I first considered doing the New York marathon last year when I met the qualifying standards for guaranteed entry based on half and full marathon finish times.
Due to logistics, timing, and other factors, husband/webmaster Bill and I decided this should be a trip I take with girlfriends. So I started to put out feelers to try to find some friends for this trip. Immediately, running friend Louise said she'd love to go on the trip, but not run the marathon. Louise has run the New York Marathon twice, doesn't need to run it again, but loves to go to New York.
Louise and I decided to find at least 2 more women for our trip. We have one logistic issue to overcome. Guaranteed entry applicants must apply before lottery entrants know if they have gotten in. So, either I take a chance on running alone, or I need to find someone else with guaranteed entry who wants to go this year.
About a year ago, I became facebook friends with Mary Bolich. Mary won the Lakefront Marathon in 1989. Ran her marathon PR in 1993 in Chicago, a 2:54 which earned her second American female. In 2007, she ran the Boston Marathon in the elite women's master's field. She has run several sub 3 hour marathons.
To say she also qualfies for guaranteed entry is a huge understatement.
I contacted Mary, and she said was interested, and a friend of hers, named Chris, would also like to go, but not run the marathon. Mary and I had not yet met in person. (left to right: me, Louise, Mary B).
So, now we have our group. We submitted our entries, booked hotel and airfare, and Louise stepped up as our trip planner, and researched Broadway shows for us to see. When registering for the marathon, back in April or May, we had to submit our anticipated finish time. Both Mary and I selected 3:30. A tad hard to predict a finish time so far ahead, but we both decided we would not be racing this one, we'd be running it to enjoy the experience.
Our trip would begin Friday morning with an 8am flight out of Milwaukee, and we would return on Monday evening.
This trip will be out of my comfort zone for many reasons. My comfort zone vacation is with my husband and son, hiking in a remote scenic national park: Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon. Big cities are not in my comfort zone. I also haven't done a lot of traveling with friends rather than family. Though Mary and I will meet in person a couple times before the trip, I will meet her friend Chris at the airport as we begin our adventure.
I don't consider the fact that this trip is out of my comfort zone to be a good or bad thing, it's just a fact. Generally speaking, I think its good to venture out of one's comfort zone once in a while, but it does add an element of mild stress. Not a bad stress, but it does take more energy to be out of your comfort zone than in.
Our trip began with an uneventful direct flight from Milwaukee to New York. We took a cab to our hotel and checked in. First on our itenerary is to walk to Jacob Javits Convention Center for packet pickup and the expo.
Our hotel is just a couple blocks from Times Square. We step out of the hotel, and I am immediately overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, crowds, energy. I bid farewell to my comfort zone, and begin my adventure.
the way to the expo, we stopped for a quick bite at a standard issue cafe. We arrived at the expo, got our race packets, and did a little shopping at the expo. We walked back to our hotel, stopping at a few places to browse and shop.
We decided to go to the Carnegie Deli for dinner. We shared massive but super yummy sandwiches. The Carnegie Deli is a fun place with photos of celebrities covering the walls.
After dinner, we grabbed a drink at the Hard Rock Cafe before heading to our first of 3 Broadway shows. American Idiot.
I have never been to a Broadway show, so I had no idea what to expect. American Idiot is a musical based on alternative rock band Green Day's album of the same title. It tells a story of a young man's struggle moving into adulthood. This is not a show for kids. Lots of swearing, sexual content, drug use. Very edgy, loud, high energy, electric guitars, rock music. I loved it. This is my kind of musical.
Our Saturday began at 5am with a short run to Central Park. On the way back, we stopped for coffee/Diet Coke/bagels. We got cleaned up, and headed out for sight seeing excursions: Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Ground Zero. We walked through Chinatown, and had lunch in Little Italy. We returned to Times Square.
At 3pm, tickets go on sale for that evening's show, at a discount. They offer last minute deals, but selection is limited, and seating is hit or miss. We got tickets for Rock of Ages, but all were individual seats. The show is at 8pm.
We returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner at Daniel. Daniel is rated one of the top restaurants in Manhattan. Louise's brother is treating us to this fine dining experience. He has made the arrangements, and selected the wine. He is in Toronto, so will not be joining us. This is so generous, we are so grateful for the opportunity.
This restaurant is so far away from my comfort zone, I can't even see the road sign for it. I have the pallet of a 12 year old boy. That doesn't mean that I won't eat or try other things, but I am perfectly happy with unsophisticated foods. Therefore I rarely go to upscale restaurants. But this is an opportunity I will never get again, and I am really looking forward to the experience. It will be an adventure.
