Sunday, August 30, 2009
As I ran, pieces of bandages were flying off my knees and landing on the course everywhere.
It reminded me a little bit of the scene where a young Forrest Gump's crutches are falling off of him, as he his running away from a bunch of bullies.
In the end I did 7 miles at an 8:21 pace. Unbelievable considering what had happened to me yesterday.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
**WARNING: Some strong language is used in this post. Please be sure you are of age. How old are you? Excellent! Keep reading!!!!
After running in the biggest half marathon race of the year two weekends ago and then completing my first ever triathlon last week, today was the day where I would try to complete the “trifecta” with a 100-mile bike tour, or century tour as it’s named.
The Ride to Montauk, sponsored by the always-humourous “Glen” (just check out his website later on - http://ridetomontauk.com/Home_Page.html) is a bicycle tour of different lengths. The finish line is Montauk, near the lighthouse. One could either do a 33, 66, 100 or even a 145 mile bike tour. The 145 mile bike ride begins all the way in Manhattan.
Living in Lindenhurst proved to be useful, as the start of the 100 mile tour was at the Babylon LIRR train station.
The weather was not good. It was raining already, and the forecast called for periods of showers, heavy, throughout the day. It wasn’t long after we (Karen and I) dismounted our bikes from my car, that we were already soaked. I had brought my camera along, but stupid me, I left the memory card ( along with my own memory, I guess ) back in the house.
I was using a bike I had borrowed from Karen’s friend to do the tour. It was a light-weight Trek hybrid featuring a carbon-fiber fork. I had ridden his bike before in the Hamptons, and loved especially the gear shifting / handling. I figured that on a day like today, it would come in handy.
Despite being so close to the start from our house, we left about an hour late (at 8am).
Catching up to others, therefore, would be impossible. And though we weren’t the only ones leaving this late from the starting line, I was extremely annoyed at life this morning.
Only a few miles later, all would be fine again, and life with myself and Karen was grand again, even if by now we were totally soaked from the rain, which by now was relentless.
We were passing through Oakdale, and at one point around Mile 8, the rain had stopped for a brief moment. Hopeful, I was able to safely accelerate to speeds of over 20 MPH.
By the time we had gotten to Mile 15 or so, Karen and I had to make an unscheduled “mother nature” rest stop. We got back on our bikes shortly afterwards, and had problems with our machines right away. Karen could not get the gears to functioning properly, and my brakes were so wet, that they were squeaking at every use.
Finally, and at around Mile 17 we were able to ride efficiently and maintain a good speed of 15+ miles per hour.
We reached our first rest stop at around Mile 20, at Corey Beach in Blue Point, Long Island. The wind was whipping so much, that I could see the heavy rain droplets going sideways. The rest stop had bathrooms and food. Plenty of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a staple for these bike tours, and assorted fruits and snacks. I liked the tootsie rolls, and loaded up some food inside the transport case that was attached to the back of the bike.
We rode off and back into a horribly defiant head wind. About a mile down the road was Long Island’s own brewery, Blue Point. Not only were they a large sponsor of this race, but they additionally offered all-you-can-drink-for-free beer there. Even on a sunny day, who would want to get drunk only 20 miles into a 100 mile race? And to ride along with cars? NUTS!
The wind and the rain were mercilessly beating us down. We took our second rest stop after leaving the Corey Beach checkpoint, and proceeded onto Route 36 and then Beaver Dam Road just a little past East Patchogue. The neighborhood was not a nice one, but by now it didn’t even matter. We were waterlogged through to our brains.
We approached the 30 mile mark onto Old Montauk Highway. A very busy road for sure, with lots of vehicles driving at 80 MPH an hour. Reckless. One would think in this weather, people would slow down. No chance out in Long Island aka. Marioandrettiville.
We took another rest stop at the 1/3 of the way near Mastic Shirley. It was there where I was actually feeling like I had gotten a second wind. In truth, I’ve done 40 miles on bike earlier this summer, but never into a head wind or driving rain most of the way. Karen had asked what the longest I ever biked was. I told her 40 miles. And that was when I rode with her. Accompanied by her wonderful sexy “awww” response, she realized that I was undertaking a race that was more than twice in length anything I had ever done before. But that’s me. Born to laugh at tornados.
