NYC Tri: My First Olympic Tri!

Yesterday, I completed my first Olympic-distance triathlon!

And it went better than I expected!

The morning started at 4am, when my alarm went off. Miraculously, I slept really well. Once I dropped my bike off yesterday, I sort of felt like things were out of my hands and I got this weird sense of calm about the race.

I’d laid all my stuff out last night but it still took me a good 40 minutes to get ready and check and double-check everything, and I was finally out the door by 4:40, grabbing a cab, hoping that I’d make it into transition before it closed at 5:15. I had two clear plastic bags of crap, and guzzled some pre-workout and scarfed down an English muffin with sunflower butter. Somehow I forgot the banana. I don’t even know who I am.

Since it was, you know, not even 5am, I was just fine and got to transition around 4:55. (These don’t feel like real times that happened today.)

I quickly laid out my stuff and hustled out of transition. From my transition area, yellow, it was about a 10-minute walk to the swim start. I was really good at not forgetting anything…except figuring out what to do with my flip-flops after. There was an option to have a bag that they’d bring to the end of the run for you to pick up, but I hate checking baggage, so I ignored that option and hoped for the best. I’d accidentally grabbed Tory Burch flip flops (because, clearly, that’s what you should wear to a triathlon?!), and I didn’t want to have to chuck them, but it would have beat walking barefoot up there.

I’m pretty freaking chatty in real life, especially when I’m a little nervous, so I started making small talk with a girl I was walking with. LUCKILY, my friend Shannon happened to be just ahead of me and heard my voice. I was so relieved to see her…and her gear check bag. We hung out until it was time for us to get into our corrals. I knew I had a friend in the corral behind me, so I went to the very back of mine, in hopes of seeing her. I was in no rush to jump into the Hudson, anyway. I never saw the friend I was looking for, but I did see KATIE! which was just as exciting, because I haven’t seen her in a long time.

Swim! 0.9 miles / 19:52

We started edging towards the barge where we’d jump from. Luckily, I made two more nervous-and-chatty friends and we chatted straight up until we hopped in, which took my mind off everything. Chat, chat, chat…OH? BARGE? JUMP? Okay. I actually think I preferred this to the running-in entry, as I had no choice but to just go for it.

Dare I say, I actually loved swimming in the Hudson? It was so cool to be swimming in the river, which isn’t something I can just go do on the regular. (To my knowledge?) The current was strong, and took us downstream quickly. Though I’d practiced sighting, I didn’t do much of it because I had, oh, all of New Jersey to sight to when I breathed to the right. I’d say I probably sighted every 20 strokes or so.

The open-water clinic I took a few weeks ago was definitely really helpful, because I felt zero panic in the water and just felt really strong. Several times I looked up and was a bit dismayed at how far the end was, but I never panicked. I heard lots of people cheering from land. Realistically, I knew there was no way my mom and Lacey would be able to spot me, especially since I breathe right, but I just pretended all the cheers were for me, and it worked out very well.

Before I knew it, it was time to get out! The Boat Basin is one of my favorite parts of the Hudson River, so I was happy to see all the boats, and get out of water. I’d blocked out that I was swimming in the Hudson (because you sort of have to, I think, to get through it), but as we got close, that was good motivation to swim faster. I climbed up the ladder on the barge, and promptly wiped right out on the slippery dock. Cool life, Theodora.

T1 (9:41)

NYC Tri Transition

You have to run a long way from the swim end back to transition, but I saw my mom, Lacey and her fiancee during this stretch. This was only my second time wearing a wetsuit, so it probably took me a bit longer to get out of it. It had also rained while I was in the water, so I spent a little time stuffing anything else that was on the ground in my backpack. The bike freaks me out a bit, so I think I also just took a second to take a deep breath and center myself before heading out for the bike course in the rain. Also, I clearly suck at transition and need to work on this.

