I spent the balance of my weekend in Montauk cracking jokes with a buncha’ thirtysomething triathletes and surfers about our impending joint replacement surgeries. Good times, really.
I’ve lived in New York City nearly ten years but had scarcely set foot on Long Island. Until yesterday. I set out for the LIRR to Montauk late on account of my post-Sin-e revelry. The sight of me peddling down Ninth Avenue with my wetsuit, laptop, etc., slung over my shoulder wasn’t pretty. Or at least it felt pretty ugly. But I made it aboard the 11:54, and fell promptly asleep. Some three hours later, I stepped off the train into what felt like another country.
My buddy Ocean picked me up at the station, and promptly took me on a proper tour of the town’s surf spots and coffee shops. We met up with some friends for dinner and drinks (four beers the night before a triathlon — unheard of!), then repaired to his Leisurama cottage and watched surfing documentaries until nearly midnight.
My alarm chimed at 5:30 a.m. this morning. There was silence save for the morning doves and nearby fog horn. Visibility was about 15 feet. I grabbed my gear, choked down a Balance bar and some Gatorade, and made haste for Gin Beach for the start of the Montauk Sprint Triathlon.
I’ve wanted to participate in this tri for years. I like these smaller mom ‘n pop events. And I’ve resolved to start racing out of the City. Montauk was my first, and come September, Malibu will be my second.
So it’s really, really foggy. I step into my wetsuit and walk to the swim start a half mile down the beach. I wait. Twenty minutes later, the race director announces that we’re on hold until the harbor master can lay the buoys. I wait some more. I lay down on the rocks and fall asleep…
I wake up and everyone’s leaving. The swim’s been canceled. So I figure, ‘F*** it,’ I’ll swim the half mile anyhow. So I do. It takes me about ten minutes.
Back at transition, I slip out of my wetsuit, and get ready for a duathlon. Then wait. Then the sun burns through, and the race director says, “We’re going to do the swim!” And everyone cheers, except me, who’s already done the swim. I just laugh, and put my wetsuit back on.
Five minutes later, I’m clawing through a cluster of 49-and-under men. I start at the back of the pack. I focus on slow, steady, deep strokes. I start passing dudes. Eleven minutes later, I am one of the first ten guys to exit the water. I run to my bike, struggle with my wetsuit, and discover that my helmet strap’s broken. I tie it on, swearing at myself for the lost time (no helmet is a DQ, and they won’t let you out of transition if it’s not strapped on). And I ride. I’m the first mountain bike out. No other mountains pass me. Ever. A few roadies pass, all of whom give my props for my fast pace on a hack bike. One dude comes up behind me on a tricked-out Specialized tri bike and goes, “Man, I’d have loaned you my bike if I’d known you’d do so well!”
It’s a hilly, beautiful course around Montauk Lake and out to The Point. I struggle with my helmet the entire ride. I Gel at mile ten. I finish my water bottle at eleven. My IT band is burning. My quads are unhappy. But fundamentally, I’m fine. I persist, and bang! I’m back at transition #2, dumping my bike for the run.
The 5k is through a recently decommissioned military base called Camp Hero. It’s a Cold War era radar installation with a made to fool those pesky Germans by making it look like a fishing village. I learn this after the fact, as I’m too busy trying to keep moving forward to take in the fog-locked scenery.
I begin to pick my victims at mile two. It’s a strategy I employ at every race to motivate myself through the finish: find a guy ahead of you, catch him, pass him, and don’t let him pass you back. Repeat. I feel stronger as the run progresses. I’m running 7:30 miles in stark contrast to last weekend’s Bronx Half Marathon. At 2.5 miles I can hear the roar of the crowd. I pick another victim, and pass him. I pour water over my head. Mmmmmmm, so cold. And I turn the final corner to see that the finish line is at the top of a steep hill. I pick my last victim, a thirtysomething looking guy in nothing but a black Speedo. I push up the hill, gaining on him, and the crown roared for me to pass him. Or so it seems, because some other dude’s picked me, and shoots up the middle between me and the Speedo guy. I finish in 1:23 and change. Miraculously for a guy whose been out the two nights prior, I am smiling. I’ve done it. And I’ve done it well.
I got sore sore pretty quickly, particularly my left ankle which I twisted falling off the stage at CBGB’s years ago. It’s a good, well-accomplished sore. I meet up with Ocean, who’s been surfing all weekend, for lunch. We groan every time we step in and out of his Pathfinder. We’re bone tired. We’re underslept. But by the time we board the 5:35 LIRR for Penn Station, we’ve lived every minute availed us.
There is an element of braggadocio in going from gig to work to gig to race to work to gig to etc etc etc. I admit it. I like being The MTV Employee by day, The Rock Star by night, The Triathlete by weekend. But more than that, believe me, is the distinct sense that my time here is limited. I want to see, do, and feel as much as is possible before the end. Then I’ll rest.
Next stop: Miami, FL. ETA: 3:00 p.m.