Wednesday, July 11, 2012
NYC Triathlon Recap: How to be Happy in the Hudson
Just like my marathon post, this will not be a mile-by-mile, minute-by-minute recap of every single thing that happened while I was participating in the NYC Triathlon. I've rested, unpacked my bags, and returned my wetsuit. I'm still digesting the glory that was July 8 and maybe some of the Hudson River water too. When I really think about the triathlon and the training, there is one phrase that keeps coming to the surface.
I am overwhelmed by gratitude. I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue such a random goal. I am healthy. I have incredibly supportive friends and family who stood by me through every bad hair day, bruise, and bump in this road. I have a friend who traveled up to NYC, bought an $11.75 beer, woke up at 4:10 am, sent updates to my mom, coordinated support efforts, took pictures and celebrated with us. I have a mom who woke up at 5 am to make sure we were awake. I have a family who kept my phone ringing and inbox full with encouragement. I have a group of coworkers who have asked about my training almost every day. I am blessed with the ability to afford this hobby.
I was grateful to be in New York City. I was happy to swim in the Hudson River. It was awesome to stand on the shore and watch professional, world-class athletes leap into the waves. It was humbling to see the challenged athletes in the mix of nervous wetsuit-wearing wannabe athletes. I was not nervous to jump into the river most famous for scenes from Law and Order. (That's where the throw the guns.) I was ready. Once we reached the plank and the vast brown expanse of waves stretched (and smelled) in front of us, I was really grateful the swim was only a mile. I was grateful for the very strong current that pushed us along rather quickly.
I smiled the entire 25 miles of the bike ride. Even though I was huffing and puffing up some intense inclines, I was doing so in one of the best cities in the world. I rode over the river, I rode in the Bronx. I pedaled on the Westside Highway.
Even during the run, when my lungs felt empty and legs felt hollow, I was amazed to running in Central Park. The Central Park. I was cursing the famed Harlem Hills. I was slowly making my way along trails I’ve only seen in movies or read about in books. It was hard to be miserable when I reminded myself of the moment I was in. Yes it was boiling hot and it felt like there was no air in the air. But I was running the final portion of a triathlon. Of the New York City Triathlon. My legs had just biked through this city. My arms just swam in its river. This was incredible.
While I was happy to alive and on the course, I was more than ready to be done with race. We had been out in the July heat for more than three hours. The minutes were ticking by and the temperatures were climbing. It was time to wrap this up. Lauren and I pushed ourselves past cheering crowds, up one more stinkin’ hill, around one last bend, and finally down the homestretch. Our eyes scanned the sidelines for our friends but always found their way back forward to the ultimate goal. The finish line.
After almost five months of training, we were just steps away from becoming triathletes. Nothing quite felt like that descent to the finish line. Those last six miles of the triathlon were tougher than the last six of our marathons. It was a different kind of exhaustion. It was a different kind of drive. And crossing that finish line was a different kind of joy.
I was especially grateful for the cold wet towel that a volunteer draped over our necks. I was super grateful for the cold bottle of water I was handed. I didn’t even acknowledge the medal because the wet towel dripping icy relief to my overheating body was enough of a reward.
Lauren and I exchanged a very brief, very sweaty, very sore hug. We’ve done a lot of races and have been through a lot together. We know not to hug another athlete for more than a millisecond after competing with them in a race. It a level of intimacy and bodily fluids that doesn’t need to be broached. The after-race hug is not a tight, long, embrace either. It's a glorified double pat on the back that is spaced out like two kids at a middle school dance. Soon after the chaos of grabbing free foods and goodies from vending, finding our friends, finding a clear spot took over. We also had to figure out the logistics for the rest of the morning and afternoon. We were wet. We were hot. We were tired. And we were triathletes.
As we headed out of the park to collect our gear, I was also very grateful to be off the course. Some of the men's groups started almost a full hour after we got out of the water. Some were just beginning their run or were still out on their bikes. I do not understand the reason or rules for why women go first in triathlons, but I will never question it.
I do not regret the decisions I made or the sacrifices I made to achieve this goal. The early morning alarms, the two-hour training sessions, the ice packs, the accussations, the worry, they were all worth it. Completing the triathlon was a victory unlike any other and something I am grateful to always be able to carry with me.