Bike (1:58:01)

After my big bike freakout a few weeks ago, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to hop on my bike. In the rain. But in order to get to the best leg of the race, I kinda had to. I got out of transition and pulled myself over to get on the bike slowly and carefully…and I was off! The bike course takes you past the Boat Basin before making an immediate and sharp turn up a hill to the traffic circle at 79th and Riverside. I took a deep breath, switched to the small ring, and powered up. From there, you just ride up the West Side Highway. For a really long time.

NYC Tri Elevation Map

At one point during the ride, I saw Daisy, who’d been in Sam’s tri training camp with me. I recognized her by her tri kit and started chatting with her a bit. I was SO happy to see her. At one point, we saw a hill coming up. My coach had told me to use momentum to get up the hills, so I told Daisy I had to leave her, because I had to attack the hill before it attacked me. My offhand joke ended up becoming my mantra for every other hill. Even though my final speed still ended up being slow, I felt like I was flying at a few points, and I got really really comfortable changing gears quickly when necessary.

Up until the George Washington Bridge, the course was as familiar to me as the back of my hand. I always ride on the West Side (though usually on the path, not the actual highway, obviously), and the northern part of the WSH near the bridge reminds me of coming in to the city as a kid with my parents and being so impressed by the big city or of the first few times I drove in alone, intoxicated with freedom. We got to ride through the tolls, which was really cool. Daisy and I were together at this point, and she joked to one of the cops that she’d forgotten her EZ Pass. We rode past signs for Fort Tyron Park, which the Junior League cleaned up one year, and over the Henry Hudson Bridge, where we had a beautiful, misty view on the rainy morning. Finally, we turned around up by Van Cortlandt Park. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY TO TURN AROUND ANYWHERE. I still don’t have the confidence to drink on the bike, so I popped off for a second to take a drink before hopping back on.

The second half of the bike course had way more downhills than uphills, which was very, very nice. For the first 3/4 of the race, I was mostly surrounded by other women. I passed a handful, and of course, was passed by a million others. In the last 1/4 of the race, some of the men started catching up with us and passing us, and they were FLYING. It was certainly a little nerve-racking…

I won’t lie that I started thinking ahead to what the 70.3 would be like while on the bike. Could I do it? I decided to just focus on the mile I was in again, and check in with how I was feeling. Was I feeling good? Yes? Great. Going into the race, I honestly had zero time goals. I’d been careful not to read too many other Olympic recaps and get other people’s times in my head. I wasn’t really sure what a good time was or wasn’t, but around halfway through the bike, I decided if I could get to T2 by 2:30, I could definitely do 3:30 or under.

To be honest, I hadn’t studied the course map…at all? because I was pretty freaked out and ignorance was bliss. I got really excited when I saw signs for 95th Street, thinking we were just a mile or so away, but it turns out the bike went down to 42nd before turning around. Total buzzkill.

We ended the course going down the same hill we went up, and the downhill again made me nervous, and I slowed the hell down, and clipped out long before the dismount line just so I didn’t get too excited to remember to clip out.

T2 (2:31)

All I had to do here was take off my helmet, rack my bike, put on my fuel belt and headband and put my sneakers on. I am an idiot, and not only had I not untied my shoes, but oh no, I hadn’t even un-double-knotted them, so I had a big ole knot to untie. My socks were already soggy from getting caught in the rain, and I knew I’d get blisters…but there was nothing I could really do at that point, so off I went. I’d hit transition around 2:27, so I left confident I’d be able to hit my loose goal.

Run (51:59)

The run takes you across 72nd Street to Central Park. I remembered from walking across the race other years that it was packed with people, and I was so excited.

NYC Tri Run 72nd Street

And a few of those people just happened to be MINE! My mom, Lacey and her fiancee are the best, and I was so happy to see them as I went off for the best part of the race. I cherished that this first mile was flat, as I knew what was ahead was not. In other tris, my legs have felt a little jellylike, but I was so happy to be running, I didn’t feel any of that.