As I crossed the William Floyd Parkway at around Mile 34, I remembered about the story where my father was attacked by a stray German Sheppard. It was back in 1975 as he was riding his bicycle back from his brother’s (Antonio’s) house. My Uncle lived in Mastic Shirley and my dad lived north of him, in Ridge, NY.
As I turned right off of Mastic Road, I was quite concerned over my brake handling. In addition to nearly hydroplaning several times, my brakes were not that responsive anymore. As such, I called for another rest stop and tried to dry my brakes off. Futile of course, since a) all my rags were wet and b) it was pouring droves on us.
I totally conceded that this was the most difficult stage of my ‘trifecta’. For all the nervousness attributed to having to swim 400 meters the week before, my triathlon were baby steps compared to this. I wasn’t alone in this assessment either. As we met up with several more experienced riders, the consensus was unanimous. This was an awful day to ride a bike.
I turned left at Montauk Highway, and had to stop to wait for Karen to cross. By now there were about a dozen of cyclists with us. I must admit that it felt nice to be riding with several others for a change. I guess whoever said misery loves company was a cyclist.
Montauk Highway. Route 80 which soon becomes route 27. As the village idiots of Eastport drove like lunatics for no apparent reason, we remain a guarded bunch of riders on the shoulder lane. Who knows? Perhaps they mistook Route 80 to be
the speed limit instead.
As we entered Speonk, the route number changed to ‘27’. It was then when I realized there was no misinterpretation of any road signs. These motorists were lunatics. Well at least they weren’t sticking their heads out of their windows and cursing at us, like they have to Karen and I the two times we rode in Long Island before. See? Monsoon rains do have their advantages after all!
I briefly looked at my Garmin, the GPS watch that I religiously use to measure my speed and distance when I go running and it said 40 miles on the dot. Wow. And I physically feel well too. Just then, we came upon a deceptively long downhill. “Nice, I can finally stop pedaling for awhile”, I thought to myself.
Karen, who had been leading me every step of the way, was also not so far ahead of me, so as to lose me. She wsa pointing out to me anywhere where there were potholes, broken branches (from the wind), and any other road obstacles.
As we were going downhill, I started to realize that I was picking up too much speed, so I gently applied the brake. It took a long time for the brake to kick in. Not good. Karen then pointed out what appeared to be a long crevasse in the pavement that separated the right lane from the shoulder.
I took notice immediately, and thought at first to go wide right of it. However, not only were we going downhill, and not only was I reaching speeds of 20 MPH (thanks to my less-than-responsive rear brakes), but it was a dog-leg left embankment. Hugging the road to the left of the fissure would place me squarely in the right lane of the Long Island Autobahn, but straying to the right would require too much for the brakes to be able to handle and I definitely would have wiped out. Something I could ill afford with only 60 days till the NYC Marathon.
So, I hugged to the left.
There was the fissure, ominous in length as it followed the length of the solid white line separating road from shoulder. I could see water flowing downstream through it like something of a mini-roaring rapid. Thank heavens I missed this, I thought. And thank God for Karen to point this out. Up until now, I’ve been noticing everything she’s been pointing out for me, but this one totally escaped my radar.
I could see the bottom of the long road down. I was accelerating again. Again, I was at 20 MPH. Don’t get me wrong, I love speed, but not under these conditions. I applied the brake again, but again they were faltering on me.
Then I noticed something.
All of what I wrote above took place in the matter of seconds, BTW. But what I am about to tell you all took place in the matter of a flash. What you are about to read proves exactly how fast the mind acts during a highly stressful situation.
Unbeknownst to me, I had gone 42 miles, the longest I ever had ridden a bike. But I wasn’t even think math right now.
It was that crevasse. It kept getting wider.
And as I started reaching the bottom of the road, the water that was rushing through it, was beginning to pool up and over it’s dimensions. This was completely unnerving to me. I could not steer more to the left, or I would be dead in the middle of the right lane with cars that were going real fast. And of course, I could not go over it either, to get to the right of it. That would be an immediate wipeout. And at 20 MPH? With nothing in the way of protection?
Soon, the crevasse was gone as it was completely engulfed in an evil oasis of still water that cloaked its treacherous nature. Or should I have made up a word and said ‘trencherous’ instead?
I did move a little bit more to my left, as the fear of the unknown (where was that fucking fissure now?) began to outweigh the fear of the fast moving motorists behind my ass.
And then it happened…
My whole bicycle immediately jarred almost knocking me off my bike. If this had been a flight, the seat belt sign would have come on.
