Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New York New York #18

Time Square
Time Square

This week I am off to the big apple, the city that never sleeps!  I was excited for this trip and was anxious to see how they were going to do a big race in such a big congested city.  I flew out early on Thursday morning and had about a 3 hour grace period to fly in, get my bike and find check-in before registration closed on the final day (this was a Saturday race this week which also meant only 6 days of total recovery).  With such tight perimeters, I couldn’t have any hiccups with flights or city traffic once there.  I called ahead and Namwan agreed to pick me up with my bike and drop me off at race check in!!  Super nice Namwan, thank you.  I was given great advise to NOT rent a car and to use the subway and train systems to get around the city.  Mr. Ben Light kindly booked a hotel for me for my few night stay and also had some metro cards waiting for me at upon my arrival.  What a stud!  I didn’t incur any flight delays and although the traffic was bad, Namwan’s assistant charles knew the streets and back road of NY and took me straight there.  It sure helps to be on the ground and with locals when you are in a hurry to make a deadline.  They dropped me off on the pier and left me in the wild jungle known as New York City.

I was planning on using Tri Bike Transport for my bike shipping over the next few races.  My next 3 weeks are New York, Mont Tremblant, and Louisville, all WTC Ironman events and locations that Tri Bike Transport would be going.  They worked with me and agreed to take my bike after the race from NY to Mont Tremblant and next to Louisville all for just $300.  This was way cheaper than the airlines and a million times more convenient.   I wasn’t going to have to take my bike apart and build it up and take it apart and build it back up and.....well you get it.  I made sure everything was squared away with them and headed up to check in for the race.  I made my way to the back of the expo and checked in with 30 minutes to spare.  I hung out for about an hour, then headed a few piers down to the athlete welcome dinner and celebration.  I knew it was going to be an awesome show because it was the championships.  The show and dinner for the Asia Pacific Championships in Melbourne earlier this year were AWESOME.  Well it turns out, New York sucks.  The food was just ok, the entertainment was worse and the crowds were dead and un-lively.  The solemn crowds may have been affected by the fact that there was a sewage break.  In order to fix this broken pipe, they had to dump all that poo into the Hudson River.  The health department put a ban on swimming in the water, which meant that the swim for our race looked like it was going to be cancelled.  And this would pretty much be worse case scenario for me.... No swim means it is not an Ironman, which means it doesn’t count for crap (pun intended;)  I sat at a table of nice guys and one girls who were all on the same running team and who were all doing their first Ironman race.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a very gay running group.  They were all very flamboyant and fun!  Ironman has started holding the pre-race meetings right after the welcome dinner.  I think it is a way to get people to stay for the whole evening instead of eating and quickly leaving, which is what I would do at this stage of the year ;)

This was actually one meeting that I wanted to attend to get any news about the swim situation and also how race morning logistics were going to work.  This wasn’t a race I was willing to take logistics lightly.  If you miss a ferry on race morning, good luck.  After the pre-race meeting, one of the guys at my table helped me to the New York Subway system so that I could make my way to my hotel in Jersey.  I was concerned about traveling late evening in New York, but the table of guys assured me that it was safe.  I was still nervous as I made my way through the system, but sure enough I didn’t have any issues and made it safe and sound to my hotel.  HUGE THANK YOU to BEN LIGHT for booking my hotel last minute for me and helping me out with metro passes (which were waiting for me upon arrival to my hotel.)  Without people like Ben, this journey doesn’t happen.  I have your US CHAMPS backpack waiting for you sir Ben!  I called Sunny to assure her of my safe arrival, said goodnight to the kids and headed off to bed for some much needed rest.

I didn’t have time to build my bike upon arrival into New York and left my bike box with Tri Bike Transport, thanks guys.  I headed back through the subway system and back to the piers.  I made quick work of my bike build up, but was having a problem getting my powertap to sync with my joule.  I headed into the expo and found a bike retailer that had the battery I needed.  I swapped that out which solved my problem... back in POWER!  With the bike built and everything ready to go, I made my way onto the ferry that would take me back over to the New Jersey side where transition was set up.  The ferry was filled with athletes all wondering if we would be swimming in the waters below.  They had told us that they would be making the final announcement today at 4pm as to whether or not we would be swimming.  I racked my bike and placed my transition bags in place, then boarded the Ferry AGAIN to head back to NY to do some site seeing. 

Once back in NY, I made my way to the Twin Towers.  It was hard not to envision the falling towers and chaos of the day back on Sept 11th.  It freaked me out for a second as the first time I looked up to see the towers I saw a plane fly right over top of it.  Friends of mine from Utah, Jeanine and Bart Gardiner were in town visiting on their way to the Age Group National Championships in Vermont.  I met up with them at monument and construction area of the twin towers. The place was crawling with tourist and high security.  I even stood up on a barricade to see if I could locate Bart and got yelled at by the police.  I guess they don’t want anyone looking above the crowd.  We went inside the gates and took a quick look around.  The huge fountains were very cool and almost mesmerizing.  The place was busy, but had this quiet calm about it.  You could hear the water in the giant fountains as people walked around mostly in silence. 
Twin Towers being rebuilt
Twin Tower Memorial
Twin Tower Fountain.