I smiled all the way into the park as people cheered, and smiled when I got to the park because I knew I was on home turf. I’ve got this, I smiled to myself, as I entered. We took a counterclockwise upper loop, so the hills were slightly gentler on our legs. My loose goal was under 3:30, and my running goal was to keep right around a 9:00 pace, so every time I looked down at my watch and saw my pace in the 8:30s, I was so pleasantly surprised! I felt happy and strong, but I was also definitely starting to feel tired at this point and realized that I’d be out there almost as long as I was for my marathon. I just kept doing mental math, and realized that I’d definitely come in under 3:30. I somehow got it in my head that Kimra had done an Oly in 3:23, and that became my time to beat.

The finish is this weird labyrinthine path around Bethesda Fountain. Once we turned on 72, I thought we were cruising straight ahead, but there were weird twists and turns.

NYC Tri Preppy Runner

(Oh, and I couldn’t resist a new tri top at the expo…it was on sale! I know they say nothing new before race day, but it worked out really well)


Once I started doing the Franklin Lakes Triathlon, there was no doubt in my mind that I could finish an Olympic. The distances aren’t that much longer. That’s part of the reason I’m challenging myself to do this HIM.

I was really happy with my time and performance after I crossed the finish line, and…until I looked at my results. I’m still really happy with my swim and run time (the run time was less than 10 seconds off my 10K PR!), but I know my bike time leaves a LOT to be desired, and I have my work cut out for me there in the next 7 weeks. I also need to learn the multisport function on my Garmin better; I thought it was on, but it says I just ran for a really long time.

It had been a long time since I conquered a new distance, and that was such a fun feeling to have yesterday. And today when my coworkers asked how it went!


Oh, and I caught this beautiful view as I left the park to go get my bike. Taking it back on the subway sounded like hell, so I just rode a few more miles home before meeting my mom and Lacey for brunch.

Anyone else do the NYC Tri? What was the last new distance you conquered?

Thank you to the NYC Tri for providing me with guaranteed entry in exchange for blogging about the race; I paid for my own entry.

37 comments on “NYC Tri: My First Olympic Tri!

  1. Cynthia @ You Signed Up For WHAT?!

    Congrats!!! As we just chatted on FB, yes I did it too! My first Olympic. I’m also doing a half Ironman in oh, about 8 weeks – eek! I have some of the same things to say too – need to figure out my multisport mode (I figured out how to change it to which sports and add in T1 & T2 and press lap each time, but it never gave me my pace for the whole race – I had no clue how fast/slow I was biking/running!) and things like that. And my bike time needs work too – I thought I was doing pretty well but when I looked at the results it was way slower than I thought it was! 🙂 Anyhow, congrats – what an exciting race it is. I don’t know NYC as well as you do and I had such a thrill biking and running through it.

  2. meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles

    Congrats! What an accomplishment. I was thinking of you when I saw the coverage on the news about the tri. And I was totally laughing when you say you need to block out the fact that you are really swimming in the Hudson. I would have to do the same thing lol. Amazing job.

  3. Becky @ Olives n Wine

    I’m so impressed, especially with the swimming portion! I am totally not a swimmer and would probably have to do multiple swim clinics in order to not freak out in open water 🙂 And I love the photo of you and your mom, you just look so happy!

  4. Mom

    You accomplished your goal with the confidence, determination, strength, and dignity of a true athlete
    My feeling of pride is overwhelming,
    Love you,

  5. Barbara

    Wow! What a fast swim! Congrats on your race.. I just finished my first tri( an olympic also) a few weeks ago! Totally hooked!

  6. Nicole

    WOW!!!! Congratulations!!! I am so happy/excited for you. I did a long run along the WSH on Friday and saw everything all set up. The swim looks SO long. I hope you feel amazing!!!

  7. Danielle

    How do you feel this was different, mentally, than running your marathon(s). You mentioned that you were out there for roughly the same amount of time, but did it feel easier because there was more variety?

