I did it.
It didn’t go the way I had hoped it would ideally,
I did it.
And it feels good.
I did some things I never thought I could.
First, there was the issue of getting into the city.
Drive or take the train?
I was afraid I’d get lost driving there, and Team in Training had a pretty tight schedule.
So at the last minute, on Saturday morning, I opted for the train.
My husband lived and worked in the city in his twenties.
He also used to be into cycling.
When I told him I had decided to take the train, his response was,
“What are you going to do with your bike?”
“Um, take it on the train?” I said.
“You need a bike bag,” he told me, authoritatively.
“What the fuck is a bike bag?” I asked.
“I didn’t read anything about a bike bag in the athlete guide.”
“Well, I guess you don’t need one. You can just take the front wheel off and carry it on that way,” he said.
“What??? I barely know how to blow my tires up. I’m not taking my fucking tire off.”
I was already stressed out enough.
Now I was in full on freak out mode.
I emailed everyone in the Team in Training group.
Is anyone else taking the train?
Can I take my bike on it?
My husband said I need a bike bag.
Is this true???
Well that set off a frenzy of other people wondering if they needed a bike bag for the train.
Or the subway.
And asking what the hell a bike bag was.
Until the coordinator sent out an email telling us all to relax.
No bike bags necessary.
And that she had never heard of a bike bag.
I told my husband to stop giving me 30-year-old outdated advice.
And I made it to the train. With all the wheels attached to my bike.
I put my feet up and tried to relax.
Getting all my crap out of the train and to the hotel.
If you recall,
the last time I walked through Grand Central,
From a person.
Not this time.
I made it out of Grand Central,
onto 42nd Street,
and down to my hotel.
The afternoon was crazy.
I had to rush to a different hotel, over a mile away, to go to the athlete briefing.
Once you sit through the briefing, you get your hand stamped showing that you actually attended,
which allows you to go get your athlete packet.
Inside your athlete packet is the number you have to put on your bike.
Which you need to have in order to get to the bike check in.
Your bikes need to be checked in on Saturday, and the TNT crew was leaving the hotel at 2:00 to go check in their bikes together.
I needed to take the subway to get to the bike check-in and that was probably my biggest fear of the whole weekend.
I did not want to miss the group and have to manage that one by myself.
I missed the group.
By 5 minutes.
The coordinator is a stickler for the schedule, and she wouldn’t wait for me.
Back into freak-out mode.
But someone was watching over me.
The coach, who is a different person from the coordinator,
was running late too.
So I waited for her, and she went with me to the bike check in.
She even carried my bike for me.
I checked in the bike, and it was back to the hotel.
I took a shower.
I wasn’t really paying attention, and I didn’t realize that this was the wall of my room.
I was enjoying the interruption-free shower.
The air conditioning.
Walking around naked without a child pointing at my body parts, laughing, and asking what they were.
My neighbors across the street were enjoying a free peep show from me.
I took advantage of the robe.
I felt like Pretty Woman.
Minus the whole hooker thing.
We went to dinner as a group, wearing our shirts.
I hadn’t met anyone from the team yet, so it was nice to hear everyone’s stories.
And apologize for the bike bag scare.
After dinner we went back to the hotel.
I realized I had no watch, and I’m kind of spastic about knowing what my splits are.
So before I called it a night, I went on a quest for a cheap Timex.
People say they love the city because you can get anything you need within one block of where you live.
Unless what you need is a cheap Timex.
I walked up and down 42nd Street.
Way up and down 42nd Street.
Let me tell you,
in Times Square,
is the only place open, within a mile of the Westin Grand Central, that has waterproof watches at 8:30 on a Saturday night.
It was a madhouse in there.
But I finally found a watch.
Too bad it was a G-Shock,
and it cost $150.
So, I walked back to the hotel.
Not exactly the way to spend the day before a big race.
Between the briefing,
and rushing back to the hotel,
and the bike check-in,
and the fruitless watch quest,
I walked at least 4 miles.
Most of them in flip flops.
And at a speed walker’s pace.
I totally destroyed my legs.
One lesson learned.
So I got back to the hotel about 9:00.
I was a little annoyed that I had wasted my alone time when I had this waiting for me.
I went to bed.
So I could get up by 3:30.
Which was a little tough.
You get some cool tattoos in your athlete packet. The kids would have been jealous.
I put them on.
I met the team in the lobby.
It’s dark down there at 4:15 a.m.
We took the subway to the transition area.
That’s what they call the place where you leave your bike and all the other stuff you need after you get out of the swim.
We got there around 5:00 a.m.
It was dark there too.
There are bike racks with your number on them.
Which is how you know where to put your bike.
Each number marker had a little quote on it.
This was mine:
This was my neighbor’s to the left.
My neighbor’s to the right was my favorite…
I got my stuff for the bike and the run set up,
it was off to wait.
I couldn’t take my phone with me there, so I have no pictures.
But you basically wait,
grouped by age,
sectioned off by fences,
like a bunch of cattle corralled along the Hudson River.
The first heat dove in the water at 5:50 a.m.