“Attention Passengers. We have just entered a bit of turbulence. Please remain seated until the seat belt sign is off to safely walk about the plane.”
But this was not a temporary seat-belt sign warning.
For my front wheel had entered the crevasse, followed immediately by my rear wheel
The brain instantly reactive. DEFENSE! DEFENSE! Save your ASS!!!!
So, what if I was riding in the fissure right? I could get out of this correct?
The bike shook more and more violently without let up.
**BIDUM BADUMP DUMP BUMP BOM BOM BUMBUMBUMBUMBUM”**
The violence of the geography was having it’s way as it quickly and systematically turned my body and my machine into hapless beings with hopeless futures.
I immediately concluded that I was going to wipe out and there wasn’t a fucking thing that I could do about it.
And then the law of physics took over. I went under.
Liberation of the tensing of muscles to remain wrapped around a metal machine for 3 hours was not supposed to be this way.
Here I am flying in the air now, wondering how this was all going to wind up.
At about 20 MPH, I landed on the hard, wet and unforgiving pavement of Montauk Highway in the lovely, exotic, and never-bland town of Speonk, Long Island.
Where was my bike? Oh. There it is! It’s flying right along side of me. Wee….NOT.
I figured that I was going too fast too stop, and any attempt would be met with broken collarbones, ribs, etc. So my thought was to roll and roll and not let my head be impacted it anyway.
It worked, and I rolled forever, however….
There was an SUV.
It was headed right for my sorry ass.
“Please God. Please let me roll to the right and back onto the shoulder.”
That SUV came within the width of the computer monitor that you are reading this on from running me over. DEATH. Gee, that’s not the way, I wanted to go now, was it? All healthy. Running thousands of miles (and fast too!) in my 40’s and for what? To be turned into Speonk Supreme Pepperoni Road Pizza?
..............................................................Alex Goes 'Bonk' In Speonk........................................................
As I kept rolling over and over my side in a counter clock wise motion I could see that the SUV which had passed me, skidded to a furiously violent stop. I took came to a violent stop, within a few feet of hitting a metal guard rail to the right of the shoulder.
Two people ran frantically towards me. I turned my head and saw a girl who was getting back on her bike. ‘Another wipeout?’ my scrambled brains thought.
“Oh My God! When we saw you wipe out, we thought you went under our truck!” the driver said. How comforting, I mused to myself.
I stood up immediately, looking for Karen the way that Rocky looked for Adrian at the end of the first movie when he got his face pummeled for 15 rounds. There she was, still riding almost at the crest, or the top of the next hill, a good quarter-mile away now. She had not realized that I had wiped out. But I think the sound of the skidding truck had to have caught her attention, as she finally stopped and turned around.
I was dazed but miraculously feeling amazing. Nothing like endless oodles of adrenaline to release all over your body, when it’s been slammed into hard pavement.
“I’m okay.” I told the drivers. “I just hope the bike is okay.” I looked and there was my bike, about some 20 yards or so behind me. Miracle. Despite the pouring rain, it appeared untouched.
“Oh, and my iPhone!” I looked inside my waist pouch. IPhone intact! Wow!!
“Are you sure your okay, mister?”
Two bikers stopped and talked to me. I assured then also that I was okay.
“I’m fine. I think. Just a little tired.”
One of the bikers looked at me. “I don’t think you’re okay. Although, maybe you are since you are walking.”
At this point I finally stopped looking at my loaned bike, and iPhone, and paid attention to myself. I looked down and I saw a sea of red from both knees. I was bleeding out fairly badly and upon noticing this, I immediately said to everyone that I needed to lay down.
Karen told me later that the scariest moment was when she saw me lay down on my stomach on the grass along the side of the road. She raced back on her Cannondale, and joined the fray of cyclists who were congregating around the spectacular scene.
“Oh Hi Karen.” I said non-chalantly.
“Oh My God, Alex! Oh My God!!! This is all my fault! I should not have pushed you!! “
At this point I began wondering, if she also wasn’t in her right mind.
“What are you talking about K? I wanted to do this, and despite how ugly (pointing to my knees) this looks, I’m ready to go riding right now!”
One of the cyclists, who had a Cervelo frame (uh, that’s like a $5000 dollar bicycle) just smiled and shook his head in disbelief.
“Riding? You are done for the day!” Karen yelled.