Soon after we left the twin towers area, I found out that the swim would be a GO!!  Yes for doing the swim and a full Ironman and boo for swimming in poo!! 

The Gardiner family had acquired the services of a limo for the day and kindly asked if I wanted to join them for a drive down the main streets of down town and time square.  I gladly accepted as we cruised the streets of NY in style. We ended up at Jeanine’s sister house for a BBQ dinner and fresh veggies from her garden.  Thanks Gardiners for a great afternoon and evening.  After dinner, I made my way back to the hotel to try and get some rest before an EARLY wake up call for race morning.
Gardiner Family!


My alarm went off at 3 am EST, which was 1 am MST.  My body has no idea what time zone it is in and just wakes up when the alarm goes off, sleeps when it can find a pillow and doesn’t complain.  I didn’t sleep well, as I was worried about missing the ONLY 4 am ferry from Jersey over to transition.  I ate my RokitFuel and headed outside to catch my $20, 3.5 mile taxi cab ride to the ferry.  Athletes stumbled onto the ferry half asleep.  We were akk dead tired from not sleeping the night before a big race, then waking up at a silly hour to make sure we catch our only form of transportation.  For this reason alone, I would avoid this race in the future... It is an Ironman, a huge day... I don’t want to wake up at 3 am to go compete for 10-17 hours!!!  My preference for race morning logistics is one where the race has a single transition and one where I can drive my car to ample parking close to the race site and walk in.  This is also a huge plus for post race logistics.  It was a quiet ride over to transition.... no one was talking....

I exited the boat to transition and it was also quiet... no music... no excitement.... I thought to myself, “What is going on?  This is the worst atmosphere at an Ironman event ever!”  I continued to be disappointed with my over priced and over hyped US CHAMPIONSHIPS experience.  After making sure everything was all set up in transition, we waited in a line and waited to get on a ferry that would take us to the swim start.  So just to quickly recap logistically this morning I

1- Woke up at 3am to eat breakfast and take a $20 three minute cab ride to the first ferry...
2- Boarded the first ferry which departed at 4 am which take us from our pier in NJ to transition in NY...
3- Arrived at transition to put bottles on my bike and pump up my tires... 5 minutes worth of my time...
4- Waited in a line for 30 plus minutes to board another ferry to go 2.4 miles up stream on yet another ferry...
5- Raced an Ironman
6- Got on a ferry and headed back to Jersey to get transition bags (and bike if you didn’t use Tri Bike Transport)
7- Another damn ferry, which took you to either Jersey or NY depending on where you were staying
8- And finally a train ride to the steps of my hotel.
A million ferry rides this weekend.

ALL OF THIS EQUALS A COMPLETE JOKE OF A RACE AND NOT WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION.  IF this race ever returns I would avoid it like the plague!

Ok, so now I am on the ferry that takes us the 2.4 miles up stream to the race start.  Please note that the ferry’s were not equipped with toilets so people (when I say people I mean the guys) just started peeing in the corners of the boat and over the edge into the water.  It was super hot on board and to say the least it was gross.  It is safe to say that I couldn’t wait to get off the boat and jump into the poo infested waters. 

Multiple ferries loaded with athletes pulled up to the barge that was parked 2.4 miles from transition. Only one ferry at a time could dock on the barge and unload the athletes.  We were the second boat full of athletes to pull up to the swim start.  There was a handful of porto potties on the barge for athletes to use prior to getting in the water.  I just peed in my wetsuit while walking to the start line.  There was a timing strip on the barge and when you crossed it, your race started.  I was one of the last athletes off of our boat and made my way quickly to the start line, crossed the timing strip and jumped in the water!  When I jumped in, I heard them announce that more than 500 athletes were already in the water.  With this format, you would not know if you were ahead or behind of the athlete beside you, out on the bike and run course.  This would make it hard to ‘race’ this event if indeed you were vying for a spot to Kona or a place in your age.  In this format, you just do the best you can and hope it was enough.

The swim course was a straight line from the barge to the bridge with buoys every 100 meters, which was nice.  The water was dark and I didn’t let one drop come in my mouth.  I didn’t push the pace AT ALL so that I could breath out my nose in the water and NOT break the seal on my lips.  I would site off of the big bridge that was right beside transition.  They had talked about a current, but I didn’t realize it would be this strong.  Like I said before, I wasn’t trying at all in this swim to keep my HR down so I could breath through my nose.  I also used ear plugs to keep the water out of my ears.  The bridge was a approaching quickly.  I would look back at the barge and then back to the bridge and realized I was past the half-way mark with the bridge now appearing closer than the barge.  I took a peek at my watch and I saw 26 minutes.  I thought to myself, “HOLY CRAP, this is gonna be a fast swim!”
Washing off the POO!

