Nautica New York City Triathlon

This is going to sound cliché, but I love New York City. I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to go to New York to see the new Broadway musical, Book of Mormon, which won nine Tony Awards. It just so happened that one of the biggest races in the US, the New York City Triathlon, was happening so I coordinated and convinced my friend, Abby, to come with me so we could stay with her parents (who live on the Upper East Side) and have some fun in New York after the race. Foiling my plan was the fact that both performances of BOM during my trip were sold out, but I won the NYC Triathlon and saw Catch Me If You Can, so the weekend turned out pretty well anyway.

I arrived late on Friday and got to sleep as early as I could. Saturday I made my way up to Columbia University where I swam with Coach Jim Bolster. I wanted to get a nice picture of me with the CU Swimming record board before the team breaks the last three of my records, but somehow in the rush to get out the door I left my camera. So this pic is the best I could do.

The rest of Saturday was relaxing. I went for a bike ride in Central Park and attended the race expo. A few weeks ago I got some compression product to test out from 110% sports, and they were renting a booth at the expo. I went up and got a pair of calf sleeves to overcome some airplane fatigue I was feeling, then decided to keep them on until the race start the next morning.

The start came early, even with a delay for weather and an overturned car on the Westside Highway. As we dove into the Hudson all I could think was, “man this is going to hurt”. Yet somehow it didn’t. We swam pretty slowly, and I held back a lot due to the lack of warmup and the length of the run from swim exit to T1. I knew that the transition run would be as big a factor as the swim and I didn’t want to start the bike overly winded from it. I exited 3rd from the water but passed both of the men in front of me heading to my bike. I started with a small lead and when I hit the Westside Highway the traffic of bikes trying to get out of the park had already given me a gap. I hammered, but my legs never felt like they were pushing all that hard. I was breathing easily and the most tension I felt in my body was in my knuckles as I gripped the bars and hoped that there weren’t any big holes under the depths of water covering the roadway. At the turn around I saw I had less than a minute lead over Greg Bennett. I was worried. I didn’t know if he was gaining on me or losing ground, but I was pretty intent on extending that lead. I pushed, but my legs still didn’t feel the pain, I just couldn’t push hard enough to make myself hurt like normal. Perhaps it was the rain, perhaps I was just in the zone, but I really thought I was having a horrible ride. Before the race I had changed the display on my Garmin Edge 800 so that I couldn’t see power numbers. I feel like those numbers in a race can do more to psyche me out than help, but around 45 minutes in I flipped the display to see if I was riding as slowly as I thought. No. It was the highest average power I’ve ever seen in a race. Somehow that gave me more confidence than the nearly two minute lead I had built over Bennett and Yoder, and I started the run thinking, “this is my race to lose”. The run always hurts, but the last three miles running through central park were awful. I hit a wall and all that easy speed and easy breathing ran out. My lungs tightened up and I started begging the finish line to appear in front of me. The rain had stopped and the humidity and heat were rising and before I knew it I was way overheated. As I hit the finish shoot I was starting to see darkness and it was all I could do to high five Abby and her sister Sandy then cross the line, raise the banner, fall to my knees raise my arms and yell (the New York Times and Wall Street Journal claim it was a mutter, but this is my memory), “Go Lions!” in support of my alma mater, Columbia University which is just blocks from the course.

I love going back to New York. I feel a great deal of pride for my school and the time I spent competing for Columbia in swimming. I love wandering the city and all the exciting things to do (after the race of course). I love the way the city smells (awful, but it brings back good memories), and I love the people. Winning the Nautica New York City Triathlon is going to be a highlight of my career, and I can’t wait to try it again next year.

One more comment I’d like to add. I went into this race thinking about the loss of my friend Bob Havrilak. I would love to believe that he’s up there watching over me, Adam at his side, cheering me on from beyond. But if they are, I hope they see that they had a part of all of this success. It’s nice to think about our loved ones watching over us, but I wish I had told Bob more often how much his friendship meant to me. He knew I would be winning races like New York long before I did, and I wish I had thanked him just one more time for helping me believe in myself. I don’t believe I won the race for Bob, and I really can’t wrap my head around him sitting on a cloud watching me. I believe that Bob is part of who I am today, and in some way, it was Bob winning the race. So good job Bob, and everyone else who has been part of my life through this journey. Guys like Loren and Bob Placack, my parents and sister, Coaches Bolster, Victor, Mike Doane and others, all my homestays and my sponsors… Good job guys, we won!

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

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