Thursday, November 3, 2011

Marathon Weekend - Day 1 - Thursday

We woke up at 5am and left the house at 5:45 to drive to the airport for our 8:00 flight. Liz and I were directed into the slowest security line at the airport but Mom and Rick moved through without any problems. We grabbed a quick breakfast at Starbucks and our flight left right on time.

The flight to New York seemed to pass quickly and I passed the time watching part of Captain America on my iPod and starting a new book, Unbroken. There was a great view of a river hidden in fog later in the flight.

(This is why I Love flying!)

When we got to New York, the view of the city was really impressive. The island is smaller than I imagined but it's absolutely packed. We passed the city and could see other planes landing at Laguardia. The runway is right by the water so it's cool to see a plane come in like it's going to splash down and then land right at the edge of the water. We made a long u-turn and followed the same path into the airport. As cool as it was to watch other planes land, it was weird looking out the window and being that close to the water as we came in.

(New York from above.)

(The Verrazono Narrows Bridge... the first two miles of the marathon.)
(Landing by the water in The Big Apple.)

Laguardia works like a well-oiled machine and it seemed like we were off the runway and had our luggage from the baggage claim in a matter of minutes. We crammed into a cab and made our way to the condo. I always think of taxis as being the same model of sedan. In New York, we saw Fords and Toyotas from sedans, to minivans, to SUV crossovers, even a few Priuses... Prii?... Hybrids.

(A tight squeeze in the cab.)


The Kents were incredibly generous and let us use their amazing condo for the trip. I don't think we would have made the trip at all if they hadn't let us stay here. We owe them a huge thank you. The ride to the condo went a lot faster than I expected. I guess I imagined Chicago-style traffic.

(Our ride throught the city streets...
everything is exciting on the first day.)

When we got to the condo, I couldn't believe how perfect the location was. We can see Central Park from the living room and we're relatively close to not only the finish line of both races, but to a ton of places we want to visit while we're in town. Not to mention, the condo itself is pretty awesome!

(Cool mirror at the condo.)

(The view from the condo. One block from Central Park.)

I found out they were setting up an 'impromptu' finish line this afternoon at Columbus Circle, just down the street from us, and they were giving out ING Runner's Nation medals to everyone passing through. We walked down and got a couple of medals and some more of the funky, free, orange, ING sunglasses.

(ING pop-up finish line.)

We weren't scheduled to see the 9/11 Memorial until 3:30 but it was already past lunch time so we walked a few blocks in search of a quick bite to eat. Mom and Liz stopped for sandwiches at a Deli and Rick and I stopped at a street-side stand. I had an amazing Philly cheesesteak sandwich!

("Yes, Boss. What you want?")

We each bought a 7-day pass for the public transportation so we can ride the subway and buses for the rest of the trip. Then we rode the subway down to the 9/11 Memorial.

(Our first of many rides on the subway.)

Our passes were for 3:30 but we got down there about an hour early so we went to the Memorial Preview Site first. The Preview Site was actually very moving and brought back a lot of memories from 9/11. The museum at the memorial doesn't open until next year but the Preview Site made me want to come back when it's finished.

(The 9/11 Memorial Preview Site.)

(The new World Trade Center in the background.)

We passed the Occupy Wall Street camp on the way to the Memorial and there was a bit of a commotion as we walked by. It took us a minute to realize someone had just been arrested. It was an odd situation with these people camped in a little park and the police just waiting on the perimeter in case things got out of control. It was like a very calm standoff.

(Occupy Wall Street tent village.)

The 9/11 Memorial is surrounded by a covered fence so you can't see it from the street. To get in, we had to show our tickets and photo ID. Then we had to go through metal detectors at a security checkpoint which involved taking off our jackets, belts, and any metal or electronics. This would become a recurring experience in New York.
(9/11 Memorial.)

Once we were inside the gates, we walked into the Memorial site. There were hundreds of trees planted in the park with the two wells that represent the twin towers. The wells are beautiful and there's something about the design that really draws you in. It's the kind of thing that you could just stare at for long periods of time. But I couldn't put my finger on how they made me feel. There was something very cool but also a little... unsettling about the center of the wells. They drop into an abyss beyond your line of sight and there's something about the water disappearing into a hole of undetermined depth that is almost... disturbing. I really didn't know what to make of it. I liked it. It was peaceful but also somehow evoked some of the horror of that day.

