Summer is always an especially busy time of year for me but this season I seem to be traveling significantly more than usual. This can sometimes make training difficult but I don’t have any big races on the calendar right now and you can usually find a running route just about anywhere.
Earlier this month I was in Baltimore, MD for a week attending a couple of annual meetings with the donation/ transplantation community. Lucky for me we were right on the harbor in a great spot for running. It was hot and muggy so I was careful to get my run done early in the morning and got to see the early morning sun during my workout. I got two runs in during my stay there before catching some sort of nasty cold so I had to settle for that.
I was only home for a day before it was time to hit the road again. This time, Jared and I were driving to Syracuse, NY for the Ironman 70.3 – Jared was racing, I was a proud cheerleader. It’s about a five hour drive from Boston to Syracuse so we left early Saturday morning and went directly to the race site. The race takes place at the Jamesville Beach Park which was easy to get to and a great location for the race as an athlete and a spectator. We were able to quickly check in and get my VIP spectator pass (yep – more on that below), we did a little shopping at the IM merch tent and sat through the athletes meeting. It was nice to get a ‘lay of the land’ the day before so we could discuss the different points he would most likely see me. I was thrilled to find that everything was very centrally located which makes for less stress and more cheering for me. A couple of years ago when Jared competed at IM 70.3 Poconos, it was the opposite. The swim, T1, T2 and the finish were at all different locations so I had to drive all over the place hoping to catch him at the right spots. Read all about that adventure in the post Adventures in Travel Racing.
Once we were done at the race site we picked up a few things he needed at Super K-Mart (I’m never stepping in one of those again. Ever) and checked into the Holiday Inn Express down the street and then went to dinner at 5:45 as if we were 95 years old.
(beware: adult language)
After doing some extensive research on Trip Advisor, the #2 restaurant in town (#3 was Ruby Tuesday BTW) was Grimaldi’s and they seemed to have the most pre-race friendly menu nearby. The parking lot was packed but thanks to making a reservation (which we were 45 minutes early for) we sat right away. 98% of the parties in the restaurant had at least one triathlete with them but the staff was ready for us and dinner was great. They had simple pastas and some nice fish dishes that were perfect for us and even had a decent wine list so I enjoyed some Pinot Noir while Jared drank glass after glass of soda water. Everybody wins!
We headed back to the hotel after dinner and by 8:30 we were in bed. It was not lost on us that we were going to sleep earlier than ever before on the longest day of the year. The alarm was set for 3:30 am but Jared was up and already starting to get ready several minutes before. I tried to sleep a little longer but we wanted to walk out of the hotel by 4:15 so eventually I rolled out of bed and threw on the clothes I had laid out. We were well organized and ready to leave right on time. It was a pleasant surprise that the hotel staff had set up a continental breakfast super early so we were able to grab some fruit and coffee before leaving.
It was still dark when we arrived at the park and pretty chilly outside. I stayed close to transition while Jared set up and slowly the sun began to rise over the reservoir.
As I had mentioned, Jared purchased a VIP spectator pass for me which gave me access to a tent on the beach for the swim start and breakfast, then a tent near the finish line with tables and chairs during the down time and lunch in the afternoon. It was right at the finish line giving me a great view as the athletes crossed. Besides being fed all day, the biggest advantage to this was having a place to store my things while I ran around to the different viewing areas.
After the 7:00 am start Jared’s wave would begin at 7:45 giving him time to stretch, warm up and only get a little anxious before heading into the swim. Right on time they took off for the 1.2 mile swim giving me an opportunity to eat a bagel and head to the Swim Out area where they had a VIP tent but I grabbed a spot a little further down where I thought I would more easily spot him. He was planning on a 30 minute swim so I got ready to spot him around 8:05. He was one of the first of his age group to come out of the water and I was thrilled to see him a little earlier than expected.
Right after I snapped that picture and high 5’d him I realized I had to haul up the hill and over to transition if I was going to see him bike out. I felt like I sprinted faster than ever and positioned myself right at the exit with my phone ready to get a picture but after standing there trying to catch my breath for several minutes I realized I must have missed him. I wouldn’t be able to get out to the course to see him on the bike so I had quite a bit of time to kill while he rode the 56 mile course. It had warmed up a lot so I took a walk to the car to change my clothes and get some sunscreen on. Then I found the VIP spectator tent to relax in the shade for a while waiting for the IM website to tell me Jared was about half way through the bike. Once I knew he was on his way I headed back toward the transition area to wait for him to come through. I had an estimated time of when he would finish but I knew it would be a little earlier than that so I tried to focus as the athletes came in and dismounted. I almost missed him but when he was right in front of me I recognized his tri top and helmet and yelled for him but he didn’t see me. Now I would be ready for him to run out and hopefully get his attention. As he ran by he gave me a quick hug and kiss yelling something about the course being brutal and coming very close to being involved in crash. Yikes! Good Luck! And off he was for the 13.1 mile run. While I was up there they announced Andrew Yoder as the winner of the race finishing in 3:53:53.
The course for the run was a double out and back which is boring and annoying for the athletes but awesome for the spectators. Unfortunately, the IM website stopped updating the live athlete tracking for a little while so I had to estimate when he would be coming back toward the viewing area. I grabbed a spot early and cheered on the runners until I spotted Jared coming up toward the turn around. I gave him a high five as he ran by and then crossed the road to get him going back out. I yelled to him ‘next time you see me you’ll be finishing!’ and he responded with ‘I’m dying!’ They always say that at this point of the race and I just keep taking pictures.
At the pace he was running I had about 45 minutes until he would cross the finish line so went back to the VIP tent and found some space to cheer on the athletes. I got to see some great finishes including the women’s winner and a lot of very happy triathletes. Just before 12:45 Jared came running and crossed the finish line. His time was 4:56:36 – a 20 minute PR for this distance on a very challenging course!
We had to wait a bit for transition to open for Jared to grab his bike and then we headed straight to the one place everyone told us we must visit while in Syracuse…Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Jared didn’t have his bike lock and it’s not in the safest part of town so we requested an outdoor table where we could prop the bike nearby. We ordered based entirely on staff recommendation and loved every bite. It was a perfect post-race meal and the atmosphere at the restaurant is awesome. Lots of bikers(motorcycle bikers not cyclists) and locals mixed in with some hungry athletes fresh from the fight. Believe the hype my friends, if you happen to find yourself in Syracuse – go get some Dino BBQ.
The ride home was very long and we had to make a quick stop in Springfield to pick up the dog and then we promised each other a Friendly’s sundae for dessert – OMG so good. The last hour of the trip was rough and we were exhausted – I suppose Jared was significantly more tired from all the swimming, biking and running while I just jumped around and clapped all day but still we were both ready to collapse when we finally got back to Boston.
It was a great trip and a terrific practice run for our next big road trip in August when we head to Ironman Mt. Treblant. That will be Jared’s first full Iron distance tri and he’s been working so hard to prepare. What a thrill to see all that work start to pay off with a great race in Syracuse. Congratulations Jared!