||2009 New York City Nautica Olympic
This is my first race report to write, so forgive me in advance if I miss something. I guess it's probably best to start with an executive summary and move to the details further in the text. That way, you won't have to read all the boring details if you don't have the time.
Given the price of this race at $275, and the associated airfare, lodging, taxi and other out-of-pocket costs, this race is not worth it. In addition, it's a stressful race because of the logistics of moving around and setting up in a large city. However, for some, the bragging rights of saying "I did the New York Triathlon", somewhat akin to saying "I did the New York Marathon", may outweigh the monetary disincentive and the stress that I felt. I'd rate it as follows on a scale of 1 (worse) to 10 (best): Overall rating: 4 Value of the money: 4 Swim: 3 for cleanliness, 8 for speed Bike: 5 because the course is nothing special, no NYC sites to see. Run: 6 again, the course is nothing special but at least it's in Central Park Stress: 2 this is the most stressful race I've ever been in Friendliness: 2 I've never felt so alone at a race Travel: 4 the 5 hour flight there, and the 6 hour flight home (not including the 3.5 hours waiting for a lighting storm to clear) is clearly a deterrent for anyone on the West Coast.
I had originally planned to go to NYC from Thursday to Monday and stay with my best friend in the Village in a great condo with a view of the Empire State Building. I lived in NYC from 1990 - 95, so I know the City well and was looking forward to just hanging out. But work had different plans. In the end, I took a 7:05 am flight out of Burbank and arrived at JFK at 3:30pm. I flew out after the race at 6:30pm. So it turned out to be a out and back kind of race.
I woke my wife up at 4am so that we could go to the airport. A nice cup of coffee and the plenty of adrenaline propelled me up the 405 and across the 134 up into Burbank towards the airport. A slight panic set in when I realized I hadn't eaten anything and, knowing the Burbank airport, I knew I would be in a sore spot if I didn't get something in my stomach before the 5 hour flight. So I wheeled it into a MacDonald's (yes, it was the ONLY thing open in Burbank at 5am) and ate a McSkillet Burritto. That's right, I ate it and I don't regret it! It's the trailer house version of carb loading! LOL Anyway, we finally got to the airport and I went to the Jet Blue counter to check my bike. I was traveling with my brand new Flex B12 and had borrowed a hard travel case from my friend, Jeff Rabith (Thanks, again buddy for all your help!). I showed Jet Blue my certificate to fly the bike for free (Jet Blue was the official airline of the Triathlon) and was told that I had to pay $20 for an extra piece of baggage. I found that strange, but was a bit too tired to argue. The flight was uneventful, and I got my bike and luggage at JFK with no problems at all. I was a bit surprised, though, when I saw that TSA had opened the bike for inspection. No damage done, though....whew! I had ordered a car service from JFK with Delancey Transportation because I was afraid the bike wouldn't fit in a regular yellow cab. I thought this was a good idea until we pulled up in front of the Sheraton and he told me it would be $108 for the ride!! No time to argue, though, because it was now 4:45pm and I knew that if I didn't make the 5:00pm speech, I wouldn't be allowed to pick up my packet. So I took my bike and luggage up to the 2nd floor convention center and checked them both in the temporary area. I make the speech which was totally worthless because all they did was repeat what (i) they had already sent you via email and (ii) all the information that was on the website. Lots of stress for nothing. As an aside note, nobody talked to each other before or after the briefing. It was just an in / out kind of thing. The only goal was to get the hand stamp. Then they corralled us to get our packets and t-shirt. That's all there was to it. As for the expo, there were no give-aways and nothing of interest, so I'll skip it. I went back to the temporary bike storage area and asked where I could set up my bike, knowing that it would be quicker to set it up there and ride it to the transition area at Riverside Park. I was told that there was no area for that. What? No area where we could set up our bikes? So I just opened it right there and started assembling it. Believe it or not, not one person offered to help me or even said "hello", even when I got to put the rear wheel on and was clearly in need of an extra set of hands. So I ended up scratching up my bike a bit. I was told I couldn't leave my luggage there because the expo was closing, but that there was a luggage check with the Sheraton on the lobby level.....for $4 a bag. Another $8 out of pocket for 1 hour of storage. Not to fear, because my only goal was to get my bike into the transition area before it closed, knowing that there was no bike drop off the day of the race. Again, more stress and money spent. By the time I finished the checkin, it was 8pm and I had not eaten since my McSkillet burrito. To add insult to injury, when I got back to my friend's condo, I found a bottle of beer and enjoyed every sip of it as I looked out over the Empire State Building in the night sky. The onset of my buzz was instantaneous given that I had an empty stomach, so I set out on the streets of Manhattan and found a sushi bar where I ordered a ton of sushi. Then it was lights out at 10pm after exchanging a few texts with some friends from LA Tri Club. The alarm was set for 3:15am.
