*** thanks to Tommy Holden for this race report ***
Hi all, here’s my race report from the inaugural Ironman NewYork, 11th August, 2012 – a bit of a rant….
When this race was announced it was hard to turn down the prospect of racing in one of my favourite places, in fact it was my wife Niamh’s enthusiasm that made this one a must for us. General slots opened at about $900 and sold out in a matter of minutes; unfortunately I was too slow and bagged a $1,500 charity slot. As much as I hate to start with the costs, this is an expensive race to take part in so be warned. Transition was on the New Jersey side of the Hudson with the finish on the New York side so another $50 transportation fee applied to get the bike and transition bags returned to NY as well as a $50 ferry pass for spectators to come over to T1 and don’t expect much change out of $300 per night for accommodation
I landed in JFK off a direct Emirates A380 flight out of Dubai and had loads of baggage allowance and no issues with the bike. Getting from JFK to town was a bit of an issue however as the taxis wouldn’t take the bike box with the other luggage so advanced planning would be advised, it took me about 3 hours from landing to the race hotel as we had to wait for a taxi ‘van’ to come along. Originally there were about 7-8 of us going over from the U.A.E., but for one reason or another the number dwindled to 3, Jeroen Van Cauwenberghe from T2A, Chris Knight from TriBe and I, and we were all staying in the Sheraton which worked out well.
Race date was 11th; I landed on the 6th went for a 10km run in Central Park, which was brilliant. It was incredible to see so many people out exercising. I stumbled across a huge public pool on the north end of Central Park and penciled myself in for the lane swim for the following morning – I hadn’t worn the wetsuit in about a year and was worried about the comfort. I assembled the bike on the 7th and did a couple of laps of the park to tweak the setup and soak up the surroundings.
On the morning of the 8th I jumped on the metro and a 10 minute ride brought me to the north end of the park for a swim. 20-30 minutes in the pool left me content that I’d have no issues with the suit on race day. We registered on the 8th and Chris and I went back to the pool for another 20-30minutes on the 9th. Transition bags loaded, the three of us rode gently for about an hour along the run course, over the George Washington Bridge and down to transition for bike and gear check in. After a quick review of transition, we boarded the ferry back to NY and we were all set. Two days before the race there was a break in a sewage main upstream and an estimated 150million gallons leaked threatening the swim leg. Having swam in excess of 80km in the previous 12 weeks I thought I was about to see my new found love of the water wasted and was thrilled when they announced the day before the race that there would be a swim and that the water was ‘safe’.
A particularly early start of 03:00 to get a bus to the Ferry Terminal wasn’t too bad as I had been sound asleep by 20:00 the night before. Ferry at 04:00 to T1 by 04:30, tyres pumped, drinks and nutrition loaded and we were good to go. The pros were due to start at 06:50, and AG at 07:00. The Hudson being a tidal river has a predictable flow and we all expected a fast swim. A light upstream flow until 07:15, followed by a gentle (?) downstream flow from about 07:30 onwards, the swim was a point to point time trial style start where we took a ferry from T1 to some static barges/pontoons 3.8km upstream. Filing off 6 barges there was a steady flow of participants into the murky waters of the Hudson. The water was warm enough not to use a wetsuit, but due to the logistics of the race the wetsuit was fair game and being a tidal river the water was lightly salted. I was out of the water in 43.5 minutes, no that’s not a typo, 4 minutes off the fastest pro and 1:45 off the overall winner – albeit they started with no wetsuits and in a different flow cycle of the river, it was still a great swim for me….. that’s where the comparisons end J.
I raced through T1 and grabbed the wrong bag. A couple of minutes wasted running back to change bags before mounting the bike for tougher than expected bike course. Though I normally race with about 140psi in the tyres and I hadn’t had a chance to see any of the bike course I was happy to have gone out with 120psi as the road conditions were pretty rough. A full closure of the Palisades Parkway, the race consisted of a double out and back undulating course with a total of 3,900ft. of climbing according the elevation profile. In previous events cycling was my strong leg and I knew it wasn’t this year. Failure to find any comfort on the bike over the previous 3-4 months left me having done no rides over 140km and very few brick sessions as the heat was so sapping that my sense of humour had generally vanished anytime the bike went over the 100km mark. I was, as a result, pretty consistent on the bike only spiking to ride up to a couple of Peletons that went past so that I could wag my finger. I’m not very tolerant of cheats, though I was happy to see the marshalls pull a few guys. The course was narrow enough but blatant drafting will always play a part in some people’s race plans.
