Considering its only 90 miles away, I decided it would be a good idea to scope out the entire Ironman New York City (or rather Ironman New Jersey) course.  The course starts in the Hudson River and ends at 83rd street in Manhattan but a good 80% of the course is in New Jersey and the New Jersey Palisades feature prominently in both the bike and run courses.  Here’s my rundown:

Swim Course

The swim course is pretty straight forward.  Its a point to point course that starts on a floating start barge stationed north of the Englewood Boat Basin in the Husdon River and finishes at the Ross Boat Dock just before the George Washington Bridge. You can see the official map of the course here.  Sighting on the course should be pretty easy.  All you need to do is swim straight and make sure the Palisades are on your right.

This is a view of the Hudson from the swim out at Ross Dock.

Here’s the swim out (or where the swim out should be based on the map).

Another shot of the swim out.

Here’s the obligatory water quality shot.  I took this shot at about 8 a.m. after some early morning showers.  When taking these pictures my mom asked “Are you swimming in THAT water?” and suggested that I get a booster on my tetanus shot before racing.  The water did look pretty nasty and had a distinct smell (which could very well be attributed to the fact that the Hudson River is brackish).  While the water didn’t look great, it didn’t look any worse than the water in Lake Woodlands at Ironman Texas. 


Both T1 and T2 will be located at Ross Dock.  The area is fairly small and I’m not sure how everything is going to fit.  You can see WTC’s map of transition here

Here’s the view of the run from swim out to transition.

This is the large field that will serve as transition and house the change tents.  The field is not very large, it looks like the change tents and bikes will make for a tight fit.

Here’s both the bike and run out.  Immediately after transition there’s a fairly steep little hill to climb.  I’m definitely going to have the bike in the small chain ring.  It’ll be interesting to see how much of a traffic jam there will be heading up the hill.

Here’s the view looking up from transition.  The bike course pretty much climbs up to the top of the cliff within the first mile (these cliffs are known as the New Jersey Palisades or the Hudson Palisades and stretch along the west side of the lower Hudson River in northeastern New Jersey and southern New York.  They rise nearly vertically from near the edge of the river, approximately 300 feet at Weehawken — another random aside the plains of Weehawken are where the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr took place — and increasing gradually in height to 540 feet near their northern terminus).

Bike Course

The bike course is a double out and back on the Palisades Parkway.  The south bound lane of the Parkway will be closed for the race.  A course map can be found here.

Right out of transition there is a fairly steep little climb up to Hudson Terrace and then a right onto Hudson Terrace.

This is the view on Hudson Terrace.  This road has a bit of climbing, nothing huge but a definitely a place to sit and spin rather than try to bound up in the big ring.

After about a mile on Hudson Terrace, the bike course heads onto the Palisades Parkway.

The Parkway itself rolls.  Of all the courses I’ve ridden, I think this course most closely resembles Ironman Louisville.  Its definitely hillier than Florida, Arizona and Texas and definitely not as hilly as Lake Placid.  Like Louisville it constantly rolls.  Here’s the elevation profile (the profile looks a lot scarier than the course actually is probably because the y axis only shows a scale of 400 feet).  Here’s a shot of a hill heading north at about mile 8 / 62.

The course has more climbing going north and more descending heading south.  Here’s a descent around mile  12 / 66.  With the right gearing you can use momentum for many of the uphills.  Its definately worth peddaling the downhills hard because most of the downhills are immediately followed by an uphill.

More up hill around mile 50 / 104 heading towards the turn around.

 Exit 13.  The turn around is 1.8 miles past Exit 13.  There is a climb right up to the turn around, a tight turn and then an immeadiate downhill back towards Exit 13.

Here’s the view at the bottom of the hill after the turn around.  The pavement here was really nice but the pavement is hit or miss throughout the course.  Some sections are smooth and newly paved, others are chip sealed and still others are covered with potholes.  As bikers will be doing an out and back on the south bound lane, its going to be a fairly tight fit at certain spots and some sections of the road are fairly rough especially on the extreme right hand side. 

 More climbing on the return towards Ross Dock.  This shot is at about mile 45 / 97.

More smooth pavement and a nice descent.  The next two shots pretty much captures the course, gentle down hill followed by gentle up hill.  Other than the first mile or so most of the climbs are low grade and not particularly long.  Just up and down all day.

Mile 48 / 100.

 After the second loop on the Palisades Parkway, bikers take the Husdon Terrace Exit.

The ride into transition (and the last 10 or so miles of each loop) are pretty much downhill.  This reminds me of Louisville as well.  Even if you blow out the bike, you get 10 easy miles into transition to try to recover your legs for the run.  As you can see from all the pictures while there are lots of trees lining the Palisades Parkway, there’s not a lot of shade.  These pictures were taken around 10 a.m. and the entire course was exposed to the sun.  The other thing to note is that while the Palisades Parkway is tree lined, there are really no views.  You can’t see the Hudson River or New York City from the bike course.  Other than Florida its the least picturesque bike course I’ve seen.

