Saturday, November 5, 2011

Marathon Weekend - Day 3 - Saturday

No rest for the weary! After last night's Opening Ceremonies, this morning was an early start. Liz was running the Dash to the Finish Line 5K and the race started at 8:30am. We all had different places to be for the race so we were all on different schedules.

Liz was up and out of the condo early, dressed in a lot of layers. The temperature dropped overnight and it was in the 30's when Liz left in the morning. It was colder than she expected so she layered her running gear, we made a trash bag poncho to break the wind, and she hoped to stay warm until the race started. The biggest problem was getting to the starting line. The race finished at the marathon finish line only a short walk from the condo... but the starting line was a couple of miles away. She planned to catch a bus for part of the trip to the start and then walk the rest of the way but the bus never came. She later told us that the walk wasn't that bad and she stayed warmer than she thought so things could have been worse.

Mom, Rick, and I decided to split up to make sure Liz had support at more than just the finish line. Mom and Rick left a little while after Liz so they could get some coffee and a quick bite to eat. Then they made their way to the grandstands at the finish line to wait for Liz.

I was the last to leave the condo because the 5K course passed right down our street before entering Central Park and my hope was to see Liz run by the condo. Then I could jog a straight shot to the finish line while Liz wound her way through the park. That way, I could see her twice.

I bundled up, went to the grocery store next door to the condo for a muffin and some milk, and then stood on our pre-determined corner to wait for the runners to come by. It was cold and windy so I hoped Liz was staying warm enough and the cold wouldn't give her knee too much trouble.

The elite runners came flying down the street well ahead of the main pack but once the mass of runners started, it seemed to be endless. I later found out there were 5,347 finishers. That's huge... especially for an inaugural event.

When Liz came down the street I had a my Flip camera in one hand recording video and my Nikon in the other taking pictures. I was so busy trying to record her run, I pretty much forgot to cheer. Liz was running well though and the cold must not have been too much of a problem because she tossed her extra shirt to me.

(Liz running by just before Mile 2.)

(She's so fast, she's just a blur!)

(Is she waving or blowing me off?)

As soon as Liz ran by I started my jog to the finish line. I had cowbells in my pockets to ring at the finish and I got a lot of weird looks as I jogged past people with my pockets ringing. When I got to the grandstands, I found Mom and Rick waiting, we held up the 'Road Runner Crossing' sign, we got the cameras ready, and we waited for Liz to come into view.

We didn't have to wait long. I made it to the finish line just in time. Liz came running up the gradual hill to the finish line and finished strong... waving at us as she went by.

(Liz's big finish!)

(A wave to her fans.)

Liz ran a personal best, finishing in 31:18! She averaged 10:06 per mile on a cold day with the hills of Central Park in the last mile. This is the second race in a row that she has set a new PR. It was a lot of fun getting to see her race and cheer her on.

After Liz crossed the finish line, Mom, Rick, and I went out to Columbus Avenue to wait for her to meet us. While we were waiting, a couple of guys who ran the race asked if they could borrow my cell phone to call to call their family and figure out a place to meet. They assured me it was a local call but I told them I was from out of town so it didn't matter. It turns out they were in town from Texas so we were all just visiting New York.

After a while, we still hadn't seen Liz so I walked back in her direction to find her. She was just calling me when I walked up to her but when I looked down, I was getting a call from a strange number. Liz thought it was her calling and I thought it was the family of the Texans calling them back on my phone. We were both wrong.

When I answered, instead of a Texas accent, the woman on the other end asked, "Is this Brad?" I was a little confused but it turned out to be the brands manager that was coordinating the featured runner contest. She was calling to tell me I won the VIP race experience! I couldn't believe it! She said the judges had been impressed with my contributions and my efforts to involve people in the Runner's Nation and that I could pick up my VIP passes today for tomorrow's marathon. I thanked her for everything and the weekend just kept getting better.

Liz, Mom, and Rick overheard most of the conversation and we walked back to the condo excited about Liz's PR race and my VIP win.

(Explaining that I was chosen for the VIP race experience.)

(After Liz's PR in the 5K.)

It hadn't been long since I ate my giant blueberry muffin so I wasn't hungry but everyone else was ready for breakfast. Before we went back to the condo, we made another trip to the cafe across the street so people could refuel. Then we went back to the condo so Liz could shower before we went out for more sight-seeing.

We decided to visit Chelsea Market in the meat packing district but I had to pick up my VIP passes first. Luckily, the ING information center was set up in the Hilton Hotel only four blocks from the condo. It was a short walk to pick up my passes.

