Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mike's 2010 New York City Triathlon Race Report

By Michael Donikian, USAT Certified Triathlon Coach, NASM-CPT

Pre Race:
Coming into this race I had two weeks of hard training followed by a week of recovery. My goal time was sub-2:20 (almost 5 minutes faster than last year). I knew I was way fitter than last year but I'd also been struggling with some intense tightness running along my right leg and had not been able to schedule my usual ART sessions/treatments. I was hoping my improved fitness would be enough to hit that 2:20 but I was really worried I'd have an awful race experience like I did at the duathlon (2010 Long Branch Pier Du) where I backed out of it mid ride. NYC Tri was only a B race, but I was still nervously rolling and icing the day before until the evening before the race... it's never fun to suffer through a race for reasons unrelated to the race course. At one point I just decided there was nothing else I could do and I might as well enjoy the movie I was about to watch (Inception). The movie was AWESOME and put me in a pretty positive mood for the next day. Drank an extra 24 oz of nuun before going to bed and woke up feeling pretty psyched, well hydrated and not as tight as imagined. Walked over to the race area, got my gear on, drank another full nuun, took my Gu gel and headed for the start.

While waiting in the holding area for our wave to start I could feel the intense current wanting to shove us downstream. I knew this would be a fast swim...perhaps close to last year's. The gun went off and I sorta struggled in the opening moments with a) getting over the rope and b) hyperventilating until I got my swim breathing pattern under control. I have a tendency to forget to breath out under water especially in the chaotic first few minutes of the swim. Regardless after a few breast strokes I got in under control though lost my chances at "finding good feet". For much of the swim I was not drafting until maybe the last third where I found some feet and got my rhythm. I got out in about 18:07... and was totally pumped!
Nutrition: 1 Gu Gel & one water bottle with nuun (24 oz) immediately before
Time: 18:07 (last year 18:27 with a faster current)

Ok, I made the mistake of not taking off my wetsuit during the ~400m runup to transition. It made the run a bit harder than it should have been though 99% of people made the same mistake except for Sports Bistro co-founder "T1 Ton." Once in transition I see Ton so I knew he was barely a minute ahead of me. Sadly I forgot to take my wetsuit off before putting my bike shoes on (d'oh) and lost a few seconds there. NYC has a technical start to the bike course so most opt against keeping their bike shoes clipped into the bike.
Time: 4:39

Ok where's Ton, where's Ton... he was barely ahead of me and now I can't see him. I figured that I'd catch him pretty quickly given how close he was and my typically stronger bike leg... though this race was different. I knew Ton's bike had improved dramatically this year...ironically it was probably due to the more advanced training I had suggested for him. Ok... so no Ton but I see my friend and co-leader from the NYCC A-SIG Classic Jeff Terosky... we trade spots a few times but still no Ton. Unfortunately one of my water bottles had popped out early on the course so I had to make due with only one on this scorcher of a day. I come upon the Henry Hudson bridge (~1/3 way of course) where I figured I would catch Ton but still no sign. I come up to the Moshulu parkway and finally see him on the out-and-back section (~mile 11.5). My calculation was that he was about 1.5-2.0 minutes ahead of me... wow!!! He was putting some serious time on me today as I don't think I left more than a minute behind him. I was so wrapped up in trying to catch Ton that I didn't really notice right away how low my heart rate was this whole time. I was struggling to break 160bpm for most of the way and was often in the mid 150s. (I typically race Olympics in the low 160s) I decided it was on now and I had to push it a little harder if wanted any chance of catching Ton by T2. I had a few good stretches in the 160-163bpm range but annoyingly it kept dropping back to the 150s. My right leg was fighting me the whole way and I wouldn't say it was winning but it was putting up a really good fight. I end up not seeing Ton again until the second out and back section by ~55th street (mile ~23). I calculated he was about 40 seconds ahead of me here so I was happy I gained a little time on him... but still frustrated I couldn't catch him given the fact the bike course was almost done... Oh well... time for the run.
Nutrition: 2 Gu Gels & one water bottle with Gu Electrolyte Brew (24 oz)
Time: 1:12:43 (vs 1:15:13 last year though on a 0.6 mi longer course due to transition area)
Avg HR: 156 bpm (typically 162 bpm for an Olympic)

Ok... so I was behind Ton by hopefully less than a minute but I also really REALLY had to go to the port-0-john by this point. I was also annoyed someone also took the my spot on the bike rack and was barely able to get my bike in there. I also decided to run without my race laces today given some prior issues I had with them on this particular pair of run shoes so I wasted some time tying laces. Needless to say, this transition was not my best.
Time: 2:26

Ok... here's my strength and after a year of training my run was even stronger. This is where I usually put time on some of my competitors. I was on the run course at about the 1:38 mark and knew I was within striking distance of my 2:20 target if I could do a sub 42 run. Compared to last year, the bike leg was shorter but the run was longer (again due to different transition area I fell in) so I knew I had to be much much faster to make it within the time limit. Felt some tightness on the run like the bike but it didn't seem to affect my heart rate too much... though my heart rate easily could have been artificially high due to the high heat (80+ degrees now) and the lack of hydration I had on the bike. I didn't know what to make of it as I was running about 40-60s per mile slower than planned... and Ton was still NOWHERE in sight. Finally I see him at around mile 3.5 and he seems to be jogging along quite slowly. Now's my chance to blow by him and make my statement. I decide not to look back either and figured I left him behind though little did I know that Ton picked up his pace to match mine (I wasn't exactly running that fast). Shortly after mile 5 I look back behind me to confirm he's not there but I was shocked to see that he was maybe 20-30 yards back. I decide to pick up the pace and open up a larger gap--admittedly I was sorta lollygagging by this point knowing that I wouldn't come anywhere close to breaking 2:20. I figured if I could open up 100-150 yds it would be the end of this little chess match. Then on the last half mile right before one of the big downhills I hear Ton say something to the effect "let's see who's the better descender". Damn! He's literally right next to me now even though I picked up my pace. I decide to take a risky bet at this point and burn another match figuring that Ton probably burned a few himself to catch me and was perhaps redlining it at this point just to stay with me. It could easily have backfired though since if he passed me at this point I'd probably be too spent to chase. At the bottom of the hill there was a sharp right turn leading into the final 1/4 mile. I used this turn to look behind me and try to spot him to make sure my plan worked. It did. Ton was well behind me now and looked like he was losing ground with each step. I eased off the throttle again and just tried to glide into the finish as there were no records to be broken today. I came in at 2:25 or so. I barely beat Ton... just 16 seconds separated us. Wow. One false step by me and he could have taken it today.
Nutrition: 1 Gu Gel & drinks of on course sports drink at each mile (Ctyomax?)
Time: 47:30 (vs 43:26 last year though on a slighter shorter (by ~.2 mi) run course)
Avg HR: 164 bpm (typically 168 for an Olympic)

Total: 2:25:23 (vs 2:24:08 last year)


The Good:
  • Swim was faster than last year even though I think I had a slower current this year.
  • Faster bike leg at a lower heart rate--considering the course was slightly longer for me last year, it's only marginally faster but the HR was much lower.

The Bad:
  • Couldn't maintain target HR on the bike.
  • Gotta find a new pair of shoes that work better with my race laces as my current pair just doesn't "feel right."
  • What happened on the run? I just fell apart it seems.
  • Need to do my ART sessions more consistently. It works great, but it only works if I go.
  • About 1:15 slower than last year. Both races were B races but it seems I was just more prepared last year.


  1. Mike, that was one nice kick in the last half mile. I honestly thought I had you beat today. Way to pull out the win!