GRANT PARK TURKEY TROT RACE REPORT 2015

This was my second go at the Grant Park Turkey Trot on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Last year’s race was great, and the location is right outside of the in-laws’ place, so this year we got the whole family involved.

We had a busy afternoon the day before. We got our race bibs and great hoodies from the running shop, a Christmas tree from Home Depot, a bunch of groceries for our night party from Whole Foods, dropped off my wife’s mom at work, and then put up the tree. After that, it was off to dinner. We had a night out at Kiki’s Bistro (same as last year) where I again ate a pizza. Last year’s pizza incident was remembered (it sat in my stomach like a rock) so I only ate ¾ instead of the whole thing. Haha!

We left the restaurant early and went to a bar to see a friend, and returned to the house around 10:30. We were sleeping around 12 or 1 am.

Race MorningIMG_7408

We got up around 8 am. The crew was myself and my wife, her mom, and her two cousins. After getting dressed and pinning on our race bibs, we set off to Grant Park, just under a mile from the door. The wind was blowing, making it a little cold to begin. On the way over, I told my wife I was going to just have fun today. My last serious running was the Chicago Marathon, and I had done just a few fun runs since then. Nothing serious, very little speed work, and definitely no 5k race pace miles. I let myself off the hook on the PR – I felt I was not in a position for a PR, and acknowledging this was a good way let myself have fun.

The Start

We walked to the start and arrived about 10-15 minutes before the start; just long enough to not freeze, but with just enough time to use the bathroom one last time. I ran back toward the start, said goodbye to my wife, and went to line up near the front. The corals were full, but I made my way to about 3 rows back from the line. In front of me: a family wearing jeans. I politely pushed past them in the last minute and ended up starting with maybe the first 20 folks.

The Race

The race starts with a slight downhill and turn under a bridge, and then a very short, somewhat steep hill. It levels out for a mile out on the sidewalk and a mile back along the lake, then back under the bridge. The last miles is the perimeter of a chunk of park. Last year, I made the mistake of kicking when I saw the finish line … about a quarter mile too early. This year, knowing the course, I settled in at a strong but not exhaustive pace and let it rock. I didn’t push too hard. After the first mile, I got passed by the number two woman, but no one else.

There was a lot of goose poop on the straight stretch from mile one to two along the water, so that stretch was dodging piles, which added a little fun. I was wearing my new Nike flash vest over a long sleeve Nike hoodie and a tech shirt, which was perfect for the first two miles, but a little warm in the final mile. Awesome for running, and plenty of compliments after, but it was one layer too much during the run, so I was running with it open and draping off of me for the final .75 miles.

It was a good run. Basically, a strong tempo run, with no pressure. I IMG_7388finished, put my medal in my vest pocket, and ran back on the course until I found the rest of the group at about the 1.5 mile mark. My wife was wearing THE MOST AMAZING OUTFIT (everyone else in the group – along with 80% of the rest of the field was wearing the race hoodie) and was running up and then running back to walk with her mom for a bit, so we ran up and then back, and then I walked with her mom for the last mile until about 200 meters to the finish, when I ran up on the outside of the course so I could get finisher photos for them.

IMG_7393IMG_7404

Post Race

After the family finish, I checked the awards tent. Even with the easy cruising, I felt like I did okay, but I ran without a watch so I couldn’t tell the pace. I ended up with second place in my age group, with the first place guy smoking me.

After I got my award, I found IMG_7409the fam in the apple cider line. Then, cold walk home. Very cold walk, once the sweat froze. Very happy for the vest! We went to breakfast and had a great warm meal at Eggy’s.

After we got back, my wife and I went to the gym with her cousins. We met two little boys – probably ages 8 and 12 – and played an hour of 3 on 3 basketball, boys vs girls. We didn’t keep score, but it was a lot of fun.

 

By The Numbers

Temperature: 31 start, 32 finish
Weather: clear and beautiful, very sunny
Number of times I hit the bathroom before the race: 3 in house, 1 at race
Big burps I let out on the run: 1
Number of people who passed me: 8
Number of people I passed: 3

Nutrition consumed in race: 0
Hydration consumed in whole race: 0IMG_7419
Hydration consumed after race: 1 cider

Layers of shirts: 3
Layers I needed: 2
Layers on legs: 2

Song playing when I finished: “What Do You Mean” Justin Beiber
Number of medals I got: 2
Number of miles I ran: 5.5
Miles in the race: 3.1
Number of 5Ks I’ve ever raced: 2
Number of Grant Park Turkey Trot races I’ve raced: 2
Seconds slower than last year: 17

