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Ironman NYC (Vibram SeeYa) Race Report

I recently had the opportunity to race the inaugural Ironman New York City triathlon. I ran the marathon portion in Vibram SeeYas, which have easily become my go-to FiveFinger model for running. Overall the race went very well and I hit all of my goals…

I recently had the opportunity to race the inaugural Ironman New York City triathlon. I ran the marathon portion in Vibram SeeYas, which have easily become my go-to FiveFinger model for running. Overall the race went very well and I hit all of my goals:

  • Simply finish the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 run
  • Come in with a time of 12:XX hours
  • Beat a few friend’s previous times
  • Hit my “reach goal” of finishing in a time of 11:XX hours

Read on to see how I fared!

The Bike!

Sign at the Welcome Banquet—don’t ask me what the extra digit is for!

The swim was downstream in the Hudson River and with it being my weakest event, I waited to be one of the last ones into the water so that the current would pick up as much as possible in my favor. The current was moving quickly and I was putting in very little effort and was absolutely flying. I came out of the water in 52 minutes—usually my swim for that distance would be about 1:20!

Tearing it up on the course!

The Bike!

The transition from swim to bike was smooth and I was quickly riding two loops on the Palisades Parkway. There were lots of long steady ups and long steady downs and not many flat sections. I had some stomach issues with my nutrition and ended up not being able to eat much solid food and stuck to gels, blocks, and other course nutrition. I knew the run course would be difficult so I tried to ride below my level while still coming in under 6 hours. I hit the timing mat at 5:56, right on schedule!

Waving to family and friends who came out to cheer at mile 26

Tearing it up on the course!

The second transition was easy enough, even with doing a change into running clothes complete with a putting a pair of Original weight Injinji socks and Vibram SeeYas on sweaty feet. The run course was quite challenging with the first half being 16 miles of steep hills. A number Pros commented after the race that it was one of the hardest runs they’d done. I power walked the hills and picked up the pace a bit on the down hills. To hit my reach finishing goal, I knew that I was doing well but would have to run a very consistent marathon—from mile 2 I was constantly doing mental math, calculating just how slowly I could run and still make my time.

At one point during the run, I got stung by a bee inside my mouth at the back of my throat. I was running, breathing with my mouth open and a Yellow Jacket flew right in. I immediately gagged and spit it out, but the stinger was stuck in the back of my throat and swishing water around wasn’t working to dislodge it. I ended up sticking a finger down my throat, causing me to double over dry heaving by the side of the run course, but I was able to scrape the stinger off with a finger nail. I popped a pain killer, tried to ignore the slight swelling, and kept going.

140.6 miles later

Waving to family and friends who came out to cheer at mile 26

The SeeYas performed as best as they possibly could, meaning that I didn’t think about my footwear at all. No rubbing, hotspots, or blisters. Yes, my feet hurt, but not any more than anyone else running a marathon after swimming and biking. At one point I realized an advantage of the VFFs as I passed someone in traditional running shoes who was slogging through the course with soaking wet shoes. One method for keeping cool that athletes were using was to dump ice water over their heads, effectively soaking themselves from head to toe. I was thankful that the SeeYa’s managed draining the water well and that they dried quickly. I finished the hot and hilly run in 4:53 with a total race time of 11:55:55. I even had a few minutes to spare!

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Swim: 52:13
  • T1: 6:40
  • Bike: 5:56:18
  • T2: 6:54
  • Run: 4:53:50
  • Overall: 11:55:55
140.6 miles later

I spotted two other VFF runners during the race—one in Spyridons who was wearing two GoPro cameras on their head, and another in what looked to be KSOs who had ridden the bike course on a single-speed bike and was running in cargo shorts and a white button down shirt.

Now with a successful Ironman NYC in the books, it’s now time to take some time off from training and enjoy the last of the summer!

By Tim

I’m am a bicycle advocate by profession and an Ironman triathlete for fun which keeps me healthy and fit. I got into minimalist footwear during the summer of 2009 after dealing with injuries resulting from running in “normal” running shoes. Check out what’s going on in my life through photos at [url=][/url] or follow me on twitter: [url=]@TimKelleyDotNet[/url]. Get to know Tim better via [url=]his interview here[/url].

8 replies on “Ironman NYC (Vibram SeeYa) Race Report”

Cool post, congratulations!
I’ve also been running almost exclusively in SeeYas and training for my first marathon. I’ve only ever used gem without socks. What do you think are pros and cons? Would you have been able to finish without the injinjis?

Hi Sol–I think it comes down to personal preference. I know that Justin rarely wears socks with his VFFs.

I found out the hard way a couple years ago that after about 6 miles or so I start to develop blisters without socks. I suppose if I had tougher feet, or a more stubborn will to build up callouses it would be fine. Leah commented that she had some issues with rubbing across the top of her foot–which others have echoed.

I guess another benefit to wearing socks is that I’ve found I don’t have to wash my VFFs nearly as frequently because they don’t get as stinky as wearing them without socks.

Great job Tim! And a fantastic result. Congrats on reaching your ‘reach’ goal – despite sucking down a bee! Truly amazing.

I am training for my first marathon in Oct (will race in Speeds) and already have an interest in doing an Ironman one day.

I also am one of those ppl that suffer from blisters on top of my foot from the SeeYa’s but will have to try them out with some Injinji’s as that might just resolve the issue.

Thanks for the write up!

Hey Tim, I just wanted to congratulate you on finishing the triathlon.
A great feat i must admit!

I am new to the minimalist scene, and have fallen in love.

Also wanted to say thank you for this great site. If i ever need reviews about a shoe, particularly VFFs, this is the first place i go

@Tim: As someone who’s run very long distances (including a couple 100 mile races) in racing flats, I wonder how different it really is running a long distance race in VFFs. Have you ever run any long miles in an actual racing flat to compare? To me it seems that there wouldn’t be a ton of difference other than the VFFs have toe pockets? I’m just not sure what all the fuss is about; the whole “minimalist” scene is really just racing flats re-invented IMHO. It’s great, it’s fun but nothing very new; just a new angle. Oh and huge congrats on your finish! Inspiring for sure!

Hi Rob–thanks for the congrats. I don’t have any experience with racing flats, but my guess is that they are pretty similar in concept. One major difference I would expect, would be that most racing flats probably still have a bit of heel drop. Once you “go minimalist” you can really tell when a shoe has a bit of heel.

@J – I’ve done plenty of running in Bikilas and really like them as well. I choose the Seeyas as I prefer the even more minimal and flexible feel of the soles over the Bikilas.

I found that the Bikilas are great after about 500 miles of use after the sole has been worn down and broken in. The Seeyas start life feeling like that. The Seeya’s are also a bit more stretchy in the upper than the Bikilas, which is a nice feature if I’m planning on my feet swelling while running 26.2 miles.

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