I’m officially a triathlete!
It feels amazing after 16 weeks of training not only to complete the race, but exceed all of the goals that I set out for myself. Going into the race, I was hoping to finish in under 3 hours, and thought that just maybe, if everything went perfectly, I might be able to finish closer to 2:45. Well, I guess all my hard work paid off, as each individual leg was significantly faster than I projected.
Back to race morning. I had dropped my bike off Saturday afternoon but didn’t leave anything else outside because it was supposed to storm overnight. That meant getting up at 4am Sunday to check my tires, lay out my bike and running shoes, race number, jersey, etc. I walked over to the swim start around 6, passing branches, dead fish, and empty bottles in the Hudson where I would be swimming in a couple short hours. After watching the first group fly by and seeing how strong the currant was, I found it hard to complain about the water. Even so, I was still hours away from starting, and the tide was supposed to die down considerably by the time I started.
Luckily, I got to see my family and friends while I was waiting for my heat to start. The 24 and under group was last, which meant a lot of waiting. I was feeling a lot more relaxed than I was Saturday, when I spent most of the day stressing about my bike tires, the current, and what I ate. There was nothing left to do now but race.
By the time our group lined up to start, it was easy to see from shore that the tide was still quite strong. Once I hit the water, my experience a few weeks ago in the Stars and Stripes Aquathlon proved invaluable, as I remained calm and resisted the urge to go full speed ahead. I pushed the pace a little bit early on to try to find some open space, as I jumped in the water with 15 other swimmers, and there was another group that had left just 20 second before us. After a quick start, I tried to settle down and find my groove. I got kicked a couple times, veered off course a bit, and according to my cheering section, swam into a dead fish. Luckily I didn’t notice the fish. Eventually, I reached the end of the water, where there was a ramp coming up out of the water onto a barge. I tried to stand up a couple feet to early and my legs sank a foot deep into the mud at the bottom of the Hudson. Gross. As I exited the water and checked my watch, I saw that I finished the swim in under 21 minutes! I knew that the tide was supposed to help, but this was way faster than I had expected to run. With a big smile on my face I ran off the barge, giving a little first pump to my cheering section on the way out. I knew that it was going to be a good race.
I took a little bit longer than I expected for the first transition, drinking a bit of Gatorade, eating a gel, and making a bit of small talk with nearby triathletes as I put my shoes on. Once I was on the bike and moving though, it was back to business. The course along the West Side Highway was a lot hillier than I expected, which made it tough to get a feel for my pace. I would hit 20+ mph on what felt flat but was probably slightly downhill, then have to push to stay at 12-13mph on a long uphill stretch. Once I got around the halfway point, I knew I was moving faster than I had expected. I was hoping to average around 16-17mph, but when I hit the 15 mile mark around 50 minutes, I realized that I had the potential to put up a really good time. As the temperatures rose, I started getting dehydrated, and completely finished both of my water bottles. After finishing the second, I accidentally missed the bottle rack on my bike while putting it away and dropped it on the road. Whoops. I restrained myself towards the end of the bike, making sure I had energy saved for the run. I finished the 24.8 mile bike in under 1:20 (averaging 18.7 mph), and after a quick change of shoes, I was out on the run.
Starting the run, I knew that I was way ahead of my expected pace. The run was where I felt the most comfortable and felt like I had an edge over most of the field given my background in XC and track. I got a little bit caught up in the moment at the start of the run, and took things a little fast. It was tough not to, running along 72nd st with hundreds, maybe thousands of people cheering you on. It was an experience unlike any other I’ve had. Once I got into central park and the hills started, I slowed down a bit and tried to settle in. I was still dehydrated, and grabbed water every chance I got (they had stations every mile or so), drinking some and splashing the rest on my face as I ran by. I was passing lots of people, but didn’t really know quite how fast I was going. When I had about 3 miles to go, I checked my watch, and realized that I had a real shot of finishing under 2:30. I continued to push myself while trying to remain relaxed. While a lot of the people I was passing were older (everyone has their age written on their left calf), I noticed that I was passing a number of people in my age group, who had started at the same time of me and beat me through the first two legs. I was nervous that they would try to latch on to me once I passed, but none of them seemed to put up a fight. I guess at that point in the race, you’re already going about as fast as your body will let you.
The last quarter mile was amazing. Crowds on both sides of the path shouting and cheering you on as you race to the finish. The hard work was done, this was the victory lap. As I crossed the finish line, I stopped my watch and checked my time. 2:27. Wow. My thoughts immediately turned to my dehydration and the heat when a volunteer handed me a small towel that had been soaking in ice water. I draped it over my head, and everything was better.
I grabbed some water and walked out to meet up with my cheering section. Somehow, they didn’t seem to be as surprised about my time as I was. After finding some shade and talking through the race to everyone, we checked my results online to find that I was 8th in my age group (out of 60), and finished 311/2372 men. In addition, because of my top-15 age group finish, I qualified for the US Triathlon Championship in Iowa this September (which I will not be competing in, although it is tempting).
My final run time was 39:10, and I averaged 6:19/mile. Despite having the slowest Swim and Bike times out of the top-15 in my age group, my run was the fastest, and 59th fastest overall (including all the pro and elite triathletes). After the race I ate some brunch nearby with my fan club, then picked up my bike and met up with some fellow JDRF team members for a celebratory beer and swapped race stories.
My JDRF fundraising currently stands at $2585, and I have another 4 weeks to raise the last $115. Thank you so much to all of you who have already donated, and if you haven’t yet but want to, it’s not too late!
Overall, this has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Despite the difficulties of balancing work with training, in the end all of the work paid off and was well worth the effort. And I could not be more excited and proud to have raised over $2500 for JDRF with your help! Needless to say, the question now isn’t whether I do a triathlon again, but when.
Thanks so much for following along with my training and for making it this far (I know this was a long post). I’ll probably take a nice long break from posting, but might start up again a month or two from now if/when I get back into training. To close, here are a few links:
My Triathlon Results
Official Photos and Videos from the Triathlon
Fundraising Page (you can also google Matt Murphy JDRF, which I think is pretty cool)