This was on my race bucket list because of the iconic locations. Swim in The Hudson River, bike out to the Bronx and run in Central Park - not a big deal maybe if you're a New Yorker but definitely special if you're travelling to compete.
I arrived a few days prior to the race and stayed at the Hilton midtown which was the official race hotel. I would recommend that as it's where the briefings and packet pick ups were and where the buses to transition departed from.
Race briefings were "mandatory" and you had to get your hand stamped at the end of the briefing before you could collect your race pack - fair enough. Prior to being given the race pack there was mandatory waiver signing. I got divorced signing less bits of paper than I did to enter this race but then I guess it's just a reflection of the litigious nature of American society generally. Anyway it wasn't onerous and I soon had my race pack and excellent t-shirt. I visited the expo which was pretty good lots of stuff to buy and free tomatoes from the tomato marketing board (!)
One excellent pre-race feature were the Race Alums. These were people who had completed the race multiple times who you could just have a chat with, they had course maps, route to transition maps and all sorts of other stuff. They were all really friendly and incredibly helpful. All fellow racers who had volunteered their time, they were on duty all of the time that pre-race was open. It's a great idea and one that I'm surprised isn't replicated at more races.
In terms of where to train pre-race Central Park was great, the hotel is just a couple of blocks away and I managed to recce the run course and, as the park is closed to traffic first thing, had a brilliant bike ride there one morning, recommended. In terms of swimming I paid an exorbitant day rate to swim at a private club over at Chelsea Pier, but hey it's Manhattan after all.
It is mandatory to rack bikes the day before the race, which means you get to ride your bike across Manhattan. Look out for parked car occupants opening their doors into the bike lanes, it's the biggest cause of injuries to cyclists in this part of the world.
After you have racked you can do a guided transition tour (it isn't mandatory!). It's a good idea, transition is big so it's a chance to familiarise yourself, also worth noting that,this year at least, for the red transition (they had two, red & yelow) after bike out you were, within a couple of hundred metres, making a 120deg turn and then on a narrow and steep (10/12%) climb, defintely worth bearing in mind. Also worth noting that the bike dismount line was at the bottom of a steep hill and that after run out you were again going up a steep climb. Again all of the transition tours were conducted by triathletes who had previously completed the race.
The next big decision to make was whether or not to go back into transition on race day morning to set up the rest of my stuff or to do it all the night before. Ultimately I'm way too OCD to set up the night before if I can get in on race morning so that's what I did, I'm glad that I chose that option, there was a nice pre-race buzz in transition and it started to get me in the mood to race. From transition you have about a mile walk down to the swim start. Take a pair of flip flops, it's a long walk in bare feet. Near the swim start you can put a plastic bag (pre-supplied) of your belongings onto a truck that delivers it to the finish line (as you finish in Central Park, not back at transition). A good service that worked well, I only entrusted them with a track suit but lots of people were putting mobile phoes and small amounts of cash into their bags.
Nice atmosphere pre-start with lots of chat between competitors. About 20 minutes before your swim start you go into your holding pen ready to walk down onto the start barge. I ended up chatting to a bloke from Glasgow in my pen. He took great delight in pointing put numerous dead fish floating by in The Hudson. We also saw a half deflated basketball but no shopping trolleys or dead bodies! Once you're called from the pen you file down onto the barge and line up, on the whistle it's a jump start (diving is a DQ) and you're off. The current is strong! I PB'ed the swim, a THIRD quicker than my previous time for 1500! The Hudson wsn't that big a deal - yes there was a strong current but there were heaps of paddle boarders, kayakers, jet skis, and even a boat with a police diver on safety duty. I didn't actually see anybody being pulled out but you wouldn't be waiting long if you were in trouble. Swim exit is narrow, up a ramp and then 400/500m run into T1. Bike out, as previously mentioned, and then onto the ride. All closed roads and mostly highway, a couple of climbs/fast descents but not that big a deal. It's non drafting but there are so many competitors on the course that's quite tough - I didn't see any draught busters either (not that I was draughting of course!)
Back into T2 and then the run takes you uphill initially (lots of people walking) and then along 72nd Street into Central Park where you run the northern loop. This includes Harlem Hill which is a noticeable climb. By the time I got onto the run it was pushing 100 deg F which made the run was hot and hard, I lost most of the time that I had gained on the swim which was annoying. There were multiple aid stations throughout the run course. Lots of spectator support in Central Park, which at this stage was most welcome. Long finish chute packed with spectators and job done.
Post finish there were medals and, more welcome at this stage, bags of ice, cold flannels, drinks (water or Gatorade) and bananas, bagels and crisps. Good athlete recovery area and longish, but fast moving queue to get your bag back that you dumped at the swim start. Then about a mile walk back to transition to collect your stuff.
I thought that the race was expertly organised, all of the NYC tri people that I came into contact with were friendly, efficient and helpful. The course was unique ( you will get a swim PB!) and reasonably challenging. I'm glad that I raced it and I would recommend it.