Ironman for Julia

Ironman NYC Summary

Ironman for Julia update Thanksgiving  2012


Ironman New York City took place on August 11, 2012 and was the experience of a lifetime.  After going to bed at 9pm on the night before the race, I laid there struggling to go to sleep.   I had a separate room in the hotel for that night.  My room was across the hall from the ice machine which was constantly clinking, and Julia also came down to tape an inspiration sign up on the door…but she’s not as quiet as she thinks she is.  I’m not sure what time I got to sleep but I woke up just before my 2am wakeup call.  Since the race didn’t start until 7am, I went across the street and had a large sit-down breakfast in an empty deli.  Buses left the hotel at 3am and took all of the competitors to the NYC Hudson River terminal to catch ferries up to transition.

Unlike shorter distance triathlons, there really isn’t much to do in transition.  You essentially show up the day before and put all your bags of stuff in designated areas.  So the morning of the race, other than going to the bathroom 20 times, you just sit and stretch and sit and stretch. 

My take on Ironman is that while almost anyone can do an Olympic or Half-iron distance, people at the Ironman are a bit more serious.  Absent were the legions of attractive female athletes all made up for the day.  There seemed to be 3 groups of competitors other than the pros who start 10 minutes earlier than everyone else.  Group one is the nearly-pro lean and lanky athletes and appeared to me to comprise 20% of the 2500 racers.  Group two were serious athletes of all ages who certainly looked fit, but lacked the long stringy legs of the first group, and made up about 50% of the crowd.  And group three was full of people of all sizes and shapes just trying to finish in the allotted 17 hours.  I was in this group.  A few bikes away from my bike was a portly fellow—so I asked him if it was his first Ironman.  He replied it was his 9th.  He assured me that he’d finish between 14.5 and 16.5 hours and he kept doing these races because he had “issues”.   Haaa, I know what that is like.

So at 6:30am everyone loaded onto 5 ferry boats which took us 2.4 miles upstream.  A cannon goes off, the pros jump in and 10 minutes later the first ferry boat starts unloading its racers into the Hudson River.  Now the swim had been in jeopardy due to an upstream sewage spill of 3 million gallons the day before…but they said the water was safe and we all went for a swim anyway.    Also unlike shorter triathlons, everyone seemed to be a competent swimmer and there was plenty of room to swim without hitting other people even though there were 2500 of us.  The swim was super easy, and the current helped a lot.  The only excitement came when getting near the exit the water was full of muck stirred up from 2500 people trying to get out at the same place.  There were water sprinklers to wash off right after the exit. 

After the swim, volunteer’s help you take off your wetsuit, you run over and get your bag of bike stuff and put it on and then off you go on the bike. 


Now although I had only trained in the basement on an exercise bike…I really felt prepared for the bike.  In Orlando, at the half ironman, my bike time was only 3 minutes different in the actual race than from my indoor time.  So I thought I was going to kick that bike’s a__.  Big mistake.  I came out of transition as fast as I could and at about mile 14 there was a long steep downhill portion.  So I kept peddling and the speedometer said I was doing 52 mph. 


Big mistake again.  Because everyone that I passed, then passed me on the next uphill when I was struggling to do 6 mph.   That set the tone for the next 98 miles.   Up and down one hill after another.  The weather was perfect and the course was on the southbound lanes of the Palisades parkway.   We essentially biked from NYC to the Connecticut border and bike-twice.  

Three of my nurses volunteered at mile 66 and I got to see them at mile 66 and then at mile 101 (across the street on the return trip) where they sprayed me off with water and filled up my Gatorade jugs.  At mile 101, I looked and felt fairly tired. 

Worse was that my guestimate of bike time was an hour off.   I finished the bike at 3:20 in the afternoon, put on my clean socks and dry shoes and trotted off for a little run.

Now I really don’t like running on a good day, but this was a pretty excellent day.  The first 16 miles of the run was really hilly, along the Hudson River on the Henry Hudson Drive---out and bike 4 miles, twice.  By this time, all of the competitors had really split out into those groups I mentioned before.  So I was surrounded by group 3’s. 