Number of times someone got hit in the face with a basketball: 3

Finish time: 19:29Screenshot 2015-12-25 22.22.50
2nd place age group
17th place overall out of 1886

2014 in Review

I was thinking about this the other day – I had a moment where I said to myself, “the last year has been really great.” But what I realized was that I’ve been praising the last 365 days for the last, well, about 365 days, meaning I’ve had an amazing year-plus, with no end of awesome in sight. Fingers crossed.photo

Let’s do a 2014 by the numbers: 

Number of races: 9
Number of races I won: 2
Number of age group podium placements, not counting wins: 2
Number of medals: 9 (but only from 5 races!)
Number of trophies: 1 (it has flames on it)
Shortest race: Grant Park Turkey Trot 5K
Longest race: HITS Naples 140.6
Most bizarre race I participated in: Brooklyn Bridge SwimIMG_4538
Favorite race: HITS Naples 140.6
Number of severe sunburns received: 1 —>
Best finish photo: Rev3 Half Aquathon
Worst (but sort of best) race photos: Grant Park Turkey Trot
Number of visits to Finish Line Physical Therapy: 24
Number of specialists I saw: 2
Number of broken bones: 1
Number of times I flew to Chicago: 4
Number of times I drove to the Midwest: 2
Number of flat tires this year: 2
Number of pairs of shoes I ran: 10
Number of those shoes that were test shoes: 5
Longest ride not in a race: 146.8km (91.2 miles)
Longest ride in a race: 180km (112 miles)
Longest run: 21.6 miles
Fastest mile in a run (never tried for a single mile pace): 5:38/mile (5.3 mile run)
Number of crashes: 0
Number of athletes I coached privately: 9
Number of athletes I coached privately who met or exceeded their goals: 9
Number of times said athletes cursed my name: unknown
Number of whole cakes I consumed alone in under 72 hours: 2
Number of mini muffins consumed mid-ride with ETC: approximately 42
Number of times I put coffee in a water bottle while riding my bike: 1
Weirdest thing I ate while riding my bike: leftover burrito
Most memorable ride: first time to Orchards with Cameron
Most memorable run: canceling the ETC run because of rain but running with everyone (at their own risk!) anyway while it monsooned on us
Song most often stuck in my head while running: Sia “Chandeliers” (1-2-3, 1-2-3-3)

Monthly highlight reel & favorite moments:

January: Placed 1st in AG, 4th overall at HITS Naples 140.6. Two weeks later, ran the coldest half marathon of my life. Started attending November Project workouts. Interviewed Janet Mock.

February: Spoke at Harvard. Joined the GO! Athletes Board of Directors as Director of Strategic Initiatives. Wrote for Huffington Post.

March: Named to Trans 100 list.

April: Helped my wife with her amazing show at Abron’s Arts Center. harvard1Modeled for Brooks Pure Project Trunk Show at New York Running Company. Volunteered at Brooklyn Half.

May: Enjoyed the Bahamas. Taught kids how to ride bikes.

June: Volunteered at REV3 Quassy. Won my first race. Attended the Nike LGBT Sports Summit in Portland. Enjoyed Voodoo Doughnuts. A lot.

July: Was inducted into the National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. Did my first evIMG_7135er (and likely last!) swimming race. Got officially cleared by USADA. Modeled for the Role Model issue of Candy Magazine.

August: PRed and placed top 10% in NYC Tri, even with a 6 minute stop to change a stranger’s tire. A week later, won the November Project Positivity Award and a silver medal at Gay Games 9. Recorded my first radio interview with OutCasting Media.  Named to Advocate 40 Under 40 list.

September: Won my second race. Spoke on panels in Denver and 10489847_805774314922_2196117563667788321_nYonkers. Began job as bike messenger. Went camping and loved it.

October: Spoke twice in NYC. Led NYC Marathon training runs and conducted a marathon clinic for runners. Maybe slept in?

November: Volunteered at NYC Marathon. Attended the NCAA Think Tank on LGBTQ Athletes and Religion. Transathlete.com turned 1. Met a muppet (cannot wait to talk more about this in 2015). Did my first recorded Google Hangout panel with Campus Pride. Spoke in Philly. Began the Deck-a-Day New Year’s Resolution Jump Start group, with nearly 400 members today.

December: Got a holiday card from the President. Candy Magazine released. Broke my toe. Named Best Personal Trainer of the Northeast by Competitor Magazine. 

