On August 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm Ben became an IRONMAN!
An Ironman triathlon is a grueling endurance event that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run (a marathon). Having an Ironman in the NY metro area was 7 years in the making. I found it amusing that this Ironman was called the Ironman US Championship because it makes it seem the triathletes had to qualify for it, when in reality you got it if you managed to pay the $895 entry fee in under 11 minutes after it had opened up for registration. People also referred to it as the NYC Ironman, but I affectionately called the New Jersey Ironman because more of it was in the state of New Jersey than in New York City.
We woke up really early at 3:30 so I could drive Ben to the Weehawken ferry terminal where he could pick up the 4 am ferry to the temporary barge where the swim portion started.The swim portion was in the Hudson River on the New Jersey side, and ended just north of the George Washington Bridge. The triathletes had a time trial start where a small group of people start at different times, rather than one big mass start, which is the traditional start for an Ironman. The pros started first at 6:50 and then the rest started at 7 am. Ben didn’t start swimming until 7:28 am. There was some concern a couple days before the race because raw sewage got dumped in the Hudson because of a break in a sewage treatment plant. On Friday afternoon, the race officials declared it was safe, much to the relief of the triathletes. If the swim section had been cancelled, it wouldn’t have felt like a real Ironman. There was quite a bit of rain on Friday, so on race day the currents were really fast. The fastest swim of the day was from Luke Bell, a pro from Australia, who completed it in 39:08. Ben was cruising down the river and he got it done in 56:56.
The bike portion took place on the closed Palisades Interstate Parkway, which is unprecedented. The Ironman organization paid a quarter million dollars to close it down. This section starts in New Jersey, crosses the border into New York, and then goes back to New Jersey. The course consisted of a couple loops. Ben and I had made arrangements that I would see him right around transition, either as he’s entering with his bike or leaving by running. I saw him around Mile 109 around 3:20 pm. I was a bit worried about him during the biking portion because there has been a history of mishaps. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw online that he crossed the first timing mat in the run. Ben completed the bike portion in 6:58:24.
The run course consisted of 16 miles on the west side of the George Washington Bridge, crossing the bridge, and then a long run down and in Riverside Park. The original plan was that I was going to meet Ben at around Mile 17 (after the bridge) and then keep him company for as much as I can. Ben planned on walking and slowly running for much of the course, so it would be easy for me to stay with him. It didn’t quite work out that way. I had to pick up his bike from transition, which took a lot longer than I thought it would. The location of T2 was confusing on the map. It took an hour for me to figure out where it was and how to get there. Because it was a long walk down the hill (the same hill that cyclists were biking down and runners were running up; it was a little congested), it took me another hour to get down and get Ben’s stuff. Then I had to walk the bike back up the same hill and take it back home.
As I was driving to Riverside Park, I realized that I would definitely not be able to meet him at our designated spot. I quickly decided to park at the finish line and then run the course backwards to find Ben. I realized that I would find him somewhere between Mile 20 and 22 judging by his pacing (again, I was keeping track of him online) and by my speed. I was anxious to find him as soon as possible. Against the darkening sky, I could see a familiar gait and I yelled, “Benny!” as I sprinted toward him. He was so relieved to see me. He had figured that something had happened and wondered when I would meet up with him. By that time (around 8 pm), he had been on the course for over 12 hours. He was tired, nauseated, and according to him missing me terribly. Unfortunately I could only find an hour parking spot (drat the Upper West Side!), so I was with him for about 15 minutes before I sprinted off to buy another hour’s worth of parking. Then I sprinted back so I could escort him the rest of the way back to the finish line.
The sun had set, but people were still marching on. At the finish line, there was a huge crowd of people cheering on the triathletes. Ben found one last burst of energy and ran through. HIs run was completed in 5:33:46. After 13 hours, 41 minutes, and 6 seconds, Ben crossed the finish line of the inaugural Ironman US Championship. It was over.
A video of Ben crossing the finish line is here. Click on Finish Line, then Finish Line 4. Ben appears when the time clock says 14:09.
I’m so proud of him. He did a tremendous job and now I have an Ironman for a boyfriend.