NYC Triathlon – Spectator Tips

Posted by on July 23, 2009 in Training

A little recap for those who don’t know the history…

The NYC Triathlon is on Sunday, July 26, 2009.  This will be my 6th time participating in this event, and it will mark my 66th triathlon event in nine years.  Last year, when I put together a calendar of events for 2009, I targeted this event as my “A” race, so everything I’ve done leading up to Sunday has been in preparation for hopefully having my best day yet.

Earlier this season, I raced in the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in Florida, the Columbia Triathlon in Maryland, and several other events in and around the local area.  I’ve generally done well by my standards, but suffered a few setbacks in June with running.  Endurance athletes often refer to “peaking” to describe the culmination of a training program where one is at their athletic best.  It turns out that I peaked on the run back in early May.  I ran a 10 mile race in Philly with great results but found most other runs thereafter were slower and harder.  I acknowledged the phenomenon and took the right steps to get back into good form and last week, at the Montauk Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon, I found my good legs again about a mile and change into the run portion.  It was a huge boost for my confidence.

The cycle legs are also great, again by my standards.  I’m able to sustain major efforts with short recoveries, and the course on Sunday will be perfect for me.  The swim… well, the swim is the swim.  The Hudson River is tidal, so I’m hoping for wave-pool like speed down the river and if not, I’ll just try to maintain a strong effort without blowing all my energy in the water.

Okay, regarding viewing, here’s how things shake out on race day:

– The swim:  It’s in the Hudson River and begins around 99th Street and ends at the 79th Street Boat Basin.  Athletes will swim very close to the seawall and not out in the shipping lanes, contrary to the many questions I get.  There will be a tight corridor in this point-to-point swim that will be marked by buoys and with tons of kayakers and other rescue/race personnel.  At the end of the swim will be a barge with stairs that extend into the water to make it easy for athletes to exit the water.

– Upon exiting the water, athletes will run on the sidewalk to their respective “transition” areas.  FYI, the swim-to-bike transition is called “T1”.  The transition area is filled with bike racks that are individually numbered according to each athlete’s race number.  Athletes will go to their respective bikes, get out of their wetsuits as quickly as possible, then get their bike gear together and run with the bike to the exit of the transition area.  At the “mount line”, athletes get on their bikes and begin a 24.8 mile journey.

– The bike course is on the West Side Highway, aka Henry Hudson Parkway.  The northbound lanes are closed in their entirety where the athletes ride north in the right lane, and ride south in the left lane.  The middle lane is supposed to be for rescue/race personnel.  The course takes athletes all the way north, over the Henry Hudson Bridge, and into the Bronx before veering off onto Moshulu Parkway and to the turn-around at Gun Hill Road.  Then, athletes ride south along the same course, past the 79th Street Boat Basin and to a turn-around at 59th Street before heading back to the transition area at 79th Street.

– The bike-to-run transition is called “T2”.  Just before the entrance, athletes dismount their bikes, run next to them back to their respective numbered areas, and switch to run gear before exiting en route to a 10k or 6.2 mile run course.

– The run course takes athletes south from T2 within Riverside Park to the corner of 72nd Street and Riverside Drive.  There, the course travels along 72nd Street straight to the 72nd Street entrance to Central Park.  After descending the little hill to the right, the course turns left and heads up the west side of the Central Park drive, around the top end of the park and through the hills there, then heads down the east side of the drive before turning right at the 72nd Street transverse.  Athletes run across the transverse and after a bit of meandering (as the course has been marked in years past), run to the finish line that is close to the Bandshell area.

So that’s the course description.  Given the above, my recommendations are for folks to go to two areas:  the 79th Street Boat Basin and the 72nd Street transverse in Central Park.

– At the Boat Basin, you’ll be able to see all the athletes leave the water and run to T1.  You’ll also see them exit T1 and begin the bike leg.  Thereafter, you can head up to the highway along the grass and watch athletes pass by left and right.  If you see an athlete head right-to-left, you can then head back down to the Boat Basin area and see them enter into T2.  The exit to T2 is at the south side of the transition area, so you likely won’t see them begin the run unless you’re particularly quick about things.

– If you indeed go to the Boat Basin and then want to see the finishing line, you should definitely walk along 72nd Street to see athletes running.  The entire street is closed and since it is 6 lanes wide, there is plenty of room for athletes and spectators alike.

– Once you enter the park at 72nd Street, it’s just a short walk to the transverse.  Sure, it’ll be crowded but with some creativity, you can find a good cheering spot.

The NYC Triathlon is truly a marquis event that attracts athletes from all over the world.  It’s the only Olympic distance event held in NYC and is on par with the Chicago Triathlon, the Los Angeles Triathlon, and a select few others.  There are all types of athletes who will participate, from the top professional to the elite amateur to the age group enthusiast to the Team-In-Training athlete to the first-timer.  The event sold out last year in less than two hours and the field is expected to be somewhere in the five to six thousand range.

My personal expectations are high; depending on the speed of the tide in the Hudson, I could have an epic day.  Since the swim is an unknown x factor in terms of determining my total time, I can only offer my goals for the bike and run.

– On the bike, my personal best at this event is 1 hour, 10 minutes and 12 seconds.  This year, I’d like to break 1:09:00.

– On the run, my personal best is 50:24.  My goal is 49:00 or better.

– Overall, I’d like to break 2:27:00.

For more information on the race, go to  I’ll be wearing a white top, black shorts, and on the run, a white visor.  Please let me know if you’ll be out there to cheer and if so, where you’ll be so I can look for you.  We get so much energy from the cheering crowds.  Hope to see you on Sunday!

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