After an early start on Thursday, it was nice to sleep in a little today. The first thing we had on our itinerary was the race expo to pick up our packets. I got online to post on the ING Runner's Nation page and got an e-mail from a Sponsorship Manager at ING. He congratulated me on my participation in the Featured Runner contest and said that the good people at Asics were donating an official marathon jacket to each of the featured runners! I could pick one up at the Runner's Nation booth at the expo.
We hoped the expo would be less crowded when it first opened at 10am so we planned to leave the condo in time to be there when the doors opened. First, we went across the street for breakfast. The place Mom had in mind wasn't there anymore so we ducked into another cafe instead. It was a nice little place and reasonably priced. My stack of pancakes was more than enough to fill me up.
After breakfast, we took the Subway down to 34th Street. From the time we arrived yesterday, I've been having flashbacks to famous New York scenes from movies (Home Alone 2, Die Hard With a Vengeance, etc.). Now I could add Miracle on 34th Street to the list. We planned to ride the bus to the convention center and came up from the subway station just as a bus pulled up to the stop. We hurried on and rode to the far side of the island before we realized we went in the wrong direction. During our mistaken ride to the west, we passed the Empire State Building without realizing it. When we got on a bus going in the right direction, we were sure to keep an eye out for it.
(Our first glimpse of the Empire State Building
while riding the bus.)
(On the bus to the expo.)
(Going the right direction this time.)
We arrived at the Jacob Javits Convention Center just before 10:00 and there was a huge line in the lobby. Luckily, the doors opened right after we got in line and the volunteers working the expo got us all inside surprisingly quickly. I know some of the larger marathons I've run drew international crowds (Chicago, Disney, etc.) but at New York, the number of foreign runners seemed especially impressive. We heard a lot of different languages in line (and all weekend).
Once we were inside, it was clear this was one of the biggest expos I've ever been to. After walking the whole thing, I think Chicago's expo is still bigger but this was probably a close second. I think things were packed closer together at this expo so it definitely felt more crowded.
The 5K packets were right inside the entrance so Liz picked up her bib number first.
(Liz getting her bib# for the Dash to the Finish 5K.)
I checked in next and got my bib number. After we both had our numbers, I went over to the goodie-bag table and picked up my bag and t-shirt. The long-sleeve tech shirt is pretty cool.
(Picking up my bib#. Blue means Wave 1.)
I didn't have my Race Day transportation set up yet so I went to the corner of the expo reserved for procrastinators like me. After talking to the worker about my start time and where I'm staying, she said I would need to take the Staten Island Ferry at 5:30am. That means on Sunday morning, I'll need to get up around 4am so I can get to the south end of the Island in time to catch the 5:30 ferry. Then I'll have a 4-hour wait before my 9:40 start time. Ouch.
With all of the formalities out of the way, we were free to stroll through the rest of the expo. We enjoyed the free samples, ogled some new shoes, browsed through all of the running gear, and drooled over some of the medals from other races (especially Disney).
I stopped at the ING Runner's Nation booth and thanked them for all of the great swag and the opportunity to be a featured runner. I wore my Runner's Nation t-shirt to the expo to show my support. They had the official Asics marathon jacket waiting for me and it's awesome! It's surprisingly warm and has a tuckable hood. I wore it the rest of the weekend.
(At the ING Runner's Nation booth.)
Dean Karnazes was at the expo while we were there. I thought about stopping to tell him how great it was to run with him at the end of his 50/50 adventure but he had a pretty long line so I just snapped a picture and moved on.
(Dean Karnazes signing autographs.)
I did stop to get a picture with Hal Higdon. I've never met Mr. Higdon before. It was awesome getting to shake his hand and thank him for his training schedules. I used his marathon training schedule for my first several marathons and modified his schedules for several marathons after that. He's given me a ton of help without knowing it.
(I met Hal Higdon!)
