(Like a neverending story that finally reaches its conclusion, behold the final chapter in a series of posts that has taken too long to unveil but needed to run its course. Pt. 1 is here; Pt. 2 is here; and Pt. 3 is here.
By the way, it’s currently still possible to donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, supporting my participation in the Westchester Triathlon in memory of my grandfather Harold. While I passed my required donation minimum, I had hoped to raise more for such a great cause. Just visit my donation page here, and if you already donated, thanks again.)
It was dark out. Not quite pitch-black, but plenty dark. Too damn early on Sept. 27, 2009. Too many people were awake and lazily shuffling around the lobby of the hotel, but that’s because like me, they were all just waiting to hop on the bus at 4:45 am in order to be at Rye Playland by 5 when the transition area officially opened. The race didn’t start until 7 am. I was “lucky”: because of my age group, I would be in the third wave to take-off at 7:06 am. Friends I had trained with would have to wait an additional 10, 15, 30 minutes … some even more before they got to start. And it wasn’t just dark: it was raining.
We arrived at the transition area, i.e., one of the Playland parking lots, and it was still pretty empty. My bike had been moved since the night before because the triathlon organizers had miscalculated the number of racks and spaces they needed. I began to set-up up my roughly three square feet of ground space next to my bike. Generally, you would just lay out your bike gear and run gear on a towel or on the ground, next to your bike so it would be ready to go. But it was still raining out, and the weather reports indicated it wouldn't stop any time soon. So instead, I put my bike gear into one garbage bag and my running stuff into another. The transition area was slowly filling up with people, but I felt like I was done. I wasn’t set-up near any of my teammates, so I wandered around a little. I decided it was probably a good idea to try going to the bathroom again meaning waiting in line for the scary porta-potties. Still raining, still dark, with just the illumination of the parking lot lights overhead.
Around 6 am, i started getting myself ready. I was already wearing my trishorts and top. I put on my heart rate monitor and started putting body glide lubricant in the necessary places, especially important when wearing a wetsuit in salt water. Around 6:30, I went with a bunch of other people down to the beach. It was starting to get light, but it was so overcast and grey, it wasn’t that great. We got in the water and started to warm up a little, let the wetsuits fill with water. The water temperature wasn’t that bad, and in the wetsuit, it was almost balmy.
People started moving towards the beach for the start. Suddenly, it was a mob. Hundreds of people, all wearing the swim cap colored to identify their respective waves. It was kind of chaotic. Couldn’t hear the PA announcer. Standing around. And then suddenly … off they went. The male pros go first. I was hoping to finish the whole race in 3 ½ hours if I was lucky. These guys sprinting and dolphin leaping through the water were likely going to finish in a vicinity closer to two hours. But if they were starting, that meant I was too in just six more minutes.
I’m not sure what happened next. I was excited and scared and saying to myself, “What the fuck am I doing here.” We were standing around, shuffling near the shoreline and then suddenly, a horn, and we were off.