NYRR Sprint Tri: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The NYRR Sprint Triathlon can be described in three ways: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This post has approximately 4,000 photos, so I’ll start with some spoilers.

The Good: I finished! (Sort of.)

The Bad: Unfortunately, there’s sort of a lot of bad, but I’ll start with the biggest things: I got a flat tire, and I don’t have official results.

The Ugly: I got really, really angry.


(Puppy photos make everything better, right? Even blurry puppy photos?)

My mom slept over last night so that she could watch my race, and this morning started with a 4am wakeup for us. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.

“Yeah, I guess,” was my answer. I was incredibly nervous and dreading the heat.


I got up, put on my jailbird Champion Chip anklet (it held the timing chip) and my club bracelet triathlon number bracelet and grabbed a Luna bar and a banana for the road. I took Bailey out for a 4:45am walk, and it was just me and the people pouring out of the Mexican restaurant/club on my corner.

My absolutely amazing friend Shannon picked us up at 4:55 (like the car service to the airport, she was there even before I asked her to be!) and we headed off to Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. It was the site of the 1939/1964 World’s Fairs, and it’s also home to Citi Field and the site of the U.S. Open. In other words, it’s a cool place.


And it was a gorgeous morning. (Good.)



Before I walked into the transition area, this kind gentleman wrote my bib number on both of my arms, and my age on my left calf.


(He wouldn’t let me lie to him. Bad?)


It couldn’t have been any later than 5:30 or 5:45 by the time we reached the transition area and I racked my bike. That early without coffee? Ugly.


Shannon and my mom, two of the best people in the world. (Good.)


Another Shannon! and me and Shannon (The triathlon-running Shannon had seen I was also doing this race and we quickly became e-mail buddies as we freaked out together.) (Good.)


The transition area filled up ridiculously quickly.


By a little after 6:45, they let us in to the aquatic center to line up for the swim. They had us line up by estimated time. To be honest, I had no idea what my estimated time was, so I just seeded myself smack in the middle of the pack. I swam strongly and passed some people, so, at best, I seeded myself too conservatively.


I’m not usually a stomach barer when not at the beach, but it was steamy in there, so I rolled my top up a bit. (Ugly ;))


Do you see the girl sort of in front of me to the left? Her name is Michelle, and she’d had quite a few tris under her belt, but was still afraid to jump into the water. We chatted most of the way from lining up until jumping in, and I encouraged her to go ahead of me and just get it over with.


Some people did dramatic, piked jump-ins. I eased myself in.


And pushed off!


I must not have taken two strokes before my timing anklet fell off in the water. I had to stop and the girl behind me grabbed it. (Bad. Very bad.) I swam with it in hand for one length of the pool before realizing how un-streamlined that would make my stroke. (Uuuugly.) I ended up stuffing it into my shirt, where it stayed for the duration of the race.

I actually really enjoyed the swim. They had us snake through eight 50-yard lanes in the pool, and I felt really, really strong the whole time. My mom and Shannon said that I looked really strong, too, and that I had great form until the last lane. That was when I decided to go balls to the wall, and just swim it out. (Ugly.)

As I said, I don’t have official results, but I felt like I was swimming fast for me, so I’m going to go with an awe:sm for my official swim time.

I ran out of the aquatic center to the transition area, dried my feet off, put on my Garmin, headband, helmet, socks and sneakers and took off on my bike.


The bike course was 13 miles, or 2 loops of the park. My goal was to keep my pace under a 4:30 mile (I know most cyclists go by MPH, but I rely on my Garmin and am too lazy to switch it back and forth), and I was! Some parts of the bike leg, I even saw my pace dip below 4:00, which made me really excited. I’d hoped to keep the 13-mile bike time under an hour…

…when I got a flat tire at 10.5. A few times when I’d been out on my bike before, I thought I’d had a flat tire. Let me tell you this: you know when you have a flat tire. All of a sudden, my bike just ground to a stop. I stared at it in shock when I realized what had happened.

And no, I didn’t have a bike repair kit. I’ve never bought one, because in Manhattan, you’re always within walking distance of a bike shop. And I assumed that I’d probably just muck things up more.

Well, guess what I’m buying really, really soon? (And probably should have bought in advance, I know.) A bike kit. I was totally and completely screwed out there. I walked back to the last course marshal I saw, told her what the situation was, and asked what she thought I should do. “I don’t know,” she said. “Walk it to the end?”

Every obscenity flew through my head. When I finally opened my mouth, though, all I said was “Really? There’s nothing you can do?”


After the race, Ashley asked if I thought the race was well-organized. I told her I thought it was fairly well-organized, and, on the surface, it was. There were plenty of volunteers, plenty of people telling you where to go, a course marshal probably every half mile or so. What this race was not prepared for, however, was things to go wrong.

