I’m normally not a huge fan of spectator reports (even though I’ve done a few myself, oops…), but Ironman New York was on Saturday, and it was the first time I’ve ever been witness to such an event…and what a huge event it was, so I figure it’s worthy of a mention. Or a long babbling post. We’ll see how this goes.
Last fall-ish, Jocelyn asked if I wanted to volunteer with her at the Ironman, preferably as a wetsuit stripper with no ulterior motivation in the fact that attractive, fit men would be having us remove their wetsuits. It was for the good of the athletes, I tell you, from the bottom of our hearts. (Also, pretty sure the male:female ratio was about 5:1, explain that one, please.)
So anyway. In preparation for our big morning of wetsuit stripping, which required taking a 5am ferry over to New Jersey, Jocelyn and I had a sleepover where we ate Chipotle, drank red wine, and watched 27 Dresses…then went to bed at 10pm. Not stereotypical at all. At 4am Saturday morning, we wandered across Manhattan to the 39th St Ferry Terminal, and we learned that it is very difficult to find coffee at 4am, even with my excellent coffee radar. With coffee secured, we hung out in the terminal with lots of volunteers who seemed to be a bit more versed in tris than I was…fake it til you make it, of course.
A short ride across the Hudson and the ferry let us off just above the George Washington Bridge, where transition and the end of the swim was. We had plenty of time to wander around to get the lay of the land and watch the parade of future ironmen as they got on the ferries to be taken out to the start. We tried to spot Baker, Neal, and Yasi, but missed all of them. We did collect (bib) numbers of attractive men. Bahahhah.
Once everyone was on the ferries to the start, we headed over to where they came out of the water to check in with our head volunteer. We got a little debriefing on how this whole thing works (they have to come to you, tell them to sit on their butt so you can pull the wetsuit off…that’s about it) and waited for them to come out of the water. I had nervous moments of thinking that I was going to ruin someone’s race by not being good at wetsuit stripping (also glad to know that everyone called it “stripping” instead of “peeling”).
Apparently pros don’t even use wetsuits so they just flew right by us after a super fast swim due to the current in the water. One guy even looked at his watched as he ran past and yelled, “Wow!” out loud. Not too long after, athletes wearing wetsuits came in and I watched some stripping happen before taking on my own…there’s really not much to it other than to pull and then get splattered with water and mud, ha. I understood why people would want someone else to strip their wetsuit since they were on pretty tight!
Even though I was happily stripping wetsuits of anyone who went by, I was especially keeping my eyes open for Yasi, Baker, and Neal. Neal apparently didn’t even wear a wetsuit so he must have flown by us, but I saw Yasi as she came out of the exit and started screaming her name. Luckily she heard us among the chaos and ran over to us! Wetsuit…stripped! Not too much later, we spotted Baker and screamed his name…he darted around a few other strippers who seemed confused as to why he wasn’t using them. Stripped him and he was on his way!
Normally you have 2:20 to finish the 2.4 mile swim, but due to the current, the last athlete was out of the water with about 45 minutes to spare…crazy! Even I could have done that, ha. At the end of it all, we got wristbands for guaranteed entry to next year’s IMNY, which is a perk of volunteering that I did not use, ha. Registration sold out in eleven minutes this past year, so it’s a definite perk.
After the swim was over, Jocelyn and I headed up to the Palisades area to meet Abbe, Claire, and Maria to watch for Baker on the bike. We wandered a trail with a lot of stairs and ran across a highway in order to find them. After hanging out along a random street, we realized that the bikers (cyclists? whatever) would in fact not be coming down this street, so we headed up to the turnaround…which seemed like the only reasonable spot to see them. Everyone else had realized this as well, and the giant crowd made it basically impossible to see. (See also: I’m 5’4”, fail.) It seemed silly to wait around for an hour for the chance of seeing him for two seconds, so we abandoned ship and headed back to Manhattan to shower and refuel for spectating round two.
The course was definitely not all that spectator friendly, and the best way to get back to Manhattan was…to run. So we ran across the George Washington Bridge and added a couple miles on the Manhattan side before hopping in a cab. So I managed four miles for the day, which I’m counting as another victory in the ongoing back saga. A run with people, hooray!
With the athlete tracker working quite wonderfully, we were able to shower and eat some lunch (and drink some beer, of course) while keeping an eye on when we needed to head over to Riverside Park to catch the last few miles of the run. Only the last nine miles of the marathon portion were actually in New York, which makes for a deceiving name, that’s for sure. Our Mexican restaurant of choice was the meeting spot as many members of the Runner Army joined in before heading over to the west side. Ironmans are weird…so much time!
Enjoying popsicles with Kelly while we waited!
We figured the best spot to see the runners was at this wacktacular (it’s a real word) spot near 104th St, as they did this crazy out and back three times…who planned for that?? I’d be angry if I was running back and forth and back and forth….and back and forth.
We were stationed on the first “back” portion in Riverside Park, and we kept our eyes peeled for Baker to come running along the West Side Highway. He was initially spotted and we prepared to Power Arch as he came running past us.
Spotted! Pictures compliments of Erica.
Power Arch, check.
Post-power arch, we ran back up to the next out and back to scream some more (around mile 23-24-ish), then to mile (almost) 26 and then the finish. The finish line was a bit more crazy with families and friends camped out to wait for their athlete to finish, but we found Baker and after some high fives he was off for a much deserved shower and food. Congrats, Ironman, on the PR!)
After high fiving Baker, I headed back to the run course because it seemed as though Yasi would be on her way through…but I missed her at every spot because she was FLYING on her way to fourth in her division. For her first Ironman! Congrats, lady! So happy to see you after the swim, you looked great! Luckily I ran back into Maria as I was waiting, followed by Jocelyn and Celia…and Erica. The whole crew came back in time to find Neal, who we ended up chasing down and spotting at mile almost 26-ish just in time for his first Ironman finish!
We all gathered at the finish before heading to Erica’s for some celebratory pizza and beer…I don’t know about the Ironman-ing people of the day, but I was exhausted and ended up passing out back in bed by midnight!
Congrats to Baker, Yasi, and Neal! It was so fun watching you all day, and I’m glad I got to be a small part of your race stripping your wetsuits! Post-wetsuit stripping, I told Jocelyn that we’re totally doing an Ironman…then after the six hour delay in spectating and watching the run, perhaps I’ll still to marathons. (Fingers crossed my back agrees!)