“What are you talking about? I have to finish this century! I never quit on a race! I must go on!!!”
“Alex. Look at me Alex. You are done. You need to get medical attention right away.”
Of course, she was right. Not only did I have serious issues on my knees, but both my elbows were bleeding as well. Oh, and then there was road rash on both my hips, and my left wrist hurt too. I was an utter catastrophe.
As it turned out, the SUV was none other than a SAG vehicle. A “SAG” is a Support motor vehicle following long races or recreational rides to pick up riders unable to complete an event. Imagine that, I nearly get killed by the same vehicle designed to save me.
The SAG vehicle had bike racks both in front and in back. They were obviously having a very busy day indeed. The guy in the passenger seat hoisted my bike onto the final spot of front rack of the truck.
Karen wanted to come with me, and I asked her to finish her race. She would have none of it though. “If you’re finished, then I’m finished. There’s no reason left to continue.” She affirmed. I felt loved but guilty too. I just killed two finishes. Bah.
Since there was no more room to rack another bike, she communicated with the female driver of the SUV. They were to take me to the next checkpoint which was West Hampton. Imagine that. I made it all the way to the Hamptons. Well almost.
As we drove off, we passed Karen, and I waved at her. In the SUV were two other people with similar “problems”. This was quite the MASH transport, wasn’t it?
The West Hampton checkpoint was a church. I got off the truck and as I walked, everyone took notice of the mess I was. Funny thing about us guys. Unless you are dead, any injury you sustain and can deal with is met with an intense feeling of acceptance, machoness, and brotherhood from others, even if they’re strangers.
I got several thumbs up, and “Yeah Baby!” from several riders noshing on, yep, you guessed it, Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches.
I went into the church, were a support person took a look at my sorry wounds. “Ya see all that black stuff around your bloody knee” she said, “That’s gravel. I’m going to try and take out as much of it as I can, but you might want to consider going to a doctor or even a hospital later on to have it completely checked out to prevent any chance of infection. In the meantime, I’m going to do the best I can to clean all this junk out, disinfect it, and gauze it up for you, okay?”
The nurse literally used a garden hose to wash off all of the blood that my legs, especially my left leg, was encased in. This picture was taken only moments after I was clean, and you can already see how much more blood had just risen to the surface and was rolling down my leg.
My left knee was busted up in three places. Chunks of skin and meat totally gone. Fortunately, I have very strong knees, so no structural damage.
The make-shift nurse also had a young boy as an assistant. He wanted to know what had happened to me, so I told him. He had this amazed look about him as I told him. It was like this “Oh-wow-that-is-soooo-cool-expression on his face.
As I walked out wounded and slightly inflexible from the bandaging, I finally saw Karen ride in. She was very concerned about my health. We went to the large MAC truck in the parking lot, where we loaded our bikes to have them taken directly to Montauk Point. This was the telling sign that my day was done and that the ride was officially over.
We got on a large motorcoach bus (like a Hampton Jitney) and as we waited for the driver to leave for Montauk, I suddenly realized that I had removed the transport pack that was on the back of the bike,leaving it inside the SUV I came into town with. I actually ran off the bus (bad knee and all) to go to the SUV. I was already too late. It took off. Shit! Where was this going?
I got back on the coach, and spoke to one of the race organizers who then radioed the SUV. After a lot of miscommunicative back-n-forths it was revealed that they would be at the end in Montauk. Okay. I can live without his bag until then.
The coach ride was packed. And it was awful. Completely full. But the worst part was that we were supposed to have left at 1pm, and we didn’t even leave until after 2:30. To add insult to my wounds, it stopped raining. Completely. Karen chuckled in disbelief. “Hah. I could’ve rode my bike to the end and get there before this bus does.”
The bus driver was a nice old African-American, but he did not have a clue.
“How do I get to Montauk?” he asked the organizer.
CMON YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME, RIGHT?
There is only ONE way to get to Montauk. Go East On Montauk Highway. Fo’ shizzle indeed!!!!!
Once this coach full of injured and of the ill-reputes took off, Karen took immediate notice of these two women sitting 1 row back on the other side. The woman sitting by the window, was cackling at everything the other said. It was extremely loud, and annoying to Karen. I never saw her so annoyed.
