New York City Triathlon National Championships
July 18, 2010
It's always an incredible feeling to race on the "oh so familiar roads" of my hometown, New York City! Add to that the fact that I know I'll see tons of friends and my mom and husband on the corse, and the excitement is almost unbearable! Did I mention that I'd be defending my championship title for the 4th year in a row as well? So the pressure was on.
This year, the NYC Tri was also host to the largest pool of visually impaired triathletes participants in a sanctioned triathlon. This was so because of a new rule requiring all visually impaired athletes to where "black-out" glasses on the run portion of the race in order to level the playing field; like myself, there are those of us who are totally blind and thus are at a disadvantage even within our own category if we are competing against Triathletes who can have a significant amount of vision but still are "visually impaired" or legally blind. There were close to 30 visually impaired Triathletes, men and women, who chose to protest the "black-out glasses" rule, at this year's race. I have to say that the race organizers, John Korff and his team, handled the situation well, and accommodated those athletes who wanted to race, but wanted to protest the rule! An "open" division was added to include those paratriathletes who wanted to race, but chose not to follow all the set rules by USA Triathlon; thus they would not be eligible for awards/rankings or qualifying for the World Championships.
As usual, the alarm went off at 4:00AM, and I wished I could keep sleeping! The travel back to NYC from MI, finding time to visit my mom, putting Shadi together, running a 4 miler with John the day before, and attending the mandatory briefing and meetings, had not left me much time to spare, or to sleep! But I began my race ritual of showering, working on having breakfast, slipping into my team uniform, and making sure I had packed everything I would need for the race. In the blink of an eye, it was 4:50AM, and we were out the door and on our way to my spot in the red transition zone!
Once there, I found my guide, and longtime friend, Julia, we set up our bike and running gear next to Shadi, and we were out of transition in a flash. We walked a mile along the Hudson River to swim start, where I also picked up my racing timing chip. Then it was a rush to make one or two more bathroom stops before slipping into our wetsuits. No sooner had we done that, and we found ourselves making our way onto the pontoon for the start of the race! The Paratriathlete wave was announced, we entered the water, the horn went off, and the race was underway!
My stomach rumbled, but I ignored it and began counting strokes…Recently doing this has helped me stay calm during training, and it seemed to work then too. I felt relaxed, and felt that my body position was actually more comfortable in the water than it's been in a long time. Thankfully, half an hour later, Julia and I were out of the water, our wetsuits were being stripped off, and we were jamming!
A quarter mile run to transition, up the stairs, over timing mats and grass, and we were at Shadi. I slipped my bike shoes on, put my helmet on and through on my camelback, took Shadi from our transition spot, and we were ready to ride. Exiting transition, and clearing the steep climb onto the bike corse went smoothly. Unfortunately, 7 miles in or so, we encountered our first problem. Rattle, rattle, rattle, and the chain had popped off. We pulled over to the side, I knelt down to feel the chain and the derailors, and was able to pop the chain back on in a couple of seconds. Relief, no real harm done, onward! Well, 3 miles later, another couple of heart wrenching sounds. Rattle, rattle, rattle, the pedals locked, and we dismounted Shadi in a split second. Pulling over to the side, the problem was the same, "chain off!" Again, I knelt down, and this time had to tug on the chain a bit to free it from the bottom of the big ring on the front derailor. Thankfully, a couple seconds later, I had popped the chain back on, and we were riding again. But damage had been done, we were no longer able to get Shadi to shift back up to the big ring on the front derailor!
As we made our U-turn to exit the Bronx and head back into Manhattan, I realized that we had to be much more cautious with Shadi so that we could finish the ride. I began to give Julia instructions as to how we should shift gears in order to have Shadi work with us rather than us feeling like we were fighting with her. This was new for both of us, and unfortunately did cause tension. I had to rely on my instincts though, and on the new experience I had gained in the couple of months leading up to the race! I had worked on taking Shadi apart, putting her together, only to do that all over again. I road with a couple of other triathletes from the Midland (Michigan) area, and had learned a great deal about how Shadi was supposed to sound as we rode; Thankfully, I also learned how she was not supposed to sound, and what to do to get rid of those heart wrenching sounds!
Onward we pedaled, and pedaled, but the biked corse just wouldn't end…Finally, we hit our last U-turn, and had a mile left to go! Four minutes later, we were finally entering transition again, dismounting Shadi, and heading into transition.
Relief, we had finished the ride. Now we could relax- just a 10K run, and that was our favorite part of the race!
The sun was shining strong, making it for a beautiful but hot day! The humidity was nowhere near as bad as last year though, so we would hopefully be OK!
I slipped into my sneakers, put on my blackout glasses, grabbed a couple of sips of water, and waited for Julia to finish doing the same minus the blackout glasses. She made some noises, and reached out for my arm, we were ready to go. Off we went, over grass, mats, down some uneven steps, and we were heading down the West Side highway towards the 72nd street exit ramp. A couple of minutes later we were at the ramp, made a sharp left, climbed a steep hill, and were finally heading East on 72nd street towards Central Park. The crowds were cheering for all of us- "Go USA", "Go Dave", and on and on and on! That was me in the USA uniform! I smiled. Four long blocks later we were steps away from entering Central Park. That's when I heard my mom's voice yelling and cheering for us, and then John's voice echoing much of the same! That's what I had been waiting for, and I could feel my heart beat faster with excitement.
No sooner had we entered the park, and headed North when another familiar voice was greeting us. It was our friend, and teammate, Marie! This was a blessing as Marie had agreed to help us with the water stops…This is one of the treats of running in your hometown, friends can run with you and help you stay motivated!
We wound our way around other runners, and clicked off the miles steadily. Julia's friend, Courtney, joined us around the 2.5 mile mark or so, and she was graciously running with a bottle of water for us as well! No time to drink much though, we were starting to ascend the steepest and longest hill in Central Park. It was time to focus, and pump our arms, and keep moving! We did that, and thankfully made it up to the top of the hill, but didn't relax. We could relax on the long descent, but had to think about trying to make up a few seconds on that long decline! Finally, we reached the bottom, and were done with Harlem Hill. Now we just had 2.2 miles to go over rolling terrain! Mile 4 to 5 felt endless! But just as we past the 5 mile marker, there was another cheering squad! We grabbed some water, and kept moving. Half a mile later we were greeted by my friend Gregg and his son, Baby max! How cool! More fresh and encouraging energy! On we went, down cat hill, past the Boat House, and then we made the sharp right turn to head towards the finish. It was pretty tight quarters with spectators lining the side of the narrow path we had for running, plus all the other runners. Julia and I linked arms, so I could feel her every movement. Another minute or so went by, and then we entered the shoot! I could hear the announcer saying, "And there comes our Tri 6 category Champion, Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt!" And my heart felt like it was going to fly out of my chest.
Julia was yelling so I could hear her, and she said, "They're holding the banner, keep running, lift legs, lift legs, mats"! And suddenly there we were, crossing the finish line matts, running through the banner, "breaking the tape", winning my division for the 4th year in a row! (It was a slow race for us, but we had finished!) Plus, I had also just now qualified for the 2010 World Championships, which were scheduled for September 11th in Budapest Hungary!
Gratitude and thanks go out to everyone who made the race a success. John Korff and his team, USA triathlon, Accenture, and the paratriathlon committee organized an incredible race, and took care of tons of logistics. From my husband John, my mom, to Marie, to Jen and Rodd Coleman for training with me, to all of our friends who came out to support us (including my Business School Management Professor Richard Kopelmann), and to Julia for her willingness to guide me, I couldn't have done it with out your support!
Thanks for reading!