Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New York City Part III: Marathon Day

First things first.  I left something out during my Part II account of my New York City trip.  Bianca wanted it known to all my blog readers that she made it from her hotel to my hotel in big, bad New York City ALL BY HERSELF (to meet up for our Saturday run).  She was so worried to walk the 5 blocks in a straight line (on the same street) that she literally carried a map with her marked path.  Congrats Bianca, I'm sorry I left it out and I am so proud of you!

I can't tell you the excitement and nervousness I felt on Marathon day.  I know what it takes to train for a Marathon, I know what it takes to run a Marathon and I know how much pressure you put on yourself to achieve your goals.  I swear I was feeling the emotions for each and every one of the 47,000 runners, but mostly for Bianca and Tim.

I stayed in the room with Tim and his family and his alarm went off at 4:00 am.  I later confirmed my suspicion, that he had already been up far earlier than that.  Why is it impossible to sleep the night before a big race?  Tim was up early, but he did all of his pre-race "rituals" in the bathroom.  Poor man!  I feel so badly that he was locked in the bathroom on HIS big day so the rest of us could sleep.  He was quiet as a church mouse and I didn't even know he had left and I didn't get to wish him good luck because of it.

Our internal alarm clocks went off much later and we were up by 7:30.  We got ourselves race spectator ready each of us dressed in our Team Irons T-shirts, with our fluorescent green flags, and headed out to get a bite to eat to get us through the day.

Our plan for the day was to see Tim at two different points during the race (and hopefully see Bianca at the last point as she was in the wave behind Tim).   Dedie had decided upon the spots to see Tim far before I'd arrived in New York.  She had our plan all mapped out and it worked out perfectly.

After breakfast and such we made our way to our meeting point to hook up with all the members of "Team Irons".  We met at 10:45 just outside Central Park and it took us until nearly 12:30 to make it to our spot at 105th at the 18.5 mile mark.

We decided to take the subway to make it to our spectator spot and it was quite an adventure.  After waiting nearly 20 minutes for our train the subway was packed.  Everyone started pushing and shoving to get on the subway and we were literally face to face with other passengers.  It was crazy so half our party got off and were left behind.  

During our walk to the subway we started a Team Irons cheer.  I'd yell, "We Are.... "  and everyone would chant, "Team Irons."  I think some of the people in our party were embarrassed, but I was proud to be in NYC cheering on my friend and I didn't care who knew it.  In fact, I wanted everyone to know how awesome I thought the whole thing was.  The point is, after we were separated from half of our group on the subway ride we had to wait outside the subway station for them to catch up.  Before we saw the mass of green shirts coming up from underground we heard our cheer, "We are....." and Team Irons was reunited.

It was so fun to be in the city with our matching shirts and flags.  A lot of people had fans cheering them on in the city, but not every one had a posse.  We had people taking second glances at us all day, but maybe that was because of Cooper's hat and glasses!  haha

I know Tim was so appreciative to have 14 people who traveled all the way to NYC and cheer him on for a Marathon.  I think his friends and family (almost none of whom are runners) are amazing for coming to support him.   I don't think they all realized how much it means to a runner to have someone there, even just for 30 seconds, to cheer them on.  Sometimes it only takes seeing someone you know to give you that extra push.  You're amazing Team Irons.  I thought you all should know!  

Ok, ok so on to the spectating and cheering.  As soon as the race started it was clear that the iPhone app to track runners was NOT working.  I was in a panic not knowing where Bianca and Tim were.  How were we going to find them in the sea of people running past us?  Luckily, my friend Julie was at her computer and sat there for FOUR hours updating me almost every five minutes.  Half way through, George joined in and I had each of them texting me almost every minute.  It was a good thing because they were able to pinpoint EXACTLY where Tim and Bianca were and I basically knew when each would be crossing my path almost down to the minute.  

Like I said, we saw Tim at mile 18.5.  His plan with Dedie was to switch out a water bottle he was carrying and that's what he did.  He didn't stop, he didn't slow down, I don't think he even said a word.  He simple waved his arms, smiled and took his new water and was on his way as quickly as he came.  It felt so good to see him and cheer for him and felt even better that he was looking so great.  

He came, he went, but I knew inside what we had just done.  We had given Tim a little push-- a little excitement that hopefully would last him a few miles until we saw him again.  

Team Irons was on the move once again, heading across the course (cutting through) to see Tim again at mile 23.  