I felt so bad the she had sacrificed her ride on my account. So I did what any man would to make her woman forget her troubles. I told her that I would combat our neighbors’ boisterous and un-called for laughing, by brandishing my own weapon of sorts. The I-Fart application on my iPhone. As I started playing these farts loud, Karen started laughing so hard, she was completely out of control. I felt better to see a smile on her face, but I still felt guilty for wiping out (even if it couldn’t really be avoided).
When we arrived to Montauk, it was 4pm! We barely had time to change, shower (I didn’t – line too long for men for a change) and eat. Also, we had to wait for the truck to come with our bikes, and that was just to bring them to the other 18-wheeler to have them racked and packed for the trip back to Babylon.
By the way, The Blue Point beer was good. And so was Mister Softee.
And at last, the rain had ended for once and for all. It was if the rain was on hand for a particular reason, and not a good one either, I might add.
As part of the non-refundable entrance fee ( a major reason for me not canceling this race altogether) we were also presented with a complimentary return trip on the LIRR to Babylon. To give you a good idea of the distance, the ride to Babylon on the LIRR was 2 HOURS LONG.
And just as I thought that the worst was behind me…..
We board the train, and walk all the way, some 6 cars or more to the front. It was one of those newly appointed double-decker LIRR cars. We sit down, and with FIVE minutes before the train was to depart, a bomb exploded in my tired brain.
That damned mother-fuckin’ transport bag!!!
So I did find the SUV, and did get the bag back, but for some reason here we were on this train, and no bag. Where the hell was it? I can’t afford losing it, as it is not mine, but the owner of the bike.
With bad knee and all, I SPRINTED out of the train, for at least a third of a mile back to the Old Montauk House where the buffet food was being served. I ran inside and re-traced my steps running through the whole place like a lunatic. There were still a lot of people there, as they were probably going to take a later train.
I finally found it. It was under the round table that we sat at, now occupied by a bunch of young assholes who said, “Hey, that’s not yours!”
No time to jaw with anyone, I just ran. And ran. And ran. I had exactly 2 minutes to get back on that train before it took off. I finally made the platform, but now I had to run the length of it. There, and in the distance, was Karen. She told me later on that she waited for me outside, because she was not going to leave without me.
I literally hyperventilated for about 5 minutes while sitting back in the train. We literally made it back on with not even a second to spare.
I called my father onboard the train, and then Karen lovingly and restfully leaned on each other and took a nice cat nap.
You would think that our day was over, but it still wasn’t. Open on the list of to-do’s was to get our bikes off the 18-wheeler that was coming to Babylon later on that day. Unfortunately, the LIRR does not allow bikes on board so they had to be transported separately. Again, this was also included in the price of admission.
The first truck did not show up until 9pm. And by the time all of the bib numbers were called out, we came to the horrible realization, that our bikes were not on this truck, but on the second truck, for which we already learned got lost making it’s way here.
We went food shopping. And then came back. And still no truck.
At around 10:30pm the second truck came. We finally got our bikes. We finally went to my house. We collapsed in bed.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The day of reckoning was finally upon me. No matter how many hours I invested this summer towards imperfecting the art of the swim, I just did not feel comfortable about this. At least it was not the same feeling I had 4 years earlier, when I had signed up to do the Long Island Gold Coast Triathlon. There, I chickened out and only did a duathlon (replaced the swim portion with another 5k).
Triathlons require a ton of pre-race day preparation. First, you have to make sure that your bike is in excellent condition. I had my heavy, Trek 7200 hybrid, but with only 10 miles to do, I didn’t think it was going to be much of an impact to the overall race. As with any race, one has to temper the amount of respect one gives to an event. If you give too little respect, the course will eat you alive. If you give it too much respect, you will perform out of fear, diminishing moments where one should take risks to excel.
I had been very fearful about this race. But yet, here I was getting up alongside Karen at 4am in the morning to prepare and make sure we have everything. I was right about one thing though. This had the atmosphere of a marathon to me. Thank heavens I slept well on Thursday night, as I only had 5 hours of sleep last night.
I was wired, and Karen was nervous and punctual herself. We left our building with all of our battle gear in tow. I bunji-wrapped her Canondale and my Trek onto the bike rack of my 115k miled Honda, and made our way to Flushing Meadows Park. Home of many childhood memories to me (both good and risqué) and soon to be the home of my first ever Triathlon (albeit a Sprint one).
We got there early and found parking right away underneath the Van Wyck overpass, right alongside the Aquatic Center, where my adventure in terror would officially begin.