The names of all of the victims border the wells and you can find names using an electronic registry. Even with the names of the victims to ground the Memorial in reality, I was surprised that the Memorial wasn't as moving as I thought it would be. It's definitely impressive and a fitting memorial. But I guess I expected more intense emotions. I mean, just watching specials on t.v. every September 11th is a powerful experience for me. But walking through the Memorial wasn't like that. I think the Preview Site was more impactful. The museum will be what makes the Memorial a site to visit. I've even had more intense flashbacks to 9/11 just walking around the city. Seeing the city like I did on t.v. that day and hearing the sounds of New York has definitely sparked memories... especially when we hear sirens. There have been several moments in the city that took me right back to September 11th. The wells are beautiful, but they don't bring back the memories and feelings like I thought they would. Maybe that's a good thing. I don't know.

After the 9/11 Memorial, we walked over to see the New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street. On the way, I wanted to see more of the Occupy Wall Street camp. On the block next to the camp, there was a whole row of police cars lined up with officers standing around with lots of zip-ties on their hips. I don't know if they were expecting trouble or if they were always there just in case, but it was an intimidating sight.

(Stuff's about to go down.)

I wanted to get a good look at how the protesters were living in the park so I walked along the edge of the camp but Mom, Rick, and Liz decided to avoid the crowd by walking on the other side of the street. About halfway up the block, I started to think I had made a bad decision. I somehow ended up in the middle of a gathering of angry protesters and started to think I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Apparently, the New York Fire Department was there to close down some street vendors that had been supplying power to the protesters. The protesters didn't like their generators being taken away and one of the guys behind me said, "I'm gonna start a riot." I was video taping the whole thing but started to wonder if I was going to end up wearing zip-tie handcuffs because I was on the wrong side of the street. Luckily, calmer protesters kept things under control long enough for me to get out of the crowd. I still don't understand exactly what Occupy Wall Street hopes to accomplish. The most I learned from the experience is that their camp smells like marijuana and body odor.

(I imagined this park being bigger.)

("I'm gonna riot.")

It was kinda cool to stand outside the New York Stock Exchange and to see Wall Street. It wasn't anything too exciting but at least I can say I've been there. It was weird to see how calm the building was on the outside considering all of the chaos that goes on in side every weekday. It was also weird to be there when the entire street is fenced off from traffic because of security concerns. Even the bull statue was fenced off.

(The New York Stock Exchange.)

(Get your hands off of my wife.)

(Some random girl in front of the bull.)

After Wall Street, we walked to the Staten Island Ferry station. We wanted to ride the ferry to Staten Island so we could take in a view of the city and the Statue of Liberty. Then we hoped it was late enough in the afternoon to get a view of the city lit up on the ride back.

(The Staten Island Ferry.)

The view from the ferry was amazing. It was cool to see the city from a distance after walking through streets all day. It was also the closest we were going to get to the Statue of Liberty on this trip and the view did not disappoint.

(The view of Manhattan from the ferry.)

(This is the closest we got to visiting
the Statue of Liberty.)

It was a little interesting that we were escorted by two Coast Guard boats, each with a large machine gun manned on the bow. Any time a boat looked like it might cross our path, one of the Coast Guard ships would speed ahead and cut them off while the other Coast Guard ship hung back with our ferry. I asked some New Yorkers about it later and they said this isn't routine so we were left wondering if there was some kind of security threat we didn't know about.

(Our armed escort.)

When we got to Staten Island, we had to get off of the ferry, walk through the lobby and then we could get right back on. We stopped for pretzels on our way through the lobby and just caught the boat. Unfortunately, it wasn't dark enough for the city to be lit up, but we were treated to a very nice sunset on the way back.

(This might be my favorite picture from the trip.)

Our final stop for the day before returning to the condo was at Times Square. We took the subway and when we came up out of the station, the sun had set but it was like daylight in Times Square. The amount of artificial like was absolutely obscene. The giant digital screens were incredible and they were everywhere. Several of the streets were closed to traffic and filled with tables so you could just hang out.

(Times Square is insane.)

(The Paramount.)

We walked several blocks and took in the sights before searching for dinner. We had trouble deciding on dinner because we didn't want to eat anywhere too expensive the first night but we also didn't want to eat at a chain restaurant we could visit anytime in St. Louis. Eventually, we settled on a place called The Counter. The sign said they serve custom-made burgers. You're given a checklist of items to choose from to build your burger to order (type of meat, cheese, toppings, sauce, bun, etc.). I made a pretty boring burger but I destroyed a giant plate of Parmesan cheese fries. It hit the spot.

(I made a boring barbeque burger but the fries were awesome!)

After dinner we went home and made plans for Day 2. One day down, four to go.

Goal For The Day: Tour New York and Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.

Notes: If today was any indication, this is going to be a lot of walking. I know I should be resting my legs more, but I'm trusting that they can handle the exertion. Plus, it's totally worth it!

Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Blog Totals:
  Run - 547.42 Miles.
  Bike - 144.45 Miles.
  Swim - 13,450+ meters.

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