The people around me and I essentially passed and then were passed by one another for several hours.  My strategy was to walk up the hills and then jog the flats and down the hills.  That worked pretty well.  There were plenty of aid stations and the ones with chicken broth were FANTASTIC.   Every 3 hours through the day, I took a magnesium pill, 4 salt pills, and a caffeine pill.  And 10 minutes after that little potion, I felt great for about 2 hours.   At about mile 19, when crossing the George Washington Bridge, my gas tank was empty. 

From that point on I walked, often with other group 3 people.  As racers wound their way through NYC and along the east side of the Hudson, there were a few areas where security could have been better, lighting could have been better, and most importantly it would have been nice to have ice and wet  sponges, but the race had run out of them. 

Finally, at about mile 24, I started to get overheated.  The course was up in a park and there was just no wind or air for that matter.  Every so often a volunteer would encourage me that the finish is just around “that curve” .  Liar liar pants on fire.   It was a number of curves and then finally a young lady said, “just over that hill” and I felt like kicking her…saying I had to go over another hill…but I had no energy.  She was plenty safe.  But indeed there was one last hill that I limped over, beside a Mexican fellow with whom I’d walked for a mile or so, trying to help him figure out how to explain his symptoms to the medical personnel at the finish line. 

With 200 yards left to go, I mustered a trot over the finish line, got my picture taken. 



My time was 15:06, but note that the timer (which started with the pros 17 minutes before I got in the water) has 15:23:32 and my number was 2332.  Wyatt snuck through security and was waiting for me and helped me get over to where Jenny and Julia were waiting.  I told them that I didn’t feel too good, and we left to get a cab…just up a hill from the finish.  It seemed like Mt. Everest.

I lay across the backseat of a cab and Jenny’s cousin George rode in front with the driver.  He thought I was going to pass out, as I kind of thought too, and decided to keep me awake by discussing how one swimmer had died that morning.  That does tend to keep you awake.   We got into the hotel and Jenny had the room key so I attempted to sit down in the lobby but was unable to bend.   Soon, everyone else got to the hotel and we went to the room.  I was having a bit of heat exhaustion and was shivering so I spent the next 2 hours in an ice bath with Wyatt pouring cold water on my head and shoulders, and forcing more Gatorade in.

 About 1 am, now having been up for 23 hours, I started to perk up.  I took a shower and hobbled into bed.  Mike Ward, who did his residency with me and who donated gallons of blood and platelets to Julia, first went and got me a slice of pizza and a beer, and then used a sewing kit to lance my feet blisters.  That is a true friend.  Cousin George and wife Margaret hung out and finally around 2 everyone left and we went to bed. 

The next morning I was stiff, but no worse really than after that first day of skiing each winter.  Wyatt and I walked down 6 blocks to get a 140.6 bumper sticker while the girls went to a museum.  On the train home, I thought about doing a different race next year but by the next morning I had decided against that and retired my running shoes.  Story over.

But I couldn’t keep two things out of my mind.  First, I think I can do a little better now that I know what to expect from this type of race.  Second, counting all donations, a bunch of which didn’t go through this website, we raised about $38,000.00 for cancer research, and I’d like to keep doing that if I can.

So I talked to Team in Training about being a coach next summer, which would be nice.  But I still think I have one more race in me.  Ironman events sell out fast… and all of the races that “fit” my schedule are already full next year.  So I found Esprit Montreal.  It’s a full day of races of all distances run on the 1976 Olympic course and an F1 car race course.  Sounds perfect, plus, last year only 80 racers or so did the full ironman distance.  So I’m planning on that race next September and my nurses are all set to go to Canada with me.  It’s the first weekend of school so I’m guessing the kids will have to stay home.

I’ve been back in the gym since 3 days after NYC.  I have the actual bike that I used in the NYC, Orlando, NYC tri, and DC tri now as my own personal bike and my indoor trainer attachment arrived this morning.  Clearly I have issues too.  Only thing left to do is to break the news to Jenny.   Oh yes, and to raise some money.

I spoke with the folks at Duke and we’ll re-up the donation site.  Please tell your friends and donate to cancer vaccine research.  Julia and lots of other people desperately need this to work.  This is what it was all for—a healthy and happy Puddin Time and me on a Peddicab after the race.



Charlie Lindsey