As I don’t have a car my triathlon selection is based on the proximity and ease of access to New York City, after a bit of research back in June I discovered the Westchester Tri which runs on the last weekend of September each year. It is located 30 miles north of NYC in Rye, NY on the Connecticut coast and offers great easy access from the city.
To avoid the hassle of renting a car (also the exorbitant fees!) and given the 6.30am transition closure I decided to stay in a hotel the night before. I took the metro north out of Grand Central (50 minutes) on Saturday afternoon (the metro north has some handy bike storage facilities free of charge) and walked 10 minutes to the Courtyard Marriot in Rye. After a slight hiccup with the hotel reservation we got checked into what was a surprisingly nice and modern hotel. The hotel ended up being 2.5 miles from the start area so we grabbed an uber down to the race area to pick up my race packet and check out the ‘expo’.
The packet pickup was well organized and pretty quiet, the usual show your ID, hand in the disclaimer and get your time chip, goodie bag, swim cap and stickers. Bike check in was also offered the day before but I chose to keep my bike and use it to cycle from the hotel in the morning to avoid dependency on taxis. The expo itself seemed to be shutting down and there wasn’t really much going on, so with the stomach rumbling we made a beeline to try and find some last minute carb loading opportunities. The town of Rye itself is beautiful and reminded me of every American town I saw in the movies whilst growing up. We found a great a restaurant (Rye Grill & Bar) and I chowed down on a burger and a huge piece of NY style cheesecake, before finding a CVS for some last minute Gatorades and Water. One thing to note is that everything in the Burbs is far apart or maybe I am just used to having everything on the doorstep in NYC.
The stash bag provided was particularly good compared to any race I have competed in before aside from the copious amounts of advertising pamphlets the key highlights were
- Official T-Shirt – A light long sleeved hooded sweatshirt which was a welcome change to the standard tech t-shirts
- Bandanna / scarf / balaclava type thing
- Race Belt
After getting back to the hotel I just chilled out drank plenty of fluids, packed my bag and watched the Auburn vs LSU game (War Eagle!) and tried to get to bed early. The race day nerves kicked in as soon as my head hit the pillow and I barely slept, I am not sure if this was nerves from the fact it was my first Olympic distance or if this is something I am always going to have to deal with.
I set my alarm for 4.15am and planned to leave the hotel by 5.30am to cycle the 2.5 miles. Over the prevailing 3 months I had become accustomed to temperature pretty much always being hot no matter how early you get up, it was a shock to the system when leaving the hotel at 5.30am to find the temperature in the low 60’s.
I arrived at the transition zone and got through security swiftly and it was great to see that they had a tent available for last minute tune ups and fixes. I availed of the service and got my tires checked and pumped up a little more. The transition zone itself was well organized with the racks numbered exactly to tell you where to put your bike, I found my slot got unpacked, set up and made a dart for the portaloos. I think there is some kind of natural phenomenon that occurs at races…no matter how many portaloos they have there is always a queue!
Whilst in the queue I did get a chance to snap the sunrise over the Long Island sound which was pretty awesome. The organizers stuck true to their word and got people out of the transition zone and down to the beach for around 6.40am at which point the sun had risen and it had turned into a fresh bright morning.
We were brought down to the beach for the mandatory race talk and swim warm ups. I actually spent most of my time in the water as it was warming the water than standing on the beach for 45 minutes. The race director walked through the swim course and from the general chit chat most people were a little confused on the course but after watching the first few waves my confidence grew in the course.
The swim was a running start which I have never attempted so I made my way to the front of the line and after a few strides into the water it was deep enough to swim. The first 200-300m was pretty rough with people swimming on top of each other until the field starting to spread out. This was the point I realized swimming in a straight line in open water is tricky, the sun was rising making it difficult to site the buoys and I lost my way and ended up swimming about 100m which was pretty annoying. The course itself was mostly sheltered in the bay with a part of it out on the long island sound, the rest of the swim passed by quite quickly and when I got out of the water I was a bit disappointed looking at my watch and seeing 38 minutes.
This is where things started to go downhill, I felt pretty wobbly getting out of the water and couldn’t really run so I slowly made my way back to my bike, my bike was very close to the bike out section which made it the furthest away from the swim exit. I drank some water and tried to steady myself before heading out on the bike. I spent around 7 minutes in T1 which will need to improve down the line.
The bike course was 25 miles although on strava
it ran a little longer around the rolling hills of Rye. The first 10 miles are quite hilly ending at mile 10 with ‘Claires Climb’ thankfully there is a dedicated supporters section on this part of the course willing you up that hill. In fact the course itself had lots of volunteers and police every mile or so cheering you on and making sure the roads were clear. The second half of the course was fast with some nice long straights and down hills. I felt strong on the second half of the course and made some time up I lost on the first 10 miles. I enjoyed the course and got to take in some of the epic houses in the Connecticut hills! Bike Time:1hr 37mins
Getting off the bike I felt pretty good, I grabbed one of my SiS gel packs, put on the calf sleeves I wanted to try out and headed out on the course. At this point the weather was perfect, blue skies the sun out but not too hot. The run course was mostly flat except for a couple of small hills thrown in, the best thing about the course was running through the neighborhoods and having the locals out supporting, it really added to the community feel. I summoned the energy to do a last sprint to the finish line and after briefly collapsing in a heap I headed straight to the free pizza and beer tents! The expo was much livelier after the race and there was a nice touch with free post race massages being offered.
For my first Olympic tri I thoroughly enjoyed the Westchester Tri, it is very well organized, has a great community feel to it and the course is very enjoyable. I 100% recommend to people and maybe next year we can grab some beer after!