With about 100 meters to go, the water went from dark to pitch black.  As I approached the transition area, the water shallowed and the mud from the bottom was being kicked up from the swimmers and the athletes exiting the water.  When I was close enough to the exit, I tried to stand up and sunk up to mid shin in mud.  You could not walk out of the water and had to swim right to the steps to be helped out of the water.  I looked at my watch and was pumped with a 50 minute, 2.4 mile swim.... so this is what the pros feel like only having to swim for 50 minutes.  I should learn to do this all the time cause that was way easier!  As you can see from the picture below, I was dirty.  I paused and tried to wash some of the stank off of me before heading into transition and out on the bike.

The bike course was a 2 loop (out and back) on the frontage road on the New Jersey side of the Hudson.  The bike started out slow.   I averaged only 18.8 miles an hour through the first 11 miles staying in my Heart rate zones.  The roads sucked and there were pot holes and sketchy bumps everywhere.  The bike turned out to be much more challenging then I thought, but I just stayed in my zone and plugged along the course.  The hills were long enough that it was tough to keep your momentum from the quick short descents.  I felt good throughout this ride, despite its boring landscape and poor road surfaces.  My right shoe cleat started to come unscrewed again and I am now suspicious that the sole plate mat be striped.  I saw many flats and even a crash.  I found this bike course unsafe and disappointing, especially since there was so much hype.  Isn’t this Ironman New York... cause the only part of this race in New York so far has been check-in.  My final bike time on the day was 5:34:07, a 20.11 average over the 112 miles - not bad.
The run started with a steep climb out of transition up to the first 2 - 7.4 miles loops, all on the New Jersey side before heading over the big bridge to New York.  Yep that’s right, the last few miles of this New York Ironman will actually take place in NEW YORK.  I think IF they have this race again in the future (I won’t be attending) it should be called ‘Escape from New Jersey’

The two loop out and back section of the run course was well supported with awesome volunteers and tables of nutrition.  The course was shaded and had no flat sections.  You were either climbing or descending.  Again this run was much harder than I had thought it would be from the charts and graphs online.  I ran a consistent slow pace and finally made it to the HIGHLIGHT of the day.  The run over the bridge.  The bridge was about a mile long and was definitely the highlight of the day if there was one.  I had to climb a steep set of stairs to get on and then off of the bridge.  The views were awesome and I tried to take it all in as the rest of the day was a complete let down.  Now on the New York side, the run was mostly flat running through parks on a nice pathway system.  I ran through the aid station around mile 18 which was ‘maned’ by the ‘liberal’ running club.  Bright rainbow colors and excited men greeted us as we ran through the aid station. 

Early in the run I was passed by the youngest competitor of the day and his legs looked as fresh as could be.  I encouraged him on as he barreled through the course.  At mile 25 I had caught back up to the youthful spirit with his head down walking up a hill.  I encouraged him as I passed him up towards the finish line of this dreadful day.  I looked back and I saw him start running again.  With about 200 meters to go, he came storming past me with his chest out and as proud as can be.  He was about to conquer his first Ironman at the age of 18 and go sub 11 hours!  I let him go and have his moment down the finish line.  As I was running through the finish shoot, I looked to my right and saw David Warden.  A big time triathlete from Utah who dominates the sprint circuit.  I was so excited to see a friendly face! I gave him a high five and a hug before cheering across the finish line. 

Despite the day, it was still and Ironman finish line and a day to be proud of.  I had a final run time of 4:18 and a final ‘New York’ Ironman of 10:52:48!!!!  Thanks to a 50 minute aided swim I was able to go sub 11 hours on the day.  The young cocky 18 year old came up to me after the race and said, “I just couldn’t let you pass me with only mile to go.  I  had to pick it back up and pass you for the win.”  I couldn’t help it, I laughed and said, “You know I beat you by 5 minutes right?”  He said, “Ya, I know... I was just saying.”

That’s one for the old guys!  Damn, that’s something my dad would say.... maybe I’m getting old... and I am still a little cocky!

I ate some well deserved food and got a quick massage before getting back on a ferry to take me back over to Jersey to gather my transition bags.  I didn’t have to get my bike and was instructed to just leave it in transition where Tri Bike Transport would hopefully transport it to Mont Tramblant for my race next week.  Once I had everything, I got BACK ON THE FERRY so get to the pier where my hotel was located (well as close as I could get!).  I then hoped on a train to travel the short distance to my hotel.  Once back at the hotel, I had to figure out my morning commute to the airport.  It turned out best to take the Subway to the New York side, then take a cab through town to the airport.  I had to leave super early in order to get there on time.... I HATE getting up early ;(

I felt the worst for the athletes who finished late in the day and had to go through these long logistical points.  I also feel bad for the athletes that had ZERO energy at the finish line.  And due to the fact that the NY city noise ordinance, they unplugged the music and Mike Riley’s mic after 10 pm.  So not only have all these athletes been up since before three, they were greeted with silence.... I will say this.... Mike Riley did an AMZING job running up and down the finish shoot welcoming every athlete into the finish telling them “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

James, the Iron Cowboy!

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