    1. Theodora Blanchfield Post author

      In some ways it felt easier, mentally, because of the constantly changing up the sports, but it also was a little more stressful because of the unknown/so many things to remember at each transition.

  8. Katie

    Hooray! When you figure out the secret to multisport on your garmin, let me know. I also didn’t get it figured out for my tri last month. Of course you can freaking do an olympic, and I cannot wait to read your recap of 70.3. 7 weeks is the perfect amount of time to get more comfortable, especially the next 4 weeks. (my tri team says that at 3 weeks to race the hay is already in the barn ((we live in farming country))). Way to go!

  9. Elizabeth

    “Cool life, Theodora.” No, seriously: COOL LIFE, THEODORA. I got so amped up reading this, that I almost considered riding a bike for, like, the third time since 1996 (one of those times was in CT with you, and the other was on the path along the West Side Highway and I almost died). Then I decided, no. I will leave the bike riding to you, you Olympic distance athlete, you! Love and miss you. xx

  10. Katie

    OMG great job!!!! I think you nailed it 🙂

    A few points: 1) I slipped going into the bike-run transition on a slippery timing mat in front of ALL THE PEOPLE… it happens to all of us. 2) You should be so so so proud of your bike ride!! Overcoming the mental setbacks are the hardest. 3) I also hate drinking on the bike (forced myself to get comfortable with it for 70.3) and downhills (I lose time on them every time because I recognize my own mortality and I just can’t do it). 4) You DEFINITELY can do the 70.3 (all of it). It really is just a hop, skip and a jump from the Oly to 70.3 and it’s so worth it.

    You’re going to smash it!

  11. Laura

    This is by far the best tri recap I have ever read. It actually makes me (kind of) want to train for a do a tri.

    “I had two clear plastic bags of crap” – that is one of my biggest deterrents to doing a tri. So much prep and STUFF required! I feel like I would be so lost and do a terrible job with this part.

    “but I just pretended all the cheers were for me, and it worked out very well.” That is my favorite thing to do in a race 🙂

    If you liked riding through the tolls, you should come run Niagara Falls Marathon (or half) where you get to run through customs from the US into Canada 🙂

    HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!!!! I am so excited for you. I know you are going to crush 70.3 this fall 🙂

  12. Dietitian Jess

    Congrats!! I have my first Olympic Tri in a month so reading this definitely gets me motivated and excited! The bike is also my weak point… I just learned how to drink on the bike recently but its still scary… my goal for next year is clipping in. Can’t wait to see you recap for 70.3!

  13. Jennifer Olszowy

    I just finally got the chance to race the Irondistance, I finished Ironman Boulder. I struggled with blistered, but found my best pace to slog on to the finish line. I can attest to getting better on the bike handling, you just need to build your confidence by getting more opportunities to ride and learning more tips from others. I am also a firm believer in positive thinking, if you think you can, you will. Keep sharing your journey because we will help provide some wonderful tips to help you along. Way to go, girl!!

    1. Theodora Blanchfield Post author

      Congrats!!!!!!!! The negative thinking is really hard for me in general, but especially on the bike, but I’m just trying to keep on riding and pushing on past it – and sharing here. I’ve gotten so many great tips from people!

  14. Dori

    YESSSSS congrats!!!! I am so happy for you! You did a really great job – and on a pretty yucky rainy day. I’m impressed. And such a strong run after all that!

  15. Jess

    I’m so proud of you! You did great! The bike can be scary, but you can master it in the next several weeks. You’ve totally got this HIM!

  16. eizabeth e

    I’ve so enjoyed following your training and especially your reflections on being outside your comfort zone. In a much less intense way, I’m doing the same — I just signed up for my first half, and to quote Jessie Spano, “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so scared.” I know it will be fun, and I know physically I’ll be able to do it; its the mental game I’m worried about — so keep those tips coming! Can’t wait to see how you do in your 70.3!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.