my wetsuit, so all I needed to do was throw on a shirt. I put on mesh shorts over the swim shorts just b/c I didn't want to be all Spandexy looking. Low cut socks and my sneakers, which I had opened up the laces of nice and wide earlier finished it off. Last thing you want to do is kick off your shoes in the beginning and waste 30 seconds picking out a knot or something.
The actual biking wasn't so hot. It was very hilly and I had the absolutely worst bike in the race--no question. I mean, I didn't even have racing handlebars. It was pretty sad. Guys with teardrop helmets and those solid back wheels were humming by me. On the downhills, I just didn't have the gears to maintain my speeds. I got up to about 32 MPH on the downhills, but I had to slow down to 25 before I could actually continue pedaling for real.
That's what makes me want to do it so badly again next year, because I know I can improve so much on my bike time with a better bike. I finished in 1:26, but there's no way I can't shave at least 10 minutes off my time--and in this race, ten minutes brings you up 20% in the rankings.
Second transition was quick... 2:13, because it's really just getting off the bike. This is where I made a pee stop during the race, though. I think it would be hard to go the whole race without it given how much water and stuff you're told to drink beforehand--despite the fact that I went in some bushes right before the swim. TMI? Sorry... there was like one portapotty for every 1000 swimmers. Everyone was doing it.
The run was great. I'm a good no energy runner, and it's only a little over 6 miles. So, no matter what I had left, I'm just good at willing my legs to maintain a certain stride at a certain pace, despite the hills around the park. I even sprinted at the end with whatever I had left! My run time was 49:43 and my overall finish was 2:45:40, which was just below the median for my group. I might be able to go down to about 47 min, but that's probably where I'd top off. I don't think I could do much better than 7:30 min miles.
The race was great fun--definitely doing it again. Triathlons are great because you never get bored of any individual activity--so you don't really have enough time to listen to your own head doubting your ability to finish.
With about a minute better on the swim, 12 min improvement on the bike, and 2 min off the run, I'll be trying for 2:30 next year. Can't wait!