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Race Result

Racer: Steve Smith
Race: New York City Triathlon
Date: Sunday, August 10, 2003
Location: New York, NY
Race Type: Triathlon - International Distance
Age Group: Male 30 - 34
Time: 1:58:16
Overall Place: 1
Comment: Converted to a 5k-40k-10k duathlon b/c of poor water quality

Race Report:

The Short Story

Poor water quality mutated the New York City Triathlon into the New York City Duathlon; thunderstorm after thunderstorm streamed too much environmentally (and triathlete) unfriendly run-off into the mighty Hudson. With a 5K run in place of the 1500m swim, I lead the first wave (M30-34) for the entire race to break the tape for the convincing age group win and, as it turns out, the overall win. A solid first run followed by a strong bike split set me up for the win, despite losing serious time in the second run. Definitely the highlight of the race was the newly paved Hudson Pkwy; the near perfect surface, coupled with the complete closure of the northbound road and it's scenic view of the Hudson makes it an amazing bike. Watching the pros race was a nice bonus, and following up the race with several loops around Central Park on Monday morning topped off a wonderful weekend.

5K: 17:20
40K: 62:28 (actually 41.4K or 25.7 mi)
10K: 36:26 (me thinks a tad bit short)

stv: 1:58:16
2nd: 1:59:35
3rd: 2:01:32

The long story is truly long. I don't suspect many people will read the whole thing. The two main reasons I write race reports are 1) to force me to re-examine the race and 2) to provide some insight to people who may want to do this race in the future.

The Long Story

After breaking the tape, I caught my breath, and it didn't take long. For whatever reason, I hit (near) terminal velocity on the run before my lungs and brain raised any alarms. The legs were sore and tired and going as fast as they could. It was a pace I could have held for quite a bit. After crossing the finish line, after catching my breath, I checked the race clock, and waited for the M40-44 finisher.

Since the pro women had just started racing, and since the pro men wouldn't start for a couple of hours, the media folks were walking around with nothing to do. Eventually, one caught up with me.

After a few biographical basics, the reporter dug a little deeper: "What were you thinking out there?"

"Well ... I was thinking it was lonely," I said. I struggled to explain that while I crossed the line first, well ahead of anyone else in my age group, the guys I was competing with started several minutes behind me. A quick lesson on wave starts followed, and she realized that it was entirely likely the winner would cross the line in total anonymity. But there were maybe four people across the line so far, and I was the first, so she kept asking questions.

"What were you thinking when you crossed the line? Were you relieved? Excited?"

I thought about this for a moment.

"I was thinking, 'I wish I'd done more run training.'" This clearly caught her off guard; aside from being totally unquotable, I don't think she believed that, as I finished this endurance event, all I could think about was more training. But it was true, all I could think was, "Why can't I go faster?" and I dreamed of all the wonderful long runs I would be doing over the next few months. Of course, the nice reporter was just killing time, so I cannot just point you to a URL and save myself the fun of writing a full race report.

I trained a normal week through Thursday. Friday morning I setup the race bike with race wheels and took it for a spin around Reston before sticking it in the car. Dropping the car off at the dealership, I rode, uh, hammered the five miles into the office. Same on the way back to the dealership before heading out to dinner with friends for pizza & brownie-fudgey stv-killing ice cream. I didn't get packed until late, hitting the sack at 11 p.m. before awaking at 4:30 to get a jump on the Jersey shore traffic Saturday morning. Uggh, need more sleep.

Arriving in NYC by 10:00, I hit the Marriott Marquis in Times Square to check in to my room, attend the mandatory pre-race meeting, and pick up my race packet. Much to my delight, I discovered that the duathlon format moved my wave, previously one of three M30-34 at the end of the wave starts, to the front, in one large M30-34 wave. While I was a tad disappointed with the swim cancellation, this was a nice surprise.

