I competed in my first (and definitely not last! No way, Jose!) duathlon yesterday – the March Madness Duathlon hosted by the New York Triathlon Club. What a blast! Other than The Warrior Dash, I have never competed in a race that required anything other than running. I was psyched to learn that twice the events = twice the fun! No time to get bored on this adventure…
Left my house well before the crack of dawn yesterday, and rolled into NYC at around 6:15 AM, with plenty of time to stop by one of my many favorite bagel places (Pick-a-Bagel on Lex at 77th) for breakfast and for a bag of bagels to bring home to the family. It was cold and still pretty dark, but I LOVE the quiet of the city first thing in the morning, especially on a Sunday. So, while I would have been happy with an extra 20 degrees (did I mention that it was COLD?) and some sunlight, I had no complaints.
Fueled up with a bagel that was approximately the size of my head, drove over to Central Park and got a prime parking spot on 75th Street right off 5th Ave. The travel gods were smiling upon me yesterday, for sure. And as I rode my bike into the park toward the packet pick up at the Central Park Boathouse, I was greeted with this:
I was on the early side, so packet pick-up was easy and quick. I was happy to have plenty of time to get the lay of the land, as I have never dealt with a “transition area” before. The transition area is where you leave your bike and switch off between the running and cycling portions. It’s not that complicated, but I did want to make sure I knew where to go when switching between the different portions of the race. I racked Trixie and got myself organized. I’m used to traveling light for a race – I usually even leave my phone in the car – so it was an adjustment to have a helmet, water bottle, phone, snack and a bag of a million extra layers to keep me warm during the wait.
The organizing took a grand total of around 5 minutes, and my friends had not yet arrived, so I people watched a bit. I liked watching the people with the full-on cycling kits, who clearly knew what they were doing. For a chilly, early morning, everyone seemed pretty happy and energetic.
Then, a little bored, I wondered, “What would Lucille Ball do????”. I figured she would either trip and knock over a rack of bikes, or (if she had the technology) start playing with her phone and take pictures of herself. I opted for the latter. Yes, I was that person! Just for one day, though.
All of a sudden, what seemed like plenty of time disappeared in an instant. My friends Jenn and Xavier, arrived, got their bibs, set themselves up and it was then time to start the first run. I’m used to big starting lines, with a mat you run over to start your chip timer, and a huge banner. Maybe a band and definitely an announcer and a loud horn to start the race. This was significantly more low-key – so much so that I had to ask my friends where the start line was. There was a smallish banner that they put up at the last minute and no mats – I guess they just don’t bother to keep track of “net” time; perhaps because there were only 640 people in the race? There was an announcer, but I don’t think his mike was on because all I heard was a muted “Ready, Set, Go!” to start things off.
One meek “Go,” and then we were off and running (haha, so punny!). Felt good during the run but didn’t want to push too hard because I knew that much lay ahead. Not known for my pacing skills, but trying. Really. I’m trying. It was a relatively easy run – up the drive to 96th street, turn around a cone, and back down. Not too hilly – and plenty of superfly fast sprinters ahead of me to keep the pace up.
As I approached the transition area for the cycling portion, I started to get really nervous. It was finally time to face the great unknown – would I be able to ride in a pack without having a nervous breakdown?
Happily, kids, the answer was yes. The cycling portion went fine, and there were only a few times where I felt anxious at how close people were crowding into me. It helped that the race was relatively small, and so there were never huge masses of cyclists in any one spot, like the packs I have seen when there are sponsored bike rides near my house. In fact, the only times I really got nervous were when pedestrians crossed the bike lanes with dogs, strollers, canes, coffees, newspapers, you name it, right in front of us. Yes, right in front of us. And they didn’t even try to rush. Gotta love NYC.
All in all, it went really smoothly. I really felt I did my best. I definitely felt that I was cycling as fast as I could, given my experience and strength. Couldn’t have done anything differently or better. That, of course, is always a great feeling.
45 minutes later, I finished the bike portion (almost taking out a friendly volunteer when I tried to stop too quickly as I approached the transition area –oops – but, really, my only “Lucy” moment of the day, other than the silly picture taking) and only a 2.2 mile run separated me from the finish line. I downed some water, grabbed a handful of jelly beans and took off. The post-bike run was fine. I was tired and a little wobbly at first, but after ¼ mile or so, my legs remembered what they love to do and it was a breeze, albeit a tired and cold breeze, from there.
I crossed the finish line at 1:24:13. Ended up finishing 7th out of 24 for my age group. To say I was thrilled is an understatement. It was so fun to switch my racing up a bit and to end up performing better than I expected was just the icing on the cake. Needless to say, I don’t think it will be my last duathlon. In fact, I already have my eye on one in Brooklyn on April 14….