I walked my bike probably about another half-mile or mile before finding a volunteer that told me that if I left the course and walked towards transition, I would find a bike repairperson. I must have passed 5-10 volunteers between where my bike broke down and transition. Each of them asked if I was okay, and it took everything in my power to not yell, “Yes!!!!!!! I’m *^*% fine. It’s my *^*%*^ bike that’s not.”

Instead, I said “Yup. I just have a flat tire. The bike repairperson is this way, right?” Not one person knew if there was, in fact, a bike repairperson that way.

I finally got to the end of the course and saw my mom, Shannon and Lacey, who had joined them. At this point, I was really trying not to cry. I was so incredibly frustrated. My mom saw me walking my bike and saw the upset look on my face and tried to come to my aid (nearly getting herself killed in the process.)

I went up to someone in a NYRR shirt, explained my situation, and asked where the bike repairperson was.

“Oh, he just left.”

“HE WHAT???? There’s still plenty of people out on the course.”

“Nope, he left. Some triathlons have biker assistance; some don’t.” (I took this to imply that this meant that having biker assistance at a triathlon is lucky. Whether it is usual or unusual, I have no idea. It was my first one. And really, all I cared about at that point was that there was nobody to help me and my bike.”

“Now what do I do?”

“I would just walk your bike over the mat and do the run.”

“Will I be disqualified? Will I still have an official time?”

“You’ll still have an official time, you’ll just have a long bike split.”
That I could handle. Fine. Off to run it was.

I was so upset at this point, that I racked my bike and went to take off for the run with my helmet and sunglasses still on. I also picked up the handlebars of my bike a few feet off the ground, and slammed them down. Letting a little aggression out felt really good. (Ugly. Sorry.) Lacey spotted my helmet, and ran over to me and grabbed it before I went off on my run.

Well, the bike may have been a MASSIVE FAIL, but I totally made up for it on the run.



Do you see how pissed I am? Well, it helped my run, because I ended up COMPLETELY CRUSHING my 5K pr, running the 5K portion in 24:33!!! (7:55 pace!) My previous 5K PR (I haven’t run many 5Ks) was 27:48, so I knocked more than three minutes off my PR, and achieved my long-time goal of a sub-25:00 5K.


Flat tire or not, I finished, and I was thrilled. (Good.)


Done! (Good.)


I got a banana! (Good.)

That was my medal. There were no actual medals for this race. (Bad. Very bad. I’m totally making and ordering my own medal. A sprint tri deserves a medal.)


I just really love bananas, okay?


And sponge baths.


And toilets? We had no idea that we took this picture under the toilet sign. Oops.

I also love my friends and my mom for coming out to watch. (And Shannon for driving, and Lacey for hosting a Yay! Theodora Finished (Sort Of?) a Tri BBQ after.<– That will get its own post later. I’m lucky to have friends like you. And an awesome mom.)


Eff you, Bruiser. We’re not talking right now.

(Until I find my next sprint tri? I definitely need a redemption one.)

It’s funny: the things I worried most about–the heat, my stomach–didn’t bother me in the least. I only started feeling really hot towards the end of the run, but that also could have been the fury in my belly.

Either way, I’m a triathlete now. I think.

41 comments on “NYRR Sprint Tri: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

  1. Jen

    The bike assistant left? I’m honestly in shock they didn’t have someone there helping the whole time. That really sucks.

    But be proud girl, you’re a triathlete! And smashing your 5k PR so much is nothing short of amazing!

  2. melissa (fitnessnyc)

    You are definitely a triathlete! Great job. I’m sorry that the longest part of the race was also the most frustrating. I can’t believe noone helped you! But a PR is a PR. Go Theodora!

  3. Samantha

    I hate to say it—but as far as I know, even for Ironmans, there are no “bike repairmen” on the road. I may be wrong, but remember hearing stories about one cyclist getting multiple flat tires and blowing through all their spares, when finally a fellow competitor helped them out. Again, I may be totally wrong, but I’ve never heard of them being on course. Regardless, sorry you had such a crappy race. I would have been so frustrated I’m not sure I would have finished!

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Samantha: True. Like I said, this was my first tri and I really don’t know much about tris, so if there’s no biker assistance out there, that kind of sucks, but okay, fine, I’d chalk it up to not knowing and my not being prepared with a repair kit.

      But the fact that most of the volunteers seemed to have no idea what happens or where one should go in case of a problem was frustrating, as was the fact that there actually *was* a bike repairperson, who left while the bike portion was still very much going on. By the time I got back to transition, I was way. too. pissed. to not try to finish! 🙂

    2. Theodora Post author

      @Theodora: @Samantha: Okay, I just reread the race instructions, and apparently it says “There will be no bike aid on the course.” Which I totally missed, of course, because I never thought something would happen to my bike. :-/

  4. Kimra

    DAMN, I am even more impressed with the 5K PR after reading about the suck and anger that preceded it. Way to go channeling that into something ass-kicking.