We got to the hotel, found where I was supposed to go, and were in and out pretty quickly. I was given three wristbands to wear on Race Day. One band got me onto the bus to ride to the starting line. One band got me into the ING tent once I was at the starting line. And one band got me into the Friends and Family recovery area after the race. I was told to be at the Hilton by 6:30am on Race Day and I would ride the VIP bus to the starting line. Once I was there, I would have access to the heated ING tent with food and a DJ. I would also be able to check a bag in a special UPS truck that would be easier to pick up at the finish line. After the race, there would be a warm place to rest and recover with snacks and I had two passes for family to meet me there.

This whole plan already sounded a lot better than my 4am wake-up call to be at the ferry by 5:30. The VIP transportation alone was going to be a huge help on Race Day because it meant being able to sleep in another hour or so.

On top of my passes, I was also given three badges that let Liz, Mom, and Rick into the grandstands at the finish line. Passes to the grandstands sell for $75 a piece and we now had three for free! Liz rarely gets to see me at the finish line in a marathon. Chicago's finish line is so crowded, she always waits around mile 25 so she can be sure to see me. It was really exciting to think that my family would be waiting at the very end of the marathon for me to cross the finish line.

All of this special treatment was amazing and exciting... and made me a little nervous. The entire marathon experience had been incredible. I was selected in the marathon lottery on my first entry... the Kents let us use their condo... Mom and Rick were able to come with us... I was chosen as a featured runner... I was given all kinds of free swag and gear... our days in New York were perfect so far... Liz ran a PR in her 5K... I won the VIP contest... everything was falling into place.

I hoped my performance in the marathon wasn't a big let down after all of that build up.

The rest of the afternoon helped keep my mind off of my self-induced pressure. We planned to tour some places on the south side of the island and hoped to fill the afternoon without doing too much walking.

We got on the subway toward Chelsea Market and the station was filled with small sculptures that looked very familiar. I realized they were a very similar style to a much larger sculpture we have in the City Garden in St. Louis. I took a couple of pictures to see if I could confirm that it was the same artist.

It turns out that Tom Otterness is in fact the sculptor of this piece in the City Garden that I really like:

(Kindly Geppetto by Tom Otterness
at the St. Louis City Garden.)

He also created the exhibition that we saw at the 14th Street subway station in New York called Life Underground:

(Life Underground by Tom Otterness.)

(He certainly has a distinctive style.)

Chelsea Market is a full-block building that used to house the National Biscuit Company. The ground floor now houses a row of food stores and restaurants. The building and market have a long and rich history and we were excited to see it.

(Chelsea Market.)

Unfortunately, once we were there, we found it beautiful but underwhelming. Maybe we built it up too much in our heads. We walked from one end of the building to the other and the shops were interesting, but just walking by was enough for today.

At the end of the row of stores, there was a gelato stand and Mom and Liz had been trying to explain gelato to Rick yesterday so they all sat down for a frozen treat. I wanted to make sure I ate enough food today so I was well-fueled for tomorrow's race and I was ready for lunch. So I walked back down to an Italian stand and bought some "classic Italian pizza". It was surprisingly inexpensive and delicious.

(Chelsea Market.)

After our pre-lunch gelato/pizza break, we got back on the subway and made our way to Chinatown. At one of the stops, a little girl and her mom got on the train and the little girl immediately sat right next to my Mom. And I mean right next to her. The best part was how quickly she sat down and folded her little hands like she was settling in and ready to ride the train. I took a quick picture and then realized Mom was sitting in the exact same pose as the little girl. The girl's mom got a kick out of it.

(Mom made a friend on the subway.)

Chinatown was an interesting experience. We walked up and down the main street and store after store was selling the exact same cheap purses and watches. You also couldn't walk more than five feet without someone walking up to you and trying to sell you things under their breath. "You need a Rolex?"


The best part about Chinatown was all of the haggling. No one paid the prices the vendors asked for. Everything was a bargaining match. Liz is not a fan of the back-and-forth bargaining game so I was surprised when she really stuck it to one vendor and bought a purse at a much lower price than what was offered. The lady practically threw it at Liz by the time they were done!

(Mom and Liz in one of the dozens of identical shops in Chinatown.)

I think Mom and Liz also each bought a scarf but we made it out of Chinatown without buying as much as I thought we would. Mostly, it was just a fun time walking through town and looking at the shops.

(Mom and Rick in Chinatown.)