Karen and I switched emotional states. Whereas I was calm in organizing at home, and she a nervous wreck, the opposite was now true. She was looking forward to kicking ass, whereas I kept wondering how long it would be before my ass would wind up a Booth Memorial (Hospital).
Was it machismo, that made me say “Yes” back in July when Karen said, “Oh look Alex! New York Road Runners’ is doing a triathlon! We should sign up!” Partly. I also wanted to do a Triathlon, and no longer be afraid of the water anymore. My only concern is getting the ability to take breathers at one either end of the pool. Once it was confirmed to me that I was allowed to do this, some of my biggest fears were alleviated.
We placed our bikes in the staging area in our appropriate locations. I had problems placing my bike up on the rack, until someone nearby pointed out that I was putting the bike in backwards. I wonder how long he kept watching and laughing at me before pointing this out?
Everyone complained about the lack of portable toilets there were. Of course, me, Mr. Camel, sudfdenly had the urge to go.
We went up nearly three flights of stairs to enter the aquatic center. It was enormous. Bested in size only by the Aquatic Center at Eisenhower State Park in East Meadow, there were 10 swim lanes, each 50 yards in length here in Flushing.
The goal was to jump in anyway one liked into the shallow side of lane 2, and snaking your way up and down the pool, crossing over to from one lane to the next, until exiting the shallow side of lane 9. The shallow side was 3’ 7”. The deep side was 12 feet.
Karen had wanted for us to line up closer to the front. I said, “Are you kidding? Those swimmers are great up there! Many swimmers behind us will be elbowing their way past us causing us hell!”
A roar of applause engulfed the indoor, temperature-controlled center, when the first swimmers jumped in. Spectator seating surprisingly full given the 7am start time, but the hand-clapping came from the 1000 or so sweaty-palms from us nervous denizens of the deep. The race was capped at 500 people. It seemed like there were 5,000 people here instead.Within 6 minutes, the first swimmers came out of the pool. Remarkable. Then we saw them run through the exit door that we all came in from. Holy cow. Not only did we have three events, but now we had to add flying down 3 flights of concrete stairs to the mix. TRANSITIONING. This was something that I had not trained for AT ALL.
The rule was that each person would have 10 seconds to jump into the pool before the next one jumped in. As the line kept moving, I began noticing that no one was paying attention to that rule at all, not even the judges. It was more like 5 seconds at most.
The nerves of steel within me, were beginning to change. How does one turn steel into overcooked fettucini? “Can I really do this? - I feel like quitting – No. Don’t Quit! – But I’m afraid – BE A MAN! (spoken just like Brando in the Godfather)” I would be wrestling with these thoughts that just kept echoing louder and louder in my brain until,
A man in a wheelchair, was helped off by his escort, and jumped into the water. Again, another roaring applause ensued. Here I was acting all puny over my insecurities, while a crippled man just jumped in to swim 400 meters. He didn’t even bat an eyelash.
As they say on my local radio station, when they recap the highlights of a baseball game just concluded, “This was the turning point of the game!”
The vision of this handicapped person facing the challenge head on, made me feel so proud of him. Shortly thereafter, I felt that if he could do it, then why couldn’t I?
I only had about two minutes of self-mental campaigning to do, but the pom-poms were out. The ring of fire was as well. I was suddenly transformed into an extremely confident high school quarterback at a football prep rally. Time to jump through that ring of fire, and show them what’s what, yo!
We finally turned the corner. Here we were, next in line to jump in. All Systems Go.
Karen jumped in first. I’ve never parachuted out of an airplane before, and I’m sure that it would probably be one thousand times more terrifying then this, but it had the same procedural qualities. I waited about 3 seconds after she jumped in, and did the same
myself. Goggles don’t fail me now ( as opposed to ‘Google’. The search engine someone might use to see my name appear when they type in – “First person ever to drown in 3 feet of water while Triathaloning” )
Karen is not only a better cyclist than me, but a better swimmer too. In the 50 times or more that I swam leading to this event, she may have swam 3 times. Yet here she was pulling away. It was cool though because I needed a goal to distract me from attempting to achieve what was unthinkable just back in May.
I chased her in hot pursuit, making up fictious prizes of what I would attain if I caught her (of which most would earn an NC-17 rating). However, she was too fast. I was falling behind.
