Archive for August 14, 2009
Barefoot and dripping, I peeled off my swim cap and speedwalked to the transition site where Bertha awaited. “Have some water! Wash the Hudson out of your mouth!” volunteers cheerfully shouted, handing my fellow racers and I cups as we made our way to our bikes. I was smiling, laughing, giddy for no other reason than the fact that I hadn’t drowned in the river.
And despite the fact that I was jogging in a bathing suit.
I dried off as best as I could and donned my running shorts and tank top. It felt so weird to have my clammy suit stuck to my skin underneath everything, and I gave myself a few liberal swipes of Body Glide in an effort to avoid chafing and blisters. It should be noted that triathletes generally try to get in and out of the transition area as quickly as possible; good transition times can make up for slowness during the legs of the race. But I just really didn’t care. I wasn’t drinking mimosas and lounging around, but I also wasn’t freaking out when I temporarily couldn’t find one of my socks (like a woman was in the next row over).
Helmet on, I walked Bertha out onto the course and hopped aboard. In the next two hours, I had one of the most fun bike rides of my life. I charged up a hill and sped out onto the 79th Street entrance to the West Side Highway. With the Hudson on my left, I pedaled north on a road normally reserved only for cars. (The city had shut it down just for us.) The uphills weren’t horrible, and the downhills were heaven. I felt like I was flying, going faster than I’d ever gone before with no turns or traffic to slow me down. People passed me, I passed people. Just like the swim, it didn’t matter. My only concern was not beating up my legs too much; I still had a 10K to run when the biking was done. I breezed through the tolls at the Henry Hudson Bridge — no EZ-Pass required — and continued north to the Moshulu Parkway exit, the turnaround point.
I saw people of all body types on bikes of all price points just doing their thing. I tried to keep my shoulders loose and made a mental note, as I stood up and stretched during a flat section of the course, that next time I’d wear shorts with a chamois in them. When I spotted race photographers out along the road, I sucked in my gut and grinned.
And then it was over. We turned again and re-entered the transition area, where I traded my helmet for a cap and basted myself with sunblock before bidding Bertha adieu. I started the run with legs that felt so heavy and feet that felt like they were barely moving. I followed all the other participants onto 72nd Street, also closed to traffic just for us. And when I crossed Broadway, The Boyfriend was right where he’d promised he’d be.
It was humid and sticky. It was still early. He’d been up as long as I had, and he’d been waiting in his spot for a while because we had no idea how to gauge my time. His face was so happy, so proud, so genuinely excited for me as he snapped photos of my approach.
I love this man.
I stopped to kiss him, and he did what he always does in this situation: He asked how I was feeling and then told me not to waste time with course-side PDAs. So I was off again, doing a slow lope into Central Park. The course snaked north through the park’s hilliest section, and I told myself that it was just a little more than six miles, a distance I’d run many times before. So I focused on picking up one foot and putting the other down. I thanked as many volunteers as I could at the water stations. And I laughed out loud when a random woman on the sidelines, after seeing that I happened to be running among a pack of men, sang out, “You just stay strong, sister!”
The beautiful thing about a 10K is that just when you want it to be done, it is. And when I crossed the finish line, I felt like I did at the end of my first marathon. I can’t believe I did this. It’s impossible that I did this.
And then, the best prize, better even than the subway token medal placed around my neck as The Boyfriend hugged my sweaty, sandy, salty self tight: I totally did this. I am a triathlete.
Oh, and lest I forget…