First Triathlon! - NYC Tri on a BMX.

author : Team BT
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The ONLY way to compete in my first triathlon was to do it on my BMX. I’m no professional—nor do I aspire to be one, I just want to be fit and healthy.


By Ahin Savara - [email protected]


I have always loved BMX ever since I was a kid. Unfortunately I am still one at age 32. I remember fondly reading about Bob Haro while in grade school back in Oregon during my teens. Since that time I’ve owned many BMX bikes, but none can compare to my Haro BMX Mirra 540 air. I prefer the total workout and overall maneuverability which one could NEVER achieve via a mountain bike or 10-speed.  You see, I ride standing up 80% of the time, thus my affection for this type of bike. Even in Business School, fellow students remembered me biking to attend class up and down the Charles River via my fluorescent orange BMX.

I bring this up only to reinforce some of the reasoning behind my choice of using a BMX in this year’s 2004 NYC Triathlon. Although this may sound a little off, but to me, the ONLY way to compete in my first triathlon was to do it on my BMX.  I’m no professional—nor do I aspire to be one, I just want to be fit and healthy. Living in midtown NYC sometimes makes this a difficult proposition. I’m able to stay in semi-shape by riding my it around town and especially in Central Park. It was in February of this year that I saw a flyer for the 2004 NYC Triathlon to be held in late June.  Although hesitant at first, my interest in participating grew so much that before that day ended, I entered on-line.


You see, the second I saw that flyer, I began to reminisce about one of my favorite mentors, he’s post 60 yrs old, extremely successful, swims, leads a bank, volunteers, and is a venture capitalist among other things.  He’s also extremely in shape: physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Anyway, I remember him emphasizing athleticism, vitamins, and ‘not always focusing on girlfriends’ as a means to good health .  His words are filled with buckets upon buckets of wisdom. I recall wanting to heed his advice as I highly admired his energy (which seemed to be at a level ten times as high as mine—and I’m only 32!). Thus my passion for trying to complete my first triathlon. 

I worked out at the gym in my building phase every day for training. Training to me is something for hard-core athletes—which I’m not. So let me clarify what my regime involved. Daily workouts for me included 15-30 of very light swimming and 30 min of random free weights and nautilus ending with 5-10 minutes of stretching. In other words, I purposefully chose a very light workout—but made sure I did it everyday until the NYC Triathlon 5 months away.

My goal was to COMPLETE the NYC Triathlon - nothing more, nothing less. Getting a great time, being a speed-demon, giving it my all - this was not in the game plan. To reiterate, this being my first Triathlon (have only done ½ marathons and biathlons in the past) my goal was to humbly FINISH the NYC Triathlon.

During my preparation I went many times to bike shops around town for advice.  Surprisingly the bike/triathlon experts at the shops all professed, “I highly recommend you get a refund for the Triathlon—as I don’t think you’re in proper training mode and your bike makes your preparation even tougher.” I know they meant well and were basically hinting that I should train more seriously and most definitely use a 10 speed or mountain bike if at all possible. Alas, none of this persuaded me to change my dream ofcompleting the Triathlon using my BMX. In my mind I continued to envision the joy of riding it. Time, speed and performance - all these were secondary to enjoyment, freedom and cruising.

One week left to go before the triathlon and I felt great. I reviewed and semi-mastered all the stages/steps of the race. The course for the 2004 NYC Triathlon is 1.5K of swimming (in the Hudson River), then 40K of biking on the streets of NYC, and finally ending with 10K of running within beautiful Central Park. The time for preparation was coming close as Saturday pre-registration arrived. I rode my BMX to the ‘check-in’ area and proceeded to receive some more verbal jeering such as, “you’d get a quicker time if you rode a different bike.”  My reply was always to emphasize that time/speed/performance were not my main reasons for signing up for the race.  Instead, it was for ENJOYMENT purposes only. Thus, in my head, riding my BMX in the triathlon made total sense as I’ve always said there is no better ride.  I received my official number for the race: 1504. I then proceed to ride my BMX to the holding/transitioning area for all the triathlon competitors. The holding area is where you pick up your bike after completing the swimming stage of the triathlon. It was such a beautiful scene to see all those bikes and knowing that out of all of them, mine was the only BMX.