As I got to the end of the first lap, I was noticing the depth of twelve feet beneath me. Comforting to me were two things. One, I wasn’t as tired as I thought I would be. Adrenaline, for sure. Secondly, the depth no longer bothered me. Hey. I have improved!
The handicap man was going slow and as we got to the 3rd lap, the bottleneck of swimmers behind him was dangerously increasing. At one point, I was forced to tread water and no longer swim. That was not fun and somewhat frightening too. Legs and arms from many were flailing around me. At this point, all that was missing was a nice school of sharks, and a sinking ship dubbed the “USS Indianapolis” to reflect a horrific moment in US Naval history.
So Karen was right after all. We should have lined up closer to the start. Next time.
I had no choice but to get aggressive and do what ever I had to, to pass this brave soul.
I swam hard and cut a sharp angle at lap 4, passing him by. It was clear swimming ahead, but I had expended a lot of energy in doing so. There was an overhead clock, but I didn’t even bother to focus on time. My goal for my first triathlon was to finish in last place, because that would mean that I actually finished. Completing the first part, the swim, was the only thing standing in my way, I felt.
When I got to the sixth lap, my heart was beating very hard. I stayed at the edge, and even though I saw people exiting the pool to my left (final lap # 8), I felt totally expended. This is where I had to draw upon my reserve, using all my mentality to pull me through, since I was physically shot.
Karen was the first of our tag-team to finish the 400 meters.
I started making my way to the deep side to complete Lap # 7, thinking to myself how little I had left. I had been doing this earlier too, when I passed the half way mark, but by now it was all I could focus on. My swim technique was utter garbage by now too. My head was out of the water the entire time, as I was also gasping for air. I was a complete mess. But a complete mess who was about to do anything to complete.
As I rounded lap 7 and headed back to shallow and the happy end of lap 8, I could hear people cheering by the exit. “Almost there! Swim your fucking ass off to the end, sonny boy!!!”, I silently screamed.
And then the greatest moment of my race came true. In the extremely-ambiguous reflection I had of a Twilight Zone episode whereby Martin Landau, exlclaims “I have reached them” in a deeply tired but happy Russian accent, I too felt that “I have reached it” or the end of phase 1.
With all my might, I hoisted myself out of the pool. My arms were so tired, that I had to heave-ho twice before I could pull myself out of the water. Once I came out, I got a “nice job, now get moving” from one of the race marshals, as she pointed towards the exit door.
Transition (nightmare part 1).
So here I am opening the glass door, and making my way barefooted of course, down some thirty-odd impersonally cold and hard concrete steps. This was followed by running into the staging area; a grassy mudfest from last night’s heavy rains.
I actually had to take my towel out of my bag that was next to my bike, just to wipe off the mud from my feet, before putting on my socks, and a cheap ugly pair of Pro Keds that I bought at Modells the night before. Why Keds? My running sneakers were too wide for the metal cages that Larry’s Bike Shop had put on for me the day before, and I just didn’t have the payola to afford bike shoes at $100 or more. As it was, this race alone was $85, second only in expense to the NYC Marathon.
After my shoes were on, I had to take my bike off. The rack that is. I then raced with the bike alongside, because you are not allowed to mount the bike until you get to the mounting area, to the east side of the staging area. Too bad the mounting section was on the west side of the staging area. Did I mention that I did not practice transitioning at all?
I completed Transition 1 in 4:18. In that, I placed 308th out of 368 finishers.
The time poorly spent caused me dearly. To top it off, I had hoped to be slightly ahead of Karen until I got on my bike, because I knew how much faster she was then me in cycling. By now she was probably running towards Oregon with Forrest Gump. Oy Vey!
"I Want To Ride My Bicycle!"
The bike ride was precarious as I thought it would be. Without even having to look at the route map, I already knew that the condition of the surface of the roads inside Flushing Meadow were horrible. Basically, the last time that these surfaces were repaved, my father was taking Ruth Olmstead to the Spanish Pavilion. That was in Flushing Meadows during the World’s Fair in 1964. I also had a race there once when I was 20, and nearly cracked my ankle in half while landing in a pothole during the race while further enduring a rainstorm. Ahhhh, experience…..MILK!! (Note: Only if you were a Brother Theodore fan would you even remotely recognize the reference…)
Not me, but of someone else at this race. Looking back, it was pretty well organized.
I had to do three loops around the park. Halfway through loop 1, the route hairpins you back a portion of the way. It was there where Karen spotted me. She was already over a mile ahead of me.