RACE DAY - SWIM
Yes, the alarm did indeed go off at 3:15am. I had bought oatmeal and a cup of coffee at Starbuck the night before which I re-heated in the microwave before getting dressed. As I left the building it was pouring down rain and party-goers were crossing the streets as the clubs of Manhattan began to empty. That's when you realize how much you love this sport...it's 4am and it's raining, but I've dragged my ass out of bed to go swim in the dirtiest river in the world and ride a bike in the rain! Anyway, I took the 1 train up to 72nd (yes, I saved money by not taking a cab) and found my way to the transition area (I was in the yellow transition). I didn't really set anything out because (i) it was raining and (ii) the room between the bikes was insufficient and I just knew that stuff was going to be strewn all over the place. So I just left it all in my bag, which turned out to be a very wise decision. I got my swimming stuff out and met up with Mike, Dave and Eric to go to the swim start and portopotty. The swim start was about 1 mile away. We suited up and were told that the start would be delayed 20 minutes. I finally met one of the other age-groupers and struck up a conversation. A really nice southern guy with a souther drawl. He and I had a good time talking and, when our wave was called, jumped into the water and held on to the rope, continuing the conversation in the Hudson. The gun went off and the swim began. My first mouthful of the Hudson let me know that the water was indeed salty (who knew?) and that I didn't want to swallow any of it (yeh, right!). The current was good and I kept to the middle of the lane. All went well until about 500 yards in when I got a bit anxious and started swimming into twigs and other debris floating on the surface. I stopped and looked around, but my googles were already fogged over. I calmed down and kept at it until about 200 meters from the finish I started to smell the sludge that was being stirred up by people getting out of the river. At about 20 yards from the exit, all you could do was doggy paddle because the water wasn't really deep enough and walking in the sludge was not an option. Out of the water I went and began the 800 yard run to the transition area. My T1 time was 7 minutes. That seems to be a normal time given the length of the run and the large size of the official transition area. It all went off without a hitch. I found everything in my bag with ease (remember, I hadn't set anything out) and was off for the bike ride.
RACE DAY - BIKE
The bike portion was pretty uneventful. There were lots of people who didn't know biking etiquette and were frightened by "on your left". There was lots of water puddles because of the rain but, amazingly, I didn't see one person fall or down all along the route. If you think the bike ride is going to take you through the streets of Manhattan, think again. It's basically up the West Side Highway into the Bronx and the back again. Nothing of interest to see. It's really a non-event. My one gripe about this portion was that there was no support at all along the bike portion. I found that a bit weird.
RACE DAY - RUN
The energy coming out of T2 into the run on 72nd street was pretty cool. But once you got into Central Park, it was just like any other run. Volunteers were all along to route to say "You're almost there!", even if it was only mile one. The "wada" (yes, that "water" with a NY accent) stations used clearly marked cups for the sports drink versus water. One thing that was cool was that the recreational Sunday morning runners in Central Park were "oncoming traffic" in the other lane and were cheering us on. I appreciate that! The mile 5 marker was off, according to my Garmin, but the finish of 6 miles was on the dot. How did that happen? There were lots of people at the finish line and the medal they gave was the best I've ever seen. However, the logistics after the race were a bit chaotic. I totally missed the bagels and bananas, and had to go back to get them. Also, there was one tiny exit for a mass of athletes, and you kind of had to wait to get out. All I wanted to do was to keep moving.
THE RETURN HOME
I looooove Jet Blue. Their satellite TV system made the 3.5hour wait on the tarmak bearable and the fact that they flew the bike for free was amazing. I finally got home at 2am, which was 5am in NYC. That means that I was up for a total of 26 hours.