Keep in mind, also, this is our pre-race dinner. Normally, the night before a marathon, runners will stick with tried and true familiar foods. I am not worried about this. I am not planning to race, and my tummy issues seem to be completely independent of what I feed it. I can eat bland comfort food and have a cranky tummy, I can eat left over chili for my pre-race dinner and be perfectly fine.
We arrive at Daniel and are immediately pampered. Even our purses get royal treatment as they bring us little benches for them to rest on. Mary B and Chris are both a little cold, and they are immediately brough cashmere shawls to gently caress their shoulders.
The waiter explains some of the items on the menu. We order appetizer and entree now, and will order dessert after the entree. The 3 course meal is $105. Some of the entrees have a 'supplement' price that is added to that $105. One of the entrees includes a rare and exotic fungus called porchini. I can't remember the exact details, but I believe he said this particular porchini grows at the base of only 1 remote tree in Italy somewhere, and is so prized and delicate I think it can only be tended to by virgins. The supplement for this entree is $160.
I select the Sea Scallops for my appetizer, and Slow Baked Dover Sole for my entree. The descriptions include a lot of words I cannot pronounce, and have no clue what they are.
The waiters bring us all something before our appetizer (pictured right). We all were served the same trio of tiny bites. It looks like it came right out of the Top Chef tv show. On the left was raw salmon. The middle was something about butternut squash puree, and on the right, I can't remember, but at one time it swam. I tried all 3. Interesting flavors and textures.
Next came our appetizers followed by entrees (pictured left). Delivery of plates was a beautifully choreographed task. The appetizers and entrees were delicately placed in front of us in orchestrated unison. Again, everything looked like the things you see on Top Chef. Beautiful, interesting, sophisticated. For me, this was an adventure in eating. I enjoyed trying all new things.
Now its time for dessert. The menu is divided into 2 categories, fruit and chocolate. We all selected something different. I opted for the chocolate and peanut butter ganache. Our desserts also arrived with the same graceful delivery as the previous courses. Delicate, beautiful, sophisticated. I gently tasted each portion of my dessert. This may be the yummiest thing I have eaten in my entire life. I had to restrain myself from making the humming noises. Wow. Unbelievable flavors and textures and presentation.
After dessert, they brought out more dessert. The truffle steward came around with a tray of 4 different flavored truffles. Perfect delicate square morsels, about the size of a peanut M & M. Basil, cinnamon, lemon, and raspberry. They started with Louise, and worked around the table. Each of my travel buddies selected only 1 of these. I really wanted to try all 4, but already feeling like a fish out of water, I held back and selected 2. Basil and cinnamon. They were fantastic.
After truffles, still more dessert. Small puff pastries in a little basket. They were delicious. Warm and delicate with a hint of lemon flavor.
Now they bring us a plate of 6 different petit fours. I tried one, as did Chris. Not sure if Louise or Mary B did. No one was going to eat the remaining, and I just couldn't let them be lonely, I was able to try 3 of them. Very fun and interesting. Loved it!
It is now about 7:40, and we need to rush to get to our 8pm show. We scrambled to get a cab. Our cab driver drove like a bat out of hell, attempting to get us to our show on time. We turned corners on 2 wheels, then came to an abrupt stop amidst bumper to bumper traffic. All we could do was watch the clock tick away as we barely moved. At about 8:05, 5 blocks from our theatre, we decided to make a run for it. Yes, in fancy clothes and shoes that I cannot walk in. We ran 5 blocks to our theatre, panicked that we might not be allowed in. The pain in my feet from that 5 block run flirted with the amount of pain after 100 miles in running shoes.
We arrived at the show, and were allowed to get to our seats. Don't tell Louise, but I took off my shoes.
Rock of Ages tells a story of a young man and woman trying to get their big break in the entertainment industry. The story is told through overplayed cheesy 80s rock ballads. The fun is that they set up the dialog leading up to a song so that you can guess which rock ballad is coming. It pokes fun at 80s rock culure and personalities. It revels in the cheesiness and predictability of the story and music. It was a really fun show. Lots of little sub plots, and Dee Snider, formerly of Twisted Sister has a lead role.
After the show, Mary and I prepare for our marathon excursion. So far, our trip has been a checklist of what not to do before a marathon. On the go constantly from 5am to 11pm both Friday and Saturday. Eating new foods, going on new adventures, and for me, I have been well out of my comfort zone since 8am Friday morning. Absolutely no rest or relaxation.