Best-of-Competitor-2014-LogoThat’s not all, but that’s enough. It has been a TREMENDOUS YEAR and I couldn’t be happier to have the community, opportunities, and blessings I have. I was thrilled to meet great new friends, to spend so much time with Empire Tri Club, to see the athletes I coached have such great success, and have the opportunities to share my story with others. I have an awesome life, an awesome wife, and big goals to keep the momentum moving into 2015.

Happy New Year!

Grant Park Turkey Trot Race Report

headerSaturday, December 1, was the Grant Park Turkey Trot 5K in Chicago. I was in town for Thanksgiving, and knew I would be close, so I couldn’t pass up the option to take part in another Windy City race. I was staying in a hotel on Michigan Avenue with my wife, her cousins, and her mom. The hotel had a grand pool, where I got in a quick 600 m the night before – my first swim since the Poconos. Shhh….IMG_0790

I ate a huge dinner at Kiki’s Bistro, where I had a super cheesy pizza the size of a plate and various desserts. I was still feeling full when I woke up on race morning – never a good sign – so I didn’t eat anything. My wife and I were sharing a room with her cousin, so I got dressed in the bathroom and snuck out of the room at 7 am to get to packet pick up in Grant Park.

Pre race 

I ran just over a mile to get to the packet pick up. It was about 31 degrees, with a wind chill to make it feel like 25 degrees. I wasn’t sure what to wear, because it was expected to warm to 40 by the end of the race. I ended up in my typical winter ninja outfit: black tights, a tech t covered by a long sleeve covered by my black Nike jacket, hat and gloves, and my Rev3 buff.

I was nicely warmed up by the time I got there. But I also had 45 minutes to wait until race start. I got my packet, pinned my bib. I took trip to the porta potties, and tried to stay warm near a wall by the bathrooms. I did a little active stretching and lunge matrix warm up, and with 10 minutes to the race start went to drop my bag. I took my jacket off and checked it, and went to the start corral.

This was a Turkey Trot and a family-friendly event with some children and many walkers. I intended on running, and knew I wanted to line up near the front. I saw the 10 or so guys who I expected to win and lined up by them.

The startIMG_0792

With four minutes to the start, I decided another bathroom trip would be a great idea. I ran to the porta potties and back with a minute to spare. That was a good warm up.

The race

The race was one mile up, one mile back along the lake to the aquarium, into Grant Park, and a loop to the finish. I kicked too hard when I saw the finish line without realizing there was still about .15 miles left. I hit the 3 mile sign when I thought I was going to be at the finish. Rookie mistake to not know the course! Still, no one passed me. I expected to average about 6:20/mile with my foot injury and not really running since September. I was surprised to run 6:12 averages. I was definitely racing it, but felt untrained and slower than my potential. I also felt my pizza for about half the race.

The Photos

I had one photo from an old NYRR race that looks like all of my skin is falling off my face. I’ve always said it was my worse photo. But the photographers had to have a field day looking at the photos of me from this race. The photos look like it hurt more than I remember it hurting. It was a 5K! It was not this serious!!

photos

After the race, I saw a guy in a New York Running Company shirt. turkeytrotI asked if he was a NYer, or just ran the marathon. He actually works at the Running Company, so we talked and took a photo. I drank some hot cider, gathered up a few protein bars and cookies (but didn’t eat any – still wasn’t hungry) and did my deck a day while waiting for awards. I knew I did well, but wasn’t sure how many people ahead of me were in my age group. I didn’t win anything (5th in AG) but I would have won the AG I’ll be in next year – something to consider for next November. Then I walked back to the hotel.

By the numbers

Temperature: 31 start, 38 finish
Weather: clear and beautiful, very sunny
Number of times I hit the bathroom before the race: 4
Number of times I did that because it was warmer than outside: 3place2
Big burps I let out on the run: 1
Number of people who passed me: 2
Number of people I passed: 3

Nutrition consumed in race: 0
Hydration consumed in whole race: 0
Hydration consumed after race: 2 ciders, 2 coffees

Layers of shirts: 3 before, 2 during, 1 for photos
Layers on legs: 2

Number of 5Ks I’ve ever raced: 1

Finish time: 19:12
5th place age group
15th place overall

placement

Catching up with Matt Tambellini after Ironman Maryland

Last weekend, one of the athletes I coach raced his A race – Ironman Maryland. His goal was to hit a time of under 11 hours, with his previous Ironman time at 11:40. We worked together for three months with a plan that integrated the strength training and Bikram yoga he enjoyed, as well as workouts to fit around his busy travel schedule.

