Saturday was the inaugural Ironman U.S. Championships held right here in the city so nice they named it twice. 140.6 miles encompassing the Hudson River, Palisades, 9w Parkway, George Washington Bridge, and Riverside Park.
That was Saturday. It’s now Tuesday (right?) and I’m finally coming out of my post-Ironman spectating coma to write a recap sprinkled with pretty pictures. I’m sorry for the delay. Cheering for loved ones for 21 hours and then drinking for what felt like 21 hours the very next day will leave you in a haze.
Let’s carry on. I apologize in advance for the lengthy post. I’ve stated before, spectating an Ironman is an all-day affair. But a GLORIOUS time, indeed.
His Lordship has been training for IMNY since January. He took a very short break after Ironman Arizona in November, and was ready to take his battle stations regardless of the heat, humidity, and the freak sewage spill which did not deter the 2.4 mile swim from being canceled. (Really, it wasn’t freak. This shit happened last year a week before the NYC Triathlon. Also, I said shit. See what I did there?)
Race Day: a 4 a.m. wake-up call with our guest cheer cohort Claire Bear. Woof, that’s early. I opted for a
shower bird bath to continue sleeping in an upright fashion wake up, while His Lordship got ready while staying insanely calm throughout the morning—probably the most calm I’ve ever seen any racer the morning of a race regardless of distance. And after a brief argument with our first cab driver, we took a cab to the start at Palisades Park in Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Fun Fact: Cabs charge a flat fee to get to New Jersey from Manhattan. Now you know.
As Claire and I didn’t have the necessary wristbands to walk His Lordship into transition, we bid him adieu, and meandered aimlessly around Fort Lee…in the wee morning hours. Nothing says ‘creepy’ like clown rides sitting in silence in an old amusement park at 5:45 in the morning. We procured coffee at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts and sat. And sat some more. And then Claire made a statement:
“You weren’t kidding when you said that the start of the Ironman is…um…boring.”
Correct. And it’s a good thing we’re friends for that would make for an awkward time, indeed. In Arizona, Alex and I, too, sat in a nearby coffee shop. At least we were able to walk into Transition to see His Lordship come out of the swim and get onto his bike. This was going to be different. We couldn’t get to the start. Or into Transition due to our lack of wristbands. We walked a bit more to kill our three hours of time. Perhaps we could see some sort of start activity atop the GW Bridge? Incorrect, ladies, for the North side is closed for racers. Blast. This did not make for a spectator-friendly course.
We walked back to the Palisades Park entrance to await His Lordship and Neal as they would make their exit and begin their bike journey. Also, there was a giant/nasty hill leaving the park, which makes for an interesting start of a 112-mile bike ride.
To kill more time, Claire performed hill repeats (overachiever) while I laid on the pavement and ate brioche (realist). I was alerted by cheer squad/Runner Army member extraordinaire, Maria, that she was making her way over the GW to find us. So much support at 7:00 on a Saturday morning. I saw via the Ironman live blog that the Pros were exiting the water, and that the current was something fierce. Claire and I waited with foam finger and cow bell to cheer them on.
The lead men and women were killing it, and took charge up the hill like it was no problem (at least it looked that way from where we stood). Maria arrived and informed us of what Neal was wearing, and thank Christ as our eyes were crossing from reading so many bib numbers. Maria spotted His Lordship, who was looking ecstatic, weaving through competitors. Not long after was Neal, also looking fantastic, and I shouted something about him being a scientist. (Well, he is.)
Time to move the cheer squad to the bike turn around, which was a couple of miles up the street. Wetsuit stripper duo Susan and Jocelyn found us and told us of their morning (mmm delightful sewage splatter), and after we figured out that we were, in fact, in the complete wrong spot on the bike course, we walked further to the bike turn around on 9W. Our lack of directional skills made this a disaster, as the crowds were thick, and we had at least an hour and a half until we saw our men.
I’ve been told by both Ironmen and His Lordship’s coach that spectating on the bike is not the greatest idea, as it’s the longest portion of the day and you only see them for a matter of seconds. The best option is to rest and track the athlete and gear up for the marathon portion of the race. Ergo, the decision had been made—return to the Upper East Side for showers/rest/lunch before heading to Riverside Park to see the marathon.
Running over the GW Bridge was a new experience for Claire and I, and were delighted for the minimal incline and sweeping views of Manhattan and New Jersey. Unfortunately for us, we had the intention of running a solid 10 to 12 miles over the course of the day, and due to tiredness/hunger pains/spectating woes/and, was that a hangover?, we managed somewhere around 3. Whoops again.
After showers, tacos, and beers, as well as joining forces with more members of the Runner Army, we journeyed through Central Park and back to the West Side to await our menfolk at mile 22—a weird zigzagging loop through Riverside. I heard through the grapevine (a la Twitter) that His Lordship was seen coming over the GW Bridge. Attention! Be on the look out for a blonde gentleman wearing all red! Neal was just starting the marathon course at this time, so we kept an eye at how much time we had between them.
At this point in the day, Riverside Park was crawling with friends and family of our menfolk. “WE SHOULD MAKE A POWER ARCH!,” exclaimed Maria. What a freaking fabulous idea, as we don’t normally get to do this for people running marathons. We were standing in a glorious spot on the course to do so!
And we did.
At mile 22, His Lordship ran through the power arch shouting and cheering, running effortlessly through Riverside. We ran up to the next part of the zigzag, and cheered him there (and he high-fived
my Claire’s foam finger!), and moved on toward the finish. I made a quick decision of sprinting to the finish so not to miss him. Maria (who took her bike to the finish ahead of us) yelled at me, and I signalled for her toward the bleachers, hoping for a better shot and photo of the finish. We managed to crawl up under the bleachers and just in time to see him come through the finish. I started tearing, realizing that he was about to PR in a big way.
We crawled back from under the bleachers, met with fellow Bakers, and found him complete with medal and space cape. I didn’t even care about how much sweat (or fecal matter from the sewage spill) I was hugging.
“I broke 11 hours!”
Quite, sir. And by a long shot. His final time was 10:27:49; a beautiful PR from his first Ironman time of 11:13.
I received picture texts from His Lordship’s Mother, who was watching him via live stream on her iPad.
Back to the East Side for showers and beers, and a brief celebration before heading back West to see Neal come through the finish.
More beers, more showers, pizza, and Champagne were endured until we took the ferry back to Jersey for bike retrieval.
There is something spectacular about cheering for an Ironman. A full day of watching your friends and family put in 140.6 miles of effort is truly worth while, and I’m proud to have been apart of this day of days.
Congratulations to all those who competed in this weekend’s race. And huge, HUGE congrats to our artist and scientist on their big day. You are Ironmen!