“Go Alex! Go!!!!!” Her words came right through my bike helmet and down into my heart. I looked back and yelled to her that I loved her. At that response, a woman that was ahead of me, looked back, with a confused expression, and nearly wiped out. Did she think I was yelling this to her?
I take back one thing about the roads. The Parks Department did do one thing to the surface. And it was a bad thing. They added speed bumps. Lucky for me, I was city-smart enough to know that to avoid a speed bump, you just have to ride along the edge closest to the pedestrian area. This was such a good move on my part, that coupled with a renewed enthusiasm thanks to Karen, I was passing a lot of people now.
I finished the second loop, but did not see Karen at all. Despite my pickup in speed, she actually sped up herself. At the end of my second loop, there was a split-second where I thought I had completed three loops. Amazing what can happen to a mind that’s diseased with tiredness!
The third loop went a little bit slower in the beginning, but I picked up where I left off by the end. The level of encouragement in knowing that I was about to kick ass on the run part was beginning to increase geometrically. Damn, I wasn’t even confident anymore, I was a downright cocky bastard!
Transition #2 (The Second Coming of another nightmare)
We got back to the staging area, and I dismounted. I ran alongside my bike, racked it, and did the best I could to replace these awful Pro Keds with my Brooks Infinity sneakers. Alas, I was about to take this school of participants to school. My transition was still horrible though, as the changing of the sneakers was more like a changing of a government bureaucracy instead.
RUN, ALEX. RUN!!!
But alas, I finally took off. Out through the other end of the transition, and into the final stage of my first ever Triathlon. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was. I looked at my Garmin, and the numbers were pretty unreal. I was consistently in the 7’s and several moments in the 6 minute per mile range too.
This would also mark the first race in quite a long while where I had no music on my ears. This is due to the fact, that my iPod shuffle sustained irreversible water damage at the NYC Half Marathon the week before. Always remember kiddies: cover your tunes player before running under an open water sprinkler!!
He wasn't the only one with challenges at this event. Look at this photo above. What an inspiration...
Still, it was a complete shock to me, when at some point shortly after Mile 2, I start to see this very attractive looking, long-legged, blonde female running ahead of me, in the asphalt jungles of Flushing Meadows.
How it was possible that I had caught up to Karen, would remain a mystery until the results were later posted on the NYRR website. What became clear to me right away however, were Karen’s words a few days before. I had told her how my swimming was poor, and how she was going to do so well, that she would beat me by a landslide. She told me that I would pass her, surely enough somewhere around the halfway point of the run portion.
I gotta admit, it is so refreshing to be with someone this smart.
As I passed her, we kissed each other while running (how cute, right? Or if you’re a guy then start puking, whatever your fancy). She yelled out “Get a room!” a private joke that I’ll tell you about some day.
“I thought something had happened to you! I thought you would have passed me long ago! But I’m glad, Alex. ….. Don’t wait for me. You finish up as fast as you can. Go, Alex. GO!!!!”
Her final words of encouragement all but sealed the fate of any runner that stood in the way of me and the finish line. Not one runner ever passed me along the race portion. Not one in the entire 5K stage. That’s a first.
I didn’t just break through the finish line. I crushed it!
It wasn't too long before the other half of this dynamic duo would surge through the finish line as well....
*******************************GO KAREN. GO!!!!************************
Sure enough I did some serious kicking-of-the-ass in this final stage of the triathlon. Despite how tired I was in accomplishing something I thought I might never do, this old dog still has it in him to overtake many 20 year olds. Hah!
I completed the 5K run portion in 24:40. That's a pace of 7:57 per mile which was good enough to be 78th out of 368 finishers. I AM a good runner! :-)
After the triathlon, we drove home and I eagerly awaited the results. And here they were
Alex Gonzalez - 1:25:39 good enough for 237th overall place out of 368 finishers.
I DID NOT FINISH IN LAST!!!!!! :-))))))
Karen was oh-so-close to my time as well. She beat me in the swim by almost a minute, and over a minute after the first transition. In the end, it was the run that allowed me to catch up with her. But Karen did very well as well. Her finish time was 1:27:24. Only 1 minutes and 45 seconds behind and in 247th place.
Lastly, are some videos taken professionally by NYRR and Anh Than (thanks to them and to all for making beautiful videos to share with everyone).