Empire Tri Club posted a blog recap of Matt’s race and an interview with him and me about our experience. Matt was an awesome athlete to coach – he was intentional about his training, very open to feedback and suggestions, and he asked a lot of questions, which showed me that he was truly invested in his training.

Below is the interview from the Empire blog – spoiler alert: HE CRUSHED IT.

Here’s the post:

Matt Tambellini is living proof of what a year of hard work and focus can do for your race. The 33-year-old finance worker from NJ has been competing in triathlons since 2010, but got serious about the sport in 2012. After a few years of sprint & olympic tri’s, Matt signed up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2013 (his first full distance tri). He hit his goal of going sub-12 hours (11:40 to be exact), but had a self-proclaimed “awful run” and knew knew he could do a lot better. He joined Empire Tri Club about a month after his race, and started working with Empire Coach Chris Mosier in the months leading up to IM Maryland on Sept 20, 2014.

Matt’s results at Ironman Maryland are astonishing. Not only did he beat his Personal Best by 1 hour 15 minutes – but he also crushed his 11 hour goal-time that he set for himself (10:26)!

We caught up with Matt and his coach Chris this week to learn more…
[E]: Empire Tri Club
[M]: Matt Tambellini
[C]: Chris Mosier

[E]: Matt, tell us a little bit about your athletic background.

[M]: I’ve always played a lot of sports…baseball was my main sport growing up. I played competitively through college.

[E]: What goals did you set for IM Maryland? Anything in particular that enticed you to sign up for this race?

[M]: My main goal was sub-11. Timing was the most important factor when signing up for the race. Late season and relatively close to home made IM MD a no-brainer.

[E]: How did your training for this Ironman differ from the past Ironman?

[M]: I worked with a coach (Chris Mosier) for the three months leading into IM Maryland…I didn’t really follow a program leading up to CDA so obviously this experience was much different.

[E]: What did you find most beneficial in working with a coach?

[M]: The mix of speed and interval work, combined with consistent check-ins and encouragement from Chris were definitely the most beneficial aspects of working with a coach.

[E]: Chris, anything in particular that you think helped Matt during his training?

[C]: Matt was successful in part because of his commitment to strength training. He maintained regular once or twice a week functional strength sessions all the way up to his taper week, which helped his core and muscular endurance in his race.

[E]: How did you two communicate & stay on track?

[C]: Matt and I had weekly phone calls, which helped me keep track of his progress and modify his schedule when he was traveling for work. He had a pretty busy schedule but he really made the commitment to hit his workouts, stay on top of his nutrition, and prioritize rest. He was open to new ideas in his training and he trusted the plan.

[E]: What was the biggest challenge you faced going into this race?

[M]: I cramp a lot…so my biggest challenge was sticking to nutrition and hopefully avoiding cramps. I knew I was trained enough to him my goal, but cramping was one thing that could put it in jeopardy.

[E]: Do you get nervous before big events? Any rituals/superstitions to help ease your nerves?

[M]: I was incredibly nervous before this race…it was all I thought about for the month leading up to it. A little bit of meditation and a lot of sunflower seed chewing helped me ease my nerves.

[E]: Did your race go according to “Plan”? At any point did you feel like you hit the wall? How did you get through those tough parts?

[M]: My race was a bit different than planned. The swim, which is usually my easiest discipline, was much more challenging than I thought. The bike was much faster than I could have imagined and the run was pretty much according to plan. There were definitely some points on the run that I felt like a wall was coming, but I think mental toughness (and a little bit of cola) was the key to getting through it.

[E]: One of the most frequent questions we get asked is how to fuel properly for an Ironman. What was your nutrition plan? How’d it go?

[M]: I thought a LOT about nutrition given my past cramping ailments…my plan was at least 300 calories/hour on the bike along with salt pills and a consistent dosage of salt/electrolytes every 10-15 minutes on the run. It worked pretty well as cramps were minimal.

[E]: What was your first meal post-race!?

[M]: I wanted nothing more than a calzone after the race! Every topping you can think of!

[E]: Any friends / family / teammates you want to thank for supporting you during your race / training?

[M]: Definitely a big thank you to Chris. There’s no doubt that my experience wouldn’t have been nearly as good without his guidance. Caitlin Alexander also deserves a shout out as she helped motivate me on many a Saturday morning for early morning bike rides. Last but not least, thanks to Sara Hunninghake for introducing me to Normatecs!!!

[E]: Looking ahead, what are your plans for next season? Will you be signing up for another Ironman? Any goals for your next race?

[M]: Next season I’d like to connect with the team more and compete in a team-sponsored 70.3. My goal will be to break 5 hours, as I haven’t broken that in the half distance yet.

