British athletes recount Ironman New York

Marred by a death in the swim against a backdrop of seven years of planning, including problems with a sewage spill in the Hudson, New York hosted its inaugural Ironman on 11 August. Keen to sample a multisports event ‘USA style’ taking in the historical vistas of the ‘Big Apple’, British athletes, Sharon Young and Clive Spicer, give us the low down on their New York Ironman experience

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What made you sign up for Ironman New York?

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SY:  We'd just returned from Ironman Regensburg when we entered New York last August. We had had such a great time in Regensburg and Clive even proposed to me on the finish line. We wanted another race that would equal, and if not better, our experience there. Regensburg was a great course, really interesting beautiful bike course with lots of support from spectators on both the bike and run despite the rain. The whole town seemed to be part of it and people lined almost the whole run and the carnival party atmosphere made us feel that we were really part of something amazing.

The Nirvana rep had told us about New York which we hadn't even heard about. We thought that the chance to do the first ever Ironman in New York was too great to miss. Clive had always wanted to go there so it was a great excuse for a holiday too.

How did it differ to the other M-Dot races you’ve done? Did the race live up to its billing/the race entry fee?

SY: From the moment we arrived we were disappointed, we got into New York City and went to our hotel in Times Square and people were looking at us oddly with our bikes. We told the hotel receptionist we were here to do the first ever Ironman in New York but he hadn't heard anything about it.

The Ironman village was in a warehouse on the dock and didn't feel as special as all the other events I've been to where the village is outside and surrounds the finish straight giving competitors a chance to imagine crossing that line. The run barely touched New York City which was disappointing. The by-passes we were running on could have been anywhere in the world.

Entry for next year has been temporarily suspended. Would you race again? Would the hiked $1,200 entry fee play a part in your decision?

Clive and I both agree that we're glad to have done it as the event was an adventure. How often do you get to view the start of the race you’re actually in? It was fun watching the other swimmers leap off the barge into the water. However we would never do it again and probably wouldn't recommend it to others perhaps unless of course you wanted an excuse to holiday in New York, which made the trip worth it for us.

As for the price we did pay a-lot to enter this year (I think $1500) but if we had known the course route in advance we might not have entered at all. We were happy, though, that almost half our entry fee via the foundation place had been given to various charities in the area so we felt we were given something back by doing the sport we love.

The news that a participant died in the swim has understandably overshadowed the race. When and how did you become aware of this?

We didn't hear about it actually until we got back to our hotel after we had finished the race. We put the TV on and saw the report on the news. Of course we were deeply saddened and a bit shocked at how this kind of thing happens and thankful to get home in one piece.

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While we were there, a few nights before the race, we had all been together for the briefing, I wondered if I had talked to the poor gentleman that died and also felt sad that his bike and run bags were probably still there and he never made it back to them.