Last year I entered the lottery to get a place in the New York City Triathlon — and won! So this July I joined over 3,000 athletes having a swim in the Hudson river as part of an Olympic distance triathlon.
My one and only Fly Away Race of 2015 meant that I needed to dismantle my bike and get it into it’s shipping bag. This is a relatively simple affair , though moving the bag and putting it back together is another matter!
- Take the wheels off and let the air out of the tyres (don’t want them to pop in the cargo hold!)
- loosen the headset and handle bars so they can be turned 90°
- remove the pedals
- drop the seat post
Last year I discovered that the insulation I bought for my central heating pipes fits really well round the frame of the bike. That way should anything rattle around in the bag at least the frame won’t get chipped.
I also bought a pair of axle spacers which stop the wheel dropouts from getting compressed together — I worry that the fork could easily take a hit and snap. I used up the rest of the weight allowance by putting in my bike & running shoes along with tools to put the bike back together. Then stuffed the bag full of bubble wrap that I had collected up over the past year!
Initially I had put all my race kit into a smaller carry-on sized suitcase and then shoved everything else into my main suit case. I was thinking that would give me plenty of space and not have to worry about buying things while away. My girlfriend persuaded me it would all go in the main case and so while I waited for the taxi I combined the contents of the two. I’d booked a black cab for the morning, and as you can see in the pic the bike bag just fits across the width — pretty amazing really — just a shame that you can’t get them in America. It was a good job I ended up with only one case as it was a nightmare travelling with just the bike bag and one suitcase. So much so that at the airport an amazingly kind Qantas air stewardess saw me struggling and helped me by wheeling the suitcase while I man-handled the bike bag all the way from Terminal 3 bus station to Terminal 4 where I needed to check in. Up until that point I was getting ridiculously stressed out even though I had plenty of time and I was extremely grateful for her assistance.
The flight was rather more pleasant than usual — I had finally got round to using up all my airmiles so flew Premium Economy! Watched a couple of films and then landed in the afternoon at JFK…
Fleecing tourists at the airport
I had a nightmare of a time getting to the hotel which was on 94th street on the upper west side.
Having queued at immigration for an hour, collected my bags and then exited into the main concourse I walked towards the main NYC taxi rank. There was a woman in a uniform with a badge that just read ‘Airporter’. Before I could even asses the queue she asked if I needed any help. I mistakenly thought she worked for the airport. I asked about getting a taxi large enough for my bike and she just said no that wasn’t possible I’d need to get a shuttle bus and then get a city center cab. Bit weird but at that point all I could see out the window was a string of tiny standard yellow cabs. Then without moving from her position at the entrance to the Taxi stand offered to sell me a shuttle ticket for $16. Fair enough not that bad compared to $50-70 cab into Manhattan. Only when I got the ticket which also said ‘Airporter’ did I realize she was just the sales agent for the shuttle service. Oh then she said I would need to buy a second ticket for the bike. Sneaky! The first ticket says all sales are final and tickets are non refundable. So after saying it was a bit cheeky to expect me to pay full fair for the bike when i had already said i needed to transport it she did it for $13. So ended up on a shuttle bus for $39 — that didn’t actually go all the way to my hotel.
The Hudson river
On Saturday after a few touristy things I headed to transition to drop off my bike and race kit. I cycled along the river bank to the swim start and had my first
taste sight of the Hudson — I had been avoiding it up until then. Not so much a river as an ocean! It is wider than the lake I swim in at Berinsfield! The weather was looking pretty ominous so when I dropped the bike off I wrapped all my shoes inside the clear bags they’d given us so they would’t get wet. This turned out to be an excellent idea as the rest of the evening I was treated to a spectacular thunderstorm.
Had a stupid early start – my fellow athletes in the hotel seemed to use a fire alarm for their wake up call. At 3am. An hour earlier than I was going to get up. Oh well. Left the hotel to get the train but at the station it said next train wasn’t for 20 odd minutes so instead got a taxi to transition and sorted all the stuff out by the bike then it was a mile walk along the side of the Hudson to the start line.
It was a ridiculously long run (about 700 yards) from swim exit back to the bike — especially in bare feet — and I could feel blisters forming before I’d even got to the bike. We had been warned to leave the bike in a low gear as there was a steep hill straight out of transition. Turned out that it was far enough to make it worth going for a hard sprint popped a couple of gears and overtook a bunch of riders who were spinning out. After the short sharp hill it was out onto the closed roads.
The bike course was great and I really enjoyed it though had a slight mechanical when the chain came off. It wasn’t too bad to get going again — I was more annoyed that I got oil on my hands!. The route went off the end of Manhattan all the way up the West Side highway to the Mosholu highway before doing a u-turn and heading back south to 57th street and looping up to transition at 72nd. One of the highlights was cycling through a toll booth which felt very surreal.
The run then cut across from the banks of the Hudson into Central Park where we did a loop up to the top and back. I didn’t realize quite how hilly it was. The bit round the reservoir where I had practiced a couple of days before the race is obviously flat and in my mind I was thinking most of it was like that but turns out there are some serious hills!