[E]: Chris, you must be very proud as a coach. Any last thoughts?

[C]: Matt was the type of athlete every coach would love to have: he was goal-oriented, gave me great feedback, and asked a lot of questions. I couldn’t be prouder of Matt – he worked very hard for those results and it was great to have him exceed his goals.

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Rev3 Pocono Mountains Race Report

IMG_8566Sunday, September 14 was the Rev3 Pocono Mountains Olympic and Half distance triathlons. My wife and I LOVE the Poconos, and the race was in the place we typically stay, so we used time share points to book a house and chose to work it as a hybrid race and vacation. The best kind of races, I think.

This was a team race for Empire Tri Club so I knew other people would be there. Four teammates stayed with me, and the house was large enough to comfortably host a team dinner for 10 people the night before the race. There’s something to be said about having different rooms. And a kitchen! I liked this much better than hotel life.

This was going to be my last race of the year, and before a busy three days.

Day beforeIMG_8463

On Saturday, every athlete had to rack their bike at T1. This was a point to point race, with T1 located about 20 or so miles from T2 and the finish line. It was a lot of running around the day before the race: first to the finish line and race expo to get my packet and hear the mandatory race briefing, and then to T1 to rack my bike, then my house mates and I went grocery shopping to prepare for the team dinner. All of this in the cold, cold rain. I had not packed appropriately for wet or for cold.

IMG_8468Back at the house, Hallie flexed her catering skills while Cameron DJed. Olof had supplied beer and Caitlin brought homemade cookies. The team came over for a mega dinner and everyone took off around 8:30 pm. We were all sorting transition bags and gear by 8:45 pm (courtesy of the house having a dishwasher, I think), and everyone was in or around bed by 9:30. That’s too early for me. I played on my phone for a while and then turned in around 10:30 pm.        

IMG_8474Pre race 

I was up at 4:30 am along with the rest of the crew. We   prepped breakfasts and put on race tattoos while Cameron DJed again – probably the first time I was okay with music (or talking) so early in the morning. Then: coffee, grab stuff, and out. We drove to T2 and the finish line to set up T2. I had an easy morning because I was doing the aqua bike race, and had no T2. I looked at my space and then left to hop on the shuttle, which took us back past the house again and over to T1. I ate a bagel with chocolate peanut butter and drank some Pre Race mixed with Accelerade. I don’t typically drink that but I had forgotten my drink mix and Hallie saved my morning.

When I got off the bus at T1, I could see my breath. I was shaking. I had on my kit and a wind breaker and didn’t want to take it off. Transition closed at 6:40 am so I rushed to set up my bike gear and pump my tires, and then put my wetsuit halfway on and got in line for the bathroom. I left my socks on to save my feet until the swim. It was 45 degrees and I hated everything.

IMG_8475The swim

The swim was in a lake, with one section so shallow that my hands hit the rocks. I got up and walked that part (I DON’T CARE!). The rest of the swim was uneventful. It was a little longer than the distance they said – and I know this not because my time was slower, but because everyone’s times were slow. I didn’t have a gps and cannot confirm, but this is my suspicion. The swim felt horribly slow, although my time was better.

In all, the swim was actually okay, although it took about two thirds of the swim for me to adjust my attitude about the race. I hated everything in the morning. I hate being cold. The water was the warmest part of the morning so I actually didn’t mind it. I sighted okay and didn’t get kicked, so that’s a success. And my goggles actually worked flawlessly, so that was cool too.

My left (formerly injured) shoulder has been hurting for about 10 days, so I had low expectations of the swim – as I often do. I got out of the water with a pinch in my back near my shoulder a bit worse than it had been, but I can’t really complain. The last two times I swam? NYC Triathlon and Gay Games. I exited the water in the middle of the pack.

T1

I entered T1 just before Joe, a friend also doing the aqua bike. He’s a very strong cyclist, a coach and instructor at Tailwind Endurance, and a beast of a racer. I saw him run out as I was getting my wetsuit off my feet and trying to get into my socks. I thought that was it – but I was putting on my jacket no matter what. Cold + wet is even worse than just cold.

The bike

I saw Joe in front of me about 100 feet when I started riding out. The first few miles were fast descents – I don’t have the weight so he gained a little time on me, but I passed him around mile 10. I felt the pressure of having him behind me the entire race, and I timed my lead at the turn around points: there were three 180 degree turns around park “toll” stations. I did not have much time on him, even going into mile 40. At mile 50 or so I saw he was less than a minute behind me, so I really pushed.

