I take spectating the race very seriously. I've done the race a number of times, and I have tremendous respect both for the race course and the people who manage to cover it in 17 hours or less (or more). But spectating the race is also a lot- a LOT- easier than doing the race. I got up at 6, made some coffee, drank it and half a banana and then headed to the start. I was disappointed because I could not get to the area I usually stand in just behind the athlete coral outside the barriers because of the corralled start.
I saw Chrissy and snapped a pix on the way:
It didn't take long to come to the conclusion I was going to have to wait until after the start to get near the beach and I did as soon as the last athletes were in the pond- they were ALL off before 7 AM.
I took tons of pictures of people exiting the water, which you can see on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ironpunk. I also took this picture when I was standing on the beach about 10 feet from Mike Reilly watching the swim finishers battle to beat the time limit for finishing the swim, which is in my opinion pretty generous. I can't believe that numerous people were asking Mike Reilly to pose for pictures while he was still bringing athletes in. I did not. I probably could have shot a selfie of the two of us, but that would have been rude. You're there to get these last people over the line and out of the water, after all.
I headed back to the condo on Mirror Lake Drive, finished my breakfast and charged my iPhones, grabbed my HP Slate 7 and headed right back out onto the road by the condo because I knew in 10-15 minutes Andy Potts would be coming by. I got some great close ups without getting in his way, and then the other athletes started coming in fairly soon, first in dribs and drabs, and then in earnest. Margit went out on her run, and she missed the excitement.
Here's Dave Ellis coming through on the bike:
I had mentioned the tents (you can see one in the picture above) to Margit the night before, how I hoped they were all staked down- last year we saw one blow up onto the road with no injuries. This year was not so lucky. We were watching people go by when suddenly one of the tents blew up and onto the road just past we were standing towards town, maybe 70 meters up ahead. One cyclist miraculously avoided it but another slammed right into the tent and went down, the bicycle all mangled up in the tent legs.
I started running immediately, tossing aside my iPhone and an orange. This was bad.
The guy was scraped up but still road worthy. I think the wet road helped him skid not stick to the pavement.
His 10K electronic shifting bike? More problematic. The right break lever was tangled up in the tent. Three other guys had come to the rescue as well and we immediately started to try and gently work the bike out from the tent legs- the bike had hit the upper corner and the legs had collapsed around the horn and break. After about 30 seconds it dawned on me that we were wasting valuable time, so I grabbed two legs in each hand and just started bending. Tent ruined, bike saved.
The control hub for the electronic shifter (as far as I can tell) mounts under the aerobars. It was hanging off the bike. The brake lever was bent 90 degrees off angle inside and the chain was off, also we'd had to remove the front wheel to get at the break lever and get it out of the tent. I asked someone else to reset the wheel and went to work on the shifter. I have zero exposure to bikes with electronic shifting so I had no idea what I was doing, and I was looking at the mount, half-detached, trying to understand the set-up.
Mike Bergstein is the guy- he's a doctor in his fifties. He was super, he kept his cool, he didn't get insanely mad the way he really had a right to. But as I'm fumbling with this assembly, he asks 'Are you a bike mechanic?' and all I could think was 'I'm yours now.' I didn't say anything, but the question made me focus and the next thing you know the shifter was in place. Then I got the chain back on and he looked at the brake lever and I think right then he was ready to say 'Thanks but it's over.' I grabbed the lever, twisted it back to the right position, and he tested the shifting.
It worked, so we got him on the bike and he was off.
The guy was so solid. He could have quit. Most people would have quit. He put up with me putting his bike right when I'm just a crazy guy in a polka dot jersey.
Margit came back so I went on my 16K run out onto the bears in the reverse direction with Ed Vescovi. I was yelling and cheering the whole way, including admonishing people to break up the packs. I came back hoarse, but I had a great time on the run- coming up the bears you can run with the bikers and cheer them on while dropping them! I did run across the road at one point and ask a rather large athlete who'd stopped on a hill if he was OK- he looked like he was going to get ill and I was pretty worried.
On course (opposite side of the road), running uphill.
I love running that section of the bike course. When my son was small I pushed the baby stroller up those hills- that was awesome. But enough about me.
After I got back, it was that weird mix of pros who had already done a lap of the run and bikers still coming in. I actually caught Andy Potts running back at 12 miles as I was returning from my own, much shorter run. That's the start of a great time as a spectator on Mirror Lake because you have runners in two directions, bikers in one and you just kind of see everyone (except Ginny- sorry Ginny).
Andy Potts in the middle of Mirror Lake drive. I can't even tell you exactly where this shot was taken.
Because my run was over, I was now making a dent in my stock of Ubu.
I had a blast cheering people on the rest of the day, minus my short trip to the Lake Placid Pub and Brew to catch some veggie burger. I saw a lot of Eric Hodksa's athletes, Team Spinervals people, Connecticut athletes, people I know randomly, and John Hirsch, who kicked some serious ass out there and looked tough as nails doing it. Just look at the massive effort in this picture:
I spent the afternoon and evening trading fist bumps, electrolytes, quips, high fives and taking pictures. We're well on the far side of the water stop and I frequently gently encourage people to 'get their nutrition in and then start running when you are ready.' One woman responded 'You start running.' Little did she know that shortly David Smith would be running by and I would indeed have to start running to catch the follow pix of him with a smile on his face. He'd had some nutrition issues on the bike but he was a trooper and he gutted it out and gave me a great smile:
Cheering, and in some cases, running along with people had me shifting between beer and water all night. I saw Bruce Goulart, who's done LP like 10 times, Kramer, Raphael, all the regulars, and lots of people I had never seen before, all working hard, all enjoying the day or at least give the day everything they had. I went in the house once in a while to charge devices, but other than that I felt guilty leaving the road for long, because these athletes deserve 100% of what you've got.
I went to the Pub and Brew a second time and they were out of veggie burgers, although I met Josh of Josh's Fire Fish.
I ran into Mike Bergstein again. He was finishing- running past the pub. He stopped to give me a great big hug before heading to the oval, telling the people with him I was the guy that fixed his bike. Man, that felt good. I talked to his coach for a few minutes and then headed back to the condo. It was his first ironman, his goal was to finish, and he was. His hip was killing him but he was about to be an ironman. I felt lucky to be a small part of that.
Finally we got to about 11:20 and although I felt guilty leaving those stragglers who are at 24-25 miles up on Mirror Lake Drive, I was desperate to be down on the oval, cheering people on, to be banging on the boards, making a shitton of noise as Mike Reilly egged us on to make them hear us on Mirror Lake Drive. I can't explain it. I want to be there, and I will be there next year again, pounding the damn boards and just wanting to make so much noise the whole world can hear it because it's as close as I ever come to crying from the sheer overwhelming emotion of something, down on that oval is just a special place.
Mike Reilly and your race director, cheering them home.
I spent over half an hour down there because the last official finisher was at about 12:01:26 or something, but I had a blast.
Hopefully I'll have finished, showered, had dinner, and cheered people on Mirror Lake Drive for about 5 hours before I make my own way to the oval next year to bang on the damn boards until they are so scuffed up they have to be replaced. And hopefully my smile will be as big as John's.