I was in the 18th group, so I had a long wait.
I stood with my group and watched the heats of swimmers jump off the pier in groups of about 20.
The staging area was in between the Hudson and the bike/running path next to it.
All around me, people were coming up to wish the corralled athletes waiting to swim good luck.
I had no one there to send me off.
It was the first time I was totally alone for the beginning of a race.
No one else from Team in Training was in my age group either.
I was feeling pretty small.
And just like that,
I heard someone call my name.
I turned around,
and it was M.
He used to be one of my lifeguards at LVCC, the country club where I was the pool director in Pennsylvania.
I knew he was going to be there competing too, but I didn’t think I would actually see him.
A familiar face.
One I hadn’t seen in about 15 years,
but I wasn’t feeling quite so small anymore.
Once people have wetsuits, caps, and goggles on, everyone pretty much looks the same.
But he found me.
He actually sought me out.
Which made me go from feeling insignificant,
to rather significant.
I don’t think he realized how much he did for me in those 2 or 3 brief minutes that we spoke to each other.
But he unknowingly helped to comfort me.
I didn’t panic as much as I thought I would upon entering the water.
You swim close to the seawall, so it made it seem a little less dangerous.
For me, anyway.
I finished pretty quickly; there’s a strong current in the Hudson which makes for a fast swim.
I got out of the water, and started the quarter mile run to the transition area.
That’s a long transition.
Especially when you’re barefoot and in a wetsuit.
Just as I got off the dock I heard a
It was the TNT coach and coordinator.
I felt a little less alone again.
One of them caught a quick picture.
I look huge,
and like I was resting on the railing,
but I swear I was jogging.
And not that huge.
So the bike was great.
No pictures of that either,
but they shut down one whole side of the West Side Highway.
It’s pretty awesome to ride your bike on that.
Along with 5000 other people.
It took me about 1 1/2 hours.
About what I expected.
I didn’t feel that bad.
I thought I’d be okay for the run.
But it was hot.
Really hot and humid.
I don’t do well in the heat.
I never have,
and my legs were hurting.
I was only about 3 minutes into the run and I was feeling like I was going to die.
Immediately out of the transition area, which is in Riverside Park,
you run up a steep hill.
It’s kind of a shitty way to have to start the run.
But once you make it out of the park,
you come out on 72nd Street.
The street was closed down.
There are people lining both sides of the road.
It’s pretty electrifying.
Running the NYC marathon must be unbelievable.
Maybe you’ll be reading about that next year…
So hundreds of people are cheering,
and when you are wearing one of these purple jerseys,
People yell, “GO TEAM!!!”
but I was still alone on 72nd Street,
only a couple minutes into the run.
And that’s when I heard,
“GO SUSIE. GOOO SUSIE! SUUUUUUUUSSSSSSIIIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!!!”
And one of my freshman roomates from college came running across the street,
and joined me on the run.
She ran into Central Park with me, and stayed with me for about a mile.
I had no idea what the course was like,
or where I was going.
She described the whole route to me.
She encouraged me.
My own personal cheerleader.
She really kept me going.
Not feeling alone.
She said goodbye, and wished me luck.
I wish I could say I finished the run strong.
But I was running out of gas and Central Park is surprisingly hilly.
It was also so hot and humid, even at 9:30 a.m.
I knew the heat would be an issue for me.
I ran past a woman who was flat out on her back on the side of the road.
There were EMT’s working on her.
I was starting to feel a little dizzy.
And super nauseous.
I tried to keep going.
But when I started to get the chills, I knew I was on the verge of heat exhaustion.
So as much as it killed me,
I had to stop and walk.
More than once.
But I wanted to finish and not end up like that woman on the side of the road.
So I would walk until I didn’t think I was going to puke, and then start running again.
I did that for about the last 2 1/2 miles.
I was going to make sure I at least ran across the finish line.
As I was nearing the end, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep running.
I accepted the fact that I’d be walking across the finish line in the picture they take of you at the end.
But as I turned the final corner,
I heard another
I looked up and it was the husband of a woman I used to teach with.
I couldn’t believe it.
I’m not even sure why he was there.
That was the 3rd unexpected person to appear out of nowhere.
Remember that purple jersey from before?
See those names under In Loving Memory?
That’s my brother.
Peter Wayne Johnson?
An old friend who recently lost her battle with leukemia.
Do angels exist?
I’d have to say yes.
And they showed up yesterday, just when I needed them most.
Thank you to my angels.
With your help, I did it.
It wasn’t pretty at the end,
I did it.
That wasn’t the end though.
I still needed to make the treck back to Riverside Park to get my bike.
I hitched a free ride in a pedi-cab.
That was fun.
I got back to my bike.
Here’s what it looks like in the daylight.
I packed up my backpack, grabbed my bike, and headed to the,
One final challenge.
I did that too.
But I made it back to the hotel.
I didn’t hit my goal time.
Not this year.
Next year though.
Next year I’m gonna fucking kill it.
And the year after that?
Maybe it will be the Iron Man.
Because you know what they say.
If I can make it there,
I’ll make it anywhere.
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