The good thing about racing an aqua bike is that you can turn it inside out on the bike and not have to worry about putting together a decent run. I kept thinking about this while riding. I tried to keep a strong cadence and full pedal strokes. Then I’d grit my teeth and grind it out for a while. It was good enough for the fastest bike split of the aqua bike.

I started the bike with only my half filled bottle of drink from the morning. At half way I threw it and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade Endurance. I forgot my gel in my morning bag so I took in no other water or nutrition. Not a solid plan. I didn’t bonk on the bike ride, but I think I suffered later in the day because of this. IMG_8478

The final miles of the bike route were through the run course on some hilly sections. I cheered for all the runners and saw I had a gap behind me, but I still pushed as hard as I could through the final stretch to make sure Joe didn’t catch me. I didn’t know that he dropped his chain somewhere out there, which bought me a little time.

The final stretch was through a few driveway paths, and then there was the dismount line going into T2. I got off my bike and sprinted with it to the transition timing mat, which served as my finish. DONE.

T2   

There was no T2 for me, but I still had to get my finish photo and medal. I had joked with my teammates about wearing my wetsuit across the finish to be funny… so I got my swim bag and put it on, along with my helmet and glasses, and one shoe. Not sure why one shoe. Why not? Joe finished and we chatted, and then I walked out of T2 and on the first section of the run course to get to the finish line. I walked across and IMG_8507enjoyed my Jumbotron photo. Then, the standard wet towel to medal and visor to chip return to food to gear bag to cheering. I saw the ETC people who did the Olympic distance and ate some food with a few people.

In the finish area I checked my results and grabbed my race receipt and then waited to make sure it was right. I also took a ton of photos.

By the numbers
Temperature: 45 start, 60 finish
Weather: clear and beautiful, no wind
Current: none
Number of times I thought about not doing the race while in T1: at least 7
Number of big gulps of lake I took: surprisingly, none
Big burps I let out on the swim: 2
Number of times I walked during the swim: 1
Number of back strokers I passed on swim: none – the 1 guy was going as fast as me

Gels consumed in whole race: 0
Bars consumed in whole race: 0IMG_8574
Water consumed: 0
Gatorade consumed: 40% of a bottle

Number of 180 degree turns on bike: 3 (nearly 4)

Number of spiders I saw in the house: 3
Wildlife I saw on the course: 1 snake, 1 lizard, 1 deer carcass, 1 roadkill raccoon
Number of bears I saw: 0
Number of bears on the course: at least 1

Finish time: 3:14:26
1st place overall
Swim: 40:36

T1: 3:49
Bike: 2:30: 01 (average 22.4 mph)

SPECIAL SHOUT OUTS: 
Andrew & Kate for doing their first halfs!
Hallie for getting 1st place AG and 5th overall in her first Olympic attempt

IMG_8470

NYC Triathlon Race Report

Sunday, August 3 was the NYC Triathlon. This was my third time racing it, so I knew what to expect: a faster-than-usual swim, rollers on a bike course that suits me well, and a hilly home-town run. And plenty of people I know. I was excited so many teammates from Empire Tri Club were doing the race – we had nearly 40 athletes show up to our Run The Course transition clinic earlier in race week, so I knew we’d have a good showing.

As mentioned before, the plan was to race this one at around 80% to save my full effort for this weekend’s race in Cleveland. How does one do that? I wasn’t really sure until race morning.

Day before

On Saturday, I made a trip to the expo to do my mandatory race briefing and get my packet, race bib, and timing chip. Then I went home and got my tri bike to bring to transition for the mandatory check in on Saturday. At transition, I saw Doug, AM, Ali, Iris, Cindy, Omar, Michaele, and a few other ETC folks. The perks of local racing!

Pre race 
I was up at 4:15 am and out of my door by 4:50 am. I packed a bagel and cream cheese, as well as some First Endurance EFS drink with a little Pre Race mixed in. I took my commuter bike to Pier i, and then walked up to transition, arriving with 20 minutes to set up. I set up my area in a bit of a drizzling rain, so I left my shoes in the clear plastic bags they provided.

As a side note, every year I’ve raced this race, it has rained in the morning. Every year I’m wet, my stuff is wet, the road is wet, and then it gets hot and gross on the run. Same this year, minus the hot and gross. Wet to start, fine later on.

