Friday, November 19, 2010

NYC Part V: The NYC Marathon

All marathons start the day before.  They just do.  What happens the day before is almost as important as what happens on race day.  For example, if you go out and get yourself blisteringly blistered, either by drinking, walking, sunbathing, or eating the wrong food, then the marathon will most likely turn out to be a bust.  26.2 miles is along time to be on your feet, there's no faking 26.2 miles.

After doing this marathon business a few times, I've got my day-before-the-race situation under control, which includes (but is not limited to): staying off the feet as much as possible, sleeping in, keeping the fiber intake to a minimum, salmon and potatoes for dinner.  When traveling for a marathon, taking care of the pre-race rituals can get tricky, and one must be flexible.  Luckily, I was able to take care of most of my race preparations in New York.

Of all the rituals, the most important is the inventory and/or laying out of the gear.  It is essential that all needed essentials are laid out and counted.  Gotta make sure you got it all.  It's also a bonus if you do it early in the day, so that if one or all of your essentials are missing, you can chase about town finding them.

So here's my gear all laid out 'n stuff:

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I felt so pleased with my organization until I saw Tina's layout.  Her stuff was stacked in a first-on-last-off order (FOLO):

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For dinner I had salmon and taters at his little diner on 79th street and 3rd avenue.  Twas yummy.  I ate, then returned to the pad so as to put up the feet.  This part was kind of a drag, 'cause we were in this exploding city of entertainment, and sitting inside, resting.  I surfed the internet on my phone until the battery went to sleep, after which I went to sleep.

Marathon morning was exciting.  We woke up and went to catch the bus, and wouldn't you know we rubbed shoulders with Meb!  Tina and I were official ING something-or-others, and were able to catch a ride to the race start at the same spot as the elites.  We walked into the building (called The Hilton) just as the elite men were walking out.  Meb was right there!  Right there!  The average size of said elites are around 5'8" and 125 lbs.  They looked like a pack of kids, especially when they climbed on the bus.  When they passed, I fumbled with the camera so as to get a picture of their back sides.  Meb's in there.  Promise.

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Once inside the building, we drummed up conversations with strangers and watched the wheelchair participants parade through the lobby.  Now that was one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen.  There were a hundred or more of them, all dressed up, and ready to race.

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We climbed on the bus and I had the pleasure and opportunity to sit next to a Queens native named Diego.  Diego is a software engineer at Verizon who hadn't run a marathon in over 30 years.  Diego gave me some New York City pointers, which included using the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, and pizza at John's in Greenwich Village.

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After a two-hour bus ride, we arrived at the frigid holding tank on Staten Island for all runners.  It was cold.  It was windy.  And it was confusing.  There were people and porta potties everyone.  There were signs pointing this way and that.  The helpers, bless their hearts, had no idea who was supposed to go where.  As a result, Tina and I had no idea where to get in our assigned coral and were late.  This meant we missed the start for Wave 1 and had to stand in the windy cold for another hour.  That was the hardest part of the day.  My body was stiff and shivering.  I was also hungry, having fueled for a start-time 30 minutes earlier.

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So there we were, standing around, missing the first wave, and waiting to run.  We were packed together with massive amounts of people, all of which spoke some other language besides English.  So we stood and stood, and standed and wailed, and gnashed and thought the day would be a complete disaster, when all of a sudden, the crowd started walking.  We walked around a quarter mile, then turned the corner to hear good ol Frankie sing "Start Speading The News."

Evidently, that's how they start the race, with Frankie singing "Start Spreading The News."

On your marks! Get set! STAND THERE SOME MORE!  Yip that's it.  When the start starts, you stand there some more.  Eventually, the crowd thins and you get to walk.  And after walking for a bit, you get to run, and if you want to run faster? Well, tough.  There's people everywhere, and if your run faster you'll run right into Mr. Igliano from Italy.  Or Thierry Sorhaitz from France.  Or even Urgenheimer Dorsenhurst from the Netherlands er something.

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Let me tell you what happened to me at the start of this race:  A giant, cheek-aching smile consumed the entire real estate of my mug. And that same cheek-aching smile didn't leave my mug for the rest of the day.

