On July 20, I competed in the NYC Triathlon. Now I have been quite lazy training for the event because having a boyfriend means I can’t spend all my free time at the gym. Actually I thought it was a much much much shorter distance (a standard sprint length taking about 90 minutes to complete),
so I figured I could crank it out easily. Well once I found out it was an Olympic length, I decided not to go for competitive finish and just shoot for not finishing last. To make matters even more pathetic, I looked up the results from the previous year to make sure I would be able to beat the last few people. Yep, I am a sad sorry specimen.
Well I finished the race, and in decent time (2hrs, 55min, 53 sec, or 86 out of 260 people = top 33%) which totally shocked me because of all the hurdles I encountered in the race. Firstly, I was totally out of shape and not prepared for the race, so lets just get that out there (seriously, I had women in the 40-44 age group flying by me in the run).
Secondly, the heat index for the morning was 100+. At 8:30am (when I started the run), the temperature was already 92 deg F and hovering around 85% humidity with absolutely clear skies. I saw so many people crumpled up along the sidelines, and I felt so sorry for competitors who started the race 90 minutes AFTER me (putting them on the run course at 10am and some even more ungodly weather conditions).
The bike was SUPER hilly which made it amusing to see my speed dip to 5mph on the uphill after a 40mph downhill (yes, I got it up to 40pmh, it was AWESOME but I think most people were braking because it was too scary or didn’t practice descending).
Normally I look forward to the swim because I loooooovvvve the water.
Well swimming in the Hudson River was a bit intimidating because it has the reputation of being so disgustingly dirty (you can only eat a few fish a year taken out of the Hudson without getting poisoned) and it is SALT WATER! Yeah, strange that you can taste the salt in a freshwater river (oh God please let that be salt). The river is so murky that you cannot see an arm’s length. Well I had swum 2/3 of the swim course when all of the sudden my face, arms and legs (I don’t swim in a wetsuit) started tingling. It was like I was smacked all over with a branch. When I emerged from the water I reached down and started frantically scratching my legs because they were burning the most. A girl next to me started jumping up and down while fishing a JELLYFISH out of her swimsuit strap (it got caught under her armpit swim suit strap and now her whole under arm was red and irritated. JELLYFISH, what the fuck!!!! In a river! My whole wave of girls swam right through it.
I guess the race officials realized that it was starting to become quite the problem (we were wave 12, so that means approximately 600 people had swam through the jellyfish swarm before us) because they had staff set out to hose us down to wash off the chemicals.
Needless to say, the race went well enough, and I even got a good chuckle out of all the “obstacles” that emerged during the race. On a more serious note, here is an article from the NY Times, about a race-day tragedy. Note they didn’t get all the facts right because the Jellyfish sure stuck around a lot longer than they say (I was stung at about 6:45am).
‘A 32-year-old man competing in the New York City Triathlon died Sunday after being pulled unconscious from the Hudson River on a day when competitors battled heat, humidity and stinging jellyfish along the course.
Late Sunday, the police identified the man as Estaban Neiva from Buenos Aires. Organizers had withheld his name because his family members, who live in Argentina, had not been notified.
Bill Burke, the race director, said rescuers pulled Neiva from the river about three-quarters of the way through the 1,500-meter swim portion, which ended near the 79th Street Boat Basin. The swim is the first of the event’s three phases and is followed by a 40-kilometer bicycle ride and a 10K run that finishes in Central Park.
“Other swimmers noticed the gentleman in the water, and they were actually waving and signaling for the nearby jet boats to come assist them,” Burke said.
He added: “We did have life support on the boats that were monitoring the swim course. There’s medical staff on those boats, so if the guy had a situation in the water, he’s getting the best medical care.”
About 15 minutes elapsed between the time rescuers brought Neiva to the dock and his placement in an ambulance. He was one of nearly 3,000 competitors in the nonprofessional divisions; the race also included about 40 professional triathletes.
It was not known how long Neiva was in the water before rescuers found him, but he was pulled from the river around 8 a.m., about a half-hour after the final wave of 30- to 34-year-olds left the dock at 98th Street.
Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the city medical examiner, said an autopsy would be performed Monday.
At least three other people have died during the swim portion of United States triathlons since early May: a 38-year-old man in the Gulf Coast Triathlon in Florida, a 46-year-old man at the Hy-Vee Triathlon in Iowa and a 45-year-old man at the Pacific Crest Triathlon in Oregon.
The death Sunday was the first in the eight-year history of the New York event. Burke said that at least four competitors were taken to local hospitals with heat-related illnesses, and that two others sustained broken bones.
By 8 a.m., when most of the 3,000 competitors had begun the event, temperatures had reached 80 degrees, with high humidity in Central Park, according to the National Weather Service.
By that time, the top competitors had just completed the race. Greg Bennett of Australia won his fourth consecutive New York City Triathlon, with a time of 1 hour 46 minutes 30.9 seconds. He finished 63 seconds ahead of Stuart Hayes of Iowa.
An Australian also won the women’s race, with Liz Blatchford finishing in 1:58:34.9, nearly two minutes ahead of Becky Lavelle of California.
Brent McMahon, a member of Canada’s 2004 Olympic triathlon team, was among those affected by the heat. He was in second place in the men’s professional category when he collapsed a few feet from the finish line. He was attended to by medical personnel, then crawled across the finish line, placing fifth, and fainted. Burke said he had since recovered.
Burke said that competitors were required to attend a 30-minute safety briefing and must sign a waiver stating that they know how to swim, but they do not have to prove that they are physically fit in order to participate. Heat exhaustion or dehydration is always a risk for competitors on such a muggy day.
“Was the medical team taxed today? Of course they were,” Burke said. “Athletes in this event push themselves, but athletes also have to understand that they need to be prudent and understand that on a day like this, they’re probably not going to get a personal record today.”
Dozens of swimmers reported being stung by jellyfish. Swimmers said they were taken by surprise because they had not been warned about the jellyfish, which had not been a problem in past races.
“I was in the middle of a stroke, and whammo, it bit me right in the face; the pain spread across the side of my face and down my neck,” said Charlie Redmond, 59, from Demarest, N.J. “Everyone was talking about the jellyfish after the race.”
Jellyfish stings often result in minor allergic reactions; in rare cases, they can cause difficulty breathing, coma or death, according to the health Web site WebMD. Burke said he knew of no serious reactions and said the jellyfish appeared to be dissipating when the first wave of pro athletes entered the water at 5:50 a.m. He said the majority of the athletes were wearing wet suits.
Still, Jennifer Shipley said she was so unnerved by the jellyfish that she picked up her pace to get out of the water quicker.
“I totally panicked,” said Shipley, 39, from Washington, who was stung on the shoulder. “I think I had my total fastest time ever.”
Other swimmers, she said, floated on their backs for a few minutes to calm down, and one woman called race organizers to pull her out of the water.
Most people said that the pain went away after a few minutes, and that they showed no marks from the stings.’