Transition closed at 5:40 am. I saw a few more people I know in transition, and walked the mile to the race start with Doug, Jaime, and Omar.

photo (2)The wait

The pros went off at 6:05 am. Then elites, then women, then a break. Then it was time for the red transition to line up and go. From about 6 am to 7 am, I stood near the wall to watch some of the early waves, then sat in the grass under a tree with Doug to try to avoid the rain, then chatted with Harry for a while. I made a trip up to the bathrooms and saw my November Project friends Matt and Evan, who were racing NYC for the first time. I came back to the tree area to chat a little more, and then we lined up in our transition corrals. I was the last of everyone else I knew racing, with my number 4816. I waited for at least 20 minutes in the line to get to the start.

As a side note, I was thrilled to get to hang out with Doug so much pre-race. He and his wife were back from California to race. They are two of my favorite people, so I appreciate the in-person time.

 Thenyctri2 swim

Rumor was that the swim would be faster for the later waves, which is not typical of when I had previously raced the race. I got up to the start and jumped in closer to the center of the river than the wall. Because of the rain, the water seemed less gross than usual – which I know is not really the case because of the amount of shit the rain washes in the water. I made a strong effort to not drink any of the Hudson River; I’m happy to report that I succeeded. I don’t at all remember the salty water in my mouth.

I drafted a stronger swimmer for a bit, but stopped to adjust my right goggle piece and lost him. My right goggle on every pair I have seems to fill with water every time I swim. I knew the fast current would be helpful in knocking some time off, and my strategy for the 80% did not apply to the swim: I wanted to crush it. I kicked hard, sited to the left and kept my right eye closed the whole way. Not ideal, but good enough to feel fast until the pile up of people at the end. People see the finish and stop swimming, which I don’t understand. It left me waiting to get out for a few moments. My swim was 17:01, good for a four minute drop from my last attempt in NYC.

T1

This year, red transition was closer to the water. I’ve only done it far away, so this was a nice change. I ran past Matt and Alex in transition. They were both doing great.

The bike

nyctri1I hammered out of T1 and said hi to Howard, Luke, and another teammate getting onto the West Side Highway. I did not get passed by any cyclists when I was riding. I passed a lot of people on the way out, through the toll booth and up to the turnaround. The roads were wet and bumpy, so it was a little sketchy. I felt good; never breathless or red lining. I cheered on a few ETC teammates as I passed them.

On the way back, between the turnaround and the toll booth, I saw a woman on the other side of the road on her way out, standing with a sad look on her face. I yelled out to ask if she was okay, and she said she had a flat. Without a second thought, I crossed over and stopped by her. I changed her back tire while we talked. It was her second tri, first Olympic (I believe). She was incredibly grateful. As I was filling her tire with CO2, race support came by. I gave them the tire to pump and finish and I tried to cross back into the race. The stop lasted just over 6 minutes. (she found me after on instagram!)

From there, I cruised on, happy that this reality check put me back into the 80% effort range after blasting out there. I called out to everyone who was parked on the side, including Evan from NP, who flatted. He yelled back that he was fucked and waved me on – I didn’t know it was him until I saw him later in the day. A guy riding by me seemed annoyed that I kept asking people if they needed help. He asked me, “do you know all these people?” I said, “some of them” and then rode away from him.

At the bottom of 57th Street, at the 180 turnaround, I saw my wife, who was taking pictures and cheering on the team. She was sleeping when I left so it was a good surprise.

T2

Fast. I was the first bike back on my rack.

The run

Coming out of transition, I saw Alex again. I coached Alex to this race specifically, so it was nice to see him out of transition looking so strong. He flew up the hill and I ran the first mile with him into the park and chatted about the race so far. I told him I was taking photos and saying hi, so he took off once I hit the Empire Tri Club aid station, where I spent 45 seconds talking to Cam on video.

After that, I h10489847_805774314922_2196117563667788321_nit the November Project NYC cheering section. It was a definite highlight of my race! They were pumped, with great signs and super enthusiasm, all while rocking the #grassrootsgear. I jumped on the curb and Coach John snapped the best photo, and then I was off. They are awesome. #tribeisstrong

From there, I cruised through the westside hills, up and down and up Harlem Hill, and then to mile 4, where I ran up on Marie, the other athlete I coached to this race. We walked and talked through the aid station for about two minutes, and then I cruised through the rest of the run. Near Cat Hill, the only runner to pass me (when I was running) came up on me and we chatted for a minute about the impressive number of racers from Empire there. I saw Sondra and Ali (WHO WON HER AGE GROUP!!) cheering  then kicked around the fountain, and through the shoot smiling.

