Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 67, 2021/04)
Over the 36 seasons that I did multi-sport races there were several different events held that had the title “New York City Triathlon.” But there was only one that could be called “THE New York City Triathlon” (at least in my view). That was (and still is) a fantastic Olympic-Distance race with the Transition Area in Riverside Park south of the 79th St. traffic circle; the swim in the Hudson River (the start when I did it at about 95th St.; the start has varied); the bike on the Henry Hudson Parkway up Upper Manhattan’s West Side, across the Henry Hudson Bridge into the Bronx, up to the turn-around on Moshulu Parkway, and then back down to the Transition Area; and then the run, up a steep hill to get out of Riverside Park, across 72nd St. to Central Park, and then the rest of the 10k. run which went all the way around the Park Drive to the finish on the 72nd St. transverse. Once it got underway, it became the most popular race for foreigners to come to, after the New York City Marathon.
For me this race was very special, for on the swim and bike I was doing it in my front yard, and on the run, I was essentially doing it in my backyard. I grew up on what is called the Upper West Side of Manhattan, overlooking what is called Riverside Park, and beyond it, the Hudson River. And this column is more of a reminisce about its meaning-of-and-memories-for-me than of the races themselves.
I played in the park as a child, snow-sledded in it (yes in the 1940s and early 50s there was plenty of snow in New York City to be able to do that), walked in it many times, and went to Columbia College for my B.A., further up Riverside Drive. As far as the Hudson River which borders the West Side of Manhattan Island is concerned, of course it was always much too dirty to swim in, but there were river boat rides around Manhattan Island and up the River to Bear Mountain Park. And there were views across it to the riverside factories which were there then and the Palisades Amusement Park on top of the cliff at 125th St. During World War II, convoys of merchant ships would gather there for a week or so and then one morning they would be gone, with their supplies, on their way to Great Britain and the European Theater. Some of them, with the brave merchant seamen aboard, of course never made it back. (There were about 8500 deaths among the U.S. merchant mariners in WW II.)
And then alongside the river was the aforementioned Henry Hudson Parkway, on which I rode in my parents’ car and then drove myself, countless times. As for Central Park, I went to high school across Central Park West from it, went to the Central Park Zoo and other Park attractions numerous times, of course trained in it on the bike and for the run countless times, from the beginning of my triathlon career in the 1980s. And then I raced in it almost countless times in the bi/duathlons organized and run by Dan Honig’s New York City Triathlon Club (which races I wrote about in the January, 2021 column of this series).
As for the races themselves, the first, in Aug. 2001 (just before the 9/11 Disaster, as it turned out) was very special because it was the first of its kind. It was able to be held because after years of work, the Hudson River been cleaned up enough so that one could safely swim in it. Of course, the race was calendared so that the swim would be downhill, with an outgoing tide. Everybody set a P.R. for the swim. But that bike the first time, on the closed southbound lane of the Parkway, was very special, for I was essentially riding in my front yard. As in the distance I passed the apartment building overlooking the Park that I grew up in, I looked up to see it. Certainly, as a child and certainly too as a college student at Columbia, I could never have imagined doing anything like this. It’s amazing what a life-change-of-perspective can do for one, in their 40’s.
I could go on further with special experiences in each race. But I will finish with this one. Although as you know, if you have read just about any my writings on my career in multi-sport racing, I rarely focused on my time (unless there were a time-limit for that particular race). But in what would be my last NYC Tri., in July 2006, things were different. I had done my first, in 2001, in 3:35. But then the next two, in 2002 and 2003 (with the race converted to a duathlon that year because heavy rain-runoff had produced an unsafe condition in the river), I did in 4:14. So when the next one for me, in 2006, came ‘round, I was determined to beat 4 hrs.
In the race, I worked hard on the bike, but I knew that I would still have to push on the run. And this one would be extra-special because I knew that my son Jacob would be there to greet me at the finish line. As I was coming down the East Park Drive, looking at my watch, I knew that I could make it, if I kept my pace up. And I became “zoned,” something, as I have said, that rarely happened to me in races. As I approached the finish, even though I knew that I was going to make my objective with plenty of time to spare, I stayed in the zone until I actually crossed the finish line, in 3:51. And as I passed through the crowd to get to the water and looking for Jacob, there he was, waiting for me. “Dad,” he said, “didn’t you hear me? I was yelling for you as you came in.” “No, I didn’t Jacob. Man, I was in the zone.” And believe you me, to this day, 15 years later, I still remember just what that feeling was like.
This series of thoughts and recommendations about multi-sport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, 101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Steve’s most recent multisport book is Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
His first book on multi-sport racing, Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®, 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Steve has been racing tri’s and du’s since 1983. At the end of his 36th season in the sport, 2018, he had done a total of 256 races. He did not race in 2019 due to his own illness (from which he fully recovered), nor in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For obvious reasons, 2021 is a maybe.