I just ran my first triathlon of the season today. In fact, I ran the first triathlon of my *life*. The race was the IronClad Sprint Triathlon in Glen Cove, Long Island. This is NOT to be confused with the Ironman Triathlon, which is the “real” deal. That’s crazy shit.
I’ve been training for this since January, but not seriously until about 6-8 weeks ago. I think I wrote about the genesis of this madness in an earlier post so I won’t rehash that here. What I will do is talk about what race day was like.
Since this was my first race of any kind in my entire life (aside for track in primary and junior high school), I was looking forward to being broken in and seeing how these things work.
I picked up my race packet in New York City, after work on Tuesday at a place called *Jack Rabbit Sports*. There, I received my number badge, a bag, an information packet, a *Triathlete* magazine, and a few fliers for more local races.
I stopped drinking more or less on Friday. I meant to stop earlier than that, but I had a big event at work on Thursday and Friday was a deployment so I had to have *one* during the deployment as a matter of tradition. Other than that, I took it easy and made sure I hydrated before the race. I prepared all of my gear on Saturday night while Lisa was out with her girlfriends celebrating her birthday.
I woke up around 5am and got my stuff together. Right on schedule, Lisa and her girlfriend pulled up at 5:20am and we kissed and I headed out.
(By the way, as I’m writing this by the pool, my daughter is in the pool and singing *Itsy Bitsy Spider* in a loop).
I got to the race event and was directed to park my car at the Glen Cove High School. From there, I got on my bike, hauled the rest of my gear in a gym bag over my shoulder, and headed toward the transition area. I parked my bike in my slot, got my timing anklet thingy, and went to pee. Then, I pulled on my awesome wetsuit. Wetsuits *are* awesome! They keep you warm and they are extremely buoyant. Good thing, the water was cold (really fucking 55 degrees cold) and the buoyancy kept me swimming like a pro. Anyway, after all of that I headed for the beach. Three of my co-workers were at the race. Two of them had done this before and one was as much a newbie as me. Me and the other newbie looked at each other and said, “what the hell are we doing!”
I was in the Wave 3, blue cap, men ages 35-45. The “elites” went first, the ones who finish lickity split and who essentially race through the entire course in under an hour. Second was the young men. Third was the older men. Forth was the ladies and I forget who went last.
Swimming is probably my strongest leg of the three. I know I finished earlier than two of my co-workers, waiting to know about the third. I felt good during the leg and my training has also been pretty solid so I went in with some confidence. I think my strength in swimming is partly due to my weight not being as much a factor during the swim and the fact that swimming comes pretty easy to me.
When I got out of the water, though, I was pretty dazed. The crowds saw me standing there and their cheers snapped me out of my stupor and brought a smile to my face. I ran to the transition area and ripped off my wetsuit, puled on my race shirt, my helmet, and off I went!
The cycling leg was a 2-loop course. It was pretty hard. Both of my co-workers passed me and were very friendly about it, “Nickybeans!” the called. I smiled back at them, “Tony!” I said, “Chris, you go!”. Under my breath I was like, “goddammit!” Whatever… I kept going. The course was pretty awesome. It was tour through one of Long Island’s richest neighborhoods. It was green pastures, mansions, horses, and strange old shit like this copper-green lighthouse thing that struck me as quite remarkable.
When the cycling leg finished, I parked my bike, donned my baseball cap, and off I went. The run was pretty easy at first. But only at first. I felt good from a conditioning standpoint, but my weight started becoming a factor once I hit the trail. It was a woodsy run, with plenty of climbs. This was very hard for me. I could only think of my good friend Martin who had run the Pike’s Peak Marathon for two consecutive years (wow!). I had to stop and walk about 5 times just to keep my sanity. Others did the same. In fact, when I passed the “mile 1” mark, I thought to myself that I was 1/3 of the way to the finish line. This made me feel, good but the trail remained hard and my enthusiasm was quickly lost. It was about 30-seconds later when the guy behind me screamed “1-mile mark, you have to be fucking kidding!” I laughed out loud.
The final stretch was on flat pavement and this I trained for and this I knew. While stll not a great runner (I blame this on my big belly) I started into a faster pace. I did whatever it took, singing the *Rocky* theme song in my head, changing my breathing, thinking of people ahead I wanted to beat… like this one guy I focused on… During the last 200 meters, I went into an all-out sprint! I swear, I never ran faster in my life (although in reality, I likely have). I must have passed about 10 runners (well, maybe 2-3) and I overheard someone on the sidelines saying, “wow, strong finish”. Damn straight! My breaths were heavy and my heart pounded, but I kept this up right until the finish line. Good thing I did, my time was 1 hour, 59 minutes, and 56 seconds! Four more seconds and I would have been over 2 hours (actual results are here).
I felt awesome. In about 3 minutes, I was able to think again. I wasn’t exhausted. Nay, I was exhilarated. I went to the breakfast buffet and chowed down on eggs, hash-browns, and a bagel that wasn’t half-bad. I felt good I felt high. I hugged my co-workers. I laughed. I couldn’t stop smiling.
I was a triathlete!