After that, it’s wet towel to medal to chip return to food to gear bag to the finish festival. I saw a ton of ETC people in the after race area. I saw my favorite photographer from NYRR races and said hi to her. I saw Brad, the volunteer coordinator, and told him I’d see him next year. Then I went to the JetBlue finish area to get my race receipt and laughed when I saw it: after all that, I still beat my best time by 7 minutes.

By the numbersphoto (1)
Temperature: 75 start, 80 finish
Weather: rain, no wind
Current: fast
Bag of Cheetohs made it in: I don’t know if they did that this year!
Number of drinks of Hudson I took in swim: a shocking 0
Number of back strokers I passed on swim: 2 that I saw
Times I freaked out this time: 0
Gross things I hit while swimming: none!
People I kicked while swimming: 2 (or the same one 2x)
Times I got kicked: 0
Accidents I saw on the bike: 3

Gels consumed: 0
Bars consumed: 0
Water consumed: 2 sips on run
EFS consumed: almost 1 bottle

Number of stops in swim: 1
Number of stops on bike: 1
Number on stops on run: 3

photo

I love this photo.

Time I spent changing tire: 6 minutes
Time I spent making ETC video: 45 seconds
Time for NP photo: under 20 seconds
Time walking: about 2 minutes

Finish time: 2:21:44
7 minutes better than last time, EVEN WITH THE STOPS.

Division place: 33 of 353
Division rank: Top 9%
Gender place: 249 of 2294
Overall place: 274 of 3400
Overall rank: 8%
Swim: 17:01
Bike: Average 20.4 mph (even with 6 min stop!)
Run: 46:11

SPECIAL SHOUT OUTS: 
Doug, who put up a 2:11 and earned ELITE STATUS
Ali, who won her age group
Matt and Evan, who did their first NYC Triathlons
Alex, who crushed it
Marie, who did a great job with an injury
All of my Empire teammates for the support out there
Tuhina, for putting together a great NP cheering section
All of the volunteers
Zhen for waking up and surprising me, and taking great photos

Brooklyn Bridge Swim

bbswim
On July 20, I took part in the NYC Swim Brooklyn Bridge Swim. The swim was a 1K swim from the Manhattan side of the bridge to Brooklyn. Because of construction and current, the time got pushed back, and on race day the time was pushed back even more, with the 11 am race letting off around 25 minutes late.

It was a pretty chill event but the timing is significant, because the complex race logistics of crossing a channel means predicting current and dealing with it during the race. I was on the second of three water taxis used to ferry swimmers from Seaport to the race start. We jumped in – I was in wave 8 of 12 – and made our way casually to the starting buoys. When the gun went off, each wave swam up from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Manhattan Bridge, and then across from the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn, pretty much in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge. 

IMG_7338

There was no noticeable current, until the final third for me. I stopped a few times during the swim to check out the views – a true WOW moment – and found the swim enjoyable. In the final third, the current seemed to be pushing me up, away from the finish. I felt it stronger, and I had to swim south once I made it across, instead of making it directly to the finish in a straight line. 

I exited, not knowing my time or place. I got my back, changed, and waited. I was curious about the winners and wanted to watch the rest of the people come in. I waited. No one. I thought I couldn’t have been that far back – people should have been finishing well after me with the third boat jumping off after me. 

A rescue boat pulled up with a dozen people on it, and they got out in the water and swam up to shore. Then another. And another and another, until about 100 people came in on boats. One swimmer said the current took him near the Williamsburg Bridge. IMG_7358

Sad, as this was the last time NYC Swim will do the Brooklyn Bridge swim. And yet, I understand why. It was a complicated race to pull off. I am glad I had the opportunity to participate in its final time. 

By the numbers
Temperature: 80 degrees, feels like 80
Temperature in wetsuit: 125 degrees
Posted start of race: 11 am
Actual start of race: 11:28 am
Number of participants: about 300
IMG_7349Number of participants in a wetsuit: about 25 + me
Times I stopped to look at view: 3
Times I stopped because I freaked out: 0
Times I adjusted my goggles: 1

Distance: about 1K
Distance this race felt like: about 1K
Coffees drank before: 1
Honey Stinger waffles ate before: 1
Honey Stinger waffles I wish I had: 10
Post race food: grapes

Times I thought, “I hate swimming” since becoming a triathlete: countless
Times I thought, “this is awesome” about this race : at least 17
Number of times I thought I’d ever say a swimming race is awesome: ZERO. NEVER. NONE. 

Winning finish time (no wetsuit) : 15:16
My finish time: 21:35
Pace: ?

Gender place: ?
Overall place: 101 of 214 finishers
Number of people who didn’t finish: about 100?

Number of swimming races I will be signing up for in the future: anything is possible now!