2004 NYC Triathlon: Holding Area for bikes.

I remember after viewing the below photo via my digital camera, that this would be a great “Where’s Waldo?” puzzle—but for BMX’s. Remember the “Where’s Waldo puzzles? You’d have to find this cartoon character with circular glasses and a crazy haircut in the midst of all the other chaos within the page. The goal being to try to find “Waldo” before your friends.  Well, it’s time to play “Where’s the Haro BMX?” Take a couple seconds and see if you can locate the BMX in the below photo:



For all the people who missed it I’ve highlighted the bike in yellow below:


Now all that was necessary to complete my preparation for the Triathlon was to catch some serious Z’s and wake up the next morning ready to ‘rock n roll’ by 6:30 am. I believe at this juncture I was listening to Linkin Park and Pink Floyd on repeat via my mp3 player as a means to get myself pumped.

The day of the Triathlon arrived and I couldn’t have been happier. As a memento, before I left my house I took the below shot:



At my house right before leaving for the Triathlon.  No more preparing, no more thinking ‘what if’, no more supposing.  Before I knew it, I was preparing for the swimming portion along the side of the Hudson River stretching with all the other 228 within my age group (male 30-34 year olds).

Although the swimming portion was extremely difficult, somehow I was able to finish most probably due to the encouragement and cheers from the crowd of supporters. I floated on my back for at least 30% of the total distance. In retrospect, I think this may be one of the key reason I was able to complete the triathlon—as I did not try to over-extend myself. My training and preparation involved making me fit NOT so as to compete for time… but so I could COMPLETE my first triathlon. Happily, I went to the holding area to retrieve my BMX. Finally, it was now time for the riding portion of the triathlon.  In my head I was thinking of how I psyched myself up for this day - remembering how
much I wanted to ride my BMX in the 2004 NYC Triathlon.  And then before I knew it I was on it riding in the NYC Triathlon via the streets of Manhattan.


I was in heaven…total nirvana…could not have been any better….. Bliss.  For 80% of the 40K I was able to ride standing up. One particular memorable moment occurred during the final 10K of biking—since I was using a BMX as compared to the other competitors—my time was much slower. This meant that I actually got “in the way” of the professional triathloners who were competing for slots in this year’s Olympics at Athens, Greece. About 25 professional riders zoomed by me with the leader shouting to me “Go BMX guy” (which I believe was caught on tape via the tv/film car that was broadcasting the event). This totally pumped me up and allowed me to cruise with utter joy. Words cannot describe the incredible rush I got from riding my BMX. Biking in a triathlon is second-to-none.  Returning to the transition area I parked my bike and then proceeded to begin the last stage of the triathlon. Having run many ½ marathons, I felt confident. Unfortunately, I never realized how much your muscles get ‘jolted’ each time you transition from sport-to-sport. Well, my legs wanted to continue to bike—not run. I soon had to begin to massage my legs while briskly walking the course. This is one of the times the ‘energy-food-packets’ saved me. Having ‘Gu’ in my pocket helped tremendously. The energy may have been more psychological—but it did help. Before I knew it I was making the final turn before completing the triathlon. Central Park that day was more beautiful than I have ever experienced. So many bikers…so many supporters. Alas…I finished!! 


Although I finished way at the end of the pack within my age group… I know I had more FUN than everyone else combined. Many competitors after the race came up to me and said they couldn’t believe that I actually went thru with riding a BMX in the triathlon.  For me, it was always meant to be….me and my Haro BMX.


[email protected]

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1 Ahin Savara  32  NY  NY  225  30:51  11:37  227  2:05:59  0:57  222  74:11  226  4:03:32



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date: October 10, 2004

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