One of the main elements of racing overseas is that a good amount of decisions need to be made in the UK in order to have a stress free race. My main area’s of concern (As many will know) are:
Not the getting in or out of it you understand, but the being velcro’d by randomers, thinking they are helping. This had taken a disproportionate amount of my thinking time in the weeks leading up to NYC, although I had defeated the Chester Velcro Crew, I knew my limitations and felt that I was not up to the task of swatting off thousands of helpful Americans at 4am on a Sunday. It was a Non Wetsuit Swim For Me.
I have little or no interest in how a bike works, it just needs to work, all the time and work better than the person on it (that’s me) hence the thought of taking it apart and then putting it back together fills me with the same feeling as when I am sat waiting for root canal treatment in the dentists…dread. So to make this process as easy as possible, I purchased the largest hard bike box I could, so basically all I have to do it take the wheels and pedals off.
So all major decisions taken, I arrived in NY midday with my luminous yellow bike case, and encountered an odd paparazzi incident, a guy in the taxi queue started taking photo’s of the bike box, and then proceeded to ask mastermind questions about the said box, culminating in “ Is it a full size bike in there ?” Now I know that I am not a tall chap, but suggested I was one of Ken Dodd’s mates on tour was a little disconcerting. Worryingly he was angling to share a cab, fortunately the bike box saved me from this……No Room, us midgets need space!
In prep for the race (I had 3 days in NY prior) I went for a run around central park and rides through the city and down the Hudson cycle rd from W99th to Battery Park, amazingly stumbling across the Rapha NY shop on the way……
Running or cycling in central park is a great experience in feeling Oh So Normal, as you can wear anything, run, walk, jog, hop, skip and no one will even give you a sideways glance. Highlights for me were the runners and cyclists with headphones on who were singing, very loud: I was treated to renditions of such classics as: Eye of the Tigggggarrrr, and Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, the climax of this song was the PPPPPPPPP poker face, which the runner sang whilst running up hill and was so out of breath from her determination to get all the P’s in the song, that she had to stop and rest. But these all were blown away, by a guy moonwalking around the running track singing Thriller, very high pitch…
Tradition at NYC Tri is that on the Friday evening preceding the race, they choose 500 random competitors to take part in the NYC Central Park underwear race, and I was a lucky winner of a place.
I wasn’t sure where the start of this race was, so we just headed into a very crowded park on a Friday evening, in the hope of finding some signs.
Within 5 mins, it was clear no signs would be needed.
I’d set off, with shorts & T Shirt with my clean racing undies on underneath, the plan being, strip when I am sure I’ve found the race, at no point did it enter my head to set off in JUST my undies and trainers to look for the start. This was clearly not the case for virtually everyone else, as it was soon obvious who the participants were. The US competitors were just heading up to the park and milling around the park in their underwear, of all shapes and sizes, my favourite being a guy in a cowboy hat & boots with his Jockey Y’s walking along with a guitar. (Photo to follow) Having spotted a group of ladies in red underwear ahead, I decided that they seemed to know the way, and as such I should follow.
The closer to the start we got, the more semi naked bodies appeared from all directions. The red underwear group had given me a few looks after 10 mins of tailing them, and it wasn’t until I arrived at the marshalling area that I realised I must have just seemed like a regular perv, fully clothed following them! Time to whip the kit off (But I’d cunningly brought along a flag to pretend to be patriotic but also to wrap around my shyness…..)
To say this whole event was surreal, would be an understatement, especially the corralling you into a tight space for the start……….As the hooter went, it was clear that it WAS a race….. A blaze of Underwear sped off in front of me. The sweaty hugs at the end from underwear clad competitors was a little off putting!
Underwear run over, one day to prep for the race…… Alas I agreed to show my 19 year old 5th Avenue, big mistake. Suffering from shopping legs, I took my bike to transition on the Saturday evening, with airport type security, everything had to be in huge clear plastic bags, but it was all simple enough. I checked out the swim exit and long run to T1, then the various exits. The race is so large it has two transitions and it was easy to go into the wrong one.
All prep’d, and ready for a 4 am start, as my transition closed at 5.30am.
Race Morning: 30 min walk in the rain to T1, flood lights and hoards of people scurrying around in the dark. Once set up in T1/2 you had a 1 mile walk to the swim start (Walking up river, so you can see the other swimmers coming down)
By now it was almost like UK weather, chucking it down, just warm. Once in my coral of fellow swimmers as became clear that I was the token Englishman, they virtually queued up to offer me advise on where to swim, how to breathe and tell me how steep the hills were on the bike course…..
The swim start was from a barge, and you jumped in at 20 second intervals, as soon as you hit the water you could barely move your arms fast enough to keep up with the flow of the river, which culminated in my non wetsuit swim time of 18mins 42 secs. If I had not moved my arms and just lay in the water, it would have been 20 mins I think!
T1, onto the bike, lashing it down and lots of people on the bike course. To be fair to my advisors their report of the hills was pretty accurate, it was very very congested and slippy resulting in some nasty accidents. The support on the course was fantastic, as was riding on closed roads in NYC.
Dismount was on a steep downhill, with straw bales mounted up to catch the numerous people who overshot. These people had the honour of setting off on the run with bits of straw sticking out of their tri-suits.
T2, was simple enough, with the run heading to central park, the road on the way was lined ten deep with people cheeringand telling me that I “rocked”, was awesome, was doing a Great Job, and way to go (I knew that bit) Once the run entered central park the support intensified, and in parts their encroachment onto the run route was TdeF esque (Another new word).
The rain had now stopped and the sun was out and getting hotter and more humid. Fortunately there were plenty of aid stations and also mist showers to run through. There were people cycling alongside a guy I’d tagged on to shouting what they thought was encouragement such as “come on you faggot, you can do better than this” and other uplifting comments! The guy would speed up for 10 seconds and then slow down again, to be greeted with “Is that it you looser” He had slowed down so much that I had to go past him, knowing he would receive more abuse, which he did, the howls of derision fading behind me as the “encouragement” ratcheted up a notch. Fortunately my last 2km were hot humid, but unabusive ! I crossed the line, awesome and rocked, having done a Great Job ! (Neil Ainsworth)