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The New York City Marathon is magic.  It begins in Staten Island and immediately crosses the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn.  The journey in Brooklyn will last around 13 miles, through commercial buildings and brownstone residentials.  Runners are embraced warmly by cheering crowds, banging cowbells, and miles and miles of happy noise.  You hear the thump-thump-thump of fellow runners mixed with a subway train that roars below.  Amateur bands, desperate for exposure, compete on every other block.  There are rock bands, rap bands, punk bands, DJs, gospel choirs, bag pipes, and percussion groups with calypso flair.  There are bands you'd pay money to see, and well, some you wouldn't.  All, however, are welcome, and grinned upon affectionately.  Brooklyn's blaring happy noise is replaced briefly by a happy quiet during the Jewish section of town, where gents walk about in their black hats, beards, and rolly polly ringlets.  Jewish children in long black coats are gathered obediently on street corners to watch.

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Somewhere in Brooklyn, I decided I wanted to meet some friends and found myself striking up some chit-chat with any Tom, Dick or Harriet.  Only I discovered that most of the Toms, Dicks 'n Harriets were either tuned into an ipod or didn't speak English.  Finally I found someone.  "Hey!" I said.  "Do you feel like talking?"  He said, "Yah."  Turns out he's from Belgium but speaks very good English.  After a few minutes of back and forth, he said, "You are easy, yah?"  I returned a "Yip.  But don't tell my Spouse!  (I think he meant that I was running easy, yah?)

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I found another set of friends; a father-daughter combo who I tracked down because of the giant blue "Y" on their shirts.  "What does your Y stand for?" I said.  "Yale!" said they.  I told them that I was from Utah and figured the the "Y" stood for The BYU.  I told him that my father-in-law went to Yale and when the Yale-ite asked when, I told him 1898.  They both laughed, then explained that he had another daughter at Utah State.  Small world, yes?

The course exits Brooklyn on the Pulaski bridge, where runners are reminded that they were reminded to look at the Manhattan skyline.  So I do.  And decide to stop for a snap and a facebook update.  I had a brief chat with three of the many police officers.  These officers were placed to control the crowds and cheer on their own with "Go NYPD!" and "Let's hear it for FDNY!"  They were enjoying themselves almost as much as I was.

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At mile 15, runners are caged into the long mile of that Queensborough bridge.  It's enclosed and it's quiet.  Spectators are not allowed, and you realize how much that cheering crowd carries.  I looked at the guy next to me and shouted, "ssssshhhhhhhh!"  He didn't laugh.  But I sure did!  After that long mile and half in the bridge, runners are liberated by the masses of Queens, the pace picks up a bit, and we run our way to the top of Manhattan via First Avenue.

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First Avenue seemed the most crowded.  The crowd is held back by steel barriers, and foreigners congregate in clumps to display their country pride with flags and colors. I found my shadow and realized that the apartment was only one block away.  Perhaps I could run by for a nap?  Fuhgettaboutit!

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From Manhattan, the race crosses yet another bridge into The Bronx, or the section of town I like to call You Go Girl, where round women with chocolatey voices and skin sing out praises, particularly to girls from Utah wearing purple.  After a brief jaunt through the Bronx, we promenade through Harlem, where a bunny sporting a "Run Angry" sign stood about waiting for some strange girl from Utah to ask for a photo.

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At last, the course ends up in Central Park which is brilliantly colored with November's orange, gold and brown.  It's the only downhill I remember, streets are lined with thousands, and then... Finish.

Really?  Already?  Do I hafta stop?  Don't let the magic stop!

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-

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

OMG, round women with chocolatey voices! I pretty much fell of my chair laughing.
-B

Anonymous said...

off!!!!!!!*

Sparks said...

That was spectacular. From the first-person account I heard from you and Tina this post does the day justice. I loved reading it. And making Mark listen to me read parts aloud.

lifein360 said...

awesomeness.

Becca said...

I have been looking forward to this all week and let me say, you did not disappoint! You amaze me in so many ways and I love reading every word you write. I will be happy if this saga has 6 or 7 more parts-it means I can live vicariously through you for just a little while longer.

Jessica said...

I smiled all the way through this. Big cheesy grin.

Also, in that picture from 4:18am, are you wearing makeup? Please tell me you're wearing makeup. Because if you look that good at 4:18am without makeup, that's amazing.

rabidrunner said...

Jessica, I think the time on the camera was wrong. The picture was taken around 7:30 Eastern time. Me thinks. But, yeah, I was totally whored up with makeup. It's my first race with makeup. Maybe it won't be my last?

rabidrunner said...

So what did anonymous mean by "off!!!!!!!*" Anyone know. I looked desperately for the trailing asterisk.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Zipp 1080 carbon tubulars on the race chair = awesome.

Florida Half Marathons said...

It must have been challenging for the guy with the snail costume thing on his back to run. Very creative though!

whitneyingram said...

I just read this again. Loved it. I remember loving it back in November. After reading about Ogden, I needed some more race reading.