July 14th – What Have We Learned From The NYC Triathlon: The Swim

Well where do I begin.

I guess I need to begin with the fact that I competed in my first ever triathlon on Sunday, July 14th. It was an Olympic distance event, consisting of a 1 mile swim, followed by a 25 mile bike, and finishing with a 6.2 mile run. I learned A LOT on Sunday morning – so much that I’ll spread out my nuggets of anti-wisdom over the course of the next few days. So let’s begin with the pre-race preparation, and then move on to the swim.

The night before the NYC Triathlon, you have to go over a ton of different items. I learned that one of the keys to a successful triathlon is your attention to detail during pre-race preparation. Here’s what I learned:

1. Practice your transition changes as you pack your transition bag (the bag that holds all of the clothes and other items you need for the day, which is left alongside your bike). Throw each item in the bag that you know you’ll need for the bike and run portions of the race as you practice – this way you know that everything you need is contained in the bag. Also make sure you have enough water packed, as well as fuel.

2. Take the guided tour of the transition area the day before the race. That way, you know where you’ll be able to better understand how you’ll get from the swim to your bike, and also how to return to the transition area when your bike is over in order to transition to the run.

3. Check your bike the night before the race. Make sure everything is in prime working order. Get to the transition area early, and give yourself time to lay out your gear and rack your bike. Avoid the feeling of being rushed. Bring a couple of small plastic bags with you to keep vital parts of your bike dry in case of rain. (Learned that one the hard way. You’ll see in a bit).

Even if you prepare as well as you can the night before the race – and even if you trained well and did all of the work you needed to get to the starting line feeling confident, you can never know what the day holds for you. Just accept what it offers and role with it. (and WHOH, do I ever suck at that).

On to the swim portion of the race….

I learned that the most important thing about the swim portion of the triathlon is finding a nice, steady rhythm. One that feels comfortable – almost easy. When I jumped in to the Hudson River, I was not wearing a wetsuit like most other athletes. I had just picked up a new suit, and I didn’t have enough open water swim time in it. So I made the decision to leave my wetsuit in my transition bag and log the mile downstream wearing my tri shorts and top, swim cap and goggles. I didn’t train with the new wetsuit – so I didn’t trust it.

The swim portion of this race is much easier than the average Olympic triathlon, as the athletes swim with a strong current 1600 meters to the exit dock. The race begins at 99th street and the Hudson River, and goes to approximately 79th Street. Without the added buoyancy that a wetsuit provides, I would have a slightly more challenging swim than most other athletes – but it would still be very manageable.

Jumping into the Hudson is an interesting experience. Groups of 15-20 swimmers go off every 30-60 seconds, rapidly filling the New York side of the river with triathletes in the making. The water temperature was 75 degrees – very comfortable for a swimmer without a wetsuit. As I began to make my way down the course, I learned the importance of several things:

1. Every 4-5 strokes look up and make sure you are actually going the right way. The straighter your line to the exit, the quicker you’ll get there. Saw one swimmer run into one of the safety kayaks. Saw another run smack into a parked boat. Saw a third miss the dock and just kept going downstream (his day must have been a mess after that…)

2. If you get kicked / punched / shoved in the water by another athlete – it’s not personal. They didn’t see you and you didn’t see them. Accidents happen. Let it go and keep swimming. There’s no need to look to slug it out with some dude just because he smacked you in the back of the head while swimming alongside you. (Now if someone smacks you in the back of the head during the run – oh it’s ON. That’s another story all together). I watched as two dudes started smacking each other in the water. I am not kidding. It ranked an 8.4 on the Tool Scale. (but I did laugh hysterically, as it happened right in front of me).

3. Never – ever – laugh hysterically while trying to swim a mile in the Hudson. Your buoyancy gets royally screwed.

4. NEVER – EVER – take in any of the water from the Hudson. EVER. The last 200 meters of the swim became a bit congested, and swimmers kicked up a ton of the silt that sits on the bottom of the river. As I got close to the exit dock, I took in several mouthfuls of Chateau Bloomberg (aka The Hudson River water). The result was almost instantaneous nausea that lasted the remainder of the race.

As I exited the Hudson and ran barefoot to my bike transition, I became sick. It was like someone flipped a switched, and my stomach began doing backflips. I tried eating a ClifF bar as I exited transition with my bike…and it stayed in my stomach for all of 3-4 minutes. Not a good sign……


BY setting some pretty challenging goals for myself, I am trying to generate interest in / donations to The Dream Team Project. This charity’s mission is to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Being s former wish-granter for the New York City Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children.

If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website: http://www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Thanks!

…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409

In addition, I am running the 2013 Chicago Marathon in order to raise money to fight cancer. I am running with Team in Training, and if anyone would like any information on this fantastic charity’s work please go to: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/chicago13/jrkolinsky

I am also, once again, running the 2013 ING New York City Marathon in order to raise money to benefit the New York Road Runners Team for Kids (“TFK”). If you’d like to read more about this fantastic charity, please check TFK out at: http://www.runwithtfk.org/Page/About

Author: backofthepacker

A slow running, wine slurping, Disney-loving, bourbon swilling triathlete that is simply looking to go from ordinary to extraordinary...and hopefully motivate others along the way.

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