Well, the day has come and gone, and the 2010 Nautica NYC Triathlon is officially in the books. In many ways it’s not one I’d like to have on record. Let me begin this by saying that the NYC Triathlon is a GREAT race. It’s interesting, unlike some of the “flat and fast” courses we so often encounter. The roads are hilly and bumpy with hair-pin turns. The run boasts locals cheering along every step of the mostly shaded course. The swim is cool, refreshing, and wicked fast.
Unless you have a panic attack. Yup, that would be me. We were told in the pre-race meeting that if you just put your arms out and floated that it should take 23 minutes (one guy did that last year and that’s what happened, anyway). We were told that the water was chilly enough to take your breath away and that we should “burp” our wetsuits as soon as we got in. We were warned of quick current, so to slide into the in-water start and quickly grab the rope so as not to float away. We were warned NOT to touch the bottom as you approached the exit ramp; the silt did not need to be disturbed.
That’s what we were told, which made me quickly walk away from the race expo. I was glad to be staying in mid-town, away from the throngs of athletes. I was glad to be able to walk for miles, visit good restaurants, and live on a non-triathlon schedule. It’s NYC, and I was there to have an enjoyable time.
What I actually SAW and FELT on race morning was different. Very calm. I watched people get in the water and quickly rush downstream. I saw the “panic stricken” swim towards the sea wall and miss the benefit of the current completely. I saw small waves of folks with lots of room happily floating by. I couldn’t wait. So I gently slid in the water and grabbed the rope. No adrenaline rush. The 75-ish degree water feld lovely, but I “burped” anyway. I dunked my head and still didn’t get a head freeze. I tasted the water and didn’t….die. I chatted. positioned myself in mid-stream and propped my feet up on the dock so I could get a good push. The horn went off, and I swam. And I was enjoying myself. Yeah, I really love to race and I could hardly wait to conquer this course! Well, I swam for about 150 yards. Then the panic set in. If you know me you are aware that I’ve had my “issues” with swims. But that is all behind me. I haven’t pulled a big panic in 5 years or more. I have gotten moments of “uncomfortableness” down to 15 seconds or so. But not on this day. It hit big. My arms move quickly, but my legs feel like lead…so they sink. I can’t get horizontal in the water. I pulled immediately to the left (sans current). I breathed so loudly that people on the sea wall spoke to me. I clung to a kayak until my breath regulated, let go, only to have it happen again. I couldn’t see the end, but I figured I was going to make it. I watched myself slip from a leader amongst the Lady Clydesdales to a scared child being thrown into a pool and told to swim. Lessons from the Aqua-Jog down the Hudson:
- Panic runs on no man’s schedule. It comes when it wants.
- Rhyme and reason don’t have much to do with anything. I KNOW what’s right, and I KNOW what would work better. It just don’t matter.
- People are very nice.
- If you suck, they will give you a pool noodle to help you along.
- If you float with said pool noodle, you will go faster than the Aqua-Jogger.
- You can touch the bottom of the Hudson.
- You really don’t want to know what the bottom of the Hudson feels like. Really.
- Panic will leave you only when you’re good and ready.
- Who the hell knows when you’re ready to drop the madness?
I stood shaking on the sidelines when I got out of the water, unable to breathe normally. I stopped twice on the bike because I was shaking so badly. On my way out on the bike I saw returning cyclists climbing enormous hills that I was not sure I could endure. I finished the bike without encountering those hills (really, don’t know what that was all about…), so decided to try the run. I hyperventilated my way through transition and then stopped and sat a half mile into the run. Tired, but angered, I went on. As the onlookers cheered even the weariest of us, I started to feel better. I was simply exhausted and my head still pounded, but it was so much fun to be there. The hilly Central Park course was shady. It brought back memories of other events. I was glad to be at the race, even if not “racing” at this point.
God, I do love this sport.
After the race I quickly departed. My pounding head and heavy legs just needed to be somewhere else. I drank more water. Ate some food. Took some ibuprofen. Napped. Met friends for drinks. Got a good night’s sleep. And finally, over a strong cup of coffee and pleasant chatter with my cousin early the next morning, the pounding in my head would subside.
What I was told and what I saw and what I felt were all quite different. But what I now know never seems to change. What I know remains the constant and the balance in my life. What I know is that I need to keep moving, to keep moving on, and to keep a driving force. I know that my mobility breeds my overall stability. I Love this game. I Will do it again. I’m damn glad to be a part of it, in whatever shape and form it takes.
And now…gotta get back to training.