I hit Central Park (CP) by noon and put in 20 miles with a few race-pace efforts on the bike. I was feeling kinda flat, like there was no way I could sustain those five-minute efforts over an hour. However, I knew from experience the only indicator of how strong I will be on race day is the first few minutes of each event. Having parked about a mile from CP (to avoid the $40/day parking charge at the Marriott), I stowed the bike in the car while I previewed one loop of the run course. Here I felt a little better about my race-pace efforts, but at nearly 4-miles I ran a bit more than I wanted. I returned to the car and downed my 32-oz bottle of Endurox, figuring that the 16-oz I intended to save for after the race would be kinda silly if I wasn't totally fueled for the race. Grabbing my bike, I made the short trip to Riverside Park to check it for the evening (mandatory). After a short walk back to the car to grab my bags, I hit the A&P up the street and jumped into a cab for my ride to my weekend "home" on the 36th floor with a perfect view of Times Square.

The Marriott was a mad house, but I still managed to run into RATS Eric Stanley and Amy Smith. New to the DC area, never mind NYC, they'd gotten sucked into the void of the New Jersey Turnpike for a 7-hour trip. I offered to watch their bags as they managed to get their race packets at the last minute. See, the club has all kinds of special benefits :)

I opted for dinner in my room, eating the tortellini, chicken, and marinara that I'd brought from home. I just wanted to relax, and getting thru Times Square around dinner time is anything but relaxing. A $5 beer and a $2 3 Musketeers from the stocked room fridge polished off the evening meal and I hit the sack at 9:30.

Race Day
Again up at 4:30, but with a little more sleep this time, I jumped into the running togs, made a small pot of coffee and, nervously, swallowed my UNFROSTED brown sugar & cinnamon Pop Tarts. UNfrosted Pop Tarts were a deviation from race-day ritual. Now tell me this: If you're an A&P in the heart of the Upper West Side, and you had to carry only THREE flavors of Pop-Tarts, which three would you choose? I dunno about you, but UNfrosted brown sugar & cinnamon, frosted strawberry, and chocolate marshmallow wouldn't be my choices. Damn city. They did, however, have lemon-lime Gatorade and V8, so it wasn't a total loss.

My wave left at 6:30, and there wasn't much to do in transition. Lots of racks were empty, including, sadly, Wayne Brandt's. I bested Wayne inside the final 400 meters last year as he succumbed to the heat; I was looking forward to racing someone whose 2003 A-race was the same as mine (Worlds in New Zealand this December). Of the four guys I was looking forward to racing, only two were in my age group. Of them, one, Doug Clark, raced IM-USA two weeks earlier, so chances were that he wouldn't be in top form. The other was Wayne. Of the two guys outside my AG, one had raced IM-USA as well (Christopher Martin, Diamond in the Rough winner). The last guy I had noticed on the start list was 40-year-old Mario Souza, a fantastic runner who bested me by 20 seconds last year for third place at this race. With the swim eliminated, and some tire IM legs in the field, I figured Souza was the guy to beat.

Of course, there are always new faces, and the duathlon favored the unknown up-and-comers, who usually come from strong running backgrounds. Oh well. I try to pick the handful of guys that I recognize and think about them; otherwise, I find that I get worried with the fact that there are 1200 people out there and, to achieve my goals, I have to go faster than the lot of them. Thinking about four guys is a lot easier on the noodle.

While I thought I had what it would take to win, I would have been satisfied with making "the cut." In most races, there is a clear line between the first few finishers and the next group. Last year at NYC, this cut went five deep, an unusually tight race where the top-5 guys were within a minute of one another.

I checked my exit gearing on the bike, got in a 2-mile warm-up with a few strides, and relaxed for the 5 minutes before the start. Actually, there was one wave ahead of me. A blind athlete and his lead ... how cool is that! Talk about dedication. I guess this is an advantage of the closed bike course as well.

5K Run
I lead my first two duathlons this year from start to finish, I had hoped to do the same in NYC. As usual, I took the first 200m out pretty hard to get away from the pack, and found myself with two other guys. One was a big clydesdale who actually had a gap of 10m when things settled down. Quickly it was just us. I sat behind him for 30 seconds or so. I was tempted to stay behind for the draft, but I knew Mario wouldn't be sitting in. Also, this guy had one ugly stride, body parts flailing out to the right or something ... one thing that will drive me crazy is ugly running form. Also, clydes usually make strong cyclists, so I figured I'd better get things started fast.

And I did.