For some reason, by the time we got to the 23 mile spot I was extremely nervous.  I knew Tim (and Bianca) were having a great race each going extremely fast.  However, from miles 18 on both of their paces started to slow with each mile indicating to me that things were getting tougher.  I wanted to see their faces and I wanted to see them happy and smiling.  I hoped and literally prayed that they were happy and not suffering.  

At this point, I think Julie and George both wanted to kill me.  Neither knew the other was updating me and updates were literally coming in almost every minute, but I was still asking for more.  I wanted to know how well each of them were doing with every step.  

Every minute that ticked by seemed like an eternity to me, but sure enough Tim came up the hill at mile mark 23.3 where Team Irons had taken up shop and he still looked happy(ish).  He didn't seem as at ease as he had at mile 18.  He was clearly looking to get through the next three miles and be DONE!  

After Tim passed I knew he was on his own as we weren't planning to be at the finish line.  We still received updates and followed his every step, but I had one thing on my mind and that was to find Bianca.  I felt like I had come 1500 miles to see my friends and I was going to see them.... BOTH!!! 

Bianca's pace had slowed enough from mile 18 on that I knew her race wasn't going as easily as it once was.  I knew seeing someone she knew would hopefully give her that extra push to get through.  I was on the left side of the runners scanning the crowd as she got closer and closer making sure I would NOT miss her.  The difference between Tim and Bianca is that Tim had made a plan with Dedie of where we would be and where he was to be (left side).  I told Bianca I would probably be between mile 23 and 24, but I didn't tell her to stay on the left side. 

Sure enough, when I finally found her she was literally on the complete other side running as close to the curb as possible.  I don't know how, but I immediately darted throughout the hundred of runners, playing frogger as not to bump anyone so I could reach her.  I was NOT going to miss the opportunity to cheer on my friend!  Hell no!  

By the time I caught her I had to tap her on the back and I could tell immediately as she turned her head that she wasn't doing well.  All she could tell me was she was in pain.  She wasn't really able to articulate anything at the time, but she didn't have to, her face said it all.  I felt so much emotion at that moment.  I wanted to cry, I wanted to run the race for her, I wanted to do whatever I could to make it better, but there was nothing I could do.  I felt like a parent seeing their child in pain and there was nothing I could do to take it away, even though I would have done anything.  

Bianca at mile 16 well before I saw her and much happier (picture by David, her husband)

The whole moment was surreal as I ran with her for about 300 yards or so.  I don't know exactly what I told her.  I remember telling her she was strong, to think about all the training she had done and that she was tough and could do anything.  None of that seemed to resonate as she just stared blankly at my face, so I just did what any mother would do (haha).  I told her I believed in her and I loved her.  As I stopped running and turned to walk away I felt so helpless and overwhelmed with emotion.  I'll forever be connected with Bianca because of that moment.  I know it sounds stupid and maybe you don't understand, but Bianca and I have been in this marathon TOGETHER for over 5 months and to have run WITH her and encouraged her to fight for her finish was a profound moment.  

I later found out that Bianca's calves cramped from mile 18 to 26.2.  She repeatedly had to stop and massage the cramp and tightened muscle just so she could move her leg.  Bianca is a tough woman and I know there was nothing that could have stopped her from finishing this race, not even legs that weren't working. 

After I saw Bianca we headed back to our meeting point to hook back up with Tim.  I was informed less than 30 minutes later that Bianca (and Tim of course) had finished the race.  Both of them had amazing races that were eerily similar.  Their half marathon times were 3 minutes apart and their finishing times were just 20 seconds apart.  Both finished with AMAZING times, far faster than I could ever imagine.  

I'm so happy to have had the experience of being a spectator for such an epic event as the New York City Marathon.  More importantly I feel honored to have supported Tim and Bianca through their races.  I am so proud of both of you for your astounding accomplishment!  Thank you for the inspiration and thank you for sharing your experience with me.  


G. said...

What an experience - what an accomplishment! xoxo G.

Tim said...

Thanks for everything Susan, you did a great job reporting! And thanks George for keeping the home fires burning so she could join us. It was a perfect weekend in every single way...I truly appreciate all of you being there!

robringer said...

Congrats to both AMAZING.

D. said...

You did such a great job describing the day, which I would find very difficult to put into was simply an amazing experience in every way. NYC was so alive, and we were so lucky to be in the midst of it all.
We just wish that we could be in San Antonio with you this weekend, but you will be in our thoughts and prayers.
Go Susan Go!!!

Cooper said...

I had such a great time! Loved seeing all of the pictures. I wish we could show you the same in-person support in San Antonio! But don't worry, I feel another NYC marathon adventure coming! ;)

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