As I think back to Tri Day, that quote that appeared in everyone's high school yearbook comes immediately to mind: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." When I signed up for the triathlon back in February, on a snowy, windy night after an awful day in Panty Land, I'm not sure I fully understood what was in store for me. I knew I was going to train with Team in Training, raise some money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and eventually, jump into the Hudson. But I never imagined how much of an impact the whole ordeal would have on my life. The past six months gave me the opportunity to see the best in people. I witnessed the generosity of my family and friends who donated $6,030 to the LLS through my race page. I experienced the dedication of my teammates who came out to train in the snow, wind, rain and heat. And I saw the passion in myself as I worked harder than I ever have before to swim, bike and run my way to race day. I signed up for a triathlon but I had the experience of a lifetime. And without further ado, I'm going to put the day down in words but I'm not sure I'll do it justice.
Alarms #1, 2 and 3 start blaring but I've already been restless for about two hours. I tried to go to bed at a decent hour on Saturday night but didn't fall asleep until nearly 11pm. When I woke up at 1:45am, I groaned, knowing it was going to be nearly impossible to fall back asleep. And when the alarms finally went off? I stressed about being way too exhausted to get through the day. Little did I know, adrenaline would kick in and I'd be fine.
Dressed and ready, I head out the door.
I'm not sure how, but I was able to cram all my stuff in my bags. I compartmentalized my backpack and shoulder bag by sport: swim stuff was in the LuluLemon bag and my running and biking stuff was in my backpack. I knew that would help me unpack when we arrived.
I grabbed a cab and picked Angela up on my way. The streets were still full of people out from the night before. We hit awful traffic somewhere around 65th and West End Avenue and ended up walking/running from there.
We arrived at our transition area where we had left our bikes the day before. The park was pitch black but they'd set up huge flood lights so that we could find our way around.
I don't remember when the sun finally came up, but I do recall looking around and suddenly realizing that it was light out.
I met up with Angel and Paige and we began the one mile walk up the Hudson River to the swim start. We dropped our bags at the U-Haul trucks that would take them to the finish line (boy did that seem far away at that point!) and proceeded to the starting corrals. Our friends were waiting there to see us off, signs in hand!
Waiting to jump in was a nerve-wracking experience.
It was finally my turn to jump in! We walked the plank and took our positions on the starting block. About half of the group decided to do an in-water start but the rest of us decided to sit on the barge and jump in after everyone else had cleared.
19 minutes and 18 seconds later
I exited the water! I did it! I swam a mile in the Hudson! And was covered in the gooey film to prove it!
The swim actually wasn't bad at all! The water tasted a bit salty, but other than one instance, I didn't feel any foreign objects in the water. I swam as far into the center of the river as I could and found a wide open stretch. I alternated between the crawl and breast stroke and actually found myself enjoying the experience. Looking back, I'm laughing about how nervous I was during the six month training period.
8 minutes later
After running barefoot back to transition (1/4 of a mile), shedding the wetsuit, drying off (a bit), and putting on my bike shoes and helmet, I blasted through the transition area and hit the bike path. Biking up the West Side Highway was a pretty awesome experience. It wasn't overly crowded and I definitely had the opportunity to look around and take in the scenery. It was beautiful!
We biked all the way up to Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx, turned around at Gunhill Road, and biked back down to 57th Street and then up to the transition area at 79th Street. I passed our friends sitting on the highway wall at 72nd Street and even got to say a quick "hi."
1 hour and 40 minutes later
I flew back into the transition area, parked my bike, shed my helmet and bike shoes, added my running shoes and hat and ran out of the park to 72nd Street and Central Park.
I don't remember exactly where this picture was taken but I'm not looking too red yet so I'm guessing that it was somewhere near the beginning of the run. The adrenaline kicked in around mile #1 and I was able to push through without a problem. They had drink and shower stations at almost every mile marker. The drinks kept us hydrated and the showers kept our body temperatures down although it was still pretty warm. Miles 3 and 4 were the hardest; I kept getting passed by the para-athletes (you know, the runners with only one leg?) but it was inspiring to see them out there, so I pushed on. I passed the 5 mile marker and amped it up a bit. I flew down Cat Hill, past the Boathouse Cafe and around the corner to the home stretch.
I crossed the finish line! 3 hours, 14 minutes and 16 seconds after jumping into the Hudson!
Wow did that feel good!
And how did I celebrate?
With some ice cream!
And my peeps.
We all had an amazing day (minus "E," she was under the weather and opted to race next year instead). And my first words to Angel when we met at the finish line? "I can't wait for next year!"
After hanging out at the finisher's festival and regrouping, we trekked back through the park and across town to Blondie's. Who doesn't want wings and waffle fries after finishing a triathlon?
We had to run back to the transition area to pick up our bikes and stuff before they closed down. And then? Back to Blondie's, of course!
Home to shower. It felt nice to get clean.
Mani + Pedi with E. I downloaded the day for her and told her all about what she has to look forward to next year.
Victory Party @ The Park (no, not Central. The restaurant on 10th Avenue). I don't have any pictures. Perhaps we were too tired or too busy reminiscing about our day. And devouring food. They were serving these little pesto pizzas that were incredible!
Home and exhausted. Physically, I wasn't in pain (yet) and the emotional stuff hadn't hit (yet). I was just tired. 20 hours and 32 miles after getting up, I dove back into bed. Scenes from the day kept going through my mind and I found it hard to calm down enough to get to sleep. Little did I know at that point, but it would be several nights before I'd get a full night's sleep.
Many, many thanks to all of you who have gone on this journey with me. It was incredible and I couldn't have done it without all of the encouragement and support that I got from my family and friends. I hope that you'll all join me again next year for the 2011 Nautica New York City Triathlon on August 7th. I promise not to whine about swimming in the Hudson!