With all of the free swag from ING and the jacket from Asics, we walked out of the expo without buying anything. Liz was looking for some tech gloves for winter running but the only ones she liked were too expensive. So we left the expo behind and went in search of food.
Before we left for New York, Liz asked people for suggestions of things to do while we're in town. Her uncle Craig jokingly suggested eating at McDonalds because of their delicious fries. We laughed because we hoped to avoid chain restaurants as much as possible to take advantage of the New York experience. But when we walked out of the expo, there was a McDonalds a block away and we were hungry so we decided the speed and convenience of McD's were too appealing to pass up.
(At least it was a two-story McDonald's.
That's exotic, right?)
We were refueled and ready to do more sight-seeing so we rode the bus back down to the Empire State Building. We all wanted to see the landmark but we heard the lines are usually really long so we planned to take a quick look and then go to the top of Rockefeller Plaza later in the weekend instead.
(We didn't make it to the Statue of Liberty so this replica
outside of a souvenir shop would have to do.)
The Empire State Building is an impressive sight from the street and we would have been satisfied with just walking by, but I thought we should at least check to see how long the line was.
(The Empire State Building from the street.)
(Looking a long way up.)
When we went inside we were directed to the ticket-purchasing area. Where there should have been a long and winding line, there was nothing but an empty room. There was absolutely no line! In fact, we moved through things so fast, we were practically buying tickets for the observation deck before Liz could figure out we were actually going up.
The only thing that slowed us down at all was the security checkpoint. Once again, we stripped down, took off anything metal including belts, took off our shoes, and went through metal detectors. Ugh. But then we were free to buy our tickets and get on the elevator up to the observation deck.
We bought tickets to the 86th floor observation deck but the first set of elevators takes you up to the 81st floor where there's a lot of information posted about the building's history and significance. Obviously, the Empire State Building brought back more movie memories including Sleepless in Seattle and King Kong. In fact, King Kong was the main reason I wanted to go to the top of the building.
(I Love it!)
We took the second elevator up to the observation deck on the 86th floor and the view was absolutely breath-taking.
(The view right outside of the lobby on the observation deck.)
(On top of the world.)
We started on the south side of the building and it wasn't as cold or windy as I expected it to be. You can see forever and all of the city's landmarks are laid out right in front of you. It's incredible being able to look down on other skyscrapers.
(Mom and Liz enjoying the view.)
(I can't believe we were there.)
(The view to the south.)
(Looking a long way down.)
(The World Trade Center and Statue of Liberty to the south.)
As soon as we walked around to the east side of the building, we were hit by the wind. There was the wind and cold I expected! We toured the west, north, and east sides much faster.
(View to the West.)
(View to the north.)
(Central Park to the north.)
(The Chrysler Building to the northeast.)
(View to the east.)
While we were on the 81st floor, I learned that the mooring mast on the top of the building was originally intended to be a docking station for dirigibles (blimps). But at that height, the winds are way too strong to make that possible.
(The mooring mast on the top of the building.)
Liz had just enough change in her purse for us to use one of the binoculars but we all had to take turns looking to the south. The view was even more impressive magnified through the viewer and I took a couple of pictures through one of the lenses.
(The World Trade Center.)
(The Statue of Liberty.)
We still had a lot of the city to see so we tore ourselves away from the observation deck and boarded the elevator back to ground level. With the Empire State staff in their uniforms and the elevators intricately decorated, we decided it felt an awful lot like riding the Tower of Terror at Disney. At any moment, I expected the elevator to drop suddenly while we all raised our arms over our heads and screamed, before being bounced back up and dropped again.
(Riding the elevator down.)
Of course, we stopped to do some souvenir shopping. Liz and I bought our annual Christmas ornament... the Empire State Building with Santa climbing to the top like King Kong.
(Liz Loves shopping!)
I asked a couple of the ladies on the staff if I could take a picture with them. I just wanted a picture with someone in uniform. The next thing I knew, I was wearing one lady's hat and we were hamming it up for the camera.
