I suffer from what I’ve come to call ‘post-race letdown’ (in the case of sports) or ‘post-gig let down’ (in the case of music). Come feel me tremble…
It started like this: 5:30 this morning, I hop on my bike and ride down to the river. I slide it into position #1517, arrange my things — helmet, sunglasses, towel, running shoes, PowerGel — and walk off towards the swim start one mile upstream. Once there, I wait for my wave (male 30-34 B), noting that I am in the . 05% minority of competitors without a wetsuit. The sun rises. Wave after wave departs the barge. And then the orange caps — me, us — and I’m onto the barge, into the water, and swimming, swimming, swimming.
I do this shit for fun.
A few minutes into the swim I think, ‘I’m good at this! I like swimming!’ Which is something of a revelation as I’m competing in my fourth New York City Triathlon having failed to train even a little bit for the swim. The last time I swam freestyle was 400M in last July’s Stone Harbor Tri. One year later, I staring down river at a full-on mile.
Invariably, I tire. Some fella’ swims right over me, clobbering me with his flailing arms, clawing at me with his grubby mits. I veer right, and I begin to think, ‘Hmmmm, not so into swimming any more.’ I count my strokes, sprinkling a few breast strokes in every five minutes or so. And then I look up and spot the finish. ‘Wow,’ I think, ‘That’s it?’
Save for the 25 mile bike ride and six mile run, yeah, that’s it.
Two hours forty-two minutes (and two seconds) from my start, I am home: Central Park. I cross the finish, arms raised, gulping for air. My last mile was sub-seven. I have done it. I am done.
I’ve finished a lot of big races in the last ten years or so, not the least of which being the NYC Marathon, second only to the NYC Tri. In both cases, the experience is just a little more than I think I’m capable. And so I dole out my energies, focus on small goals, and just keep moving forward. When the finish comes, there is joy, to be sure, and pain, for that matter — in equal measure. But it is the joy, the beauty of accomplishment, of going further than I’d thought I could, that makes the day. For a moment, anyway.
See, the glory fades fast. More and more quickly, if you must know. My first marathon found me finishing nearly in tears such was my elation in finishing. Subsequent finishes, though, have been lackluster. Mostly, I think to myself, ‘Phew, I can stop now,” and notice all the other competitors who finished first.
Today I finished #165 of more than a thousand male competitors.
And yet, in the afterglow, I couldn’t feign the enthusiasm to answer the phone, much less leave the apartment for more than a six pack and a Blockbuster rental. Strange. Mostly, I feel like sleeping. A lot.