Well, at least is was this past Sunday, July 26th, for the Nautica New York City Triathlon - which also happens to have been my birthday!
The NYC Tri is an Olympic distance triathlon consisting of a 1.5 kilometer swim in the mighty Hudson River, a 40 kilometer bike ride up the west side of Manhattan, into the Bronx and back, followed by a 10 kilometer run though Central Park.
I’m tired just describing it but even now, nearly a week later, I feel a surge of adrenaline as I reflect on the experience.
Rain was “plentiful” in the days leading up to the race and I as made my way to the transition area the Mother Nature “graced” us with a fresh shower. Thanks for that...
Some 3,400 athletes competed, starting in waves of about 100 or so, according to age group. My heart pounded as I got nearer and nearer to the starting barge but once on deck I was able to relax… I’ve trained, I feel strong, and I know I can do this.
And then it was my turn. With little pomp I plopped into the Hudson awaiting the starting horn. Due to all the rain, the current was stronger than typical which created a lot of churn in the water. Visibility was literally zero but the swim was FAST (at least for me)! As per my norm, I started out way too hard and let my heart rate get out of control. I caught myself, backed off the frantic pace and settled into a sustainable swim stroke.
About three-quarters of the way into the swim the water got a little choppy and I took in a mouthful of brackish river water. Generally, I’m not too afraid of swallowing a little water but this is the Hudson in New York City. Naturally, I gagged as my body expelled that which should not be named or consumed.
Before I knew it the finish barge was just a few meters away. I was out of the water and across the mat in 20:15. Some 10 minutes faster than last year. Did I mention the current was fast?
Transition is a fair distance from the swim exit and requires a barefoot run on concrete so my T1 time was bunk.
I did rip up the bike course, competing the 40 kilometer course in 1 hour and 15 minutes (just shy of 20 miles per hour). And I did it on my new Bianchi. Oh, it’s a pretty machine and I suspect it will be my trusty steed for many years to come.
I bolted out of transition pushing up to 30MPH on fresh legs but had to slow down as the course turned uphill. There’s a few technical twists and a couple of wicked descents where I flirted with 40MPH.
A few miles from the end of the course a guy blew by me on a pretty nice bike. I immediately got up out of the saddle and caught up to him – nobody goes by me *that* fast! Laboring to stay with him I noticed his body marking… 16. This guy was literally half my age. It stung a little less when he pulled away and I couldn’t keep up.
Transition 2 came and went without incident and I took off for the final leg of the race on foot. It’s a bit of a cruel joke that the run begins with a steep climb. Sigh.
Once out of Riverside Park and onto 72nd street the fan support was terrific and I saw Salena and Jackson cheering me on. A quick detour for a kiss from the Mrs. and a high-five from the little man was all I needed by way of inspiration.
Once into Central Park the fan support dwindled and the humidity and the Harlem hills began to weigh in. I finished in a rather unimpressive 52:07 or 8:23 per mile.
As I neared the finish I got another pick-me-up from my mini cheering team, now accompanied by a friend and fellow triathlete, Eamonn.
I crossed the finish line with a surge and a huge birthday smile in 2 hours, 38 minutes, 19 seconds.
1.5 Kilometers + 40 Kilometers + 10 Kilometers = 32 miles. The irony is not lost on me... Happy Birthday, indeed!
"I'm now at the age where I've got to prove that I'm just as good as I never was."