Run Course

While the bike course was easier than I thought it would be, the run course is brutal.  Probably just as hard, if not harder than the run course at Ironman Lake Placid (and  harder than Florida, Arizona, Texas and Louisville).  You can find the map of the run course here.

The run course starts with a short, steep hill out of transition.  While the hill is steep there are pretty views of the George Washington Bridge. 

Once you get out of transition there are two 3.5 mile out and backs on River Road for a total of 14 miles.   The out and backs feature climbing and descending Dykman Hill four times.  Dykman Hill reminds me of Centennial Road on the Lake Placid course.  Its do able but up and down four times is going to be trying.

Here’s a shot at the start of the River Road portion.

Here’s the bottom of Dykman Hill, which starts right after the Englewood Boat Basin (about 1.5 miles into the River Road out and back).

More Dykman Hill.  It was tough to get good shots because of the shade and sun spots.  While the bike course is exposed, the River Road portion of the run course is densely shaded.  Even at noon, there was plenty of shade on River Road. 

Heading back after the turn around on River Road.

More River Road.

After two out and backs on River Road, the run course heads up to Hudson Terrace and towards the George Washington Bridge.  There is a bike shop on Hudson Terrace and the pavement was appropriately decorated for the Tour de France.  There is not a lot of access for spectators on the Palisades Parkway and River Road, but Hudson Terrace appears ideal for spectators and I hope people are out and the road is decorated when I hit this portion of the course.

From Hudson Terrace, the run course heads up to the George Washington Bridge.  A big portion of the run course’s elevation gain  occurs as the run heads up three staircases to the north side of the George Washington Bridge. 

Here’s the first staircase up.

And the second stair case up.  This one has scary slotted steps that let you look down and see the highway below.

 The third set of stairs.

Finally, the bridge.  As you can see from the pictures the bridge path way is fairly narrow.  I’m not expecting lots of congestion at mile 16 or so but there is defiantly the possibility for traffic jams. 

The bridge is really high and very open.   I’m deathly afraid of heights and it was a little scary going across the bridge.  The view, however, was fantastic.  Below is a view of the transition area at Ross Dock from the bridge.  In addition you can see all the way down into lower Manhattan and can pick out the Empire State Building in mid-town. 

Here I am on the bridge (gripping onto the railing for dear life).

The bridge itself is flat.  Once you get to the New York side there are three more staircases to head down.  These are all metal staircases and can get VERY slippery.

Once you get off the bridge there is a steep path down to the Hudson River Greenway.  I cold not find the path so we don’t have any pictures from the Greenway.  From experience, the Greenway itself is flat, flat, flat but very exposed.  While the terrain will be welcome after all the climbing in the first 18 or so miles of the run, if its a hot day its going to be difficult to stay cool in late afternoon sun.

Overall, I like the course.  Its going to be a pain in the ass logistically and swim could be very sketchy (especially if there’s a lot of rain before race day) but the course is fair and I really like a difficult run.  I think a hard run really rewards a well paced bike and while I’m not going to have a PR performance I’d like the be able to have a really solid run.

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05


The Miller Family · July 5, 2012 at 12:05 am

You are going to tear it up….so excited to see you!

catmarlson · July 5, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Highly unlikely you will have to deal with the stairs on the bridge. I spoke with my friend that commutes via bike over the GW into Manhattan often. This is what he told me.

The south side has been the only one open the times I’ve crossed in the last few weeks. On the south side there are no stairs on the Jersey side and a series of ramps on the NY side.

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · July 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    IMNYC course web map and web site states: “To access the George Washington Bridge, climb stairs to the north pedestrian path. Run approximately 1.1 miles across the bridge with full views of the Manhattan skyline, before another set of stairs exiting onto Cabrini Boulevard.”

    Pretty sure the run course involves climbing and descending stairs on the north side of the bridge.

    ONEHOURIRONMAN · July 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Jeff Irvin sent me your way
    Thx for review
    See you at the race
    You will know me since I will be one at bottom of stairs crying since I can’t climb them

    Neil Tipograph · July 6, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    The run takes place on the GWB northside walkway. Most of the time, the GWB northside walkway is closed; however, it was open on July 4th. On the morning of July 4th, I ran from Ross’s Landing over the GWB and down the Hudson River Greenway to the Riverside Park. About half of the NYC run is shaded. It will not matter to me since it will be nightime when I hit NYC.

ONEHOURIRONMAN · July 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Jeff Irvin sent me your way since I’m going to nyc also
See you there. You will know me because I will be the one crying at the bottom on the stairs unable to climb them

Dan Seifring aka "OBRATS" · July 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Thank you for such a great review. I am going up this weekend to check it out but I feel a little better after reading your review of the bike course. I am a bigger guy and am really dreading the bike.

    Kelly Burns Gallagher · July 6, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Dan — I think its a pretty good course for a bigger guy. While it rolls, if you work the downhills the momentum can carry you up the uphills. My only concern is going to be passing on the downhills while dealing with bike traffic coming in the opposite direction.

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