Speeds varied from 13km an hour on climbs to 70km/hr on desents and the wind kicked up nicely on the last 45km leg in. Nutrition-wise I went according to plan, Gu on 40mins, salt on 1hr., 750ml fluids/hr. The quads in my right leg cramped really badly with 5km to go on the bike so I popped two salt tabs and it wasn’t an issue for the remainder of the day. I reckon the climbs just took their toll on me a bit, the mountains of Ghantoot or the autodrome don’t really prepare you for anything more than a speed-bump.
Bikes were taken from you running into T2 which was great, but even better, my legs felt great when I hit the tarmac. I had shaken them out with a couple of hundred metres to go but I’m never really sure until I’m actually standing on them.
I took my time coming through T1&2 this time stopping for the toilet and to get covered in suncream. The first kilometer is about as steep as the worst part of Jebel Hafeet so I passed stacks of guys walking, with two loops of about 11-12km there was a substantial amount of climbing, with about 1,500ft. in the first 22km. I felt really solid after the first 3km, which had been painful due to a cramp caused by downing a cold drink coming through T2 (silly boy!) and with really good aid stations every 1,600m there was no shortage of refreshments along the way. I walked through most taking on water and ice. I spotted Chris 3km back from my first turnaround giving me 6km on him and J. on 4.5km giving me 9km on him so had a gauge to how I was running (J. was unlucky enough to get 2 punctures after a great swim). Both guys are close on 3hr marathon runners and my pb is 3:42 on the flat Dubai course, I wondered if I could hold them to a minute per km. I had some good hill sets done on the treadmill in the previous 2 months which really stood to me as the guys didn’t put much time into me on the hilly loops. Leaving the loops of NJ, I headed for the George Washington bridge and walked up and down all of the steps. ‘Steady’ and ‘smiling’ were my words of the day and I had good fun with the volunteers along the course. Normally I go through a purple patch between 20-30km but it didn’t come until after the 30km mark, where I longed for each aid station to arrive. With about 6km to go, the run doubled back on itself a couple of times before the finish line. I had great plans for a 3.5hr run off a 5.25hr. bike ride before I started the day, but was delighted crossing the finish line and having Mike Reilly announce, ‘Tommy Holden, you are an Ironman’. Only one pro went sub 3hrs on the marathon, Jordan Rapp the overall winner with 39seconds to spare, so this was a good reflection of the course difficulty. Just 30 seconds quicker than my 2011 Roth time on a much tougher course, I couldn’t help but be happy. Where 10hr. 26 in Roth left me in the top 25%, this identical time left me in the top 5% so this in itself should be enough to encourage people to be more cagey when being quizzed ‘how long will it take you?’, IM is a long day out and unless you’ve covered the course a number of times and know what the weather will be like keep tight lipped. 14th in my AG out of the water, I slipped to 23rd off the bike and 28th by the end of the run and 134th overall.
Let’s be straight, training for an August race while based in the U.A.E. probably isn’t the most sensible thing to do, but IM NY is a lot of fun. Being the inaugural race it was left wanting on many levels, particularly for spectators. Don’t come here expecting a cheap or easy race, but it is NY after all.
This wasn’t a spectator friendly course, but I suspect IM will sort it out easily enough. There was a lack of communication between the organisers and the various associated parties (Volunteers, Water taxi staff, Race Hotel etc.) but again, these are things that can easily be sorted out going forward. Chris, Capt. J and I all had a blast – though Chris’ bike bag has vanished into thin air (yet to be found) we all liked the format of this race. The TT swim start is great and the bike/run legs are challenging. I’m hobbling around for the last couple of days but enjoying the city. If anybody wants more specific details or the garmin records just drop me an email and I’ll try to help you out. The entry has been postponed for 2013 for now due to an inability to reach a viable pricing point for this race. It went up to $1,200 for the standard entry the day after the race to some very public and undue criticism. It would be a shame to lose this race but you have to be satisfied the value for money or it’s not for you.