Apologies in advance for the long RR, but that's my style. And thanks to all on here that have provided advice and encouragement over the years. :)
IM #1 is history. What a long but very rewarding day. Seeing my family cheering for me as I ran down the finish chute is something I will never forget.
But first … I decided in January to go the charity route for this race. I did pretty well with swim & run training, but could have used more TITS. Life, work, and little league games seemed to conspire against me at times.
My goals were simple:
2) finish before dark
3) finish under 13 hrs
Logistics for this race were a mess. I live about an hour from NYC, and made four car trips for packet pickup, bike drop-off, hotel the night before race, and to claim my car from hotel parking the day after race. It would have been easier had I been from out of town!
Breakfast #1 -- 1:00 am - Ensure, greek yogurt, cheerios, banana and Gatorade
Breakfast #2 -- 3:00 am - Ensure, applesauce, Powerbar, coffee and Gatorade
I stayed at one of the “host” hotels (Sheraton Lincoln Harbor in Weehawkin NJ) which is 30 feet from the ferry pickup point. After I got dressed I took the 30 second walk to Ferry #1 @4:00am. After a 40 min ride, we arrived at Ross Dock transition.
Tires pumped, bike in easy gear, loaded nutrition then waited for Ferry #2, another 30 min ride to swim start barge. I met people from all over -- North Carolina, NY/NJ, Maryland, Scotland…. There was definitely a large ‘international’ crowd participating. With music pumping we headed up-river …
I was on barge #4 (of about 6 in total I think), and saw the athletes from the barges ahead of me getting into the water. It looked to be a very calm start … not crowded (I would estimate there were 300 (400?) athletes per barge). I walked down the ramp (gangplank?), put on the goggles and jumped in.
The swim was a time trial, and was not your typical “washing machine” start. I was very relaxed, and just followed the coastline south. Yellow buoys soon changed to orange at the halfway point, then the current kicked in and I cruised the last third of the swim. Sighting was accomplished by swimming towards the George Washington Bridge right support…very cool.
Out of the water in 56:xx. About what I figured, I’m not a fast swimmer, and my goal was to get out of the water with minimal energy spent.
T1 was about 6:00; I thought I was quicker, but time does fly…
The first mile or so out of T1 is a brutal hill up to the town of Fort Lee. Great crowd support, I loved the sign that said “Go Complete Stranger!” Very funny. Onto the Palisades Parkway after a few miles. The southbound lanes were closed to traffic which was awesome. Soon the pros were coming back after their first loop. I saw many crashes along the way, some looking pretty bad which I attributed to going too fast on the descents + rough road surface.
I was expecting some terrible hills on the bike, but most were easy rollers, with the exception of a few sections. Nutrition was a bottle of Infinit every hour, I had premixed a concentrated formula which I squirted into aero bottle and topped off w water from aid stations. Two out and back loops, with a special needs stop for chamois cream (oh gawd my nutz were on fire) and to pee.
I kept my power @ my target, maybe a bit under. Looking back I may have been able to push more on the bike, but I kept telling myself that this race doesn’t really start until I hit mile 16 of the run at the GW Bridge.
I noticed a lot of drafting, mostly by teams of people wearing the same jerseys. Not cool, but not in my control, so I mentally moved on.
I finished 7 bottles of Infinit, plus 3-4 gels, 2 bananas, and some Gu chomps. Started getting a headache around mile 100 … and I had passed the last aid station and had no more fluids with me.
Bike time was 6:58, the last 10 miles were an eternity. I was targeting 6:30. My longest ride in training was just over 4 hrs, so no complaints here.
Into T2 - and look, a volunteer to put my bike away! How nice! I felt like royalty. T2 - 8:xx. Right hamstring cramped up a bit nothing terrible. As I exited the changing tent I noticed two half-full bottles of Gatorade on a table … (oh, I cant believe I did this) .. I grabbed them both and chugged them down to fight off the dehydration headache. It worked. And they were blue and orange Gatorade so I was pretty certain it wasn’t pee in those bottles…
The run started with the same sadistic hill (which I walked up), then started running. My legs felt amazingly fresh….and at that point I knew I would finish the race one way or another.
Two loops of 7.3 miles … very hilly .. Up, down, repeat….it was tough. My plan was to walk hills, and run down which I executed well. Aid stations were plentiful, at each I had 2 or 3 paper cups of water, Perform, coke, and, later on, chicken broth. Ohh that broth soooo hit the spot. More bananas, a few gels…stomach was fine, no GI distress, and I stopped every few stations to pee. [side note - I am very pleased with my nutrition plan & execution. I saw people everywhere stopping to vomit … so many people throwing up…]
Mile 15 takes you out of the park toward the bridge. Finally some great crowd support … the streets were lined with people cheering … what a boost. Three flights of stairs (!) up to the bridge and the start of mile 16. I was handed a glow-stick necklace which I really didn’t want to take (see goal #2 above) but accepted it and continued on.
This is where my left knee really started hurting to the point where I had to walk more then I wanted to. Running over the bridge was very cool -- great views of the city, cars passing and honking, and then a ramp down to the streets of NYC -- with some nice locals standing there saying “Welcome to New York”. How frickin’ cool.
My company sponsored an aid station at Mile 17, so I was pumped to have someone recognize me which was a definite motivator. The run wound down to Riverside Park, along the water, with locals out with their barbecues, Frisbees, and music blaring. I told my left knee that “I will deal with you tomorrow, let’s just finish this“. More walk/run, mile 20 passed and I started getting bored.
It was tough from mile 20-24 … they seemed to take forever. More people vomiting. Great volunteers and aid stations, I kept with my plan to take in fluids and a short walk break at every station, and many pee stops. NYPD was everywhere, cheering us on. I knew my family was waiting for me in the finish chute which was a great motivator. Keep chugging on. The mind leads, the body will follow.
By now it is dark. The last few miles are switchbacks in the park, which is a mental mind f***. That was a difficult stretch, I finally worked my way up a hill, crested the top, and saw the lights and heard the music. People everywhere -- screaming, cheering, cowbells clanging.
I picked up the pace, thankful that my left knee had agreed to quiet down. As I ran into the chute, the crowds were three feet away on either side -- high fives all down the line, and I heard my wife yelling “John, John”. I stopped and gave my family sweaty hugs and kisses, and sprinted in to cross the line in 14:04. My catcher was also a member of the Jersey Shore tri club, which was sweet.
IM #1 is history. It’s still sinking in.
I’ll be back. Maybe not this race, maybe not next year, but I savored the taste of 140.6 and will return for seconds. The mind leads, the body follows.
Race swiftly, my friends!