At 5am, we get up, get dressed and head
out for the bus to the start, stopping at the nearby deli for bagels and Diet Coke. We board the bus at 6am. Our wave starts at 9:40, so we have plenty of time to get cold and stiff. We arrive at the start area around 7:30am. At 8:10, we have to drop off our gear bags. We now have 90 minutes to freeze while waiting for the start.
Its sunny, but upper 30s or low 40s and windy. We are chilled and shivering. We huddle in an old mylar blanked in our start corral. We both are wearing 'throw-away' clothing items that we can ditch at the last minute.
Around 9:20, we are herded to the start area. For the first time, we start to warm up. The area is lined with tour busses which block the wind, and we are in the sun. Still cold and chilled, but improving, we do more waiting.
We hear the announcements, national anthem, and finally, take off our extra layers of clothing.
They start the race, and off we go. The next 3 and a half hours will be a pleassant return to my comfort zone - running a marathon.
As soon as we cross the start, and proceed on the Verrazano Narrows bridge, we are blasted with a fridgid harsh wind. We still can't feel our feet from the multi hour wait in the cold, and our legs are stiff from so much idle time. The first mile is all uphill on the bridge. Not getting any feel of our pace, we reach the first mile in 8:30. The second mile, downhill, was 7:20. After crossing that first bridge, we were able to get out of the wind, and settle into about a 7:45 pace. We ran pretty steady for the whole marathon, and together. Chatting some, running quietly some, observing runners and spectators.
Meanwhile, Louise and Chris planned to try to see us around mile 16. Though we didn't see them, and they didn't see us, they said they had a great time watching, and it was comforting to know they were out there somewhere.
We held a steady pace, and passed lots of people. The closer we got to the finish, the more dodging around runners we had to do. It was a bit tiring, and made me more glad I had decided to simply run, but not race this one.
We ran the whole thing together, and finished in 3:24. And now we have the least fun part of the trip. New York is a great marathon, and I loved the experience, but their finish accomodations really suck. The mylar blanket was good, finisher medal very nice, post-race goody bag was fine. But the love stops there.
No porta potties. No family meeting area. No changing tents. We walked at least a mile to get to our UPS truck with our drop bag to get our dry clothes. We waited in a long line to get our bags. We tried to find a place to change, gave up, and changed on the side of the road, holding mylar blankets around each other as makeshift changing booths. We got out of Central Park and made our way back to the hotel. It took 2 hours to get back to the hotel after we finished. We were cold, chilled, tired. Crowds were so thick we were constantly getting bumped. It was difficult to know if we were going the right way.
We got back to the hotel after a quick stop for a much needed Diet Coke. Got showered and thawed, and immediately began sharing our stories of our spectating and running adventures.
Our post-race dinner was at O'Lunney's Irish Pub just a couple blocks from our hotel.
After dinner we went to our third and final Broadway show called In The Heights. This is a much more traditional show. It had little swearing, no skimpy outfits, no pole dancing. It was completely suitable for families. It told a story of a day in the life in a barrio in New York. Unlike our other 2 shows where the story was created around existing songs, this story was told by putting the dialog to music and dancing. I certainly am no expert on shows, but I believe this is the more classic approach. I liked the other approach better, but still enjoyed this very much, and am very glad to have experienced it.
After the show, we went to the hotel to plan and prepare for our final day in New York.
Our Monday started with a short run in Central Park. Afterwards, we cleaned up and rushed to see the outdoor area and filming of the Today Show. Louise was on tv waving when they panned the crowd. Pretty sure Chris was seen also.
We then walked to several other places. Our weather was pretty cold, windy, rainy and miserable. Bryant Park, Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, a little bit of shopping on Fifth Avenue. Gale force winds tossed us around like rag dolls on the observation deck at the top of the Empire State Building.
We had lunch at a pizza place near our hotel, and then got a cab to the airport. Long wait for delayed flight back to Milwaukee, we chatted of our trip, and stories of back home at the crowded gate. We chatted with other travelers as well. We had an uneventful return flight back to Milwaukee, where husband Bill and teenage son Danny greeted us. I was exhausted, and happy to be home with my family, and back safely in my comfort zone.
It was a magnificent trip, with non-stop adventure from the minute we left. Many thanks to Louise for organizing so much of the trip, Mary for running with me the whole marathon, and Chris for keeping Louise company while the Marys ran. Thanks to all 3 for sharing the experience with me.