I Came, I Raced, I Showered

By Elizabeth Myer

Rewind to Saturday, August 6 at 10 p.m. Instead of getting a few solid hours of rest like I had planned, I lay awake completely preoccupied. I’d been training intensely for the Nautica New York City Triathlon for months, meaning I was probably in the best shape of my life. Physically, I was ready to race at 6 a.m. the following morning. Mentally, I was not so sure.

I grew up training with a USA swimming club team and was accustomed not only to the concepts of individual competition and setting ambitious personal goals, but also to swimming in open water races. In what seemed like short fashion, however, my focus turned from swimming to my studies at NYU, and eventually to my career at EPA. While each of those things shaped me in a unique way, never before had my personal and professional lives intersected so sharply until July 20, 2011, when a fire at the North River Sewage Water pollution Control Plant in Harlem released hundreds of millions of pounds of untreated sewage into the Hudson River.

The author stands alongside the Hudson River just before the start of the race with her father Greg, also a triathlete.

After learning about the spill, my first reaction was to consult the news, which I admit, did little to calm my nerves. Swimming in untreated sewage can cause skin rashes? Ear infections? Ingesting the water may result in KIDNEY FAILURE, you say? Then came the announcement from New York City: Four popular city beaches were temporarily closed due to plumes of pollution. Additionally, the city issued health advisories for portions of the Hudson River, and people were cautioned against participating in water-related activities, such as kayaking, canoeing and swimming. More