I felt very strong on the first run; I actually reigned myself in a bit, racing near my stand-alone 10K effort. I could hear the clyde galloping behind me ... gallop, flail, gallop, flail ... so I would periodically insert surges of 10 seconds or so, and these felt great; I probably kept a bit of speed after each one. Before the second mile I was running in silence, chasing the Ford pace-truck plastered with the American flag. From the start line we ran about 300m before heading south on the Hudson Pkwy (on what would soon be the bike course). From there, we ran down to (I think) 56th Street and turned to return to 76th street. There's a decent rise from 56th street that lasts a spell. Turning off Hudson Pkwy, I ran around the back of TA and in, where my bike was about as far as it could be from the bike exit. My transition mantra is "Slowly hurry" ... I took off my shoes and left them in the appropriate left-right order, grabbed my bike, my emergency tool (spare tubular & CO2 taped together and jammed behind the seat in one of the water bottle cages), and ran out of transition in my bike shoes.

40k Bike
I was flying out of transition. I probably gained a small advantage by being in the first wave; to get up to the Hudson Pkwy, we have to bike along an asphalt path and, in previous races, there was a no-pass rule in effect (however, I don't remember them saying anything about this no-passing zone in this year's pre-race meeting). It can get crowded here. I kept things in control around the tight turns that took me onto the Hudson Parkway, and then let loose, sure the galloping clyde would be chasing me down to make me pay for those nasty little run surges.

Fortunately for me, the first few miles are false-flat downhill, with a slight tailwind, allowing me to get out of sight quickly. I was pedaling like mad to stay away, sure I was getting reeled in by the minute. When I finally hit the George Washington Bridge, I glanced back. I try not to look back in a race, but the curve in the road was just right, and I stole a quick peek.

No one.

Holy cow! And there was a loooong stretch of road back there. I did a double take, stretched my back a bit, and got back to business. Starting near the GWB, there are series of three climbs. Not nasty climbs, but not rollers either ... just a loss of speed and some more hard work. Of course, you have three more after the turn-around.

The final climb before the turnaround might be the hardest (it's a toss-up between this and the first climb up to the toll booths), but since it's the turnaround, there's a special "when will this be DONE" aspect to it. Finally, I hit the turn-around and started down hill. I forget exactly where I saw my pursuers, but the flailing clyde was replaced by the smooth, strong-riding clyde of Doug Clark (I recognized his bike from TA). Dang! Two weeks after a 9:50 Ironman?!

[Aside: Many folks cheered me on the return leg, yelling "Go get 'em" ... I kept asking myself, "Get who?"]

There's something in the rhythm of this bike course after the turn-around and before the toll booths that just sucks the life out of my legs. I remember feeling flat in the same area last year. But once through the toll booths, it's a screaming descent toward the GWB and back toward, and past, the 76th St ramp (where that false flat comes back into play) ... back down to 56th Street and that little rise again. This time, when I saw my pursuer, I felt like I had a bigger lead over Doug than when I last saw him. As I climbed the rise from 56th Street, I kept saying to myself "Get to the top before you see 'em. Get to the top before you see 'em." And I did.

The way out of and into TA has several hard turns that suck the average speed out of this course. There's also the loveliness of having the dismount at the bottom of a not-so-small hill. My odometer read 25.7, and I talked to someone else who measured about the same, which would explain why the bike times are slow on this course. After looking at my HRM data, I averaged 24.7 mph for the ride and 25.2 for the Hudson Pkwy portion (all but 3/4-mile or so). Still, no complaints. Closed, nicely paved roads with some decent hills--that's my kind of course.

10K run
Heading out of transition, I braced myself for the uphill run to get onto 72nd Street. It didn't seem quite so bad this year as I hit 72nd Street for the few crosstown blocks that take you to Central Park. This is one of my favorite parts of this race, because they barricade the sidewalks entirely, giving all four lanes of this major crosstown artery to the runners. Or, in this case, to the runner. That's one of the great things about this race; they shut down parts of the city, one of the largest, best known cities in the world, just so we can run our little race.

