Race Report: First-Time Triathlete Does the New York City Triathlon

Setting up for transition
Our official transition area, a giant fenced-in lawn in Riverside Park that now held about 2,000 bikes in neat (but very crowded) rows, was bustling. Beyonce was blaring through a loudspeaker and a race announcer was counting down the minutes until start time. Luckily the rain seemed to be letting up, and before long it had stopped completely. Whew!

I quickly set up my gear beneath my bike—socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet, belt with official race bib attached, Gu Energy packets, and a bottle of water and towel to rinse and wipe myself off after the swim—before grabbing my wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap and following the crowds one mile upriver to the swim start.
The Brooklyn crew setting up transition at 5 a.m.

I joined the other participants in my wave, females 25 to 30 scheduled for a 6:20 a.m. start time, in a narrow corral where we could watch the earlier waves of participants jumping in and swimming downstream. The current looked fast and no one appeared to be struggling so far, which eased my prerace jitters. Apparently there were psychologists on hand to help people with last-minute panic attacks, but my group seemed to be in good spirits.

Swim: And we're off!
Then, before I knew it, we were being called out onto the start barge, jumping into the water and holding onto a rope (and each other) while waiting for the starting horn. As soon as we heard it, limbs started flailing and chaos erupted. About half of us hung back, though, letting the first group of more aggressive swimmers go ahead.

I started swimming as soon as I regained some of my personal space, remembering to breathe and sight often, making sure I wasn't heading off in the wrong direction. Luckily the canal they'd roped off for us was fairly narrow, and if you go too close to either edge there were kayakers there to shout you back toward the center. The Hudson River, by the way, was not as gross as you might think—just a little brown and murky.

For a while I was surrounded only by other red swim caps, or those in my wave. Then I started to see purple swim caps too. Dismayed, I thought to myself that the swimmers who'd jumped in minutes after us were catching up—I must be going slower than I'd thought. But then I realized that—ego boost!—the purple caps were in a wave ahead of us. I was catching up to them! (I did, later, see some green caps from the wave behind me, but by that point I was feeling good and didn't mind at all.)

The swim, overall, was very fast: In 19 minutes—and it felt like much less—I was at the exit barge, and volunteers were helping me up the ramp and onto the promenade. From here we had about a 400-yard barefoot jog to the transition area where we pulled our wetsuits off, dried our feet as best we could and wiped our faces (OK, I admit that I was a little dirty with river gunk!), and put on our socks, shoes, and helmets.

Next Page: My way or the West Side Highway

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