N.Y. Ironman Triathlon May Cancel Hudson Swim Due to Sewage

The swim portion of the first New York City Ironman triathlon on Aug. 11 may be canceled due to a sewer-line break that will lead to the discharge of millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River.

Organizers for the 140.6-mile (226-kilometer) triathlon, which combines swimming, cycling and running, said they’re monitoring the water quality and direction of the current in the river. A decision on whether the race is shortened to the bike and run portions would be made by tomorrow at the latest, race organizer John Korff said.

“We’re not messing with water quality,” Korff said in a telephone interview. “It is what it is -- it’s either yes or no. It depends which way the water is flowing. Athletes will know at least the day before.”

There will be a controlled discharge of several million gallons of chlorinated raw sewage into the Hudson River at Sleepy Hollow overnight due to the sewer break in Tarrytown, New York, the Westchester County Department of Health said in a statement. The treated sewage bypass is needed so that repairs can be made to the line.

The health department is advising people who use the Hudson River waters for recreational purposes, namely swimmers, boaters, kayakers and windsurfers, to “avoid direct contact with the water from Croton Point Park and points south until further notice.” Sleepy Hollow is about 20 miles north of the George Washington Bridge, which is near the finish line for the 2.4 mile swim leg of the Ironman triathlon.

No Adirondack Lake

“A sewer main break doesn’t sound good to me,” said Chris McCallum, a Hoboken, New Jersey, resident who is set to participate in his first Ironman-length race after finishing two half-Ironmans. “I was concerned enough about the water quality of the Hudson already. It isn’t the Adirondack lake I swam in for my previous races.”

McCallum, 29, said even if the swim isn’t canceled, he’s “on the fence” about getting in the water even though he considers that leg his strongest of the three disciplines.

“There’s a fair-to-good chance you’re drinking some of the water during the swim,” said McCallum, who’s the associate director of fixed income sales for R.W. Pressprich & Co.

The New York City Ironman has 2,500 participants and sold out its $895 regular race slots online in just 11 minutes. It’s the most expensive triathlon in the Ironman series, with the typical entry fee for a race about $575.

Ironman spokeswoman Jessica Weidensall didn’t respond to messages about whether the organization offers a refund or discounts on future events if a portion of a race is canceled.

500 Million Gallons

Two years ago, a fire at a sewage-treatment plant led to almost 500 million gallons of waste being dumped into the Hudson River two weeks before the annual Olympic-length triathlon in New York. The race was held as scheduled that year.

“The Hudson was flowing north,” Korff said. “The Hudson is tidal, so you just don’t know.”

The Ironman race is scheduled to begin with the swim portion, with competitors taking ferry boats to a fixed barge for the start in the river.

“Because of the way we start the swim, with everyone on these water ferries, we’re not going to take people up to swim start if there’s not going to be a swim. That would be absurd,” Korff said. “And we’re not going to decide that morning, that would be even more ridiculous.”

If the swim isn’t held, competitors would probably start with a 112-mile bike ride on the closed Palisades Interstate Parkway in New Jersey and New York before finishing with a 26.2-mile run that ends in Manhattan.

“We don’t want to keep anybody hanging,” Korff said. “Then everybody is wondering, ‘What do I do?’ and nobody sleeps and everybody has a rotten day.”

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