(I'm not sure what that face is supposed to be.)
We were ushered into the ticketing area so fast when we got into the building, we didn't get to look around the lobby. We took a few minutes to look around on the way out. This building is awesome top to bottom.
We still had some time before I needed to be back at the condo to change for the Opening Ceremonies so we checked the map for some more landmarks we could visit relatively quickly. We decided to see Grand Central Station next.
(The iconic Grand Central Station
windows from the outside.)
We walked through one strip of shops on the way to the lobby but we didn't really branch out to the many sets of tracks in the station.
The lobby is absolutely cavernous. The place is huge. There were people coming and going in all directions but it still wasn't quite as busy or chaotic as I expected. Considering there was also a lack of lines at the Empire State Building, maybe it was just a slow day in New York.
(When the flash was on, you couldn't see the background.
We set the timer on this one and put the camera on the railing.
It took some luck and patience to get this picture without
someone walking in front of us.)
The Chrysler Building wasn't far away so we walked there next. From the ground, it's as impressive as the Empire State Building.
(Looking a long way up again.)
(The Chrysler Building reflected in a building across the street.)
From the entry way to the lobby, everything about this building screams iconic New York City. In the lobby, there's a mural on the ceiling. We read about it being one of the world's largest paintings on canvas and then cemented to the ceiling.
(Over the front doors.)
(Painting on the ceiling.)
It was time to return to the condo so we took the subway entrance in the lobby of the Chrysler Building. A guy got on at one of the stops and he not only had a great mustache, he also had the bowler hat and cane to complete the look. He might have been the devil, but I had to get a picture with him. I complimented him on the awesome 'stache and his only comment was, "It's something different."
When we got back to the condo, I didn't have a lot of time to get ready for the Opening Ceremonies. This was the inaugural year for the ceremonies and I applied to walk in the Parade of Nations with the USA. I was selected to walk in the parade and the instructions said we should wear our national colors or traditional clothing. I did both. I wore red, white, and blue and there's nothing more traditional than jeans and a hoodie.
I also represented my multi-national pride. I wore my Team Gomer shirt to represent the Gomer Nation!
(This one's for the Gomers!)
I also showed home-town pride with my USA colors representing the Cardinal Nation.
(World Series Champions!)
The meeting spot for the parade was in the southeast corner of Central park (about 4 blocks from the condo). The parade would go from the 26-mile mark of the marathon to the finish line two-tenths of a mile away. It would be a short parade.
I was supposed to be in the meeting area at 4:30pm and the parade started at 6:00. I think I was supposed to get a Parade of Nations t-shirt but the volunteers that were handing them out seemed confused and I didn't get one. I found the United States group and signed in. They passed out little American flags for us to wave in the parade. After that, it was a lot of standing around and waiting.
(Gathering for the Parade of Nations.)
(Waiting in line with the USA.)
While I was waiting, I met some other runners who happened to live in New York. They told me a little about living in the city and what to expect from the marathon. Everyone I talked to said the turn onto 1st Avenue after the Queensboro bridge is amazing because of the number of spectators that gather there. (They also told me it's not normal to have a Coast Guard escort on the Staten Island Ferry!)
The funny thing was, it turned out that three of the people I chatted with were originally from Illinois. In fact, one of them was from Decatur and knew of my cousin. It's a small world!
My choice of clothing wasn't the most popular. I talked to a couple of Cubs fans and a few Mets fans who were still upset about 2006. I also met one of the other featured runners, Simran, who is a Houston fan. Simran was really nice and we chatted about the featured runner experience and the race coming up on Sunday. He said he has also become friends with another featured runner, Marie and we were disappointed she didn't make it to the ceremonies. It'll be Simran's first marathon and he couldn't be more excited.
While I was waiting for the parade to start, Mom, Rick, and Liz came by and then went to the grandstands by the finish line to get a good seat. I was told they should get there early if they wanted to get seats but there ended up being plenty of room when they got there and they probably could have waited longer in the warm condo before coming over.