We walked around for quite a while and Mom and Rick were starting to get hungry. Liz's late breakfast and gelato were still holding her over but I decided more food was probably a good idea and we looked around for a quick place to eat. Most of the restaurants that were close by either looked like they would take a while or didn't sound good to everyone. So, we sadly ended up at McDonald's again for a quick lunch. I felt even more ridiculous eating at McDonald's for a second day until I realized this was a three story McDonald's! Who needs exotic cuisine when you can eat a double-cheeseburger on the third floor of McD's in Chinatown?

(Yummm!!! To bad we settled for McDonald's.)

(A sign at the edge of Chinatown warning of closures for the marathon.)

Yet another subway ride took us to Greenwich Village for our last stop of the day. It was getting late in the afternoon so we decided to take a quick walk down 8th Street in the Village on our way back to the condo. We read online that 8th street was known for its shops (especially shoes) and Mom and Liz wanted to take a look.

(We put our Metro passes to good use!)

I don't know if we were on the wrong stretch of 8th Street, but we didn't see the shops we were expecting. We walked several blocks without seeing anything that made us want to stop. I asked a random lady on the street if she could help us out. I said, "If we have an hour and a half to spend in the Village, what should we make sure we see?" Without hesitation, she recommended Washington Square Park. She then spent a long time giving us directions to another place we didn't end up going, but her original recommendation turned out to be a great choice.

We walked two blocks to Washington Square Park and it was the kind of park we could have spent hours in. There were a lot of artists and street performers and it was a very cool atmosphere.

(The entrance to Washington Square Park.)

(We were posing like the statue of George Washington
but he got cut out of the picture.)

There was a big piece of sidewalk art that I assumed was chalk until we got closer and saw the artist working on it. He was making this huge design with colored sand. A strong wind would have destroyed his work.

(Sand art.)

(It was impressive watching him lay down the sand by hand.)

(Washington Square park.)

We were about to leave the park when some street performers announced they were about to begin a show. It was getting late in the afternoon (or early in the evening) and the temperature was dropping but we figured we could stick around to see what they could do.

It took a long time for them to gather a crowd big enough to make them want to perform and then there was a lot of talk and build-up before they even started their show. But when they started doing acrobatic tricks, they seemed like they might be worth the wait.

(Row, Row, Row Your Boat... Gently Down The Stream.)

I'll admit, the tricks got better as the show went on but then they set up for their final trick and the build-up was too much. They talked and talked about doing and amazing jump over four people while we waited and waited for them to just do the thing. Then, after all of that build-up, they stopped the show to go around person-to-person asking for donations. By then, we were cold and frustrated from waiting so long and decided we didn't need to see the grand finale. It was time to go home.

(One of their more impressive tricks.)

We walked through a street lined with much more interesting vendors than Chinatown but by then we were getting cold and ready to go home. We got on the subway for the final ride of the day. When we got off, we were near the Hilton where we started the day and got to walk past the Radio City Music Hall.

(Radio City Music Hall.)

Once we were back at the condo, I started getting my gear together for tomorrow morning. I put everything I would need for the race in one place so I wouldn't have to look for it in the morning and I taped my name on my shirt. We got out a map of the marathon course and planned where I could expect to see Liz, Mom, and Rick during the race. The course is laid out in a way that would make it difficult for them to get from one spot to another fast enough because of the pace I hope to run. There is a subway station near Mile 8 that makes it a convenient place for them to wait for me. After that, they could probably see me at Mile 16 and again at 24 because they're fairly close together. But that would mean they wouldn't have time to get to the grandstands at the finish line. So we settled on a plan for me to look for them near Mile 8 (on the right side of the road) and then to see them when I'm crossing the finish line (they'll be sitting on the left side). It's not as many opportunities to see them as I'm used to in a marathon, but the grandstand seating is too good to pass up. Plus, they'll be getting frequent updates on my location and progress on Rick's iPhone.

After the planning, it was time for dinner. I decided I wanted Bella Vita pizza for dinner again but Liz, Mom, and Rick decided to order Chinese for delivery. I had two more awesome slices of pizza and some garlic knots while everyone else waited for their food. I don't know if New York delivery is always incredibly slow or if the Chinese place was having a bad night, but everyone else's dinner took over two hours to get to the condo.

It didn't feel like we saw quite as much today as we did the past two days. But somehow, it feels like we still did an awful lot of walking. By the end of the day, my legs were tired and my back was starting to get sore. I'll be fine for tomorrow... I'm not that tired, but it felt good to put my feet up and turn on a movie tonight. We watched Couples Retreat and by the time it was over I was definitely ready for bed.

So this is it. One night of sleep (with a blessed extra hour thanks to daylight savings) and then the big race tomorrow morning. I'm ready as I'll ever be!

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

Notes: There isn't much left to say. Tomorrow, I see what I can do.

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

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