    Also, I don’t know anything about tris, so I would have no idea whether to expect bike repairpeople or not — but I’d think that would be one of those things they’d want to spell out verrrrrrry clearly ahead of time, y’know?

    Bottom line, you’re totally a triathlete. Boom!

  5. BossyGirl

    WOW! You finished that is awesome!!!! I am going to do the Irongirl 2012 Triathlon in June 2012… but I can’t swim as yet. So I am about to sign up for some official lessons! Wish me luck!

  6. Kayla @ Learningtosayyes.com

    You deserve major congrats on pushing through to finish frustrated or not! It is always good to use frustration for a positive (PR!!) than to quit… It is awesome that you did this and that is what to focus on! You killed it 🙂

    And if you are looking for a good sprint tri to go for, there is a Danskin Tri in Sandy Hook NJ open for September 11 (they seem to be better- they at least give out medals!), but you will probably need to register quick 🙂

  7. FoodCents

    I think you are pretty awesome for not quitting, despite the bitch of a flat tire & proceeding to run a PR. I think the bike owes you a nice n’ strong drink.

  8. Maura

    Congrats on the Tri! Bummer about the bike portion, but i’m super impressed on how you got back on the horse and killed that run! I did a tri when I was in college on a mountain bike…I had no idea what I was doing and it was brutal! Haven’t gotten up the motivation to do another but you are giving me the bug!!

  9. Shannon

    Umm that 5K is insane! You were like 9 minutes faster than me. My rental bike turned out to be a POS and I killed my legs on the bike – thus ruining them for the run. But! I did end up getting second in my age group (ahem, of four) and am SUPER proud of my swim time/place. And you should be proud of yourself too!! You finished a triathlon, even if it didn’t go as planned. Congratulations!!! 🙂

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Shannon: Oh no 🙁 Sorry to hear your bike sucked. Still, even if it’s second place out of fourth, you still placed second in your age division! And that’s awesome. I’m surprised the division was so small, though. Congrats! We’re kind of awesome.

  10. Foodie McBody

    I loooooooooooooved reading this because today was my kick-off for Team in Training Tri training! We begin our actual training (swim + run) TOMORROW MORNING!

    I am so sorry about your flat tire. This is something to add to my Fears list! (other fears: drowning, getting hit by a car, etc) But I’m gonna press on. AND I’m gonna get a bike repair kit!!

  11. anne p

    Aw man… Such a bummer about the flat tire! I would have been so pissed. Awesome job on the 5k PR, though! You killed it!!! Congrats – you are def a triathlete 🙂

  12. Maggie

    Good job on finishing! Great job on the 5K PR! Amazing job at fueling your anger towards something positive! And you can think of it the whole not having a repair kit as a lesson learned.

  13. Carol Blanchfield

    I was there, along with some of Theodora’s great friends,
    So so Very Proud of my daughter the way she handled herself in this difficult situation. She was great finishing the swimming and not giving up then running to do the biking passing us on on the lst loop, her timing was great, on the second loop is when her bike failed her. She never never gave up, running to the last of the races, for her 5K
    and finishing faster than she ever did before,
    We couldn’t be prouder of you, for not only giving up, finishing the races and doing it with style and grace of a true Triahlete!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mom and Dad and Bailey too

  14. Carol Blanchfield


    Mom and Dad and Bailey too

  15. Meghann

    Congrats Theodora! Way to say ‘screw you, race!’ 🙂 I would have been just as pissed and I know I really need to buy a bike kit too, you may have just inspired me to do it sooner than later. Also, EXTREMELY jealous your swim was in a pool!

  16. Michelle

    1. You are totally a triathlete! No flat tire can take that away from you! And you didn’t sit down on the side of the road and cry, which is what I probably would have done.
    2. Congrats on the speedy 5k!!!
    3. Is Bailey wearing a bib in the first photo? 🙂

  17. steff (steffsays)

    wow! i’m so sorry about the flat! that was one of my biggest fears pre-race. and as i was swimming i got really worried about my timing chip coming loose too, but luckily it didn’t. but way to kick some major ass on the run! and in that heat? amazing! let me know what your redemption tri is going to be…i’ve officially been bitten by the bug. 🙂

  18. Katherine

    Sounds like you had a few things going against you, I would have gotten so discouraged, so congrats on finishing and PRing on your run!!

    How was the course around Flushing Meadows? I’m asking b/c I’m running the Queens 1/2 Marathon out there next weekend 🙂

  19. Dori

    You are amazing, seriously. Congrats on becoming a triathlete! You did finish, it is not your fault the flat tire happened and I would have been a hysterical mess if it were me. And AMAZING about the run — you really did kill it! I’m sorry it didn’t turn out as you planned, but that is also the reality of racing. Anything can happen. You went with it and still came out on top. Mazel!!

  20. Katy Widrick

    Ohhhhh honey — you really are awe:sm in every way. So sorry about the bike and other issues, but hey — it’s just part of the fun (ha!) of the sport.

    Hope you sign up for another one soon!


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