(The grandstands by the marathon finish line.)
During the hour that they waited for the ceremonies to start, the temperature kept dropping and it was downright cold by 6:00.
(Liz and Rick are THRILLED to be spending
Friday night at the Opening Ceremonies!)
After waiting in the cold for an hour and a half, I was starting to question my decision to participate in the Opening Ceremonies. When the event started at 6:00, we were hoping the parade would begin soon so we could warm up a little on the walk to the finish line. Unfortunately, we continued to wait while the spectators at the finish line were treated to a performance by the group Anti-Gravity.
We were all excited when the parade started. The United States was the last country in line and they were announcing each country like it was the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. At first, I felt like we were missing the entire show, but then the other countries were directed back in our direction after marching by the finish line. It was fun seeing all of these countries walk past us as we cheered for each other.
(Being passed by other countries on our way to the finish line.
I think this was Brazil and Canada.)
(I'm not sure, but I think this was Italy.)
When we finally approached the grandstands, everyone really got excited. There were two big screens set up showing the parade and a stage near the finish line where they later presented the Hall of Fame awards. The grandstands were full of cheering family and friends and the bright lights and loud music got the adrenaline flowing.
(Approaching the grandstands.)
We walked between the grandstands and the announcer introduced the United States of America while people started chanting, "USA! USA!". Spotlights scanned the crowd and I saw Liz, Mom, and Rick with the "Road Runner Crossing" sign. I kept my Flip camera running while we walked through the crowd and then lined up along the approach to the finish line. I even got a shout out from a St. Louis fan in the crowd!
(Our big entrance.)
After we were all lined up in front of the grandstands, they presented awards to Hall of Fame runners and New York Marathon contributors. Then they introduced several of the elite runners. I got to high-five two of them including Geoffrey Mutai!
(I got a high-five from Geoffrey Mutai...
was my luck rubbing off on him? Or vice versa?)
The Opening Ceremonies concluded with Meb Keflezighi running up to the finish line and Gary Russo (The Second Avenue Sinatra) singing New York, New York. The crowd went crazy when Meb ran in and Russo did a great rendition of Sinatra's classic.
(Everyone from the parade trying to get as close to Meb as possible.)
It didn't take long before everyone that walked in the parade was mobbing Meb and Russo. I started to get uncomfortable... like we were invading his personal space so I backed off. The ceremony ended with Russo's song and the fireworks began.
(The crowd turns to a semi-scary mob.)
I climbed over the fence to get into the grandstands and went to sit with Liz, Mom, and Rick for the fireworks.
(In the grandstands with my biggest fan!)
By then, we were all cold and I wasn't sure we would stay for the fireworks. It didn't take long for us to be convinced it was worth staying. The fireworks were impressive and the longer they went on, the more I was surprised by the amount of money they must have spent on the display. It easily rivaled most small-town 4th of July celebrations. The grand finale was definitely worth staying for.
(An impressive grand finale!)
After the opening ceremonies, we all walked back toward the condo and stopped to pick up dinner to take home. We got some New York-style pizza from the Bella Vita Pizzeria just up the block from the condo. I had two big slices of pizza and some awesome garlic knots!
After making plans for viewing Liz's 5K in the morning, Day 2 was in the books. Two down, three to go. What a trip!
Goal For The Day: Tour New York and Rest.
Distance: 0.00 Miles.
Notes: The expo was great but not quite Chicago. Great site-seeing today! The Opening Ceremonies seem to be a good idea but they need some work. All-in-all, a great day! I know these posts are ridiculously long and most people don't care about this much detail, but this is how I want to remember the weekend. So I apologize to anyone who just wants the highlights. You can just browse the pictures and skip the rest!
Daily Miles: 0.00 Miles.
Run - 547.42 Miles.
Bike - 144.45 Miles.
Swim - 13,450+ meters.