Unfortunately, once you hit Central Park, that feeling is eroded slightly as the run course is merely coned off from the Sunday joggers. It is a total non-issue in terms of race performance, but it takes from the otherwise great affect of the race. This year they changed the run course from one five-mile loop inside the park (it's about a mile to the park from TA) to three loops using the 72nd Street crosspark road. The key upside of this change is that the pros were racing on the 72nd Street park road as well (bike & run), and MANY people were camped there to watch both races. Running through this throng of people each time was a real rush, and made the miles go by quickly. I think the 10K was a bit short. I didn't feel like I ran a 36, and there were an awful lot of sub-40 runs this year.

As I mentioned earlier, my legs felt dead. Almost assuredly this was due to a combination of overextending on the bike and lack of run training over the last six weeks (even though two of the last three weeks have been good). The mystery I must solve is this: What is the weighting of these factors? I think, I hope, the main culprit is the lack of base running mileage.

Escorting me along my little jaunt thru the park was a nice young man on a mountain bike. Despite his bright orange volunteer shirt, three times he found himself screaming "I'm part of the race!" to people who tried to shoo him off the course.

As I hit the second loop, I couldn't believe my luck. Right in front of me was a fast runner that I recognized as Mario. He was about 15 meters ahead of me. If I could just keep him in sight, then I could win this thing! For my entire second loop (his first), I kept him in sight, bumping my heart rate up 1 beat and holding it there. As we passed thru the throngs of people on 72nd Street, he disappeared, and I couldn't see him as I headed up the small hill as I began the final loop. Drats. He was *trucking* ... I tried to speed up, but my legs were just too heavy. I chatted (in short choppy sentences) with the fellow on the mountain bike. I mentioned that he should probably go get the speedy guy ahead of me if he wanted to escort the winner in. I took the final turn into the throngs of people and let loose my final surge with about 300m left. There, in front of me, was unbroken tape. Even though I thought I'd taken second, or further back, it was a pleasure to break the tape.

As we all know now, I broke the tape with full honors.

So, there it is. Three-for-three in duathlons this year. Admittedly, the first two were small, local fields. But, in all honesty, the field at NYC wasn't all that strong aside from Mario. There were a couple of strong athletes coming off recent Ironmans, the U23 Nationals in Maine lured many of the promising East Coast youngsters, and this is still a young race. Then again, the guy who won this last year pulled down sixth overall at IM-USA this year in 9:14. And I beat one of the guys who beat me last year (Mario). When I was finishing 20th, 10th and 5th in races, I would tell myself, it's just a race. Even when I finish first, it's still just a race.

A little while after my discussion with the reporter I decided to run back to transition. Then I ran past transition and up to 120th street. 120 seemed like a nice, round number, so I turned around and headed back to collect my bike and go watch the pros before the awards ceremony. I'd made good on my conversation with the reporter: I'd done more run training. :)

As for lessons learned, this is the second time in two races I've had to remember to trust myself, to trust the fitness and preparation I've worked hard to come by. I was really freaking sore on Monday, and I wish I'd brought more Endurox. I'm sure that stuff doesn't make me any faster, but I do notice that it helps keep the soreness at bay. Lastly, I need to figure out my run. My legs felt similarly dead during the Diamond run; they did not feel like this during my two duathlons earlier in April (in which I had some serious mileage in my legs, but were only sprint races), so I suspect it's mostly a base mileage issue.

Another lesson learned, er, remembered, is this: I *was* thinking about training, about the next race, before I'd even finished this race. This is a terrible habit I have, always looking to the future and not focusing on the present. It can be forgiven in a "B" priority race, but it will kill me in more important events.

I had *great* success parking up near Riverside Park (roughly 70th St & West End--aka 11th Ave), right near an A&P that I hit before getting to the hotel and before leaving for home. Staying thru Monday was a pure joy, after adding 2-hours of traffic to the already 4.5-hour drive. As expensive as the race hotel was, it was worth it. Lastly, I picked up an EZ Pass earlier in the year; if you do any travel north of Baltimore on I-95, this makes life so much easier.

Congrats to RATS Eric Stanley and Brad Kirley for their fine races (21st and 12th), and to Amy Smith for having the patience to pull out of the second run in honor of her Achilles. 21st ... hmmm, that was my AG placing at this race in 2001 ... no pressure Eric :)